Toyota's no-nonsense approach with the 2015 Highlander is what makes it so appealing. It might not be the biggest three-row crossover, but the Highlander's slightly more compact dimensions pay dividends on the road, where it feels a bit more agile and maneuverable than its rivals. Access to the third-row seats is easy, too, thanks to a second row that folds, slides, and reclines. The rearmost seats aren't the most accommodating, but they provide ample space for kids. The Highlander offers seating for up to eight, so you can carry your family and some friends, too.
The regular Highlanders are front-wheel-drive as standard, with an automatic transmission. The engine choices start with a base 2.7-liter four-cylinder with 185 hp, but we'd get the optional 3.6-liter V6, which has a more robust 270 hp. It benefits performance without sacrificing much in EPA-estimated fuel economy. If maximum efficiency is your goal, seek out the Hybrid, which adds electric motors to the V6 to up the EPA estimates significantly. But you'll need to save a lot on fuel to make up for the typical increase in price hybrids have over the regular models. You lose some choice, too: The Hybrid is only offered in top-level Limited and Limited Platinum trims, and it doesn't offer the eight seats of the regular models or tow as much. Trims for those are LE, LE Plus, XLE, Limited, and a new-for-2015 top-of-the line Limited Platinum that adds a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, and heated second-row seats. The XLE trim is a sweet spot in standard equipment and price. All are worth exploring, and if you're in the market for a family-friendly large crossover, the Toyota Highlander is difficult to ignore.