Changes in the 2016 Toyota Highlander

Toyota issued a press release last week detailing what the forthcoming 2016 Toyota Highlander will have to offer. Apparently, very little will be changing between model years 2015 and 2016.

The most substantive change will be the addition of the “tow package” to all 6-cylinder models, rather than limiting it to the XLE and above. So buyers of the 6-cylinder LE or the LE Plus will now get the following:

  • heavy-duty radiator with engine oil cooler
  • 200-watt fan coupling
  • supplemental transmission oil cooler
  • 150-amp alternator

These enhancements increase the towing capacity to 5,000 lbs from the previous limit of 1,500 lbs.

Related: Looking for a trailer hitch? Click here.

The other minor change is the addition of rain-sensing windshield wipers to the Limited Platinum trim level. Other than that, everything appears be the same, though there could be updates related to things like paint colors, wheel finishes, etc.

As for release dates, I had previously predicted “August-ish” and was obviously wrong about that. The rumor mill is now calling for a “late fall” release of the 2016 Highlander.

I can’t say that I’m particularly surprised about the lack of major updates in 2016. This will be the third year (out of an expected six years) for the current generation. Toyota, like most automakers, typically does a mid-generation “refresh,” which typically hits between years 3 and 4, so it’s still too early.

Given the above, I would expect next year (the 2017 model year) to bring some bigger updates and changes, though the overall body style will like remain the same through 2019, with the 4th generation Highlander rolling out in 2020.

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10 comments… add one
  • Jean-Pierre Spénard Oct 6, 2015

    Now wouldn’t it be just wonderful if a 4/7 pin connector was standard!
    I would eventually like to tow a light camper so the 4/7 would be nice to have.
    I am looking forward to hearing more about the 2016 Highlander as it is one of my top choices for my new vehicle.

    • Michael Oct 6, 2015

      I’ve heard that complaint from a lot of people. You’re not alone!

  • Chris Oct 6, 2015

    There will be Siri as well

  • Joe Dec 27, 2015

    Anyone have any good sites to find parts & accessories? Particularly looking for LED head lights & break lights. THANKS!

  • Chris Jan 24, 2016

    I have a 2016, but it does not have Apple Car Play / full Siri support. You can invoke Siri by holding down the Home button, but it’s really not integrated as it should be (and it doesn’t save you from fumbling with your phone when you should be driving).

    I’m wondering if Toyota will retrofit this at some point. I’d be willing to pay for the upgrade (and it should be a software only thing).

  • Robin Mossman May 9, 2016

    I have a 2013 Highlander and it is the second one I have purchased. I bought the limited edition this time to have most of the bells and whistles. Recently I asked my dealer if could upgrade my navigation system and he said I could for $195 (Canadian)plus tax. But he could not tell me what the benefits of the upgrade would be. Can you help?

  • Bruce R. Jun 11, 2016

    Hi … just purchased a 2016 Highlander XLE for my wife. She had a 2001 Highlander and after several vehicles in-between, we went back to the Highlander and we love it. My question has to do with the back-up camera. Her previous vehicle, a 2014 Honda CR-V had an audible warning when she backed up too close to an object. The Highlander doesn’t seem to have the same feature although we just got it yesterday and I haven’t reviewed the manual yet. Do you know if it does have an audible warning? Thanks in advance and thanks for creating this site!

  • Frank La Mantia Jul 16, 2016

    Can you tell me if there is a digital speedometer readout on the 2016 highlander limited, and can it be changed from kmh to mph.

  • MariaMakiling Dec 1, 2016

    For Bruce, you my have found out already that there’s no audible warning whatsoever; purchased mine 3 months ago. One thing that bothers me is the Navigation system. So, there are pre-stored street names so that when Siri & I don’t understand each other, I would just type in the letters. Of course, NP with State/City but when it comes to the street, the system would highlight (typeable) only the letters, apparently based on the pre-stored names, not all A-Z. Is there a way to override?

    I had to call my doctor’s office for directions to their new address. LOL

  • Pete Scarborough Dec 4, 2019

    On our third Highlander lease…currently have a 2019. I was told this years model had a new 8 speed transmission. Not withstanding the fuel saving option button which you can turn off and I dislike, the new transmission is a huge step backwards as it lurches or tries to downshift if you are coming to a rolling stop and then decide to speed up. Very disappointing and is another example of the most important things that consumer look for including the Nav system which is terrible. Why they could not have used Apple Play as they have in other of their vehicles is a major oversight in my view. Other wise, I like the vehicle but will look elsewhere in 3 yrs. My wife has a Hyundai Sante FE which is far superior in all electronic areas.

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