The Highlander's been reimagined before, from its spartan wagon roots into the current, girthy, second edition. For its third take, the big utility vehicle adopts a new look that owes some of its cues to a slew of competitive vehicles that occupy the grey area between crossovers and SUVs.
We see some Durango and X5 in the side view--and oddly enough, lots of Mitsubishi in the maw of its deep new grille and in the exaggerations around its wheel wells and at the sills. It's a shift toward a 4Runner-ish, SUV-ish style that runs exactly opposite to the trend in most other big crossovers--Santa Fe, Flex, Traverse. That switchup works better than it did on the Honda Pilot, and the Highlander's broader shoulders neatly avoid the more cartoonish aspects that the 4Runner rolls around in.
The cabin skips that ambiguity--it's all car, and it's directly inspired by the cockpit in the current RAV4. There's some Teutonic-themed dash action, and a pleasing jumble of lines and textures. The lines may sweep away from driver to passenger, but the focus is clearly on the left side passenger--big gauges and big climate-control knobs are a welcome sight. A large touchscreen factors in on navigation-equipped models, but doesn't upset the cockpit's visual clarity, since most climate and auxiliary functions still have hard buttons, not virtual on-screen ones.