We recently had the opportunity to take a short drive in the redesigned and upgraded 2017 Toyota Highlander, which for this year got more power, more safety and a more choice for customers.

To start out with, the 2017 Toyota Highlander received a fresh dose of styling front and rear that spans the entire model range including the XLE we tested here and adds a sporty new SE model to boot. The big visual change is quite obvious with a larger and deeper front-grille along with new headlamp designs.

At the rear the changes are less dramatic, new LED taillights and a redesigned rear bumper are the notable ones. New wheels designs are added across all trim grades too, now spanning up to 19-inches in size on the SE and Limited trims. On the XLE here we have 18-inch alloys.

The interiors remain largely the same as the previous model year with exception of some new seating fabrics and leather choices. Functional adds include four USB ports for a total now of five. A new birds eye view camera is also available on top trim grades.

Under the hood is a redesigned version of the brand’s 3.5 liter V6 engine that how has much more horsepower at 295 by the addition of D4-S fuel injection which offers both port and direct injection. The addition of a new 8-speed automatic transmission also increases acceleration and drivability.

The new powertrain arrangement is also good for a significant increase in fuel economy over the 2016 models, now rated as high as 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway, and 23 mpg combined. By the aid of a standard auto start stop system on most models, these are numbers actually slightly higher than the base 2.7 liter four-cylinder engine.

With the V6 and all-wheel-drive, Highlander comes standard with a towing package than enables it to pull up to 5,000 pounds. Handling that power and load is a suspension largely carried over from last year with a steady and stable feel and a middle of the road stiffness level for its class.

One major piece of news for 2017 is the standard Toyota Safety Sense-P suite of active and passive safety measures. These include a camera and radar based pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering, assist function, radar cruise control and automatic high beam headlamps.

The important piece of information is that this package is now standard on all 2017 Highlander models from LE and up. Nice.

The 2017 Toyota Highlander is on sale now at your local Toyota dealerships. We will bring you a more detailed test drive review soon when we get one for a full test drive review.