2017 Toyota Highlander adds sporty SE trim and new eight-speed transmission

Toyota has given us a preview of the refreshed 2017 Highlander it will unveil at the upcoming New York Auto Show, with updates that include a more performance-oriented SE trim and a new, more-powerful 3.5L gas engine matched to an also-new eight-speed automatic transmission.

We don't yet know what kind of power increase the new engine will bring to Toyota's mid-size crossover, but the company does say the extra output and comes courtesy of direct fuel injection. The new motor will be shared by Highlander's gasoline and hybrid models.

The eight-speed transmission is for gasoline models only, and is, according to Toyota, more compact than the outgoing six-speed and also does its part to improve fuel efficiency. Some gasoline models will also get auto stop/start technology to save fuel by shutting the engine off at stoplights.

SE models will stand apart with uniquely styled 19-inch wheels, suspension tuned for a sportier ride, and darkened grille, headlight housings, and roof rails. Inside, the SE gets unique leather seats with silver stitching and patterned inserts and matching dash and door inserts.

All Highlander models will get the company's Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) system as standard, which includes automated pre-collision braking, forward collision warning, lane departure alert, automatic high beams, pedestrian pre-collision system, and dynamic cruise control.

XLE models add a blind spot monitor system with rear cross traffic alert, and the top-end Limited gets Toyota's bird's eye camera system with perimeter scan.

Toyota says the 2017 Highlander will be built at its Princeton, Indiana factory, and goes on sale in the fall of 2016.

Toyota ups the Highlander's safety, performance 3/15/2016 4:52:38 PM