Toyota Highlander In Snow & Winter Driving? (Explained)

The Highlander debuted in North America in 2001 and was Toyota’s best-selling SUV until 2006, when the RAV4 surpassed it.

Since 2001, the Highlander has received mostly positive ratings across review boards, pointing to its incredible quality.

In the spirit of reviews, we evaluate the Highlander’s performance in snow and winter.

The Toyota Highlander is good for snow and winter driving:

The Toyota Highlander offers a fine performance in snow and winter thanks to its string of exceptional safety features in the Star Safety System. These safety features, including Traction Control and Electronic Brake Force Distribution, allow you to drive the Highlander confidently in winter.

Is a Toyota Highlander Good in the Snow?

The Toyota Highlander has a very elevated and imposing ride height, giving it top-notch performance in snow. Like other SUVs, the Highlander does well in snow when it’s not too deep. You can read more here no how SUVs handle snow.

That, combined with its range of safety features from Toyota Star Safety system, puts it above many other vehicles in terms of drivability in snow.

Which Features Will Improve Winter Driving?

To determine the Highlander’s effectiveness in winter, we’ll have to take a deep look at its features.

Below is a list of the most significant features that make the Highlander suitable for winter driving:

All-Wheel-Drive System (AWD)

The Toyota Highlander has an All-Wheel Drive option for all of its trims, which is one of its most important winter driving features.

Winter driving usually involves some of your wheels getting stuck or losing traction for want of torque, and that proves the AWD’s importance.

The AWD smartly manages the distribution of torque on low-traction surfaces. It works by sending all the wheels with the torque needed to plow through slushy road conditions.

Check here how much the Toyota Highlander can tow.

Vehicle Stability Control

The Toyota Highlander has an enhanced vehicle stability control which helps guarantee safe winter driving.

The Vehicle Stability Control works with its inbuilt sensors to detect any wheel slip which may imperil the vehicle’s balance.

If the VSC detects a potential slip and consequent loss of stability, it immediately switches on the brakes to stop the slip.

Sometimes, the VSC will also constrain the engine to cut down the torque supply to troubled wheels. These combined actions will help gain balance and restore steadiness and stability.

Traction Control

One of the commonest issues you are likely to face on a winter drive with your vehicle is traction loss.

Loss of traction often results in a wheel spin which could cause the vehicle to lose road grip.

The Traction Control feature on the Highlander curtails wheel spin. If it detects any spinning, the Traction Control will pump apply the brakes on the affected wheels.

It could also suppress the engine to reduce rotational force and halt the wheel spin.

These very important functions are exactly why the Traction Control is a praiseworthy feature on the Highlander.

Anti-Lock Braking System

When you drive during winter, you are likely to be in situations where you have to apply your brakes constantly. While this is normal, it could put your vehicle at risk of a wheel lockup.

The ABS intervenes by analyzing wheel rotation, and if a wheel stops rolling out of the blue, it will modulate the brake.

This will force the affected wheel to roll normally, warding off a wheel lockup and potential skidding.

Electronic Brake Force Distribution

The Electronic Brake Force Distribution system cooperates with the ABS to avert a wheel lockup. However, the EBD takes a different, more advanced route in doing this.

Like its name suggests, Electronic Brake Force Distribution regulates the application of brake pressure to the wheels.

The distribution depends on the weight on each wheel while in motion. This will proactively avert a wheel lockup and protect the vehicle from any related mishaps.

Warmth and Comfort

In the past, winter rides were notorious for being all chilly and dry for everyone in the vehicle. Well, not anymore, and especially not if you are riding in a Highlander.

The Toyota Highlander counteracts dryness and chilliness with its option of heated front seats, heated second-row seats, and a heated steering wheel.

This way, drivers and passengers on the Highlander can sit without feeling any discomfortingly cold sensations from the seats.

Tons of infotainment features are also available to ward off boredom, especially on long, wintry journeys. There is an 8-inch touch screen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to connect your smartphone with.

You also get five USB charging ports, Amazon Alexa, a 6-speaker stereo (an 11-speaker JBL option), and a smooth Wi-Fi connection.

Make sure to also read our article about how long the Toyota Highlander lasts. 

Does a Highlander Have Snow Mode?

The Toyota Highlander models with All-Wheel Drive also come with a snow mode as part of the Multi-Terrain Select.

The multi-terrain select comprises four modes, namely: Mud/Sand, Rock/Dirt, Snow/Normal, and lets you choose between them.

These modes are designed to bolster traction in the respective off-road conditions.

The snow mode, particularly, aids other safety features in preventing wheel slippage and undue wheel spin for optimum snow driving performance.

Can You Install Additional Snow Gear on Highlander?

Snow gear serves to supplement traction and enhance overall driving performance on snowy surfaces. You most definitely can have them installed on your Highlander.

Below is a shortlist of snow gear you’ll find very helpful:

  • Snow Tires
  • Tire Studs
  • Snow Socks
  • Snow Chains

As a rule of thumb, we advise checking to ensure there are no strict municipal regulations regarding your choice snow gear.

It would help if you also had precise measurements of your vehicle parts to help find the correct snow gear.

How Much Snow Can A Highlander Handle?

Not many vehicles can boast of the Toyota Highlander’s ride height.

With an 8.0-inch ground clearance, the Highlander can hold its own when dealing with up to 5-6 inches of snow.

It could even go a bit more with appropriate and well-fitting snow gear.

However, we advise keeping your Highlander away from extremely heavy snow as that could do real damage.

Please also check out our article about 11 Toyota Highlander statistics you should know. 

How Does Toyota Highlander Handle Low-Winter Temperatures?

The Highlander has a fuel-injected engine that runs just fine in low-winter temperatures, unlike old carburetted engines.

It shouldn’t take more than a crank to fire up your engine in such extreme weather.

However, if you have difficulty getting your car to run, it could result from any of the following:

  • Obstructed fuel filters
  • dead or worn battery
  • Faulty spark plugs

Can a Highlander Drive on Ice?

The Highlander has all the requisite traction-controlling features, making it ideal for driving on ice.

However, its 8.0-inch ground clearance makes it susceptible to a rollover if you do not drive it with utmost caution.

Does the Highlander Have 4WD?

The Highlander does not have a four-wheel-drive option, and frankly, it doesn’t need one.

It already has the All-Wheel Drive, which performs just as well as the 4WD, if not better.

We also have an article about 3 common problems with the Toyota Highlander.

What About Older Highlander Models and Winter Driving?

The first Highlander models rolled out in 2001 had a Vehicle Skid Control system, Traction Control, and Anti-Lock Braking System.

This means every Highlander model since 2001 offers decent performance in winter.

Do Highlanders Need Snow Tires?

Snow tires are not compulsory for the Highlander, considering its mass of snow-handling features.

However, if you have the means, we absolutely recommend buying them as they can do a lot of good, especially in extreme snow.

From maximizing traction to preserving vehicle balance, snow tires are a great addition to your Highlander.

Can You Mount A Snow Plow on a Highlander?

While we are not very keen on the idea, some outlets offer fitting snow plows for Toyota Highlander models.

You can have a snow plow mounted on your Highlander, and they may prove very helpful in areas with heavy snowfall.

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