Apple CarPlay on Toyota Highlander, how to connect

Toyota Highlander supports Apple CarPlay that lets you access your iPhone apps like iTunes, Google Maps and Spotify through the touchscreen of your vehicle. You can also make phone calls, send messages or use navigation with voice commands using Siri.

Toyota Highlander fourth generation – (photo by Toyota)

Enable CarPlay and Siri on iPhone

You must have iPhone 5 or newer device with iOS 7.1 or newer version to use Apple CarPlay on Toyota Highlander. Before you begin, ensure CarPlay and Siri are enabled on your iPhone. Also, make sure that the “Press Home for Siri” option is enabled under “Siri & Search” in settings.


If you can’t see CarPlay or Siri & Search under your iPhone settings, then go to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps, and make sure both CarPlay and Siri & Search are enabled.

Enable CarPlay in Highlander

Apple CarPlay must be enabled in your Highlander’s infotainment system settings before you can use it. This can be done by selecting Menu > Setup > General, and make sure that Apple CarPlay is turned on.

Apple CarPlay enable / disable option under Menu > Setup > General

Connect iPhone to Highlander’s USB port

  1. Connect your Apple iPhone to your Toyota Highlander USB port using an Apple-approved Lightning-to-USB cable.
  2. A message will appear with three choices, select Enable Once or Always Enable.
  3. Touch Allow on your iPhone when prompted. This allows the use of CarPlay with your Highlander while phone is locked.
  4. CarPlay will launch automatically on the infotainment system display.
USB port location on Toyota Highlander

If CarPlay does not start automatically after you plug in the USB, then touch its icon in the list of apps in the infotainment display.

If you’re unsure which USB port supports CarPlay on your particular Highlander variant, then consult your vehicle’s owners manual – or you can try plugging in the cable, one by one, in all the USB ports in dashboard and center console.

CarPlay not working on Toyota Highlander

If Apple CarPlay does not start on your Highlander when you plug in the USB cable and there is no CarPlay icon in the list of apps in the infotainment system, it can be due to a number of reasons:

  • CarPlay is disabled in the infotainment system settings of your Highlander.
  • CarPlay is disabled in your iPhone, go to ‘Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions > Allowed Apps’ and enable both CarPlay and Siri.
  • The Lightning-to-USB cable you’re using is defective. Try a different cable, preferably original Apple cable.
  • The connected USB port on your Highlander does not support CarPlay. Try other USB ports.
  • A software glitch is responsible for the CarPlay problem. Reset the Highlander’s infotainment system to its factory settings.
  • You’ve an older model of Highlander that does not support Apple CarPlay. Only 2020 and later model year Toyota Highlander vehicles are compatible with CarPlay.

Using Siri on Toyota Highlander

Siri is Apple’s voice recognition feature that helps you to concentrate on the road while driving your Highlander as you can control the functions of the iPhone with voice commands.


The virtual assistant allows you to place phone calls, listen to and send text messages, play music on your iPhone, get directions and use other functions of your iPhone hands-free. You can even ask Siri for current weather conditions, stock prices or upcoming events on your calendar.

To access Siri, press and hold the talk button on the steering wheel of your Highlander until you hear Siri tone.

Voice command button on Toyota Highlander – press and hold to launch Siri

You can also access Siri by holding down the home button located at the bottom left corner in the CarPlay app.

If the Listen for “Hey Siri” function is enabled in your iPhone device under Siri & Search settings, you can also just simply say: “Hey Siri”. After hearing the audible alert, you can begin asking Siri for assistance.

Video: Siri features explained

Brief video on using Siri on Toyota

Which Highlander models support CarPlay?

2020 and later model year Toyota Highlander vehicles are compatible with Apple CarPlay.

Using Google Maps on Toyota Highlander with CarPlay

If your iPhone has iOS 14+ operating system, you can freely use Google Maps in Apple CarPlay on your Highlander. Apple now allows the use of Google Maps in the home screen. Apple has allowed the competitor’s map service in its car application since iOS 12, but the homescreen that was newly introduced in iOS 13 in 2019 could not yet be equipped with maps. Here, users were still limited to Apple’s own map service. With iOS 14 that changes. Now CarPlay automatically selects the last service used for the view.

Using Waze navigation on Toyota Highlander with CarPlay

You can use Waze navigation app in CarPlay if you have iOS 12 or higher operating system installed on your iPhone. Download and install Waze app from App Store on your iPhone, then start CarPlay on your Highlander’s infotainment system display. Then touch Waze icon to launch the app.

Using Spotify on Highlander

You can use Spotify to stream music on your Highlander. Just install the Spotify app from App Store and its icon will appear in the infotainment display when CarPlay is active.

You can use voice commands to play music hands-free on Spotify with Siri. Just add “on Spotify” at the end so that Siri knows which service you’re referring to (e.g. “Hey, Siri, play my ‘Your Mix of the Week’ playlist on Spotify”).

Siri can play songs, artists, albums, playlists, podcasts, and more. You can also “like” music, ask what’s playing, and control playback (e.g. volume, skip song, play / pause).

Do not disturb while driving

When driving, keep your eyes on the road. A quick look at the navigation device is of course allowed in order not to miss the next junction. The “Do not disturb while driving” function can be activated so that your iPhone does not distract you with unnecessary notifications while driving your Highlander. iOS 13 extends this option to CarPlay as well. On your iPhone go to Settings > Do Not Disturb, then scroll down and touch “Activate” under “Do not disturb while driving”. You can now switch on the automatic activation for CarPlay.

Not all apps are compatible with CarPlay

If you think you can use all your iPhone apps in your Toyota Highlander with CarPlay, then you’re wrong. The selection of compatible applications is limited, and you have to live with restrictions, especially with messenger apps. iMessage and WhatsApp can be controlled almost exclusively via Siri. That means you cannot see your message history, but only have new messages read out to you or even dictate messages yourself.

The following apps can be used with CarPlay on your Highlander, among others: Music, Phone, News, Podcasts, Audio books, Audible, Google Maps, Sygic TomTomGO, Whatsapp, calendar, Settings, Telegram, Waze, Spotify, TuneIn, Tidal, Pandora, Youtube Music and Amazon Music.

Sort apps in CarPlay

You can sort CarPlay apps in your Highlander quickly and easily through your iPhone. To do this, go to Settings > General > CarPlay, then select your vehicle under “MY CARS”. On the next screen you can rearrange app icons by touching and dragging them. You can also hide icons by touching the minus button on them.

Video Demonstration

Watch this video demonstration on setting-up CarPlay on Toyota
Contact the author: alfonsohayes@wheelsjoint.com



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