The Toyota Highlander debuted in 2001 as a mid-sized SUV between the RAV4 and the 4Runner. Based on the same platform used to build the Toyota Camry, it made the most of its combination of carlike handling and utilitarian cargo space to achieve popularity and success. Although it is somewhat lacking in power and a little short on cosmetic flair, the Highlander has managed to overcome these minor flaws and has become Toyota's best-selling SUV.
See also the main fact sheets for the Toyota Highlander.
- Easy, user-friendly cabin controls
- Comfortable rear seat
- Improved engine performance
- Sportier ride
- Quiet cabin
- Brakes a little bit sluggish
- No center armrest or storage bin
- Third row seating not suitable for adults
- No V8 model offered
Performance and HandlingEdit
At 155hp for the 4-cylinder engine and 215hp for the V6, the Highlander won't necessarily be winning any races, particularly when you consider that many of its competitors, such as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer and Honda Pilot, have foregone 4-cylinder engines altogether. On the flip side, however, the benefit of such an engine is that its fuel efficiency is much higher when compared to SUVs with larger ones. See the nifty Gas Mileage section below for more info on that.
Since the Highlander was based on the same platform used to build the Toyota Camry, Solara, and Avalon (among others), its ride is comparable to that of Toyota's sedans. In other words, the Highlander is considerably quieter, smoother, and more responsive than one might at first expect. This is due in part to the application of features such as electronic stability control, gas-pressurized shocks, and rack & pinion steering.
Although the Highlander isn't equipped to handle aggressive off-roading, one reviewer listed on Autos.com remarks that "...it cut upward through eight inches of newly fallen snow like a snowplow on a rescue mission." So while it may not be able to handle lively swamp romps or jungle treks, it will certainly provide some stability and maneuverability in most weather shy of the extremes.
The city/highway figures are as follows:
- 4-cyl. 2WD: 22/27
- 4-cyl. 4WD: 21/25
- V6 2WD: 19/25
- V6 4WD: 18/24
All trims of the Highlander also come equipped with several safety features, including anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, front and rear anti-roll bars, and front impact airbags with occupancy sensors.
Reliability and MaintenanceEdit
Consumer Reports has evaluated the Highlander's reliability as "outstanding," which isn't surprising given Toyota's reputation. The 2006 model remains largely unchanged from previous years, and Automotive Information Systems reports that the only real recurring problem in past models of the Highlander has been the center airbag sensor, which typically malfunctions in very cold weather and is expensive to repair.
Interior and ComfortsEdit
When the Highlander first debuted in 2001, one widespread criticism of it involved the lack of third row seating. When this was finally rectified, the complaint also adapted and morphed into a dissatisfaction with the amount of space this third row provided. This remains an issue with the latest model of the Highlander, as the available back seat is mostly suitable only for children, pets, or rather small adults.
Otherwise, the interior is roomy and comfortable. Many reviewers have stressed the fact that the Highlander feels much like a Lexus RX 350, only larger and priced more like a Toyota than a Lexus. And while it may not avail itself of some of the luxuries that might be found in the RX 350, the Highlander still possesses enough creature comforts to make its drivers feel at home. These features include adjustable tilt headrests, a mini overhead console with storage, an AM/FM/CD stereo, cruise control, and power windows and locks, among others.
Aesthetically speaking, the Highlander hasn't changed too much since it debuted in 2001. It received a minor update in 2004, which involved the typical refashioning of elements such as the bumpers, grille, and front and rear lights, but very little else has been tampered with since then. Colors for all of the exterior features (mirrors, side moldings, bumpers, etc.) are automatically matched with the body color, and all versions are equipped with a standard roof rack.
Overall, many feel that the style of the Highlander is relatively plain. Its lines don't scream "X-treme off-road," nor do they project any sense of effete sophistication. However, there is some class to its simplicity, a sort of modest air of practicality. True, it certainly looks more like the traditional truck-based SUV than, say, the Lexus RX 350 (its upscale cousin) and other wagon-esque crossovers, but it does, in fact, find its roots in the Camry. It seems that Toyota, in its efforts to produce an SUV more suited for (sub)urban lifestyles, decided it should look the part as well: toned down and slightly homogenized, yet sporty enough for the do-it-yourself family man.
Styles and OptionsEdit
The Highlander is available in four trims: the base model, the Highlander Sport, and the Highlander Limited. While the base model is equipped with the 4-cylinder engine, the Sport and Limited come standard with the 215hp V6, and 4WD is available for all trims.
Aside from a sport suspension and some chrome accents, the Sport trim is deceptively similar to the Limited and fails to live up to its name. The V6 engine is standard, as are the transmission, drivetrain, and safety options, and most of the other options found here are also available to one or more of the other trims.
The standard Limited carries some of the nicer interior conveniences, such as rear climate controls, a premium stereo with 8 JBL speakers and an amp, leather seating, and illuminated vanity mirrors. It is also the only trim that comes standard with a rear spoiler.
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