A perennial champion of family transportation, the Toyota Highlander continues its dominance into the 2012 model year. Freshly redesigned for 2011, the Highlander features the car-like performance and SUV-like versatility that created a new automotive segment.
The popular three-row crossover is available in three trims: Highlander (MSRP $28,090), Highlander SE and Highlander Limited. A hybrid model is also available, but the focus here will be on the non-hybrid Highlander line. When it was first introduced to the U.S. market in January 2001, the Highlander pioneered the midsize crossover segment. Now, over a decade later, the original segment maker is still king. Wrapping all the great attributes of cars like the Camry into a more spacious and versatile package, the Highlander possesses car-like handling with outstanding fuel economy, and it manages all this with seating for up to seven.
The Highlander and Highlander SE come standard with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine producing 187 hp and 186 lb/ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission. If you prefer, Toyota offers a 270-hp 3.5-liter V6 (standard on the Limited). All trims are available with either front-wheel drive (FWD), or full-time four-wheel drive (4WD). When equipped with the four-cylinder FWD drivetrain combination, the 2012 Highlander will run an EPA-estimated 25 mpg highway; the FWD V6 is no slouch at 24 mpg highway.
You’re sure to spend more time on the road than time at the pump with mileage ratings like that, so it is good news to hear that the new 2012 Highlander continues to deliver one of the most comfortable, quiet and capable rides in the midsize crossover market, thanks in part to its four-wheel independent suspension.
It doesn’t matter how supple the ride is if you’re stuck in a boring or uncomfortable interior, but Highlander owners won’t have to worry about that. The Highlander has an open and airy interior space with plenty of cargo room. With standard interior features like 10 cupholders, four bottle holders and three 12-volt auxiliary power outlets, there’s plenty of storage space and electricity for everyone on a family trip. When the time comes to load up that new TV or move a friend across town, the second- and third-row seats fold to provide a cavernous 95.4 cubic feet of storage space. That is more cargo volume than a Honda Pilot, which has only 87 cubic feet.
Not only will you be comfortable on every trip, you’ll look good as well. The standard 17-inch alloy wheels tucked under the bold and aggressive bodywork create a stylish image. The California designed body is given upscale touches such as a silver-painted grille and color-keyed power remote outside mirrors, making sure the Highlander stands out from the pack. If you like a bit more pizzazz for your ride, the Limited trim adds 19-inch wheels, chrome door handles and roof rails. To round out the style package, the Highlander is available in your choice of nine exterior colors.
Toyota wants to make sure the time you spend in your Highlander is as effortless for you as possible. With a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, you have peace of mind. Toyota then offers you more; all new Toyota vehicles come with Toyota Care, a complimentary maintenance plan that covers all factory-scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles. The service also includes 24/7 roadside assistance.
Toyota created a new automotive segment when it created the Highlander. The company taught the other automakers how to make an SUV with car-like qualities. More than a decade later, Toyota is still teaching the others how it is supposed to be done.