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2008 Toyota Highlander

Overview
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2008 Toyota Highlander Review

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The first Highlander arrived in 2001 as Toyota's third car-based crossover SUV, following the compact RAV4 and the mid-size luxury Lexus RX 300. As the Toyota brand's more affordable version of the RX, it, like the RX, was built on the Camry sedan platform. And like its Lexus cousin, the Highlander has been very successful. Now comes this all-new 2008 Highlander, which (as with the current RAV4) is substantially larger, roomier and more powerful than its predecessor. Happily, its added girth and heft comes in tandem with slightly improved fuel economy.

You'll Like This Car If...

If a Japanese mid-size crossover with an optional third row tops your wish list, you should take a good look at this one. It's feature-laden, neither too big nor too small and should prove reliable for many years.

You May Not Like This Car If...

For buyers with more specialized needs or wants, the Highlander's well-rounded personality might not be as appealing as the sporty character of the Mazda CX-9 or the higher towing capacity of the Ford Explorer or Nissan Pathfinder, for instance.

What's Significant About This Car?

Though still a "mid-size" SUV, the second-generation Toyota Highlander has been expanded and improved in every way and now boasts a softer, quieter highway ride and more usable third-row seat. All three trim levels are powered by a new 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 driving through a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

Driving the Highlander

Driving Impressions We drove one of our test Highlander Limited 4x4s in intermittent rain on alternating wet and dry asphalt and found it confidence-inspiring all the while. Even if it isn't as...

fast as the V6 version of the RAV4, its little brother, the Highlander's 270-horsepower V6 is about as silky and powerful as you'll find in the category. Informal zero-to-60 miles-per-hour acceleration tests showed the Highlander to accelerate with sport sedan alacrity, while we noted fuel economy ranging between 16 and 20 miles per gallon. Except for its still difficult-to-access third row, the Highlander's seating was roomy and comfortable, and its ride, handling and braking excellent.

Center Stow Seat
This clever feature allows the second row of seats to be converted from three-across to two-across seating, opening a convenient pass-through area to access the third-row seats. The seat stows easily out of sight in the center console.


Hill-Start and Downhill Assist Control
If you live in rolling terrain, you'll appreciate these features that prevent the Highlander from rolling backward at a stop on steep up-grades and controls downhill speed (on non-hybrid four-wheel drive models) during slippery descents.

2008 Toyota Highlander Details
2008 Toyota Highlander photo Interior

The new Highlander's spacious interior is at once conservative, functional and attractive. Nice touches include huge round knobs for the primary radio and climate controls—easy to find and operate even while wearing gloves—and plenty of convenient spots for things like drinks and cell phones. The steering wheel offers manual tilt and telescope adjustment and, on Limited models, easy-to-access audio and climate control buttons. The reclining second-row seats also slide 4.7 inches fore-aft and offer a lift-out middle seat cushion for pass-through into the rear row, while the bigger new third row can comfortably accommodate not only children but even limber adults, at least on shorter trips.

Exterior
2008 Toyota Highlander photo

Styled in California, the 2008 Highlander design intentionally moves away from traditional SUV styling. Toyota says it makes a statement of strength instead of ruggedness, intelligence over toughness. We can tell you that it is an attractive vehicle that is designed more to blend into the automotive landscape than stand out from it. While it's definitely more curvaceous than its wedge-like predecessor, it offers a traditional SUV profile but is lower and more car-like, which makes sense based on its Camry roots. It is not as distinctive as the Hyundai Veracruz or the Buick Enclave crossovers, for instance, but it is handsome. Available 19-inch wheels help balance the more substantial look.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The base front-wheel-drive Highlander rolls on 17-inch alloy wheels and comes with halogen headlamps, AM/FM/CD MP3/WMA-capable six-speaker stereo, fold-flat third-row seat, tilt/telescope steering wheel, interchangeable Center Stow seat and center console and an aerodynamic rear spoiler. Standard safety features include seven airbags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. The Sport adds 19-inch wheels/tires, a back-up camera, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-CD changer and a 3.5-inch multifunction display. The top-of-the line Limited coddles its owners with full leather and woodgrain trim, power front seats, dual-zone climate control and a "smart" keyless entry and ignition system.

Optional Equipment

Options available on the base Highlander include a two-row seating package that eliminates the standard third-row seat, manual rear heating/air conditioning for the second and third rows, a cargo-area tonneau cover and a tow-prep package. Stepping up to a Sport or Limited brings a much broader spectrum of add-ons, most notably front dual-zone automatic climate control (standard on Limited), automatic rear air conditioning, multi-stage heated leather front seats, power moonroof, rear-seat entertainment system, power liftgate and a navigation system with premium audio, voice activation and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Four-wheel drive models are available in all grades.

Under the Hood

The 2008 Highlander packs a 270 horsepower 3.5-liter dual-variable-valve-timing V6 under its sculpted hood. It's 55 horsepower stronger than the 2007 engine it replaces and is mated to a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with selectable manual shift control.

3.5-liter V6
270 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
248 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (FWD); 17/23 (4WD)

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Buying this car?

2008 Toyota Highlander Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
9.1
Out of 10

Based on 367 Ratings for the 2008 - 2013 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    9.0/10
    Quality
    9.2/10
  • Reliability
    9.4/10
    Performance
    9.0/10
  • Comfort
    9.2/10
    Styling
    9.0/10

Best SUV I have ever owned

By on Wednesday, July 15, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 65,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Very nicely appointed."

Cons: "MPG is around 20 city and 24 highway."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"The 2010 Toyota Highlander is the best SUV I have owned, and I have owned quite a few. The styling is attractive, the V6 engine is powerful and very dependable. Transmission (automatic) shifts smoothly and silently without a tremor or jerk. The interior is very comfortable. The leather seats are luxurious. Knobs and dials are in the right places for easy access. Mine has a sliding electric sun roof, which is nice. The cargo area is voluminous. All in all a great vehicle. I will buy another one in about 200,000 miles."

2 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Great car; is our 3rd Highlander; 06-85K; 08-144K

By on Tuesday, July 07, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 65,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"No problems; great for mountains in Western CO and in NC; quiet, roomy, fun to drive, good nav system."

7 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Great Smaller SUV with TONS of Room!

By on Tuesday, June 09, 2015

I don't own this car

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "keeps it's value, comfortable, classic style"

Cons: "no split far back seat, no bluetooth"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"This is such an excellent vehicle for in city and in the country. Gets really good gas mileage and I've taken very good care of it. What I love the most is the extra 3rd row of seats that adults can comfortably sit in for a short road trip, but also collapses for more room in the back for storage or to fit a sleeping in. The leather seats make it easy to keep clean. I also appreciate the extra features on the stereo system, the steering wheel and the keyless door entry and push start! The captains chairs in the middle row are pretty sweet for comfort, too."

11 people out of 21 found this review helpful

Good basic car, high road noise, MPG not too good

By on Thursday, May 21, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 65,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
8/10
Reliability
8/10
Quality
7/10
Performance
6/10
Styling
5/10
Comfort
5/10

Pros: "Solid for family and work trips"

Cons: "MPG disappointing, failed part should not have fai"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5

"Good "truck" type vehicle, handles well on the road, soundproofing needs to be much better, a part that never fails: visor, failed, over 300$ to replace, rear camera almost useless, Toyota quality seems to be lower than it used to be. Updating GPS very expensive."

7 people out of 11 found this review helpful

Vehicle runs well with two major problems.

By on Monday, May 11, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 55,000

10 4.0
overall rating 4 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
4/10
Value
7/10
Reliability
6/10
Quality
6/10
Performance
4/10
Styling
6/10
Comfort
8/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"Purchased 2010 Highlander Limited 2/14. In November 2014 security alarm began going off at various intervals (day and night). This problem continued off and on through current date (May 2015). Two different Toyota dealerships were unable to diagnose problem and correct problem. The dealer from whom vehicle (certified pre-owned) was purchased finally opened a case file and contacted Toyota Technical Assistance. There is a notice out there which dealer overlooked which has found that the cause of the security alarm randomly going off due to faulty hood sensor. Part ordered. 2nd issue: liftgate arm for rear lift broke and cannot be repaired as bolt threads have worn away. Replacement parts have to be welded in place in the hope this will allow liftgate arm to operate and raise rear liftgate. NOTE: I am not referring to the pneumatic lift arms which can wear over time."

10 people out of 14 found this review helpful

Good car compared to other SUVs - Holds it's value

By on Saturday, April 25, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 57,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Air brake, smooth ride, large cargo area"

Cons: "Mold spores blown out of AC vents - cause illness"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1

"I bought this car in February or March of 2013. Traded in my 2008 Highlander. The dealer didn't have what I wanted, so they shopped until they found an (almost) exact match for me and had it brought in. It had a sunroof, which I didn't want, but everything else was perfect. It is silver with gray leather interior. I have lower back problems so getting in and out of a vehicle can be a problem for me. This Highlander fits me perfectly. I am 5'6" so am able to sit into the seat comfortably, and the under-the-knees support which can be adjusted to anyone's comfort level is so nice. There are some cars that I feel like I'm sliding out of the seat because there is no support under my knees. It rides very smoothly. We travel to NM a few times a year and we LOVE the air brake on this car. All we have to do is take the foot off the accelerator and the car will slow itself depending on the rate of descent and the curve of the road. It is great because it saves wear and tear on brakes. We took our 3 granddaughters on a 2000 mile road trip a few years ago, two teenagers and one pre-teen, plus our mini-weiner dog, and there was room for everyone and everything. We had added a rack on top, so some of the cargo went up there. It was a great trip, and we heard very few complaints. Our Highlander did great traveling from S. Texas into Canada. The only complaint I have with Highlanders is that the air conditioner smells moldy from time to time. I found an article a few years ago about a lady who had taken her Highlander in many times due to the mold and her children being sick all the time. Every time, the dealership told her the AC vents needed cleaning. When she finally had the manager of the dealership drive it over the week end, she got his attention. He had the car taken apart. What he found was (as I understand it) water from the AC drain had dripped onto the insulation between the firewall and the engine. It was moldy. Somehow the air coming into the cabin was drawing that mold into the vents. For some reason, this problem isn't reported on all of Toyota's products, but the reports do run the gamut of all of their lines, including the Lexus. My 2008 did not have the mold problem. Regrettably, as much as I love this Highlander, I will never buy another Toyota because of the dangerous level of mold spores in the Toyota vehicles. I have warned everyone I know about this. My friends and my granddaughter wanted to buy Toyotas. I talked them out of it. How unfortunate. I am surprised that there has been no class action lawsuit brought. Toyota is still producing automobiles with this problem, and until they re-engineer their cars, or until a huge settlement is made, there will be no change."

8 people out of 11 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

Buying this car?