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2009 Toyota Highlander

Overview
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2009 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. Although its styling is far from distinctive, the Highlander offers its owners multiple benefits that include excellent ratings in the areas of safety, service and reliability, not to mention resale. For 2009, a new four-cylinder model is added, promising better fuel economy and a lower base price. There's also a hybrid model which is reviewed separately.

You'll Like This Car If...

If a well-regarded 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 Ford Flex. Similarly, the Highlander can't match the higher towing capacity of the Ford Explorer or Nissan Pathfinder.

What's New for 2009

A new 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine is added to the base two-wheel drive trim. Also, a number of stand alone options have been bundled into six new packages offering savings from $300 to $1,200, depending upon the model.

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.

2009 Toyota Highlander Details
2009 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

Styled in California, the 2009 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 the original Highlander, 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, tilt/telescope steering wheel, interchangeable Center Stow seat and center console and an aerodynamic rear spoiler. The V6 trim adds a hideaway third-row seat. Standard safety features include seven airbags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. The Sport trim 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 V6 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 V6 grades.

Under the Hood

The 2009 Highlander gets a new 2.7-liter four cylinder engine available on the base trim only. The 2.7-liter is near the top of its class in the areas of fuel efficiency and power, with 187 horsepower on tap and upwards of 27 miles per gallon in highway driving. The Highlander V6 model packs a 270 horsepower 3.5-liter dual-variable-valve-timing V6 under its sculpted hood. The four-cylinder engine is mated to an all-new six-speed gearbox, while the V6 model makes due with an electronically controlled five-speed automatic transmission with selectable manual shift control.

2.7-liter in-line 4
187 horsepower @ 5800 rpm
186 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/27

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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2009 Toyota Highlander Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
9.0
Out of 10

Based on 334 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

Great Vehicle

By on Thursday, August 07, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000

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
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Great Price, Smooth Ride, Great Family Vehicle"

Cons: "Gas Mileage is about 20mpg"

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

"Wonderful vehicle! Great price! Holds its value. This is the second Highlander I've leased. The lease price has been really affordable. I love the smooth ride and the space. It's a great vehicle for moving kids around, hauling dirt and plants for the garden, and carting a wet dog home from the lake. It handles really nicely for an SUV and the third row seating is great for kids. My only wish is that the gas mileage was better. I average 19 mpg going to and from work. On long trips I get 24 to 25 mpg on the highway."

6 people out of 14 found this review helpful

Excellent, comfortable, reliable, great gas mileag

By on Thursday, August 07, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000

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

Pros: "4wd, gas mileage, comfort, reliability"

Cons: "None"

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

"This is my first Highlander. I have owned several Camrys and found them all to be excellent and reliable vehicles. The Highlander is as comfortable and reliable as all of the Toyotas I have owned. The third row seat comes in very handy. The 4 wheel drive is very useful in the mountainous terrain and bad winter driving conditions of Western PA. The gas mileage is better than advertised. My Highlander averages 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. With its great gas mileage, spaciousness, and comfort it is a great vehicle to take on vacation."

4 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Best car/truck I've ever had- I'd buy another

By on Friday, June 27, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 90,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
6/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Pros: "Smooth ride, good stereo, comfortable seats"

Cons: "Should buy the high end model, be happy."

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

"After driving a high performance Camaro for 20 years, It was time for a new something. Test drove a 2008 Highlander(Aug.2008) and loved it. Now has 90Kmi and only tiers and wipers and Mobil 1 oil. Water pump was under warrantee at 75Kmi. I'll be doing the brakes for the first time next service. That's just unheard of for me. I'll get new plugs at 100K. This car still drives like it did new!! Great in deep snow in the mountains, can pull 5,000 pounds, holds a lot of stuff and 3 rows of seats for all the grand kids. Once had 6 people, all the luggage on the roof and pulling a large U-Haul trailer from Texas to Nevada in the summer. Not one issue except used more gas. Just me and the wife, we get 22mpg on the highway and about 18 in town. Living in the desert it gets very hot, but the A/C is so good in this car, I'm never uncomfortable. It goes from 130 deg to 72 in about 10 min. That's a must where we live. It's so comfortable to drive on long trips I rarely get tired. Just hit the cruse and tones and relax. Lots of storage and ample cup holders and power plugins for extra toys. Ride is smooth even on some very ruff roads. My wife and I are short and we don't have to "Clime" into the car which is what I hate about my daughters Explorer. Her Explorer rides very ruff and the steering is much harder. The electric steering of the Highlander is top's. No pump or fluid to change, and butter smooth. Very easy to maneuver. The mirrors are large and easy to see all around. I think I'll get around 300Kmi before I need another, but I'd buy a Highlander again. The next one will have all the extras, with leather and sun roof. I'll only go with the 4X4 and at least a V6. Best car I've ever had!! I'm old so I've had a lot of cars."

23 people out of 44 found this review helpful

Still loving it!!!

By on Saturday, June 21, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000

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

Pros: "Easy to drive and the dogs love the rear air"

Cons: "I haven't found any"

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

"I bought this SUV new and it is now 6 years old. Only 60,000 miles but I have had no problems whatsoever. I am now looking at the 2014 and really hate to part with this one. Whoever buys it will not be sorry."

11 people out of 18 found this review helpful

Great car, comfortable around town & long trips

By on Friday, June 20, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Price, style, fuel efficiency for the size"

Cons: "Storage area small, especially when using 3rd row"

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

"I have been very pleased with the Highlander. It is comfortable to drive, solid and quiet. The interior styling is attractive and the fuel economy is good for a vehicle of this size. I compared many other SUV's before choosing this one. The quality, style and value of the Highlander made the decision easy. The only issue I have experienced was with the driver's window motor making some noise when the car was about 2 years old. The dealership replaced it without hesitation when I took it in."

NOT ALL ITS CRACKED UP TO BE

By on Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I owned and sold this car
Reason: BORING POOR MILEAGE

10 6.0
overall rating 6 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
6/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
7/10
Performance
3/10
Styling
3/10
Comfort
7/10

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

"I owned this car for one and a half years and used it for a traveling sales job. I put about 40,000 miles on it during that time and drove it across the country through all kinds of terrain and weather. First it is reliable and realitively maintenance free. However it was not that great in weather, especially snow. The tires are very expensive and an odd size so there are few options. However I do think there are currently more options available. Some of the interior materials were cheap, and the mileage was sub-par most of the time, especially when the weather was cold. I averaged 16.5mpg the last winter I drove it. For that mileage I would rather have a larger more powerful suv that could tow and haul and provide real 4x4 convenience and safety. Lastly its terribly boring to drive. Its a ho hum day everyday behind the wheel. I rated its value in the middle, because I think its overpriced for what you get."

5 people out of 8 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

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