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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 363 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

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."

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."

2 people out of 2 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."

1 person out of 2 found this review helpful

Outatanding SUV. Probably my last new car

By on Monday, April 13, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 14,600

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Great reliability, all the goodies,plenty of room,"

Cons: "Poor OEM tires, wish it had memory seats."

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

"Searched all over to find a replacement for my 2007 Caddilac SRX (don't like the new style). The highlander won out over the Pilot in several areas. Bought the LTD model and for some reason Toyota deleted the compass when you have nav. But for $200, you can have the standard mirror replaced with a factory mirror with the compass. It's not a Caddilac, but it comes pretty close with the LTD package. Handles extremely well in rain/snow and has the best traction of any car I've had-even with those crummy OEM tires. I'm now 70, bet I'll never have to buy another vehicle for myself. Almost positive it will out live me. Never had a problem nor has anybody I know had anything major with their Toyotas."

5 people out of 7 found this review helpful

Comfortable for 6'6" driver, poor gas mileage

By on Saturday, April 11, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 92,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

"Overall, I am pleased w/2008 Highlander. Has been extremely reliable, no major repairs in 8 years. On the downside, the tires wear out very quickly. Gas mileage is mediocre. Handling is a little "clunky" or truck-like. Headlights could be more effective. Audio system/speakers should be improved. But, when I keep a car for 8-plus years, it usually means that I am pleased with the vehicle."

2 people out of 6 found this review helpful

Very good and reliable vehicle

By on Monday, April 06, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 50,000

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: "Fun to drive gets 27 mph highway and 19 city"

Cons: "Has very large blind spots on both rear sides"

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

"I purchased vehicle new in 2012. I purchased because of the reputation for good mileage and low maintenance costs. It came with a good 30,000 mile two free service which was nice since I do a lot of driving. I have only had to replace the tires and have had no major failures or breakdowns. I have just turned 50,000 miles and its still running good. It handles well at 70 to 80 MPH only glitch is that since it is front wheel drive it will tend to crawl to the left or right when you are stopped and then punch the accelerator. I guess this is typical of front wheel drives. Riuns good in snow and wet weather."

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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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