By KBB.com Editors
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 It 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.Favorite Features
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.