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.
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.
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.
For 2010, Toyota adds more options to the base Highlander models. The base four-cylinder Highlander can now be equipped with a power sunroof, while the base V6 offers a rear backup camera.
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.
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 2010 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.
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.
Options available on the base V6 Highlander include a two-row seating package that eliminates the standard third-row seat, rear backup camera, 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.
The 2010 Highlander base model is powered by a 2.7-liter four cylinder engine, while a larger V6 is optional on the base and standard on the Sport and Limited trims. 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
270 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
248 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (FWD); 17/23 (4WD)
By kjsmith (LA) on Saturday, May 04, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "tech package, flexible seating, good gas mileage"
Cons: "not the most exciting to drive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"We have had our 2012 highlander for about a year and are very happy with it. We got the 4 cylinder model for mileage and for the flat Louisiana roads we drive 95% of the time. So far, the 4 cylinder has been great. We are averaging over 25 mpg in mostly highway driving and it makes only a few hp less than our 2005 Ford Freestyle. It did struggle a bit on a trip to the mountains of Arkansas,so I would probably get the 6 cylinder if I lived in a mountainous area or towed with it. We love the tech package with the bluetooth and rear view camera. Also love the flexible seating that can seat people our lay flat to carry our large dogs. So far,has been a typical reliable Toyota vehicle. Toyota Care which includes your scheduled maintenance has been a bonus. If you are in the market for a SUV, do yourself a favor and look at the highlander."
6 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Mike (NJ) on Sunday, April 28, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,900overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Cons: "14MPG.... Gas guzzler and no performace"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I drove this car for 3000 miles now and it is giving me headache since day 2. Rattling started in the car at 600 miles. All seats makes so much cranky noise. There is so much wind leak noise too. Took to Toyota to check out and they made even worst. DONT BUY THIS RATTLING JUNK..... Plastic is VERY CHEAP inside the car. NO TOYATO anymore."
5 people out of 15 found this review helpful
By betsybrat (NV) on Saturday, April 20, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfort, reliable, and great travel car"
Cons: "not crazy about the look of the front"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my Highlander so much that i'm impatiently awaiting the 2014 to see what they have come up with. I drove the new RAV 4 and really liked the changes with that, but not as comfortable and roomy and my Highlander. Would recommend this vehicle highly"
By Jackrabbit (CA) on Sunday, March 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Room, Performance, Visibility"
Cons: "Plasticy door panels, not cheap"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I don't regret a minute of owning this car. It is excellent on road trips. Handles my three tall kids, and my 6' 3' frame. The visibility is great with the huge side mirrors and the back-up camera it's a breeze to park. Though rated at 24 highway I have achieved 26 on more than one trip. The only knock I have is the excessive use of cheap looking plastics in the interior. I chose the SE with leather and Nav in 2WD. It is very light and quick. My wife has the Limited 4WD which is much heavier and more plush feeling. She liked mine so much she bought one of her own. You can spend more money but it's hard to get a better value. We compared it to the Pilot but found it too cramped for our family. The MDX was too small and too complicated to operate. The RX350 wasn't better, just more expensive. I'd recommend this car to anybody, especially if you're tall and have a heavy right foot."
18 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By snowbelt sam (OH) on Saturday, March 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 74,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "A suv with room, power and dependabiltiy."
Cons: "Not great snow road abiltiy/cheap interior parts."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Pros: Never in 3 1/2 years have we had a problem with the vehicle. Have over 74000 miles on a 2009 limited all wheel drive. Like 3rd seat when needed. Like the wood grain accents in the interior. Nice drivers position and good visability. Good engine power. Gas mileage in city 19, highway 23/24 mpg. Rides nice on highway. outside design, while not breathtaking, is conservative in look. Like individual heat and air controls. Like the rear controls as well. Nice middle rear seat hide away feature. Very much like the rear autoclose hatch door. Cons: Cheap, hard plastic parts through out interior. Very few soft feel surfaces. Dash looks cheap. And for a $40,000 vehicle there are some things that just shouldn't be. Like the very cheap almost cardboard like headliner. Leather seats that look like the cheapest leather toyota could find just to call them leather seats. And then there are the stock tires. I read alot of reviews on this suv before I bought it. The toyo tires looked like I should stay away from, so ordered with dualers on it. Did not make a difference. Shame on toyota for putting tires on a car that made me wonder in winter whether I was going to turn through a intersection or slide trough it. I hypothicate having tire that give the manufacture another 2 miles per gallon was key thought when they put them on the car. Last, but not least, because of the amount of snow where we live, all wheel drive is looking like it is not the best choice to have. Bells go off, dash lights flash just to tell me what I already know, that the vehicle is slipping. I want a system that is already in 4 wheel drive mode to prevent that from happening in the beginnng. Maybe should of bought the 4 Runner instead. Like a suv with room, power and dependabiltiy? Then look at this vehicle. Need great road capability in snow and what a quality looking and feeling interior features, then maybe look elsewhere."
10 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By jowandamar (TX) on Tuesday, February 26, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Standar Equipment, Gas saver and space."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my first Toyota and I have to admit... Is just Incredible... The options you get and the standar equipment are great!!! The driving experience is great, so smooth and quiet and the confort is a plus,considering that is a 4 cylinder the power is good and the MPG is great for this segment of SUV's."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful