By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.2
The Highlander has been a family favorite for ten years running, a reliable, comfortable and dependable way to move passengers and cargo around without breaking the bank at the dealership or the gas pump. Growing in size and opulence over the years, many Highlander owners consider their vehicles to be nearly Lexus-like inside, which is not surprising considering the Highlander shares much of its structure with the Lexus RX 350. Environmentally conscious consumers can benefit from the Highlander Hybrid, an option not offered on any of the Highlander's competitors. Although it receives a minor update this year, the Highlander's styling is nowhere as distinctive as its upscale cousin. But, 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 standard 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 Nissan Pathfinder or Chevrolet Traverse.
For 2011, the Toyota Highlander receives new front and rear fascias, hood and bumpers, plus expanded availability of the four-cylinder engine and standard three-row seating with rear climate controls. The hybrid model gains a more powerful V6 engine, while the entire line has access to more high-tech features.
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 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 third-row seat can comfortably accommodate not only children but even limber adults, at least on shorter trips.Exterior
Styled in California, the 2011 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, third-row 50/50 split-bench seat 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 trim adds 19-inch wheels/tires, a back-up camera, a USB port, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth, 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 Highlander include the Tech Audio package that adds USB port, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth, backup monitor with 3.5-inch multi-information display, an eight-way power driver's seat, a flip-up liftgate window, fog lamps, upgraded seat fabric and a rear cargo cover. 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, while the front drive SE can now be ordered with the four-cylinder engine.
The 2011 Highlander base and front-drive SE 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 4WD 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 25 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 a 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: 20/25
270 horsepower @ 6200 rpm
248 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (FWD); 17/22 (4WD)
By dtown40 (TX) on Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Ride, Fuel economy, safety features, style."
Cons: "3rd row seating should have been an option."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought new and haven't had any real problems at all. Quality has been excellent. Great ride, impressive fuel economy with a v6 engine. Spacious front and rear seating, although, 3rd row is very small and useless to me. (My only complaint about the car)"
By PamN1 (IL) on Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 110,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "No issues with this vehicle."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This has to be my second best buy vehicle. Purchased new and after 110,000 miles the only maintenance has been 1 new set of tires, 2 brakes jobs front and back. The only other vehicle I have owned that didn't need a ton of "fix and repair maintenance" was a 2004 Lexus ES. Put 120000 miles on the Lexus with nothing but general maintenance. Not sure how Toyota is building the newer cars, but the 2008 Highlander was definitely a good buy. Still runs great and handles well. The four wheel drive is awesome in snow! The primary reason I gave up the Lexus was for this 4 wheel drive SUV."
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By GG (GA) on Tuesday, November 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "I drives good - looks good."
Cons: "Functionability lacking in several interior areas."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"is very inconvenient - like bench seat better. Trying to get into the 3rd row is very difficult. 2nd row seat only lays flat, does not lift any to allow access to 3rd row. Small amount of storage, etc. in front seats. Navi is hard to negotiate - even after reading instructions. Mat for back when 3rd row seat is down very bulky and must be completely removed if using 3rd row. NO storage in rear as small storage in floor holds cover for back storage when not in use. Salesman told me car had parking sensors until I signed papers, then said he didn't tell me that. I really wanted sensors. I was "attacked" by 3 or 4 people at dealership and overall experience was a bummer. Doesn't help me like this vehicle at all. I'm sick about the deal - been a year now - time to get rid of and move to another tried and true vehicle. I guess it's perfect for some folks, just not me."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By John (IA) on Saturday, November 02, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliable, SUV without being too big."
Cons: "Updates to navigation system a nusiance."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"5 yr. anniv. of car. Not one issue to date. Keyless ignition has pros and cons. Mostly car idles so quietly you need to be conscious that it is still running. The ride is good but not as soft as one may like on rougher roads."
By Curly T. (SC) on Saturday, October 26, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Dependable, comfortable, convenient"
Cons: "My dealer cost was excessive!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Highlander is the way to go. In 2008 I bought an 06, 4 cyl, made trips between LA, MN, WI, & SC. with fantastic mileage and comfort,- not one problem. Gave it to our "snow country" daughter in 2011 and she is still happy with it in 2013. We leased a new 2011 Highlander until March 2013 when I purchased my own with a V6. I like the comfort and easy control of the vehicle when I am behind the wheel. The wife loves the comfortable seats and smooth, quiet ride on long trips. We find it easy for back seat entrance and exit when hauling Grandkids or older church ladies. The space and convenience of the 2nd and 3rd row fold down seats is important to us. And we are most appreciative of the ease of the fold up and down effort. The cargo space is more than adequate. I have only 2 "downers" on the 2013. (1)The 2011 model had a rear view mirror with direction indicator (N, S, NE, etc.) in the corner, which the dealer wants $275.00 to replace in my '13. And (2) the '11 model had a 3-disc CD player. My "new" '13 has a plain mirror and a single disc player. Notable, is the 15-20 mpg normal and 25-30 on the highway. This fact alone has us "casually" observing other vehicles."
7 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Paul (SC) on Friday, October 25, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,300overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Cons: "Too much electronic garbage that does not work"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"We were excited to get our 2012 Highlander brand new. Now, a little more than a year later, we can not wait to get rid of it. After 2 months the power steering started acting up and just stops working briefly then starts up again. Toyota has had issues with this and states there is not fix and that is the way it is designed. This is not safe and Toyota is in denial about this very serious flaw. After 6 months, the power assist on the brakes failed and "Brake Failure" appeared on the dash.. talk about scary when your kids are in the car. Again, Toyota was not able to repair the issue. At first we thought we had a lemon, but when researching the issue, these are common problems with all Toyota models, just google. Toyota is not the same company it once was and is using electronic garbage on their vehicles. I will not buy another Toyota again!"
5 people out of 12 found this review helpful