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2012 Toyota Highlander

Overview
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2012 Toyota Highlander Review

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KBB Expert Rating: 7.5

Toyota's 2012 Highlander crossover SUV continues to impress with its abilities, features and resale value. The vehicle that basically invented the segment, the Highlander established its beachhead and never let go. No longer the smallish wagon-like vehicle that was the original Highlander, the 2012 Toyota Highlander SUV has grown in size and sophistication to nearly full-size dimensions, and all that growth translates into a roomy, 7-passenger crossover ideal for growing families. Sharing much of its architecture with the Lexus RX 350 luxury SUV gives the Highlander another leg-up on its competition, as does the vehicle's impressive ability to hold its value, even in dark times. There is a hybrid model that attains best-in-class fuel economy without sacrificing power or interior space. But, as good as the Highlander is, there are alternatives worth considering such as the larger Chevy Traverse, the very affordable Hyundai Veracruz and the more off-road-capable Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango.

You'll Like This Car If...

There are plenty of midsize crossover SUVs worthy of owning, but when you combine the 2012 Toyota Highlander crossover's wide model range, exceptional resale value and strong owner-satisfaction figures, it gets a bit harder to justify buying anything else.

You May Not Like This Car If...

If you need a crossover or SUV that can be taken off-road, or that can tow more than 5,000 pounds, a Toyota 4Runner or Dodge Durango with a HEMI V8 might be a better choice.

What's New for 2012

After a modest refresh last year, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Crossover carries on unchanged for 2012.

Driving the Highlander

Driving Impressions On our test drive of the 2012 Toyota Highlander Limited 4x4, we encountered brief rain showers that had us traveling over both wet and drive pavement. Such changing road surfaces...

could instill dread, but the full-time 4-wheel-drive system and electronic traction and stability control on our Highlander inspired full confidence. The 2012 Toyota Highlander crossover SUV's 270-horsepower V6 engine is as smooth as velvet and responds instantly to the slightest request for more power. Our non-scientific 0-60-mph runs showed the Highlander as fast as any mid-size V6 sedan, and with fuel economy ranging between 16 and 20 mpg, we felt the Highlander lived up to its promised efficiency. Those seeking less performance and better mileage should definitely look to the 4-cylinder front-wheel-drive models, which move fuel-economy figures into the low 20s, or if money is no object, shoot for the hybrid.

Center Stow Seat
This clever feature allows the second row of seats to be converted from 3-across to 2-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 4-wheel-drive models) during slippery descents.

2012 Toyota Highlander Details
Interior

The 2012 Toyota Highlander SUV has an attractive, if somewhat conservative interior. Big round knobs on the dash for the radio and climate control make them easy to use even when wearing bulky winter gloves. There are loads of little storage spaces thoughtfully placed where kids need them most, and the rear-most occupants get their own climate controls. The 2012 Toyota Highlander crossover SUV features a sliding second-row seat that can move 4.7 inches fore or aft depending on where you need to maximize space. The second row is also equipped with a removable center section to create an easy path to the third-row seat. The Highlander's third-row seat may be its Achilles' heel in that, unlike the Traverse or Durango, there isn't much room for two full-size adults, leaving the rear seating to kids or very agile grown-ups.

Exterior

The 2012 Toyota Highlander crossover SUV shows a much more sporty and daring design than did the original Highlander. Rather than pushing a macho and rugged SUV-like image, Toyota instead correctly targets buyers who want the functionality of a big SUV in a vehicle that is both strong and intelligent. The Highlander SUV does stand out, but its profile is lower to the ground than a Chevy Traverse or Dodge Durango, which makes sense given it shares a common platform with the Toyota Camry. Large rear doors provide more space to easily access the third-row seat, and the flip-up tailgate opens high to minimize bumping your head on the corners.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

The front-wheel-drive 2012 Toyota Highlander crossover SUV rolls on 17-inch alloy wheels and comes with halogen headlights, AM/FM/CD MP3/WMA-capable 6-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 rearview camera, a USB port, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a 6-CD changer and a 3.5-inch multifunction display. The top-of-the-line Limited coddles its owners with full leather and wood-grain trim, power front seats, dual-zone climate control and a "smart" keyless entry and ignition system. The Highlander Hybrid and Hybrid Limited feature standard on-demand 4-wheel drive.

Optional Equipment

Options available on the 2012 Toyota Highlander crossover include the Tech Audio package that adds a USB port, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth, rearview monitor with 3.5-inch multi-information display, an 8-way power driver's seat, a flip-up liftgate window, foglights, 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, multistage 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 4-cylinder engine.

Under the Hood

The 2012 Toyota Highlander crossover SUV and front-drive SE model are powered by a 2.7-liter 4-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 upward of 25 mpg in highway driving. The Highlander V6 model packs a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter dual-variable-valve-timing V6 under its sculpted hood. The 4-cylinder engine is mated to a 6-speed gearbox, while the V6 model makes do with an electronically controlled 5-speed automatic transmission with selectable manual shift control. The Highlander Hybrid teams the 3.5-liter V6 with a powerful electric motor for total of 290 net horsepower. The Hybrid also uses a unique on-demand 4-wheel-drive system that includes an electric motor at the rear axle.

2.7-liter in-line 4
187 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
186 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/25

3.5-liter V6
270 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm (For Hybrid: 280 net horsepower)
248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 (FWD), 17/22 (4WD), 28/28 (Hybrid)

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2012 Toyota Highlander Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
9.0
Out of 10

Based on 342 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 car, regularly serviced, reliable

By on Saturday, October 25, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 135,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
6/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
7/10

Pros: "very good and reliable car"

Cons: "high mileage"

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

"I purchased this car new. It has been serviced on schedule It is in very good condition. Excellent tires. Does not use oil. Clean."

Reliable, fuel efficient and stylish for an SUV

By on Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 88,000

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
10/10

Pros: "easy to drive, lots of power and roomy inside."

Cons: "expensive to fix nob on radio and tires too"

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

"I like everything about my Highlander. It is by far the most comfortable SUV I have ever owned. Handles extremely well in bad weather. has all the bells and whistles. Very stylish and fun to drive. lots of room and the optional third row seat comes in handy often."

Was the best SUV I ever had!

By on Sunday, October 19, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 65,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "I love the color...Waveline blue"

Cons: "There were none that I could find after 7 years."

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

"Am trading this 2008 FWD 6 cyl for the new 2015 AWD. I like the new style and like to have the latest and the greatest. Just hope the new one is as good as this one has been. Still has the original battery in it. Never had an ounce of trouble and it was a soft and cushy ride as far as I am concerned. I know the new owner will love it!"

1 person out of 2 found this review helpful

Reliable, quiet. Few luxuries,

By on Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
7/10
Comfort
8/10

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

"A very quiet motor, comfortable, great for hauling things. The steering column is a pain because it does not tilt automatically. The wipers and cruise controls are in a location behind the steering wheel. It is sometimes difficult to see which setting you want. The rear wiper is not wide enough. The carpet is very thin and cheap. Unless they have made these changes, I would not buy this model again."

1 person out of 2 found this review helpful

No problems, no complaints. Would buy again.

By on Monday, October 06, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 130,000

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
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Cons: "Model I have does not have outdoor temp display"

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

"This has been a solid, reliable vehicle. Over the past 20 years, I have gone through several vehicles. My Highlander is the one vehicle that I've had longer than any other. It serves all my needs and is a dream to drive a 16 hour round trip in, which we do a few times a year to visit relatives/vacation. Its comfortable, quiet and performs exceptionally well."

9 people out of 16 found this review helpful

My second Highlander. Best car for me.

By on Monday, September 08, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,200

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Quiet, pleasure to drive, great sound system."

Cons: "Nothing that 400hp wouldnt cure."

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

"I traded in my 2008 se after 89,000 mi on a 2013 Limited. It was used one owner with 958 mi.(to me that's new) Got it for 21K and trade. I feel we got a good deal. I love the second Gen. Highlander. Not so fond of the 2014&15 they made some changes that I just don't like. This 13 is so nice, with all the extras. AWD is a must for us, with mountain snow and all. It rides smooth and quite, steering is same as my 08, so no surprise that you have to pay attention. I'm still getting used to all the gizmos, Bluetooth, Nav system, Love the JBL speakers a big improvement over the 08 we had. My wife likes the power lift hatch. I love the remote start, I can get it cooling down without even going outside. The reliability was the real reason we bought another. I had zero problems with my 08 and was just about to get the brakes done when we found this new one. Just Syn. oil, tiers and wipers. We're close to retirement so having the higher end model will be nice. I don't plan to buy another car ever and I think this will be good for about 300Kmi with proper care. I've never used the third row seats on either car but it's nice to know I can. Some day we may take the grand kids on a trip. The running boards do help my Mom get in and out. She's 89 now with bad knees, she likes the leather Captain seats in the second row. I would recommend a Highlander to anyone looking at an SUV, and if it's in your budget, get the higher end Highlander it's worth the extra cash. It's not for serious off road but it can handle most gentle trails with ease. Towing is good at 5000lb rating. Power is a modest but good 270hp. It will step lively when you need it and MPG is good. Resale value I think is good, we made a good trade on my 08. The moon roof and roof rack is nice for those things that don't quite fit in the back. I honestly cant find anything to complain about in this new model. It's every bit as good as the 08 but the upgrade to a Limited is so much nicer and pleasant to drive."

14 people out of 22 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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