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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
2012 Toyota Highlander photo

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
9.1
Out of 10

Based on 360 Ratings for the 2008 - 2013 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    9.0/10
    Quality
    9.2/10
  • Reliability
    9.4/10
    Performance
    9.1/10
  • Comfort
    9.2/10
    Styling
    9.0/10

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."

3 people out of 5 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 4 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."

Solid pluses, definite minuses

By on Sunday, March 22, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 26,000

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
10/10
Styling
6/10
Comfort
7/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 4

"The same things that attracted me initially are what I continue to like about this 2013 4WD SE: Toyota reliability and "brand," powerful and very refined V6 (this engine is quiet and QUICK, best in class,) effective cold weather package and winter handling, compliant Camry-based ride, drive characteristics are great (in fact, the critics claim that it drifts too much in hwy driving is not accurate, it does fine in that regard--just my experience.) For a "heavy" 4wd veichle, this car is nimble and impressively quick for passing and getting out of trouble. Again, very strong engine is probably the car's best asset. Also, all the options work just as advertised. HOWEVER: interior fit and finish was subpar on this car, turns out 2013 was not good for Toyota overall in this regard. Too much cheap plastic up front. and so not surprisingly, several ANNOYING rattles quickly developed in the dash area (been in for it, fixed one big one but the others elude a solution.) Also an equally annoying wind noise rattle from somewhere in the rear at hwy speeds. No excuse for this in a $36,000 car. I HATE RATTLES!! Also, the leather seats always did look kind of cheap (definitely not "plush") and have not "broken in" as comfortable enough for extended driving, and the armrests and console are thinly padded and not placed well enough for either me or my wife. New car, and my wife has to use a cushion to compensate for the lack of seat comfort! If I had to, I could live with this car given its obvious strong points, but two years into a three-year lease, I'm looking to get out of it if I can without losing my shirt."

4 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Great looking ride

By on Sunday, March 15, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,075

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
9/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Great acceleration,cool look,good gas"

Cons: "no hands free phone hook up"

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

"I've owned my Highlander for a little over 2 years now, I purchased her with 18,000 miles and she is now at 35,075. Very minor flaws and minor flaws they are. Great condition, dark window tint and aggressive/cool tire tread."

6 people out of 9 found this review helpful

2nd highlander. Love it

By on Thursday, March 12, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 74,500

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: "Comfy, roomy, 4 cup holders."

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

"Looking to trade in for newer model. Love it. 2nd highlander. Bought 1 st one new. 2nd one used and going now for 3rd used!"

7 people out of 7 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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