By KBB.com Editors
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.
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.
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.
After a modest refresh last year, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Crossover carries on unchanged for 2012.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
The 2012 Toyota Highlander SUV starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $29,000 and will top $45,000 when fully loaded. The Highlander Hybrid starts close to $40,000 and tops out just over the $48,000 mark fully loaded. We expect our Fair Purchase Price values to reflect real-world transaction prices at or near sticker price, so be prepared to bring your best bargaining tactics. As to its key competitors, there are a number to choose from. Some, like the Hyundai Veracruz, offer a lower price for a comparably equipped model but don't have the Highlander's strong resale value. The V6-powered Honda Pilot is about the closest competitor in the areas of price, resale and features.
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!"
6 people out of 13 found this review helpful