By KBB.com Editors
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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 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."
4 people out of 4 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."
3 people out of 11 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."
8 people out of 8 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