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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
9.0
Out of 10

Based on 334 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

Awesome SUV, even though it's 4 cylinder plus

By on Saturday, August 09, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 330

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
6/10
Reliability
5/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
7/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
5/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

"Bought it brand new SUV last July 2013, to date, it only has 330 miles. Never been to rain or snow. Bought it to dealership for FREE oil change, advisor couldn't beleived it. Oh what a feeling!"

7 people out of 17 found this review helpful

Great Vehicle

By on Thursday, August 07, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 34,000

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
9/10

Pros: "Great Price, Smooth Ride, Great Family Vehicle"

Cons: "Gas Mileage is about 20mpg"

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

"Wonderful vehicle! Great price! Holds its value. This is the second Highlander I've leased. The lease price has been really affordable. I love the smooth ride and the space. It's a great vehicle for moving kids around, hauling dirt and plants for the garden, and carting a wet dog home from the lake. It handles really nicely for an SUV and the third row seating is great for kids. My only wish is that the gas mileage was better. I average 19 mpg going to and from work. On long trips I get 24 to 25 mpg on the highway."

Excellent, comfortable, reliable, great gas mileag

By on Thursday, August 07, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000

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: "4wd, gas mileage, comfort, reliability"

Cons: "None"

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

"This is my first Highlander. I have owned several Camrys and found them all to be excellent and reliable vehicles. The Highlander is as comfortable and reliable as all of the Toyotas I have owned. The third row seat comes in very handy. The 4 wheel drive is very useful in the mountainous terrain and bad winter driving conditions of Western PA. The gas mileage is better than advertised. My Highlander averages 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway. With its great gas mileage, spaciousness, and comfort it is a great vehicle to take on vacation."

2 people out of 2 found this review helpful

Best car/truck I've ever had- I'd buy another

By on Friday, June 27, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 90,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Smooth ride, good stereo, comfortable seats"

Cons: "Should buy the high end model, be happy."

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

"After driving a high performance Camaro for 20 years, It was time for a new something. Test drove a 2008 Highlander(Aug.2008) and loved it. Now has 90Kmi and only tiers and wipers and Mobil 1 oil. Water pump was under warrantee at 75Kmi. I'll be doing the brakes for the first time next service. That's just unheard of for me. I'll get new plugs at 100K. This car still drives like it did new!! Great in deep snow in the mountains, can pull 5,000 pounds, holds a lot of stuff and 3 rows of seats for all the grand kids. Once had 6 people, all the luggage on the roof and pulling a large U-Haul trailer from Texas to Nevada in the summer. Not one issue except used more gas. Just me and the wife, we get 22mpg on the highway and about 18 in town. Living in the desert it gets very hot, but the A/C is so good in this car, I'm never uncomfortable. It goes from 130 deg to 72 in about 10 min. That's a must where we live. It's so comfortable to drive on long trips I rarely get tired. Just hit the cruse and tones and relax. Lots of storage and ample cup holders and power plugins for extra toys. Ride is smooth even on some very ruff roads. My wife and I are short and we don't have to "Clime" into the car which is what I hate about my daughters Explorer. Her Explorer rides very ruff and the steering is much harder. The electric steering of the Highlander is top's. No pump or fluid to change, and butter smooth. Very easy to maneuver. The mirrors are large and easy to see all around. I think I'll get around 300Kmi before I need another, but I'd buy a Highlander again. The next one will have all the extras, with leather and sun roof. I'll only go with the 4X4 and at least a V6. Best car I've ever had!! I'm old so I've had a lot of cars."

21 people out of 41 found this review helpful

Still loving it!!!

By on Saturday, June 21, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000

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: "Easy to drive and the dogs love the rear air"

Cons: "I haven't found any"

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

"I bought this SUV new and it is now 6 years old. Only 60,000 miles but I have had no problems whatsoever. I am now looking at the 2014 and really hate to part with this one. Whoever buys it will not be sorry."

11 people out of 18 found this review helpful

Great car, comfortable around town & long trips

By on Friday, June 20, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 24,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Price, style, fuel efficiency for the size"

Cons: "Storage area small, especially when using 3rd row"

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

"I have been very pleased with the Highlander. It is comfortable to drive, solid and quiet. The interior styling is attractive and the fuel economy is good for a vehicle of this size. I compared many other SUV's before choosing this one. The quality, style and value of the Highlander made the decision easy. The only issue I have experienced was with the driver's window motor making some noise when the car was about 2 years old. The dealership replaced it without hesitation when I took it in."

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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

Buying this car?