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2012 Toyota Highlander

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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 383 Ratings for the 2008 - 2013 models.

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

Great SUV!

By on Saturday, July 16, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 83,000

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: "confort, handeling, great in snow."

Cons: "Radio sound"

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

"i HAVE HAD THIS CAR SINCE NEW, DRIVE 400 HYWAY MILES TO WORK EACH WEEK. vERY COMFORTABLE, GETS DECENT GAS MILEAGE FOR A SUV. WITH REAR SEATS FOLDED DOWN YOU CAN CARRY A DECENT SIZE LOAD.IF I HAD TO FIND 1 THING I WISH WAS BETTER IT WOULD BE THE VOLUME OF THE RADIO. I WOULD LIKE IT TO BE LOUDER, OTHER THAN THAT THE HYLANDER IS ONE ON THE BEST VEHICLES I HAVE EVER OWNED."

Toyota doesn't stand behind their Hybrid Batteries

By on Monday, May 16, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 82,500

10 3.0
overall rating 3 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
3/10
Value
2/10
Reliability
2/10
Quality
2/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
8/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "lots of room, fun to drive"

Cons: "terrible warranty, MPG is 1/2 of sticker"

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

"I traded in my 2010 Highlander for a 2008 Highlander Hybrid last May and the hybrid battery failed last week. I researched the hybrid battery before buying my vehicle and with the California provision of 150,000 miles and 10 years I thought I was making a wise purchase. I didn't find out until half a week later that the battery wasn't covered by the warranty and the cost to replace was $6200. (Also worth noting I NEVER got anywhere close to the advertised mpg so the battery was probably bad at the time of purchase. Service just told me it took "time" for the car to get used to my driving. Seriously that was a lame answer, but having never owned a hybrid vehicle I went with their information.) Barely out of warranty by time and way under in mileage and Toyota won't cover the battery. If I trade it in towards another purchase I'd get $10,000. That means my car depreciated by $10,000 in 11 months and about 10,000 miles! Not a pleasant option when this is my third Toyota and second with one with Auburn. If I decide to get another car it won't be a Toyota this next time!"

5 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Awesome dependability-8 years running

By on Wednesday, March 23, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 51,000

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
9/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "VERY Cost effective in the long haul! hang on 2 it"

Cons: "manual hatch is hard for me to pull down- im short"

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

"I am very very pleased with my choice to pick the 2008 Highlander over other SUV's. I was worried due to a risk of recalls (accelerator issues, air bag issues around that year-) My pick came down to dependability and ride. I picked the worst road in my area and drove all similar SUV's--Highlander had the BEST ride for me - independent suspension I was told. The Ford escape was tempting but the ride was SOOO bumpy and stiff compared to mine! NOT comfortable at all for me - and my dad sells Ford cars but it must be comfortable, and my dad understand. Seats are much better than all I tried (- I'm overweight- short legs- and had back surgery 1992 and arthritis and I'm over 60 years old) My son thinks the brakes are "touchy" and grab too fast, I said thats GOOD! I told him learn to brake correctly :-). I keep checking the KBB, so I wont get ripped off on a claim, today's value is about $16,700 for my 50,000 low millage- city driving for average 275 on a 17 gallon tank... you do the math...car is in very good condition,paint holds up great, so figure I will drive another 8 years, then buy another! Only repairs were: battery (twice, and tires once - original tires by Toyota are the soft teaser-type to make you think the ride is softer but I replaced with good Michelin tires and they ride was just as good! Also one serpentine belt and one water pump ( but I think the auto place ripped me off because it wasn't running hot just bearing squeal and needed the belt adjusted I think but whatever, one headlight bulb! I want to keep it forever! Great to evacuate our frequent hurricanes in!!"

4 people out of 4 found this review helpful

Great all around vehicle

By on Tuesday, March 8, 2016

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 46,000

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
9/10

Pros: "Very reliable and great all around vehicle."

Cons: "Wish it had a little more front leg room."

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

"This is our second Highlander. These are very reliable vehicles that are a great value. Very roomy and comfortable. Plenty of room to carry a family, cargo, or whatever. I highly recommend it."

7 people out of 8 found this review helpful

Reliable, Comfortable, Great SUV

By on Thursday, December 31, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 73,300

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

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

"Very reliable. Replaced the battery, and brakes for the first time this year, my vehicle is 5 years old with 73K miles. The leather on the drivers seat is starting to show wear, I work in an office and don't abuse the interior, so I would have expected it last a little longer. The ride is nice, it has get up and go, it is quiet inside, love my Highlander"

6 people out of 9 found this review helpful

Excellent vehicle!

By on Wednesday, December 30, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 123,000

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

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

Pros: "Everything"

Cons: "None"

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

"I've owned this car for 7 years and I can only recall one mayor repair other than than very reliable vehicle,I accelerates fast for an SUV and very comfortable for long trips we've done over this years...highly recommended!"

1 person out of 4 found this review helpful

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