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Video Review: 2012 Toyota Highlander Limited

January 31st, 2012


      Toyota’s Highlander has never been a vehicle to grab the attention of our automotive hearts. Its subdued styling and midsize packaging just doesn’t stand out in the crowd. Our all-wheel-drive test example was even painted a nondescript shade of beige. But setting out with low expectations can be good, because it’s then hard to disappoint.
      And yet we were still disappointed with the Highlander’s unimpressive fuel economy figures: 17 mpg city / 22 mpg highway. With numbers like that Toyota might as well have based this vehicle on a true truck platform rather than compromise truck-like capabilities with a car-based crossover. The Highlander again defied its cross-over roots by giving the handling feel of an old school truck-based SUV in the corners. It simply refused to be pushed when the roads twisted. The next disappointment was the leather wrapped steering wheel that felt exactly like plastic and the nice looking but hard to the touch dash materials. This would be something to criticize in a $20k vehicle but impossible to defend in the Highlander, which has a base price of more than $36,000.
      The Highlander did succeed in surprising us on a few accounts. First, its 270 hp V6 feels much more powerful than its power ratings suggest. Solidly pushing on the go-pedal scoots the Highlander into highway traffic with admirable ease. Once on the highway, Toyota’s midsize crossover is comfortable to remain there with a ride that soaks up the miles and the uneven pavement. The high perch from the driver’s seat is pleasant with an unexpected amount of adjustments. This is certainly a vehicle that can cruise all day without tiring its occupants. While the Highlander came up short in some obvious areas, its highway demeanor keeps this vehicle on the list of crossovers to consider even if it fails to place it at the top.

Photos by Jason Muxlow

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