The 2012 Toyota Highlander is again among the top 7-passenger crossover SUVs thanks to its solid build quality, family-friendly personality, powerful yet fuel-efficient V6 engine and well-designed interior.
On the road, the Highlander delivers quite robust acceleration with the V6 engine, while still offering easy-going yet capable road manners. Inside, the cabin is attractive, spacious, quiet and well-stocked with all the features expected from a family SUV. The base inline-4 engine is also impressively thrifty at the pump.
As much as the 2012 Highlander has going for it, it's still highly recommended to check out other good choices in order to help make the most informed final buying decision. Worthy rivals deserving a look would include the Chevrolet Traverse, the Ford Flex and the Mazda CX-9, each with their own appealing attributes.
Trims, Standard Features And Options:
The 2012 Toyota Highlander is available in three trims: base, SE and Limited (the Hybrid will get a separate review).
Standard features on the base Highlander model include power mirrors, power windows, power door locks, air-conditioning, cruise control, a tire pressure monitor, a multi-function remote, keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, cloth upholstery, a 40/20/40-split-folding second-row seat that both slides and reclines, a 50/50-split-folding third-row seat, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, automatic headlights, a full-size spare tire, a full array of safety features (see below) and a 6-speaker audio system with a CD player, an MP3/WMA player and an auxiliary audio jack.
Moving up to the Highlander SE adds leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, a sunroof, an 8-way power driver seat, heated front seats, foglights, a back-up camera, a power liftgate, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, roof rails, a windshield wiper de-icer and an upgraded sound system (optional on the base) with Bluetooth connectivity/streaming audio, satellite radio and a USB port.
The top-of-the-line Limited model goes on to add a 10-way power driver seat, a 4-way power passenger seat, upgraded leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry, 19-inch alloy wheels, power-folding-and-heated outside mirrors with puddle lamps, additional chrome exterior trim and wood-grain interior trim accents.
Optional features vary depending on the model and geographic location, but include a navigation system, a rear DVD entertainment system, an upgraded JBL audio system with a 6-disc CD changer and subwoofer, and a towing prep package.
Engines, Powertrain And Gas Mileage:
Powering the base and SE Highlander models is a 2.7-liter inline-4 engine that produces 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. These 4-cylinder models come standard with front-wheel drive (FWD), while all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional, and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The EPA-estimated gas mileage for this engine is a very good 20 mpg city and 25 mpg on the highway.
Available as an option on the base and SE Highlanders and standard on the Limited is a 3.5-liter V6 that's good for a healthy 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. This engine is coupled with a 5-speed automatic transmission, while front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. In performance tests, a Highlander Limited AWD was timed from a standstill to 60 mph in a fleet 7.5 seconds, making it one of the fastest crossovers available. And when properly equipped, the Highlander V6 has a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
Even so, the EPA-estimated gas mileage for a front-wheel drive V6 Highlander is a quite respectable 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. Fuel economy for the all-wheel drive version decreases slightly to 17 and 22, respectively.
Standard safety features for all 2012 Highlanders include traction control, stability control, antilock disc brakes (ABS), front side-impact airbags, active front head restraints, a driver knee airbag, full-length side curtain airbags and hill-start assist. In addition, AWD models also come with standard hill-descent control.
In government crash testing, the Highlander received an overall score of four out of five stars, consisting of five stars for side-impact occupant protection and four stars for frontal-impact protection.
The 2012 Toyota Highlander's cabin is attractive, comfortable and user-friendly. In fact. it's one of the best in this segment. The materials and construction are high quality, while the upscale Limited model is particularly impressive. The design also makes for excellent outside visibility.
The seating is both comfortable and supportive, front and rear. Roominess is quite generous in the first and second rows making for very passenger-friendly accommodations on long trips. The third row, however, is best left for children as legroom is on the tight side. Very convenient, however, is the sliding and reclining second-row seat which not only provides additional comfort, but also allows adjustments for legroom and cargo capacity variations. Of note, it also has a removable center section with a special stowing compartment which makes it very easy to access the third row.
In terms of storage, the Highlander can hold up to an above-average 95.4 cubic feet of cargo with the second and third-row seatbacks folded down.
The 2012 Highlander offers a well-balanced combination of capable handling and smooth ride quality, not an easy mix to master. For a three-row SUV, it holds better than most when cornering while its fully independent suspension does a very good job of muting most road bumps and rough spots. Overall, its light steering makes for easy maneuvering. That said, it is not designed to be as athletic as some rivals that are more sport-oriented.
Highlanders with the 3.5-liter V6 are even more capable due to its robust acceleration capabilities. Although one of the fastest in its class, an added plus is that it is also one of the most fuel-efficient.
How To Get The Lowest Price:
Best Negotiating Tactic: Well, there's definitely a 'best way' when it comes to new car buying. If you want to get the best bottomline, out-the-door price you need to know exactly who to talk to at the dealership, how to make the contact and how to make this person eager to quickly drop prices as low as possible to get your sale.