Consumer Reports crowned the 2009 Toyota Highlander the "Best Midsized SUV" in their "Top Car Picks For 2009" selections. No surprise there ... it's powerful, fuel-efficient, maneuverable, and thoughtfuly designed from a "user-friendly" point of view.
The 2009 Highlander is a seven-passenger, midsize crossover SUV available in three trim levels: Base, Sport and Limited. All are offered with either front or all-wheel drive (AWD) with the exception of a new four-cylinder model, which is front-wheel drive only.
And there's few changes in the 2009 model, other than the introduction of a new four-cylinder version.
Even the Base trim is well equipped, fearturing standard equipment such as 17 inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, full power accessories, privacy glass, fold-flat third-row, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack.
Moving up to the Sport model adds 19 inch wheels, foglights, automatic headlights, sport-tuned suspension, 3.5 inch information display screen, rearview camera, in-dash CD changer (with MP3/WMA capability), upgraded fabric, power driver seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, flip-up rear hatch window, and one-touch folding second-row seats.
The Limited model is outfitted like the Sport, but adds a softer suspension, leather upholstery, heated and power-folding exterior mirrors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition and entry, and wood-grain interior accents.
Available options include heated front seats, power sunroof, power liftgate, rear DVD entertainment system, towing preparation, rear air conditioning for the Base and Sport trims, and automatic rear climate control for Limited models.
Also available is an uplevel, nine-speaker JBL sound system with Bluetooth connectivity. And there's an optional navigation system as well, but it can only be included as part of the JBL audio upgrade.
Other than the new four-cylinder model, all 2009 Highlanders are powered by a 3.5 liter V6 engine that produces 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. It comes standard as a front-wheel drive, with an optional all-wheel drive choice.
Also standard is a five-speed automatic transmission. With a 0 to 60 mph time of just 7.8 seconds, the V6 Highlander is one of the quickest SUVs in its class.
In addition, a properly equipped V6 Highlander has a tow capacity og 5,000 pounds ... again, a very respectable number in the midsize class.
The new Base model is also equipped with a fiesty engine, a 2.7 liter four- cylinder engine that delivers 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque. It's coupled to a six-speed automatic to optimize both performance and fuel efficiency.
The Highlander runs on 87-octane fuel (regular), and the EPA estimated gas mileage for the front-drive V6 is 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. The gas mileage for the AWD is 17 mpg city and 23 mpg highway.
The four-cylinder Highlander is mileage rated at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg on the highway.
Toyota's emphasis on safety means that all Highlanders come standard with antilock disc brakes (ABS), stability control, hill-start assist, front-seat side airbags, three-row side curtain airbags and a driver-side knee airbag. And all-wheel-drive models come standard with a downhill assist feature for increased control in snow and ice conditions.
In government crash testing, the 2009 Highlander scored five stars (out of five) for the driver and four stars for the passenger in frontal impacts. For side impacts, the Highlander also earned five stars.