The 2004 Toyota Highlander comes with more powerful engines, new safety features, and optional seating for up to seven passengers. Styling has been revised slightly for 2004, but the real changes are under the skin. The four-cylinder engine that comes standard is more powerful and the new V6 is larger and more powerful than before. Adding to the improved responsiveness these changes bring is a new five-speed automatic transmission. The suspension has been revised, producing a very soft ride quality. And minor structural changes have been made to improve space efficiency inside. In spite of these revisions, the Highlander remains the easiest of motoring companions. Getting in and out couldn't be easier. Its flexible interior makes it easy to various combinations of people and cargo. Seating for five comes standard, but 2004 models offer an optional third-row seat to carry up to seven passengers, though they'd be cramped. The third row folds flat and the second-row seat folds nearly so, revealing 80 cubic feet of cargo space, more than a Toyota 4Runner. The Highlander can swallow impromptu flea-markets buys with ease, and tote them home despite sudden worsening of the weather. New airbag systems for 2004 include optional curtain-style airbags and side airbags designed to protect passengers' heads and torsos in a side impact or rollover. The Highlander offers a soft, smooth ride and its engines are smooth and quiet. The base model, equipped with the revised 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, performs well around town and on the open highway, delivering responsive performance when merging into highway traffic. Equipped with the larger 3.3-liter V6 and all-wheel-drive, the Highlander offers strong power and secure handling in nasty weather. Highlander offers much of what made the Lexus RX 300 popular, but without Lexus-sized monthly payments.