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3/4 Front Glamour 2012 Toyota Highlander

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Expert's Rating


MPG 18 City / 24 Highway
  • Good fuel economy for crossover SUV
  • Lots of cargo space
  • Many standard safety features
  • Configurable rear seats
  • Interior quality lags behind competitors
  • Handles more like an SUV than a car
, Automotive Editor -
The Toyota Highlander remains high on the list of midsize crossovers to try. Its combination of being a manageable size, offering standard three-row seating and both four and six-cylinder engines, makes it an attractive choice for people who need space for up to seven passengers. A fuel-efficient 2.7-liter four-cylinder with 187 horsepower is the standard engine for Base and SE Highlanders, capable of up to 25 MPG highway. Standard on Limited and available elsewhere in the model range is a 3.5-liter V6 with 266 horsepower with optional all-wheel drive. Those are competitive figures among mainstream three-row crossovers.


The base Highlander starts with 17-inch alloy wheels, power windows, locks, mirrors and cruise control. Moving up to SE nets features like Bluetooth, leather seats and a backup camera. The Limited has a standard V6 and offers a navigation system and JBL audio. Every model comes with a full complement of safety features, such as front and side air bags for front passengers, curtain airbags for all three rows, driver's knee airbag and electronic stability control. All Highlanders also get front and rear air conditioning controls, a 40/20/40 split second-row seat and a 50/50 split third-row seat. The four-cylinder is rated to tow up to 3,500 lbs. with an optional towing package; the V6 will haul up to 5,000 lbs. All of this standard safety gear, versatile seating for seven people and respectable towing ratings make the Highlander a perfect choice to be a family's primary transportation.

See the rest of our picks for the best SUVs of 2012

The Ford Explorer is loaded with optional technology features such as MyFord Touch and has a sophisticated four-wheel drive system that adapts to specific surfaces. But the Ford gets very expensive in higher trim levels. The Chevrolet Traverse is even larger than the Pilot and also offers seating for eight, as well as roughly twice the cargo space of the Highlander when the third-row seat is in place. But the Traverse can struggle with its 3.6-liter V6. The Dodge Durango offers a V8, unique among mainstream three-row crossovers. But the Durango's fuel economy doesn't match up with some of the more efficient crossovers.

In the competitive crossover category, the Highlander holds its own by offering a four-cylinder option on Base and SE trims as well as a smooth V6 and being a size that fits most people's needs.

Which Style To Buy?

2012 Toyota Highlander
Starting price

2012 Toyota Highlander Base

Recommended for: For buyers who want three rows of seats for a low price

The base Highlander kicks things off with front-wheel drive and a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and up to 25 MPG on the highway. A 3.5-liter V6 is optional and is available with either front or four-wheel drive. Even the most basic Highlanders get body-colored power outside mirrors, 17-inch alloy wheels, power windows and locks, privacy glass and headlights with auto on/off. Inside, there are air conditioning controls for rear passengers, a six-speaker audio system with AUX input and cruise control. An optional Towing Prep package brings towing capability up to 3,500 lbs. for the four-cylinder and 5,000 lbs. for the V6. The Cold Weather Package adds a windshield wiper de-icer and heated outside mirrors. The Tech Pack adds SiriusXM radio, USB input, multi-information dash display with trip computer function, Bluetooth, steering wheel audio controls, 8-way power driver's seat, lift-up glass hatch, fog lights, black roof rails and engine immobilizer.

2012 Toyota Highlander
Starting price

2012 Toyota Highlander Limited V6

Recommended for: Shoppers looking for a luxurious three-row crossover

The Limited comes loaded with standard luxury features that nudge the Highlander into some premium territory. The 3.5-liter V6 comes standard, as do 19-inch alloy wheels, puddle lamps in the exterior mirrors, an anti-theft immobilizer and chrome roof rails. Inside, there's a three-zone automatic climate control, a 10-way power driver's seat and 4-way power front passenger's seat. The interior also gets woodgrain trim. Navigation and a DVD Rear Entertainment system are optional.

2012 Toyota Highlander
Starting price

2012 Toyota Highlander SE

Recommended for: For people who want a crossover with everything they need

The SE gets more niceties that are popular with crossover shoppers. A power moonroof is standard, as is a power liftgate. This Highlander gets Bluetooth, backup camera, leather seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Both the 2.7-liter four-cylinder and 3.5-liter V6 are available. A touchscreen navigation system is optional.

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