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.
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