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The Highlander's been reimagined before, from its spartan wagon roots into the current, girthy, second edition. For its third take, the big utility vehicle adopts a new look that owes some of its cues to a slew of competitive vehicles that occupy the grey area between crossovers and SUVs.
We see some Durango and X5 in the side view--and oddly enough, lots of Mitsubishi in the maw of its deep new grille and in the exaggerations around its wheel wells and at the sills. It's a shift toward a 4Runner-ish, SUV-ish style that runs exactly opposite to the trend in most other big crossovers--Santa Fe, Flex, Traverse. That switchup works better than it did on the Honda Pilot, and the Highlander's broader shoulders neatly avoid the more cartoonish aspects that the 4Runner rolls around in.
As was the case with the RAV4, the Highlander's powertrains are carried over from the previous generation. One's an overlap: the 2.7-liter four-cylinder in base models is the only engine found in the smaller RAV4. Coupled to a six-speed automatic and offered only with front-wheel drive, the engine turns in 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.
Toyota says only about five percent of you will be interested in this base version. It's a price leader, mostly. While the four-cylinder Highlander accelerates reasonably and smoothly, it's configured without many of the features and options found on the V-6 models--features like all-wheel drive. Gas mileage is barely better than the V-6, too.
The Highlander can seat up to eight passengers. In front, the chairs are like many we've sat in recently: better in softer, plusher fabric than in their leather-wrapped cousins, especially when ventilation is factored in. As much as we love the cooling effect, the feature takes the place of some valuable padding. To get power adjustment on both front chairs, by the way, you'll have to spend for the priciest Limited edition.
Behind the front buckets, separated by a tambour-covered console almost big enough for a gym bag, the Highlander totes five or six. The second row's either a three-person split-bench seat with a recline feature, or a pair of captain's chairs. The recline function's a good thing for tall passengers--we had to set the seatback at a slight angle to create headroom under one Highlander's standard power sunroof.
*This vehicle is Certified Pre-Owned and is eligible for our third party warranty program.