- Written by Wilson Calvert
What it is: The Toyota Highlander is Toyota’s high-efficiency, seven-passenger Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV). The car has a great gas mileage rating of 18 city and 24 highway for the Limited trim 3.5L V6 or 20 city and 25 highway for the 4-cylinder powered models. I would recommend going with the V6, as the 83-horsepower gain is worth the 10 percent decrease in fuel efficiency. My V6-powered test model handled highway on-ramps with a breeze even with a large group of passengers and some cargo. With mostly highway miles, I saw an average in the low 22 mpg range, which is exactly on point. I found that the Limited trim provided a good value compared to the base trim and SE trim. The leather seats felt great, and my back was fully supported for the several- hundred highway miles that I drove. The Limited trim also provides such niceties as 19-inch wheels, chrome accents, steering-wheel-mounted Bluetooth wireless control and Toyota’s Smart Key System which allows you to leave your keys in your pocket to unlock the doors and even start the car. The interior of the car was also very quiet and provided a great all-around driving experience on the highway as well as in the city. Too many times car manufacturers will not be able to balance the two, but Toyota did a great job here, and it’s something that many would overlook as just being “how it’s supposed to be.” Price: Base model is $28,090, Limited trim starts at $35,595, $39,050 as tested. Options include voice-activated navigation with 9-speaker stereo system ($2,650), Blizzard Pearl paint ($220) and cargo mat - 3 Row Seating ($315). Upsides: Good gas mileage for a 7-passenger CUV. Stereo system was fantastic. Comfortable for long trips. Downsides: Throttle response is a little too high, but that’s being really picky. It is a very complete vehicle. Wrap-up: In the early 2000s, Toyota saw the need for a crossover that provided the size of an SUV without all of the girth. The answer to that problem was the Highlander, and Toyota has now sold more than a million of the crossovers since they were launched in 2001. People want the flexibility of a large vehicle with the efficiencies found in smaller cars, and the Highlander is a great marriage between the two. Fun Fact: Toyota also offers a hybrid version of the Highlander. It uses the technology originally developed for the Prius, and it helps boost the city mpg rating to an extremely high 28.