English is not my first language but I’ll try to be as precise and expressive in this review as possible.
I was in the market for a BMW/Audi/MB/Volvo when a dealer suggested the Toyota Highlander to me. I was never a big fan of Toyota, not that I think it’s a bad make, but it’s just a practical car, does the job with minimal maintenance (coming from family members and friends who owned Toyotas). I’m not very impressed with the interior nor the exterior design of Toyota, looks and feels plain, not a “head turner” as they say. But this one was kind of different.
Well, to cut the story short, my wife suggested we give it a ride, see how we feel about it. The moment we went inside the car, we loved it. Spacious, seats are comfortable, the view was very clear, dashboard controls are very clear and easy to operate. When driving, you can barely hear the engine (we drove 80km/h+), although you could hear some noise from the tires.
I got the Limited AWD edition, heated leather seats, sunroof, tainted windows, in-dash CD Changer, Vehicle Skid Control, ABS, Traction Control, alloy wheels and all the good stuff. The car had 140,000km on it (I couldn’t afford less) and considering this is a 2002, this seems to be a lot, however, the car drove and felt like new.
I bought it 2 months ago, and it has over 153,000 clicks on it already (I drive mostly on highways and that’s why I was looking for a comfortable and somehow safe car).
Gas consumption wise, just OK. Averages 11.3 liter/100km (70% highway driving 130km/h+) which is not really bad, considering this is a 4WD with 3.0L 6cyl engine. Handling is not bad either, it has a good grip on the road and very smooth and steady cornering (between 70-90km/h).
The car is somewhat rough compared to sedans, and I say this because I noticed many reviews comparing it to the Camry (some believe it’s a magnified Camry). Definitely it is not a truck-based SUV, rather I see it as van-based. This car is not designed for off-road trips, it would perform off-road way better than a van surely, but not better than the 4Runner or Ford Explorer for example.
Maintenance wise, I’m very satisfied, Toyota tends to simplify things for mechanics and electricians (maybe more for their own mechanics), if you look under the engine hood for example, you will see a simple engine that looks like a junior mechanic can disassemble and re-assemble in couple of hours. That’s one thing I like about Toyotas.
A bit underpowered? Might be true, but hey, this is a 3L engine on a big car that was designed I believe to save some money on gas ;-) For me this is no problem at all, the power this engine has is more than enough for my driving purposes.
Oh one other thing, I’m impressed by the sound system it has, decent JBL speakers with from tweeters, finally a “decent” sound system on a Toyota!
In few words, Toyota Highlander is a tight, safe and reliable SUV/VAN that saves money on gas and maintenance.