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Toyota Highlander

The twenty-first-century minivan.

HYBRID

If you’re considering a crossover on practical grounds, it’s hard to do better than the Toyota Highlander. It squeezes three rows of seats into a manageable mid-size package. It outflanks competitors with three powertrain offerings — an in-line four-cylinder, a V-6, and a V-6 hybrid that achieves 28 mpg combined. The conventional six-cylinder likely would get better fuel economy if it, like the 2.7-liter four-cylinder, came with a six-speed automatic transmission rather than a five-speed. The interior, although lacking the pizazz of some newer offerings, remains a strong point, featuring large controls and all the technology buyers in this segment expect. The Highlander’s styling borrows from Toyota’s larger, tougher trucks, but the Highlander isn’t fooling anyone: it’s a minivan for those who don’t want to be seen driving a minivan. There are some features that will please former minivan owners, such as second-row captain’s chairs that can slide together to become a bench seat. A power liftgate is standard on all but base models. Driving dynamics aren’t usually a top consideration in this segment, but we still think Toyota engineers could do better than the Highlander’s limp, numb steering and “safe” handling. In fact, Toyota’s own minivan, the Sienna, is more engaging to drive.

COMPETITORS

Chevrolet Equinox

Hyundai Santa Fe

Kia Sorento

Mazda CX-9

new for 2013

The four-cylinder is now available only in the base model. A touch-screen stereo display is now standard, and Toyota’s Entune infotainment system is optional on the SE.

SAFETY EQUIPMENT

Front, side, side curtain, and driver’s knee air bags; ABS; traction and stability control; a backup camera; and a tire-pressure monitoring system are standard.

MPG

CITY 17–28

HWY 22–28

PRO

Lots of powertrain options

Hybrid fuel economy

Versatile, user-friendly interior

CON

Bland exterior

Numb driving experience

Base Price Range: $29,715–$47,015

SPECIFICATIONS

DRIVE: Front-wheel, 4-wheel

TRIM LEVELS: Highlander, SE, Limited, Hybrid, Hybrid Limited

BODY STYLE: SUV/crossover, 7-passenger

ENGINES: 2.7L I-4, 187 hp, 186 lb-ft

3.5L V-6, 270 hp, 248 lb-ft

3.5L V-6/electric hybrid, 270 hp, 280 lb-ft

TRANSMISSIONS: 5- or 6-speed automatic, continuously variable

PASSENGER VOLUME: 145.7 cu ft

CAPACITIES: Towing 1500–5000 lb; cargo (behind third/middle/front seats) 10.3/42.3–42.4/94.1–95.4 cu ft

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