As you can probably guess from my past reviews, I am all about the SUV and Crossover type vehicles. Thus I was very happy to finally have a chance to review the 2012 Toyota Highlander. I have not had a chance to check out many Toyota vehicles before, despite them having a great track record for dependability.
The Highlander has a nice SUV feeling to it. You get the sense of a solid vehicle around you, without feeling that you are hauling any extra weight with you with the help of a sound 4WD V6 Automatic engine. The Highlander works great in city driving and on the freeway with no awkwardly large blind spots to deal with. The only thing I found strange was the gas pedal felt small to me. For some strange reason the pedal felt like something I had to get used to, which was strange when I had been test driving so many other different vehicles at the time. I tried the pedal with different shoes to see if it was just me…as it probably was, but the pedal felt ‘off’ and took a bit to get used to.
Room For All
The best part of the Highlander after the price point, is the versatility with the passenger seats. Instead of your standard 60/40 split for the middle row, you have a 40/20/40 with a removable centre that stows inside the front console when not needed, leaving a walk-through to the third-row seats, which is great if you don’t need to cram 3 people in the middle row. The third row isn’t great for leg room, but is spacious enough for school age children. My kids gave their nod of approval on the room they had in all the seating positions. I had Tara’s car seat (Britax) installed on the middle seat and that allowed for easy access to the rear from both sides of the vehicle, plus leaving the window seats for the bigger kids. The seats fold and move up to give ample access for all ages to the rear. Again, though with these 7-seater types, that third row of seating sacrifices your cargo space. No room for dogs in the rear unless you split fold the third row, which is what we find our family of 5 needing to do.
The model I tested had a leather trim, which really, with kids, is a necessity. I can’t see myself going back to fabric seats in any vehicle. It also had a fabulous moon roof (the kids think that is a necessity) and the whole Bluetooth ready, USB and XM Satellite radio set up for easy and safe driving. I also had too much fun with the steering wheel control buttons, getting it JUUUUUUST right. I kept popping the trunk instead of releasing the hand break, but again…that is just me. I don’t think Toyota vehicles are THAT different in their layout compared to other crossovers.
By the end of my week of testing the Highlander, it had become a very comfortable vehicle to manage and we could all see ourselves owning it. Toyota has a good reputation and they seem to have followed through with the Highlander. I haven’t tried their other models, other than a Corolla rental once long ago, so would be keen to see how their Sienna and Sequoia do to comparable vehicles.