Avg. Price Paid:$13,434 - $19,499
Original MSRP: $27,500 - $34,350
MPG: 18 City / 24 Hwy
Search Used Listings:

2008 Toyota Highlander Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Toyota Highlander was new.

As noted in our Performance Overview, the 2008 Highlander's offers strong engine power and a smooth ride, though most complain about its numb electric steering and sub-par handling, leading to a mediocre score for performance.

  • "Performance could've used a bit of an increase in size. Some staffers went so far to say they had to double-check that it wasn't a hybrid Highlander they were driving, and not simply because of how quiet it is once you push the ignition button." -- AutoWeek
  • "Of the versions we drove, the midlevel Sport with its slightly firmer suspension and steering was the most pleasing." -- Car and Driver
  • "Ultimately, the Highlander's performance bends under its own weight, but doesn't break. It's a soft ride and electric power steering provides a solid, but not precise, feel. Making it bigger naturally has caused it to add about 300 pounds, tipping the scales at 4,000 pounds." -- Detroit News
  • "Although the redesigned Highlander is considerably larger and heavier than before, it's still easier to drive than most midsize SUVs, even those of the crossover variety." -- Edmunds
  • "Despite gripes, Highlander's performance, available hybrid version and still-trim size make it, on balance, appealing." -- USA Today

Acceleration and Power

The 2008 Highlander comes with a new 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque and is paired with a five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Test drivers heap praise upon the new engine, which has more than enough power for most situations.

  • "All 2008 Toyota Highlanders come with a 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, the same engine Toyota makes optional in the Camry and RAV4. This puts Toyota's midsize crossover right in line with key rivals like the Buick Enclave/GMC Acadia/Saturn Outlook triplets (275 hp), Mazda CX-9 (270 hp for '08) and Hyundai Veracruz (260 hp), while giving it an advantage over its traditional adversary, the aging Honda Pilot (244 hp)." -- Edmunds
  • "It may not be as responsive as the 2008 Subaru Tribeca we had in recently, but the Highlander matches the 2007 Mazda CX-9 when it comes to 'zoom zoom' in the crossover category." -- CNET
  • "Drop the hammer, and you get impressive 7.3-second acceleration to 60 mph, but instead of begging for more, the engine moans a baleful wail that sounds like it's complaining." -- Motor Trend
  • "Acceleration is adequate off the line and stronger as the engine revs. The transmission helps things along, holding gears and rarely shifting prematurely." -- Cars.com
  • "Power is good from a standing start and will get you down a highway entry ramp to cruising speed quickly." -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • "Quick doesn't always translate into fun, which we'd prefer. No, this is an extremely quiet, capable kind of quick, rather than the stirring, invigorating kind. In other words, you'll never wake your slumbering kids with neck-snapping torque." -- Car and Driver
  • "Models with the conventional V6 engine have good all-around power. They're peppy off the line and competent during midrange passing." -- Consumer Guide
  • "In accelerating to 60 mph from a full stop, we timed the Highlander at 7.9 seconds, which is reasonably speedy for an SUV." -- BusinessWeek

Handling and Braking

Most find the Highlander has car-like manners and a soft ride. However, the Highlander's electric power-assist rack-and-pinion steering is a low point for its numb feel.

  • "The ride quality of all 2008 Toyota Highlanders still leans toward the soft side, but choosing the Sport trim level does get you more tightly controlled body motions without resorting to a harsh ride." -- Edmunds
  • "The Highlanders handle like tall, thoughtfully engineered station wagons. Ask them to change direction, and they do it without the trucky reluctance one often encounters in real S.U.V.'s." -- New York Times
  • "Since Camry based, Highlander has car-like manners. Ride is soft so you don't get beat up and bounced around the cabin. But handling is very minivan-like. Expect wide swings in corners, lean in turns, and loose, less-than-pinpoint steering with a tendency to wander." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "The four-wheel-independent suspension is sport-tuned in the Highlander Sport, but I couldn't detect a difference in ride firmness among the base, Sport and Limited. All three have a bit more suspension noise over major bumps than I've come to expect in a midsize SUV." -- Cars.com
  • "Great handling has never been a part of the Highlander package, and that continues for 2008. You should not try to play tag with the neighbor's Porsche Cayenne. The suspension is on the soft side for a more comfortable ride -- something we think potential Highlander customers would be looking for." -- MarketWatch
  • "Pleasant to drive, though not quite car-agile. Cornering lean is evident and steering response a bit slow on base and Limited models; Sport is only slightly better. But overall control is fine, and the brake-pedal feel is firm and progressive." -- Consumer Guide
  • "I was most impressed by the Sport, and by its suspension in particular. A bit firmer than the base and Limited grades, it was still comfortable but had noticeably less body roll when cornering." -- The Auto Channel
  • "What the Highlander could benefit from is more communication from the electric power steering; a system that is perfectly smooth, saves weight, and offers certain efficiency gains, but lacks character." -- Car and Driver
  • "Steering feel...with Toyota's new electric assistance, felt numb, offering little feedback from the road to the driver's hands. On paved roads, the steering delivers a small but constant vibration that contradicts the feeling of separation." -- Popular Mechanics
Review Last Updated: 2/18/09

Next Steps: Toyota Highlander