in 2012 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $22,179 - $30,738
Original MSRP: $28,240 - $37,195
MPG: 20 City / 25 Hwy
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2012 Toyota Highlander Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2011 Highlander offers a smooth ride and plenty of power from its optional V6 engine, though most complain about its numb steering and underpowered four-cylinder powerplant. If you want to have some fun driving your SUV, the Mazda CX-9 is one of the sportiest in its class, and it can seat just as many people. 

  • "When it comes to driving dynamics, the 2012 Toyota Highlander is one of the more well-rounded choices in its segment.” -- Edmunds
  • "Highlander has a ride that is among the best in class.” -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Toyota Highlander base model comes with a 2.7-liter, four-cylinder engine that makes 187 horsepower and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. SE and Limited models upgrade to a 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 270 horsepower and is paired with a five-speed automatic. Reviewers largely prefer the extra power of the V6 engine, even though it provides worse fuel economy.

According to the EPA, four-cylinder models with two-wheel drive net 20/25 mpg city/highway. Two-wheel drive V6 models achieve a less-impressive 18/24 mpg city/highway, while four-wheel drive V6 models achieve 17/22 mpg. That’s about average for the class.

  • "The 4-cylinder provides adequate acceleration overall. Passing punch is lacking, but its 6-speed automatic transmission has smooth shift action. Models with the conventional V6 engine have good all-around power. They're peppy off the line and competent during midrange passing.” -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Highlander grows even more appealing with the 3.5-liter V6, thanks to that engine's strong acceleration; the V6 moves the 4,000-pound crossover with a briskness that makes this Toyota seem smaller than it is. The fact that this powertrain is also among the most fuel-efficient in the category is an added bonus. The four-cylinder engine gets slightly better fuel economy, but we wouldn't recommend it for anybody except the most frugal-minded, given the sacrifice made in terms of performance.” -- Edmunds
  • "Responsive transmissions.” -- Cars.com

Handling and Braking

Reviewers say that while the Toyota Highlander’s comfort-tuned ride and light steering make it great for family duty, it doesn’t provide a very exciting driving experience. It has a composed, smooth ride over bumpy roads and its tight-for-the-class turning radius makes it easy to maneuver in parking lots.

  • "Pleasant to drive, though not quite car-agile. Cornering lean is evident and steering response is a bit slow. Overall control is fine, and the brake-pedal feel is firm and progressive.” -- Consumer Guide
  • “You get decent handling from the fully independent suspension, and the ride quality is surprisingly smooth. Being a bit smaller than other larger crossovers, the Highlander is easier to maneuver, particularly in tight parking lots. The light-effort steering also helps here, though it is rather numb and uninspiring compared to some of its rivals.” -- Edmunds
  • “Mushy brakes, lackluster handling.” -- Cars.com

Next Steps: 2012 Toyota Highlander

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