2008 Toyota Highlander SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2008 Toyota Highlander SUV

We didn't find any results. You can try changing your zip code, or check another model year.

We found matches for you!

Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Toyota Highlander Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 3.5 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain All Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 5-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 270 hp @ 6200 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 17/23 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2008 Toyota Highlander

  • With more room, more power and more conveniences than its predecessor, the redesigned 2008 Toyota Highlander is truly optimized for family use. If you're shopping for a midsize crossover SUV this year, make sure you try this Toyota.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Powerful and fuel-efficient V6, easy to maneuver for its size, user-friendly cabin design with reconfigurable second-row seats and a fully usable third row.

  • Cons

    Third-row seat folds as a single unit rather than in 50/50 sections.

  • What's New for 2008

    Toyota's midsize SUV is fully redesigned for 2008. Significantly larger than the original, the 2008 Highlander features a standard V6 engine and a habitable third-row seat.

Full 2008 Toyota Highlander Review

What's New for 2008

Toyota's midsize SUV is fully redesigned for 2008. Significantly larger than the original, the 2008 Highlander features a standard V6 engine and a habitable third-row seat.


At the dawn of the 21st century, while other automotive manufacturers were reveling in the profitability of sport-utility vehicles, Toyota was looking ahead. The company foresaw a day when consumers would no longer have patience for the poor fuel economy and sloppy handling of traditional SUVs and would instead turn to more refined vehicles that offered SUV-like convenience combined with a carlike driving demeanor. That kind of thinking resulted in the original Toyota Highlander. Not only was it an immediate hit with families, it served as the template for many of the rival midsize crossover SUVs that followed it. After seven years, though, the Highlander had begun to show its age, particularly in the cabin, which was cramped by current class standards. Accordingly, the 2008 Toyota Highlander benefits from a top-to-bottom redesign.

The first thing you'll notice about the second-generation Highlander is its increased size. Built on the same platform as the current-generation Camry, the new SUV is longer, wider and taller than its predecessor. Gains in shoulder room, hiproom and legroom are substantial in the first two rows, and you feel them as soon as you get inside this crossover SUV. You'll also see a difference when it comes time to load up groceries. Maximum cargo capacity has ballooned from 81.6 cubic feet to 95.4, and for the first time, a power liftgate is available as an option.

Third-row seat dimensions haven't changed much on paper, but in the real world, the Highlander's rearmost seat is much more usable than it was before. Partly, it's due to improved access, as the second-row outboard seats are easier to scoot out of the way. Alternatively, you can just walk through the center aisle to get to the third row. The middle section of any '08 Highlander's 40/20/40 second-row bench can be folded away into its own cubby, leaving you with a pair of captain's chairs -- just like in a minivan. Toyota calls this handy innovation "Center Stow."

A couple extra hundred pounds of curb weight is a consequence of the new Highlander's added utility and size, so Toyota has discontinued the base four-cylinder engine. Instead, 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).

All of these vehicles are worth considering if you're shopping for a practical, easy-to-drive family vehicle with three rows of seating. Larger families will prefer the added space of GM's crossovers or the CX-9, but for medium-size families who already liked the Highlander's combination of convenience, economy and out-and-out refinement, the 2008 model should prove quite desirable.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2008 Toyota Highlander is a midsize crossover SUV with seven-passenger capacity. Toyota sells it in three trim levels -- base, Sport and Limited -- all of which are available with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD).

Base Highlanders start you out with 17-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, a fold-flat third-row seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, air-conditioning, a CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack and full power accessories. Stepping up to the Sport provides 19-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a flip-up rear hatch window, a 3.5-inch information display screen, a back-up camera, an in-dash CD changer (with MP3/WMA capability), upgraded seat fabric, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and one-touch folding capability for the second-row seats. The Highlander Limited also wears 19-inch wheels, but its suspension tuning is softer than the Sport's. In addition, the Limited is fitted with power-folding/heated outside mirrors, an auto-dimming inside mirror, leather upholstery, a 10-way power driver seat, dual-zone automatic climate control (for the front seat), keyless start and wood-grain interior trim.

A manual rear air-conditioner is available on base and Sport models, while Limited models offer optional automatic climate control for the rear seats. Base and Sport buyers can also choose to delete the third-row seat (dropping passenger capacity to five) for a price credit. Other options of note on the Toyota Highlander include a sunroof, a power liftgate, heated front seats, a rear DVD entertainment system and towing preparation. The premium-grade JBL sound system supplies Bluetooth connectivity and increases the speaker count from six to nine, but its in-dash changer maxes out at four CDs instead of the usual six. The available navigation system can only be ordered in conjunction with the JBL audio upgrade.

Powertrains and Performance

Every 2008 Toyota Highlander comes with a 3.5-liter V6 rated for 270 hp and 248 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, and 87 octane fuel is all that's required. Even under the more stringent 2008 fuel economy ratings system, the Highlander's mpg estimates are better than average: Front-wheel-drive models carry an 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway rating, while AWD models rate 17/23. Notably, these numbers are higher than the '08 ratings on GM's crossover SUVs, as well as the CX-9 and the Pilot. Towing capacity is a respectable 5,000 pounds when properly equipped.


All major safety equipment is standard on the Toyota Highlander, including antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, and hill-start assist (which keeps the vehicle from rolling back when starting on uphill grades). All-wheel-drive models also come with a downhill assist feature to enable slow, controlled descents down snow-covered driveways. Airbag coverage includes front-seat side airbags, three-row curtain airbags and a driver's knee airbag. In frontal-offset crash testing conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the '08 Highlander earned the top rating of "Good."

Interior Design and Special Features

Larger and taller adults will find the '08 Highlander's interior more accommodating than in past years, as the first- and second-row seats have grown noticeably in all directions. At the same time, the control layout remains simple and easy to understand, and interior materials quality is high.

The Highlander's third-row legroom still falls short of the Acadia/Outlook and CX-9, but getting into the third row is much easier this year thanks to the second-row seats' improved fold/slide mechanisms. Just as useful is the new "Center Stow" feature, which allows owners to easily stow the center section of the 40/20/40 second-row bench seat, thus providing walk-through access to the third row. The "20" section simply slides into its own cubby under the front-seat center console, and the operation is so simple, the 6-year-old child of one of our editors had it mastered within minutes.

Cargo space remains scant when all three rows are in use, as there are just over 10 cubic feet. Folding the third row yields 42 cubes, though, and with the second row down, there are a healthy 95.4 cubic feet -- still short of the Mazda and GM crossovers, but otherwise a good figure for this class. Our only complaint is that the third-row seat folds as a single piece rather than offering a 50/50 split, thus limiting your options when you have a mix of passengers and cargo to carry.

Driving Impressions

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. Visibility is excellent and the steering is light enough to make it easy to maneuver in tight spaces. The now standard V6 delivers strong, smooth acceleration in any situation. 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.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Not as reliable as toyota's

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Toyota Highlander Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 5A)

This SUV is nice and comfortable. A long time Toyota owner I was completely surprised by the constant issues. Rear window wiper motor, sunroof, NAV system had to be replaced. The lugs nuts are two piece shells and loose it's cap each time you remove a lug nut. I forced the dealer to replace them at his cost every time he rotated the wheels. The tires cost about $1400 (poor choice and expensive) and regardless of the warranty they last only a mere 19K. The tire size is limited to two manufactures and thus the high price. Got stuck in snow and had to reverse the SUV to get out. Embarrassing to say the least for an SUV. Lastly, the traction control truly does not work, it slides everywhere.

Comfortable and safe

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Toyota Highlander 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 5A)

I learned how to drive in this car. It's very comfortable for daily driving and on long trips as long as you're not sitting in the 3rd row. It drives great and does well enough on gas. It's a very safe car also. I owe my mothers life to the safety features in this car. Not many people can walk away from hitting a grove of trees at highway speeds. Great SUV for a family!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Excellent highway cruiser

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Toyota Highlander Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 5A)

My mother-in-law bought one of these that was a dealer demo in 2009. The Highlander is such a nice, smooth ride, and the 3.5L V6 pulls incredibly well. I've driven this car for many miles and have always enjoyed it- excellent visibilty, smooth smooth smooth ride, strong acceleration, etc. The best I saw was 26 MPG on the highway; not bad. One thing to be careful with on this vehicle- it's very easy to lose track of how fast you're going. The smooth, quiet ride doesn't communicate the fact that you're going 25 over very well :D That being said, I would own one of these. She traded it in with 50,100 miles for a 2013 Camry Hybrid XLE because she didn't need the SUV anymore. Excellent truck!

Comfy, but lacks refinement

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Toyota Highlander Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 5A)

Overall it's a comfortable vehicle with lots of leg room in the rear. However, using it for travel to cycling events has shown major problems. With a hitch rack on the back and gear inside, the rear end squats and the front raises up. This causes the front to wander dangerously, especially in the rain. The tire wear problem is well known and at 35k miles, expect to replace them. There have been numerous rattles in the doors and currently the rear seat vibrates loudly even at low speeds. The FWD just has poor traction and easily spins its wheels at the stop light.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

Bad choice...

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Toyota Highlander Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 5A)

Horrible quality. Have replaced numerous door rest inserts, ratlles coming from every corner, New transmission at 80k, now it's in the shop because the lift gate needs a new hydraulic system. Not what Toyota used to be..

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Not what it used to

by on
Vehicle: 2008 Toyota Highlander Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 5A)

You may have heard of Toyota's incredible longevity and build quality. True with the 1997 Camry. Not so for this car. Build quality is horrendous. I have to take constant trips to the dealership to get rattles fixed all over the car. The armrests on the doors kept constantly braking until I finally had them replaced with plyglass (payed for by Toyota). 80k miles- a loud whine developed in reverse. Had to get the transmission replaced. Latest problem? The trunk doesn't go up all the way. Back to Toyota to get the Hydraulic mechanism replaced. Should have payed 20k not 40

Talk About The 2008 Highlander

2008 Toyota Highlander Discussions See all Started By

Just purchased a used 2008 HH - about 85000 miles. Seems to work perfectly except there is a very loud hum that sounds that it is coming from the rear. Starts to be noticeable at 30 MPH and gets loud?...

I have a 2008 Highlander Limited with navigation. My digital clock is on the small screen. I am having the darnest time trying to reset the clock since DST just changed last weekend. Does anyone kn...

This title says it all I guess. The one major issue I have had with my 2008 highlander is the ABS in ice and snow....

Gas Mileage


  • 17
  • cty
  • 23
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
Have a question? We're here to help!
Chat online with us
Email us at help@edmunds.com
*Available daily 8AM-5PM Pacific
Call us at 855-782-4711
Text us at ED411