2012 Toyota Highlander SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2012 Toyota Highlander SUV

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Toyota Highlander Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.7 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 6-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 187 hp @ 5800 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 20/25 mpg
  • Bluetooth Yes
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2012 Toyota Highlander

  • The 2012 Toyota Highlander is an excellent choice for a do-all family vehicle, though several competitors offer more interior space and utility.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Powerful yet fuel-efficient V6; user-friendly cabin with innovative second-row seat design; easy to maneuver.

  • Cons

    Less overall passenger and cargo space than some competitors.

  • What's New for 2012

    The Toyota Highlander sails into 2012 unchanged.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Great car...some quality issues...poor customer

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander

The only negative regarding this car relates to quality issues (power windows and sun visor) and specifically the way the dealership and Toyota executed their customer service. Otherwise, the vehicle is a joy to drive and (so far) very reliable. The driver's sun visor has broken twice in less than three years. The dealership, Rice Toyota, and Toyota have, in the end replaced the sun visor at no charge, however Toyota corp's customer service has disappointed me due to failed follow up promises. The power window failed due to a nut that came off the window...a repair we paid for. These relatively "minor' repairs make me less positive toward the brand's quality and customer service.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

I tried to like it,

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander

Positive: Suppose to have stellar reliability and has a good resale, quick, relatively roomy and comfortable if you are not a driver. Negatives: Most surfaces and materials don't belong in $40,000 car (ok with me) , drives like minivan/truck crossover with very light and not communicative steering (does not drives, but floats), 3 rd row not usable - not just because of size/just plywood covered in cheap vinyl, no blind spot monitoring ( a must because of size, blind spots), no adaptive xenon headlights, average MPG for it size ( computer always overstate by 1 MPG). Toyota keeps being arrogant and substantially raised prices for 2012 without any improvements, that worked in my favor. My last 5 cars were Toyota's. After buying my first Mazda and then a Subaru I discovered that they are build as good or better than Toyota and pleasure to drive. Checked with Consumer reports and others and discovered that it is not only my opinion: Subaru and Mazda are higher rated that Toyota. Replaced 2011 Highlander Limited with 2012 CX-9 GT for only $2000 extra (no financing): pleasure to drive and handing like compact CUV/sedan (yet substantially bigger than Highlander), very usable 3rd row, near luxury interior/exterior, all the extras and safety futures not even available in Highlander, reliability should be terrific also - six year of the model and built in Japan.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Stay away from the pricy

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander

Good overall, but it doesn't mean competition is bad. If you're interested in the Nav, the only advantage you'll get for $2000 extra is the bigger backup camera screen. Nav is terrible for $2000. TOYOTA MUST GIVE AWAY this nav rather than sell it. It's very old tech. Many owners also get lost because they can't park the car just to make corrections. Voice command is very ancient and limited (only 3 entries shown at a time). Save the $2000, buy the high-end portable nav, and keep the difference. You'll get better and safer guidance. I drive with the screen always off because of the frustrating User interface.

The best suv in the

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander

Hello, The Highlander is the best in the segment i would say. The ride quality is far better than other suvs in this segment. You got to drive this decent SUV ... I am sure there will be no one who would not love it. Decent fuel economy, Robust feel while driving ( sturdy), very reliable, Smooth V6 and superb drive quality, best for family with small kids, Amazing family car

8 of 14 people found this review helpful

Comfy family hauler absent of

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander

My wife insisted on buying this car as a family vehicle. The car is very comfortable, quiet and has good acceleration. It's spacious, loads lots of stuff and has been reliable. Fuel economy is good for the class, but nothing to bragg about (it is after all a hulking SUV). We average about 22 miles/gallon. On the negative side, the car has prominet torque steer if you make use of only half the power, the steering is as numb as could be and the car floats more than it drives. Excitement factor is zero. It's totally incapable in snow despite its appearance. Rear visibility is very poor and the backup camera a must. Blue tooth is very basic and doesn't switch between different phones.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

2011 toy highlander v6 4wd

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander

Excellent vehicle overall. Excellent alternative to a van. Previously owned vans for the past 10 years (Sienna & Odyssey). It was time for a change. We shopped around for the best mid size replacement as an alternative to a van at our price point. Our biggest concern was loosing the versatility of a van, which will always be there. We drove the Ford Edge, GMC Terrain, and Toyota Venza. Of the three we ruled out the Edge & Terrain. The Venza was the best of the three. We then realized a must for us was a 3rd seat to accomodate additional passengers as needed. We realized we had to increase our price point & test drove the Highlander. We immediately realized this to be a perfect fit.

Gas Mileage


  • 20
  • cty
  • 25
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs

Full 2012 Toyota Highlander Review

What's New for 2012

The Toyota Highlander sails into 2012 unchanged.


Crossover SUVs like the 2012 Toyota Highlander owe their appeal to the canny mix of traits they present. The best of the bunch handle like cars while delivering the family-friendly features and boundless utility that made their truck-based SUV forebears such hot tickets back in the day.

In many respects, the Highlander gets this formula just right. It feels spry on the road and is easy to drive, with especially brisk acceleration from the V6 engine. On hand are all the amenities you'd expect from a solid family hauler, starting with a quiet, roomy cabin that seats up to seven passengers. While the Highlander's third row is less spacious than that of some rivals, it's easy to reach thanks to a nifty 40/20/40-split second row with a removable center seat that facilitates walk-through access. This crossover also has fuel efficiency to its credit, with both the inline-4 and V6 delivering impressive mileage.

Still, this segment is highly competitive, and the 2012 Toyota Highlander isn't the only pick to strike a compelling balance. General Motors offers a trio of crossovers -- the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia -- that have a size advantage. If you want a larger crossover with a roomier interior, any one of these three will be a better match. Other solid bets include the muscular Dodge Durango, the athletic Mazda CX-9, the distinctive Ford Flex and the upscale Ford Explorer. These rivals are certainly worthy, but for many shoppers, the Highlander's versatility and friendly disposition will no doubt make it an ideal choice.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The 2012 Toyota Highlander is a seven-passenger crossover offered in base, SE and Limited trim levels. The related Highlander Hybrid is reviewed separately.

The entry-level Highlander comes equipped with 17-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, cloth upholstery, a 40/20/40-split-folding second-row seat that both reclines and slides fore and aft, a 50/50-split-folding third-row seat, air-conditioning (with rear controls), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker CD sound system with an auxiliary audio jack.

Step up to the SE and you get a sunroof, a power liftgate (with a separate glass hatch), roof rails, foglamps, windshield wiper de-icer, leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cargo area-mounted releases for folding down the second-row seats, a back-up camera and an upgraded audio system (optional on base) with satellite radio, a USB port and Bluetooth connectivity/streaming audio.

The Limited adds 19-inch alloy wheels, additional chrome exterior trim and power-folding/heated outside mirrors with puddle lamps. The cabin also gets upgraded leather upholstery, tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless ignition/entry, a 10-way power driver seat, a four-way power passenger seat and wood-grain accents.

The Highlander's options list varies by trim level and region, but those available include a towing prep package, an upgraded JBL sound system (with six-disc CD changer and subwoofer), a navigation system (includes the JBL sound system but with a four-disc CD changer) and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.

Powertrains and Performance

The 2012 Toyota Highlander is available with a choice of two engines. The base model can be had with a 2.7-liter inline-4 engine that puts out 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the front wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission. EPA fuel economy estimates are 20 mpg city/25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.

Optional for the base and SE and standard for the Highlander Limited is a 3.5-liter V6 that's rated at 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. A five-speed automatic and front-wheel drive are standard; all-wheel drive is optional. A Highlander Limited AWD tested by Edmunds sprinted from zero to 60 mph in just 7.5 seconds, which makes it one of the quicker crossovers on the road. With front-wheel drive, the Highlander V6 returns EPA estimates of 18 city/24 highway/20 combined; adding all-wheel drive drops these numbers to 17/22/19. Properly equipped, a Highlander V6 can tow up to 5,000 pounds.


The Highlander comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, side-impact airbags for front seat passengers, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver-side knee airbag and active front head restraints. Hill-start assist is also standard. All-wheel-drive models also gain hill-descent control.

In government crash tests, the Highlander earned an overall rating of four stars (out of a possible five), with four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side-impact protection. In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Highlander received "Good" ratings (the highest possible) in both frontal-offset and side impact tests.

Interior Design and Special Features

The 2012 Toyota Highlander features one of the better-looking cabins in the segment, and this is especially true of the top-of-the-line Limited model. Gauges and controls boast a familiar and straightforward layout, making then a cinch to use. The cabin also offers superb visibility from most angles.

There's no lack of space in the front- and second-row seats, but legroom is cramped in the third row, and as such, it's suitable only for younger kids. Models like the Flex fare better in this regard. On the plus side, the Highlander's second-row bench slides fore and aft to alter the ratio of legroom to cargo capacity, and the seat also reclines for greater comfort. This seat's unique 40/20/40-split design, which has a removable center section that stows neatly in a special compartment beneath the center console, makes it easy to access the way-back bench even with a pair of child car seats strapped into the second row.

When you have cargo to haul, the Highlander offers 95.4 cubic feet of space with the second- and third-row seatbacks folded down. It's a robust figure and better than many competitors, but GM's full-size crossovers offer even more.

Driving Impressions

When it comes to driving dynamics, the 2012 Toyota Highlander is one of the more well-rounded choices in its segment. 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.

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.

Talk About The 2012 Highlander

Read more about the 2012 Toyota Highlander

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