2012 Toyota Highlander Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Powerful yet fuel-efficient V6
- user-friendly cabin with innovative second-row seat design
- easy to maneuver.
- Less overall passenger and cargo space than some competitors.
The Toyota Highlander sails into 2012 unchanged.
The 2012 Toyota Highlander is an excellent choice for a do-all family vehicle, though several competitors offer more interior space and utility.
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.
Performance & mpg
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.
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.
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.
2012 Toyota Highlander models
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.
Most helpful consumer reviews
Features & Specs
NHTSA Overall Rating4 out of 5 stars
- Frontal Barrier Crash RatingOverall4 / 5Driver4 / 5Passenger4 / 5
- Side Crash RatingOverall5 / 5
- Side Barrier RatingOverall5 / 5Driver5 / 5Passenger5 / 5
- Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsFront Seat5 / 5Back Seat5 / 5
- RolloverRollover4 / 5Dynamic Test ResultNo TipRisk Of Rollover19.8%
- Side Impact TestGood
- Roof Strength TestGood
- Rear Crash Protection / Head RestraintGood
- IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
- Moderate Overlap Front TestGood
Used 2012 Toyota Highlander Overview
The Used 2012 Toyota Highlander is offered in the following submodels: Highlander SUV. Available styles include Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 5A), SE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 5A), Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 5A), 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 5A), 4dr SUV (2.7L 4cyl 6A), 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 5A), SE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 5A), and SE 4dr SUV (2.7L 4cyl 6A). Pre-owned Toyota Highlander models are available with a 3.5 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 270 hp, depending on engine type. The Used 2012 Toyota Highlander comes with all wheel drive, and front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 5-speed shiftable automatic. The Used 2012 Toyota Highlander comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 2 yr./ 25000 mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.
What's a good price on a Used 2012 Toyota Highlander?
Price comparisons for Used 2012 Toyota Highlander trim styles:
- The Used 2012 Toyota Highlander Limited is priced between $22,590 and$28,998 with odometer readings between 52551 and104341 miles.
- The Used 2012 Toyota Highlander Base is priced between $19,990 and$22,990 with odometer readings between 55996 and101244 miles.
- The Used 2012 Toyota Highlander SE is priced between $11,695 and$25,998 with odometer readings between 38041 and212286 miles.
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Which used 2012 Toyota Highlanders are available in my area?
Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2012 Toyota Highlander for sale near. There are currently 41 used and CPO 2012 Highlanders listed for sale in your area, with list prices as low as $11,695 and mileage as low as 38041 miles. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a used car from our massive database to find cheap prew-owned vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the Used 2012 Toyota Highlander.
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Should I lease or buy a 2012 Toyota Highlander?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.