The 2007 Toyota Highlander is a Toyota through and through. It’s capable, roomy, and inoffensive. Like all vehicles from the world’s largest carmaker, it has few weaknesses, and proudly carries its vanilla personality like a war medal.
The story with the Highlander is value. Toyota doesn’t make the cheapest cars on the market, and their options packages can get a little pricey. However, our Highlander Limited came in at less than thirty-five grand. That’s with leather, sunroof, and heated seats up front. Not to mention the trick third row of seats.
The Highlander, introduced in 2001, shares platforms and components with the wildly successful Lexus RX, one of the first crossover utility vehicles and arguably the benchmark for SUVs that drive like cars. In overall size and price, the Highlander slots in between the compact (ish) RAV4, and the off-road-focused FJ Cruiser and 4-Runner.
Like the RX, the Highlander is tailored for on-road use. But unlike the RX, it offers an available third row of seats. Our tester, a top-of-the-line Limited model, was equipped with the third row. It’s a tad small for larger folks, but works just fine for small children or even smaller adults. It’s easy to operate, and springs out of the flat cargo area with one tug of a canvas loop.
Gaining access to the third row via the Highlander’s doors is easy: one pull of a handle slides the second row forward for easy entry, and the same lever can be pulled from the third-row seat for easy exit as well. It’s also got heating controls, although they’re not independent of the main climate control system.
You can alsoview the 2007 Toyota Highlander Limited car review video and many others at YouTube.[display_podcast]
The Highlander uses Toyota’s corporate 3.3L V6, which has variable valve timing, and is paired with a five-speed automatic. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that it delivers an outstanding combination of power and fuel economy. With 215 hp and 222 lb-ft of torque on tap, this mid-size crossover utility scoots to 60 in just around 8 seconds, while still returning an EPA mileage rating of 18 city and 24 highway.
Inside, the Highlander delivers. It has an abundance of cupholders – two in each of the rear passenger doors and two in the rear center armrest, as well as the ones up front and in the third row – and a large, open storage area underneath the shifter console that can be accessed from either of the front seats. In a nod to the needs of all passengers, the second row of seats – in addition to having the handy 60/40 split – reclines for added comfort.
Although the interior styling is somewhat dated, it has been subtly tweaked since the Highlander’s 2001 debut, and our Limited had an abundance of leather and wood that added a heightened aesthetic impression to our tester’s cabin.
At some point, Toyota must have realized that many of its 4-Runner buyers probably wanted something a little more refined, a little more carlike, to use a tired cliché. So, they built this. And you have to give them credit – a lot of other manufacturers might have balked at the idea of having two SUVs so close in size. But true to Toyota form, they filled a consumer need perfectly, and this thing has sold well since it was introduced in 2001. In fact, it’s now Toyota’s best-selling SUV, despite being its second-newest utility offering.
When you drive the Highlander, you can just imagine the kind of consumer Toyota built it for. A suburban couple or family perhaps, that wants the commanding ride height, cargo capacity, and all-weather capability of an SUV. It’s a smart consumer, one that realizes they don’t need a monster truck to get all of that. The fuel mileage and general driving dynamics are much more forgiving than some lumbering Hummer, and the entire car is just sensible and no-nonsense.
All in all, our 4×4 Limited’s base price was just north of 32 grand. Heated front seats ($440), a tow prep package ($160), and one value package ($2,500 minus a $1,540 discount) pushed our as-tested total to $34,623. Ignore the safe aesthetics and the 3,500-lb towing capacity; comfort, reliability, resale value, and predictability are this crossover’s main virtues.
If substance over style is your thing, and you don’t feel the need to play “Mine is bigger” with your neighbor, I can’t think of too many better ways to spend thirty-five grand.