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The Toyota Highlander is a midsize SUV that's smooth and quiet underway, with a versatile cabin that seats seven.
For 2011, Highlander features a number of changes. All 2011 Highlander models get a fresh look with a new hood, fenders, grille and front fascia, plus tweaked taillamps. The Hybrid has its own grille. Highlander models come better equipped for 2011, though prices have gone up, also. Standard on all 2011 Toyota models is Smart Stop Technology, which automatically reduces engine power when the brake and accelerator pedals are applied simultaneously under certain driving conditions. 2011 Highlander SE and Limited models come with Bluetooth, XM Satellite Radio, and a USB port, and a rearview camera is available for base models.
Highlander comes with a choice of powerplants. The base 2.7-liter four-cylinder makes 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and delivers EPA fuel economy ratings of 20/25 mpg City/Highway. It's matched with a 6-speed electronically controlled automatic overdrive transmission, and is available only with two-wheel drive.
The 3.5-liter V6 is extremely smooth and delivers 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. Also smooth is its 5-speed automatic transmission, which downshifts seamlessly to provide ample punch for passing. Front-wheel-drive Highlanders with the 3.5-liter V6 are EPA-rated at 18/24 mpg City/Highway; Highlander AWD all-wheel drive models are rated slightly lower at 17/22 mpg, which is about what we got in the AWD V6 we drove, including a 300-mile freeway run.
The 2011 Highlander Hybrid makes a big advance with more power and better fuel mileage, along with an upgraded audio and technology package. The gas/electric powertrain uses three electric motors and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT). For 2011, its gasoline engine grows from 3.3 liters to 3.5 liters, boosting total horsepower from 270 to 280 hp, while its EPA-rated fuel mileage improves to 28 City and 28 Highway from 27/25 mpg. We found it difficult to achieve that during our winter test drive using power accessories full blast.
The Highlander is a crossover SUV, meaning it's built more like a car than a truck, while feeling nice and big like a truck SUV. It's based on the platform of the Toyota Camry midsize sedan.
Highlander offers a quiet cabin and a comfortable ride, while being a pleasant way to carry a group of people, with generous space for passengers and cargo. A versatile cabin adds to its attractiveness as a family vehicle. The second row can slide forward and back, and the third-row seat is good for children and capable of carrying adults. Getting in and out of the first two rows is easy, and Toyota provides both a walk-through and a fold-and-slide-forward second-row seat to ease access to the third row.