New Potential of 2008 Toyota Highlander
The Highlander`s new styling is a little more adventurous than the old version. The materials of the interior feel more substantial than those used in the smaller RAV4. Of course, you`re not getting this nice interior for free: the basic Highlander is about $6,000 more expensive than that RAV4. The Highlander`s front seats are comfortable; this basic model featured manual seat adjustments and no lumbar adjustment. The rear seats are fine, but that`s all. Passengers riding back complained of so-so comfort, citing adjustable backrests whose most upright position wasn`t upright enough. Nice of Toyota to put armrests back there, but these were too hard. We didn`t need to use the centre seat in that second row, and that`s probably a good thing. Space in front and in the second row is great, though: lots of headroom and legroom for four travellers.
The new Highlander comes standard with seven seats, but the two third row chairs aren`t great either. Headroom is tight and legroom is only reasonable if second row riders slide their seats forward a few inches. Even if there was useful room for adults back there, the seat itself is hard and the bottom cushion too low. If the Highlander`s second and third rows of seating aren`t as comfortable as they could be, Toyota has at least given the Highlander a suspension that feels like it could easily handle the weight of seven passengers, or a trailer (the Highlander`s rated to tow up to 5,000 pounds, or 2,268 kg).
Handling is not exciting but the Highlander takes quick corners willingly, even if there`s a fair bit of body roll and understeer. Sadly, those comfortable seats don`t offer much lateral support. The steering is about as light as it can be and still being connected to the front wheels. At least the light steering makes for easy parking lot manoeuvres, but a variable assist set-up that backed off at cruising speeds would be nice. The brakes are strong, but they grab too hard when touched lightly, and braking force is hard to modulate. Add pressure for more urgent braking and things do indeed slow down quicker.
Acceleration is generally good. The throttle is much easier to modulate, with a nice tip-in. Mash the throttle, and Toyota`s wicked 3.5-litre V6 provides lots of thrust; naturally, things get a little slower with extra bodies on board. At least real-world fuel consumption is reasonable. In the city about 13 L/100 km, and 10.3 L/100 km on highway trip, this included 115 km/h highway cruising speeds. For all of its good points - and there are many - this new Highlander seems a little pricey in base form: for its $39,650 price; you can get far better-equipped models with more comfortable second- and third-row seats. But Toyota knows what its buyers want: a Toyota. Test drive was done by Chris Chase.