Toyota has significantly revised its popular Toyota Highlander crossover sport utility vehicles for 2011, giving them enhanced styling, additional standard amenities and new user technology. The 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine, which was available only in the Highlander Base grade model for 2010, is now also offered in the SE, the most popular grade (2WD only).
The 2011 Highlander is available in Base, SE and Limited grades in both two-wheel (2WD) and full-time four-wheel-drive (4WD). A 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is standard on the Limited grade and available for the others. All Highlander Hybrid models are equipped with four-wheel-drive with intelligence and available in Base and Limited grades.
The first-generation Highlander pioneered the midsize crossover utility vehicle segment, ushering in car-like performance, comfort and fuel efficiency yet with SUV-like roominess and versatility. The second-generation Highlander amplifies those attributes and is among the leaders in the segment in standard active and passive safety features.
New Styling Details for 2011
The Highlander gets a sophisticated design update for 2011 featuring a new front fascia, hood and fenders, with the profile freshened by black rockers with chrome accents (gas models only). The headlights and tail lamps are also redesigned, as are the 17-inch alloy wheels. The Limited Grade offers stylish 19-inch wheels and also features silver roof rails. The SE grade gains a power liftgate.
Performance and Efficiency
The Toyota Highlander offers three distinct types of performance: a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine joined the lineup in 2009, offering an EPA-estimated 25 MPG rating in highway driving. The 2.7-liter engine produces 187 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft. of peak torque.
The engine is equipped with a variable intake manifold and dual variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which controls phasing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts to optimize torque and fuel efficiency. The four-cylinder engine is teamed exclusively with a standard six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.
The available 3.5-liter V6 (standard on Limited) produces 270 horsepower at 6,200 RPM and 248 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 RPM. The V6, also, is equipped with dual VVT-i and a variable intake manifold. A five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission (ECT) offers selectable manual sequential shifting.
Handling and Ride
The Highlander continues to build on its strength of delivering one of the most capable, smooth and quiet rides in the segment. Four-wheel independent suspension is via MacPherson struts in front and a dual-link strut rear suspension system. Base and SE Highlander models are equipped with standard 17-inch alloy wheels with 245/65 R17 tires; the Limited features standard 19-inch alloy wheels with 245/55 R19 tires. A direct tire pressure monitoring system is designed to alert the driver if pressure in a tire drops to critical levels. All Highlander models are equipped with four-wheel disc brakes. On conventional Highlander 4WD models, full-time four-wheel drive is available on all V6 grades.
Highlander comes standard with seven airbags. These include advanced driver and front passenger airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags and a driver’s knee airbag. Roll-sensing side curtain airbags help to protect the occupants of all three rows in the event of certain side collisions or vehicle rollovers. Additionally, all Highlander models are standard equipped with front active headrests.
Comfort and Convenience
Standard features on all Highlander models include front and rear air conditioning; eight-way adjustable driver’s seat (10-way on Limited); power door locks and windows with driver’s window jam protection and auto-up/down feature; manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel; cruise control; multi-function keyless entry system; UV-reduction windshield and rear privacy glass; digital clock; dual sun visors with vanity mirrors and sliding extensions; conversation mirror; illuminated entry system; scheduled maintenance indicator light; full-size spare tire and more.
Designed at Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif., the second-generation Highlander moves away from traditional SUV styling cues. Clean, sculpted lines, a wide, stable stance and muscular contours give Highlander a contemporary, dynamic presence. The Base grade Highlander could be mistaken for an upgrade model with its six-spoke 17-inch machined alloy wheels, color-keyed power remote outside mirrors, and silver-painted front grille. The Limited looks the luxury part with chrome door handles and roof rails, puddle lamps and rear spoiler.
The Highlander provides an open, airy and versatile interior with seating for seven or up to 95.4 cubic feet of total cargo capacity (94.1 for Highlander Hybrid). There are numerous storage compartments throughout the cabin, along with 10 cup holders, four bottle holders, two front and one cargo-area 12-volt auxiliary power outlets and cargo area tie down hooks.
The Base and SE grades feature a center console, shift knob with silver-painted accents and front driver and passenger assist grips. The center console, shift knob and assist grip on the Limited grade feature wood grain-style trim. Styling features on the inside of the Highlander Hybrid include a silver and wood grain-style interior trim with chrome door handle accents, Optitron meters with blue graphics and a power meter with a hybrid system indicator.
The headrests are adjustable in two ways on the Base grade and four different ways on SE and Limited. The second row provides 40/20/40 split seatbacks. The seat functions as either a three-person bench or, by removing the Center StowTM seat, a pair of captain’s chairs complete with armrests, creating a convenient walk-through area between the seats for easier access to the third row. A Center StowTM center console can also be placed between the seats to provide additional storage. The second row also slides fore and aft and reclines.
Access to the third-row is made easy by placing the walk-in lever at an easy to reach position at the bottom of the passenger-side second-row seat. Standard one-touch levers inside the cargo area allow the second-row seats to fold forward and flat. The third-row seats function in a similar manner, using a lever in the back of the seat.
Text and Pictures: Toyota