• Aug 15th 2008 at 8:30AM
  • 64
Click above for high-res gallery of the 2008 Toyota Highlander

When the all-new Highlander launched last year, it came equipped with your choice of a 3.5L V6 or a 3.3L hybrid powerplant. Toyota is expanding the Highlander's powertrain lineup for 2009 by adding a more fuel efficient 2.7L four-cylinder engine. The new engine produces 187 horsepower at 5,800 RPM and 186 lb-ft at 4,100 RPM, making it the most powerful four cylinder engine in Toyota's lineup. Assisting the new 2.7L engine is a six-speed automatic transmission that Toyota says together will provide smooth acceleration and V6-like performance. EPA figures will be announced closer to the engine/transmission's January 2009 launch date, and they should be a few mpg better than the 3.5L engine's 18/24 figures.

The addition of a four-pot to the Highlander lineup will give customers a less expensive and more fuel efficient option in this model lineup, which should prove mighty popular. What remains to be seen is whether a 187-hp engine can properly motivate a 4,000-lb vehicle. We're guessing that since many Highlander buyers aren't likely all that interested in driving dynamics, the most important stat for Toyota's CUV will be its EPA number. Hit the jump to for Toyota's press release if you're looking for nitty gritty details.

[Source: Toyota]


August 14, 2008 - Torrance, CA - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc., announced today that the 2009 Highlander mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV) will offer an all-new, powerful yet fuel-efficient 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine. When it arrives at dealerships in mid-to-late January, the new Highlander powerplant will be among the best mid-size SUVs in the areas of performance, fuel economy and value.

The new 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine will generate an impressive 187 horsepower at 5,800 RPM and 186 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,100 RPM on regular 87 octane fuel. A dual exhaust manifold will help achieve exceptional low-end torque and maximize its power output. In addition to its performance output, the Highlander equipped with the new four-cylinder will be EPA-rated as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEVII) and is expected to be among the leaders in fuel efficiency in the gas mid-size SUV segment. Official EPA fuel efficiency ratings will be announced closer to launch.

The new four-cylinder engine will be mated to an all-new six-speed electronically-controlled automatic overdrive transmission with intelligence (ECT-i). The new transmission will help deliver quiet and smooth performance on par with a V6 and acceleration that is surprisingly quick for a four-cylinder. When equipped with a tow package, the new powerplant will achieve a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.

The new engine will come standard on the Highlander grade two-wheel-drive model equipped with two rows of seats, contributing to its excellent value. A third row seat package will also be available for families requiring additional seating capacity. Other key optional equipment will include an eight-way power driver's seat, manual rear air conditioning, and an AM/FM/six-disc CD Changer with satellite radio capability, MP3/WMA capability and six speakers.

With the new four-cylinder engine, Highlander will be the only mid-size SUV in the current market to offer three powerplant choices. The 3.5-liter Highlander V6, available in two- and full-time four-wheel drive, is among the leaders in fuel efficiency among V6 gas engines in its segment. The full-time 4WD-i Highlander Hybrid, equipped with a V6 powerplant with front and rear electric motors, stands above all others for fuel efficiency among all mid-size SUVs.

Since it first launched in 2001, Highlander has been one of Toyota's most popular vehicles, setting the standard for car-based SUVs in innovation, comfort and sales. Driver and passenger comfort is accomplished with segment leading seating versatility through innovative flexible seating functions for up to seven people. Comfort is complemented with one of the highest levels of standard safety features in the small- and mid-size SUV market including a segment-leading total of seven airbags.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      2.7 liter? That's an awfully big 4-banger!
        • 7 Years Ago
        MikeW, like the Toyota motor here, the Atlas is a truck motor. It's designed to peak low. Still, falling off 5% from 2,800 to 5,000 doesn't seem bad at all to me.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I was gonna say the same thing.

        Biggest 4 cylinder I know of, not sure of the Porsches (too lazy to google).

        2nd biggest would be the 2.6L in the Starion/Conquest and old old old Caravans.

        • 7 Years Ago
        GM's big 4 needs variable intake valve timing.
        It needs some mid/high-range torque

        • 7 Years Ago
        That's what I was thinking, I have a 2.5 in my 944, and that thing is big. 2.7 is pretty huge. Only bigger I've heard of is the 3 liter they put in the 968 and 944 S2.
        • 7 Years Ago
        3000-4500 area
        • 7 Years Ago
        GM has offered the Atlas 4-cylinder LK5 for a couple years now. It displaces 2.78L. They recently bored it out to 2.9L as the LLV.


        The 2.78L produces almost the same output as this Toyota mentioned.

        Both of these engines produce their torque at lower rev ranges than the Toyota motor.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have no confidence in Toyota's ability to make that 4 cylinder economic. Their 2.4 liter 4 cylinder gets relatively lousy fuel mileage in every vehicle in which it is used. Additionally, that 187 hp from a 2.7 liter displacement motor sounds unusually low by today's standards. Not only that, it should be producing that horsepower at significantly less rpm than the overly high rating of 5,800 rpm. Even that's not going to be usable power, especially with that 6 speed auto transmission shifting at half those revs.

      • 7 Years Ago
      TJ, well if there was no CAFE this engine would have made its way on the market, but because of CAFE this engine will STAY on the market even after the price of gas will fall, and this engine will undergo a continues improvement, making it even more powerful and more efficient. Without CAFE, once the price of gas would fall the engine would simply have been replaced by a bigger less efficient one

      Bigger engine=more pollution=more money for guys with beards=less clean air.

      But i suppose what i just wrote is a total surprise to you.
        • 7 Years Ago
        TJ what are you talking about?

        This 2.7 I4 is a good as other 2.7 V6s.
        Toyota 187hp@5800, 186ft-lbs@4100
        Chrysler (sebring/avenger) 189hp@5500, 191ft-lbs@4000 (no variable valve timing, only variable resonance)
        Kia ('09 Optima) 190hp, 184ft-lbs (variable valve timing-intake/exhaust, variable resonance)
        Suzuki XL7 185hp@6000, 184ft-lbs@4500

        Porsche 245hp@6500, 201ft-lbs@4600-6000 (variable intake valve timing, camshaft switching, variable resonance)

        and comparing a decade+ old engine, that probably has an order of magnitude more emissions.
        and if you cut a LS3 V8 in half, it would make a 3.1 I4, too big?

        and we will see if Chrysler is still in business in two years (and GM/Ford too)
        • 7 Years Ago

        You replied to TJ accusing him of wanting a bigger engine. However, a 2.7 liter V6 is the same size/displacement as a 2.7 liter 4 cylinder. In fact, if the V6 generates the power at a lower RPM and is geared correctly, it could generate LESS pollution than the 4 cylinder.

        As for "continous improvement", look at Toyota's 2.4 liter 4 cylinder. They have been using that thing for how long, and it provides relatively lousy mileage ratings for even the smallest vehicles it is in. Vehicles such as the Scion TC, for their size, should be rated at well over 30 mpg, however, it's rated nearly the same as the Camry V6.

        Toyota truly isn't the economy and green leader people would like to believe. Honda still has the lead since they are able to squeeze more power per displacement out of their engines.

        • 7 Years Ago
        See, here is where you are off base.

        Compare Chrysler versus Toyota.

        The Phoenix series of engines that will be flooding the market beginning in 2010my are actually technically advanced. They will have better mileage, more power, and at a more usable power band than this boat anchor of an I4.

        I am very familiar with the JA platform cloud cars... especially those with the Mitsubishi 6g73 2.5 v6. Toyota can't match the fuel mileage of a smaller engine with more cylinders, more power, and a flatter torque curve produced 12 years earlier. Progress you say? Increasing displacement of a 4 banger to a size this large is foolhardy. If Toyota was as visionary as your blatant fanboi-ism would suggest, you would be seeing a small displacement turbo 4, you would be seeing a smaller displacement six, you would not be seeing an INCREASE in engine size with no real benefits.
      • 7 Years Ago
      @The other Bob

      "all of which were on the drawing board before the recent CAFE increase"

      Is that why GM, Ford, and Chrysler are offering so many small cars?
        • 7 Years Ago
        dude, learn to use the REPLY function. Seriously.
        • 7 Years Ago
        you cannot seriously think any products released in Jan 2008 are appearing due to CAFE. Give me a break. CAFE is what lead to the explosion of SUVs in the first place and yet CAFE fans wont admit that. The turbo and direct injection engines GM is offering now were planned long before CAFE. The 2011 Cruze which will exceed the mileage of the cobalt was planned before CAFE. Gm has been selling the Aveo for about 4 years which means that car has nothing to do with CAFE. Domestics havent poured resources into small cars because they havent been profitable. Most of the subcompacts sold in America are not built here. Ever noticed that? IF small cars are such a great proposition why aren the Yaris and Fit made here?
      • 7 Years Ago
      This might have been useful on the previous generations of Highlander. Now this is as big as a 4runner. Good luck pulling all that metal to merge on to the highway.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I would have to imagine this is an improvement total package-wise over the first gen Highlander with the 4-cylinder option. I own one, 2.4 L 155 HP. It's fine for around town driving, loaded up on trips it gets taxed though. The worst part is that it is quite loud and unrefined in normal driving. The mileage isn't bad though, about 23-24 in very mixed driving, 26-27 on the highway. The only caveat with the new 'Lander is that it weighs a lot more, and I don't think a 4 cylinder would be up to the task, even with 187 HP. The torque just won't be there.

      Anyway, GMs DI Ecotecs will have more power, and be better on gas.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Toyo's competitor the Santa Fe will be offering the Theta II 4-banger with 175hp and achieving near 30 mpg highway. The 2.7 is simply still not enough. Hyundai is beating Toyota to the punch. Toyota is the new GM and Hyundai is the new Toyota

      Toyota and GM one of the first to buy new Genesis?!
        • 7 Years Ago
        GM has been tuning their naturally aspirated DI engines for 87 octane. I'm sure the 2.3L (typo on the displacement on my part ;D) will live up to its 200hp claim.

        Toyota's 4-cyl engines are falling behind. The next gen Ecotec's look to be better and Honda's 4cyls are already better.
        • 7 Years Ago
        That's pretty low-class what Hyundai did there.

        Toyota bought a Neon and took it apart. Did Dodge make press releases that Toyota bought Neons?

        • 7 Years Ago
        The Chevy Equinox will have a 2.4L with 200hp (thanks to DI) that will probably achieve better mileage than either (especially since GM will probably use a 6sp auto)
      • 7 Years Ago
      whats incredible is that they made an already inefficient engine larger. This engine in 2.4L form only gets 22/30 in the corolla. Even with the 6 speed auto I cant see much of a gain in fuel economy. Why would I sacrifice so much acceleration to gain 2mpg? I like how Toyota says the base engine will offer "v6 like performance" when the V6 offers 90 more hp. Sorry, 187hp isnt V6 power in 2008. Maybe in 1988 though.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I'm with you Mike. It'll be a reset to the late 80s, like the early S-10s (pre Vortec 4.3), where the engine would hit high revs just during regular acceleration. But the acceleration did happen, it was workable.

        If people start to get excited, thinking the truck is too "unrefined" for a modern truck due to NVH, there might be an issue. Otherwise, it'll do for a base model.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I really don't think I understand all the criticism. If you don't want the 4, don't get the 4. Why is more choice bad? For me, instead of being an armchair enthusaist, I'll just wait to see the performance times and the EPA estimates.

        Also, I don't see where it says the 2.7L is related to the 2.4L that is currently offered. Does it say that? How do you know this is just a larger version of the Camry's ubiquitous and elderly 2.4? Facts seem hard to come by here.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Do you know for a fact this is derivative of the 2.4 engine, or a new engine series (shared with the new 2.5)?

        This should accelerate as well as the '01 Highlander 3.0 V6 & 4 speed auto.
        Assuming the gearing is sufficiently short (and it better, otherwise no one will purchase it, then what the heck is this about)
      • 7 Years Ago
      2.7L needs to be a 5 or 6 cylinder. My current car has a 2.5L 4 and it sounds and feels lousy.
      Mazda and BMW used to have 2.3L 6s, and plenty of cars had 2.5L 6s. Lotus had a 3.5L V8.
      I guess it's a cost issue, but I for one would pay a premium for more cylinders at the same displacement.
        • 7 Years Ago
        It does seem ridiculous to have that kind of displacement for a 4 cylinder.

        They should look into turbocharging like the Germans.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wonder how this really will fare, especially since the Acura RDX (2.3L I4-turbo) gets 240hp 0-60 in 6.8-7 sec and 17/22 ratings, while the Mazda CX7 (2.3DI I4-turbo) gets 244hp, 0-60 in 7.7-8.5 sec, and 17/23 ratings.

      I can only imagine that the 187HP NA I4 engine in the Highlander would be dog-slow and/or unable to tow anything... but I guess there's a price to be paid for higher mileage.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I have a 2006 Highlander with a 4 cyl automatic. It's not a 6 speed. It get's 23.5 mpg city and 27 highway, even fully loaded and didn't have power issues in Colorado's high mountain passes. As a mountain biker it has a rear bicycle rack, usually loaded with my mountain bike and camping/travelling supplies. With the 6 speed it may beat my mileage but I don't know if the newer Highlander is heavier. 6 cyl is for suckers or hauling a boat or big trailer.
      • 7 Years Ago
      is that a 6sp manual that i see in the pictures? that can't be right. looks like someone mixed in a pic from a 3 series(?)
        • 7 Years Ago
        Wow, that is rather odd. That pic is definitely not from a Highlander. The sides of the console are more parallel in the Highlander and there is no bright work on the lid at the bottom of the center stack (never mind the missing cup holders). Good catch. you should win a T-shirt or something.
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