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Click above for high-res pics of the 2008 Toyota Highlander from our review

When the 2009 Toyota Highlander hits dealerships in mid-to-late January, it will finally have an optional four-cylinder engine. The 2.7-liter four comes courtesy of the Venza and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain combination has been developed primarily for fuel efficiency and the EPA has given it a rating of 20/27 city and highway, with combined real-world mileage expected to hit about 22 miles per gallon. For comparison, the 3.5L V6, which will still be available, is rated at 18/24, and the hybrid model retains its 3.3L V6 and EPA ratings of 27 city and 25 highway.

Obviously, with 187 horsepower at a high 5,800 RPM and 186 lb-ft of torque, the engine is going to work hard for every mile per hour it gains. Recognizing this, Toyota has given it a preliminary 9.7-second 0-60 mph rating. That's not too bad considering its highway mileage rating actually bests that of the hybrid model. Maximum tow rating stands at 3,500 pounds, but it'll surely be breathing hard with a full load. No matter, as we expect the new base engine to account for a substantial chunk of Highlander sales.

[Source: Toyota]


Coming Soon - All-New Four Cylinder Engine For 2009 Toyota Highlander

New Engine Raises Popular SUV to New Levels of Fuel Efficiency, Performance, and Value

November 4, 2008 – Torrance, CA - When it arrives at dealerships in mid-to-late January, Toyota's new 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine will help make the Highlander mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV) one of the best in its segment in the areas of fuel economy, low emissions, performance, and value. It is expected to appeal to value-driven, mid-size SUV buyers seeking these characteristics without the price premium of a V6.

The four-cylinder Highlander will be among the leaders in fuel efficiency in the gas mid-size SUV segment with EPA fuel economy estimates of 27 MPG highway, 20 MPG city and 22 MPG combined. In addition, it will be EPA-rated as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEVII).

Highlander's new four-cylinder powertrain will produce impressive power, while greatly reducing noise and vibration to levels normally expected in a V6 or larger engine. It will generate 187 horsepower at 5,800 RPM and 186 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,100 RPM on regular 87 octane fuel.

The state-of-the-art powerplant is equipped with a variable intake manifold and dual variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which controls phasing of both the intake and exhaust camshafts to maximize fuel efficiency and torque. Both of these technologies help give the 2.7-liter engine a broad torque curve providing enhanced fuel efficiency, lower emissions and a strong response at all engine speeds. A dual exhaust manifold will also help achieve exceptional low-end torque and maximize power output.

The new engine will be mated to an all-new six-speed electronically-controlled automatic overdrive transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) that is one of the lightest and most compact in its class. The new transmission delivers a smooth shifting, remarkably quiet ride that is on par with a V6, and acceleration that is surprisingly quick for a four-cylinder. Internal preliminary 0-60 mph testing was timed at 9.7 seconds, nearly one second quicker than the average four-cylinder mid-size SUV. 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 well-equipped Highlander grade two-wheel-drive model with two rows of seats, contributing to its all-around excellent value. Adding to its appeal is an array of standard convenience features that include air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD audio system with six-speakers; front seats with height-adjustable active head rests and eight-way adjustable driver's seat; power door locks and windows with driver's window jam protection and auto-up/down feature; cruise control; a multi-function keyless entry system; UV-reduction windshield and rear privacy glass; a digital clock; dual sun visors with vanity mirrors and sliding extensions; a conversation mirror; an illuminated entry system; manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel; scheduled maintenance indicator light; full-size spare tire; and much more.

Along with its long list of standard features, 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 continues to be one of Toyota's most popular vehicles, setting the standard for car-based SUVs in innovation, refinement and comfort. Driver and passenger comfort is accomplished with segment-leading seating flexibility 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
      • 6 Years Ago
      Is anybody else having trouble with the Autoblog RSS feed and NetNewsWire??
        • 6 Years Ago
        I'm having the same issues with feedreader....
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think the new I4 won't work as well because it is so big. Why not make a small (2.7 L) V6 instead?
      • 6 Years Ago
      NJ represent!
      • 6 Years Ago
      "bests that of the hybrid model"

      huh, almost like the hybrid model was always a complete joke.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Not if your driving is biased toward city driving.
        27-hybrid, 20mpg non-hybrid.
        So a real world of 25 in the hybrid, and 20 in the 2.7

        Plus a hybrid is good to have if you are stuck in massive traffic jams if you have to evacuate from a false flag terrorist event.
        • 6 Years Ago
        The hybrid was less of a joke when you could get the FWD version. It got 1 more mpg city and highway.
      • 6 Years Ago
      My wife has an '05 Highlander with the 4 cyl 2.4L 160HP engine. They dropped the 4 cyl option when the new model was released, but I guess it came back due to high gas prices. The 2.4L is just adequate and certainly gasps on hills at high altitude--but the big problem is the 4 speed transmission. There's a huge jump from 3rd to 4th and it frequently hunts for the right gear (unless you turn off OD). It would be OK for 99% of driving situations with a 5 or 6 speed.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sounds like the thing would get a hernia if it tried to accelerate or tow something too fast.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I don't see 3500lbs happening even with tow prep package, unless it is a Honda caveat, like being an aerodynamic boat.

        But if the gearing is good enough 1-30mph, 2-60mph, 3-85mph, 4-120mph, 5-110mph, 6-100mph

        Still with a tall 6th gear, you won't use that towing. Even 5th will be for the flat/level when towing.
        Hit a hill while towing, you are in 4th.
        Heck, towing into a headwind at altitude, you might be drag limited to 75mph highly revving in 3rd gear, like 5500rpm.

        But if the oiling & cooling system works, and the NVH is suitably low, what is the problem?
      • 6 Years Ago
      I really like this.

      Drove in one, really smooth ride, powerful and its well built inside and out and also very luxurious.

      • 6 Years Ago
      Sounds like a good thing, but I heard the 6 speed has been quite poor on the vezna unfortunatly.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Subjectively this is a good move, to appease the masses who have been ingrained to think four cylinder=mileage, V8=power.

      Objectively, Toyota should have differentiated the axle ratio for the 4x2 V6 with 5 speed automatic. 3.478 for 4x4, 3.291 for 4x2

      or upgrade the V6 to the 6 speed automatic. That should give enough mileage benefit to round up to the next mpg on the window sticker. (and be faster/smoother)

      Hopefully Toyota is including the upshift from 2nd to 3rd with that 9.7 second 0-60 time.
      • 6 Years Ago
      How 'bout a turbo? Or a supercharger for more low-down torque?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I think shorter gearing is in order.
        Top gear is about 32mph per mph. Perfect when you have a tailwind or downhill.

        I'd like to see 5% shorter for 4x2, and if they could do 10% then they could offer 4x4.
        • 6 Years Ago

        Practicaly every family-vehicle overhere is available with a turbocharger. And i'm not talking about diesels.
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