2003 Highlander New Car Test Drive
Toyota Highlander is among the easiest of motoring companions. Getting in and out of it couldn't be easier. Highlander offers lots of flexibility when it comes to carrying people and things. It totes four people comfortably, five less so. The rear seats can be folded down for cargo carrying. Highlander offers plenty of utility, with more total cargo space than a 4Runner.
On street and highway, Highlander performs decorously, pretending to be a car. Yet it can swallow impromptu flea-markets buys with ease, and tote them home despite sudden worsening of the weather. Highlander offers much of what made the Lexus RX 300 so popular without the high payments.
The four-wheel-drive V6 model offers impressive all-weather capability. The base model with front-wheel drive and a four-cylinder engine performs brilliantly around town and on the open highway, delivering responsive performance when merging into highway traffic.
Highlander is available in two trim levels, each with either full-time four-wheel drive or front-wheel drive. There's also a choice of engines: A 2.4-liter inline-4 comes standard, and is rated 155 horsepower. A 3.0-liter V6 that produces 220 horsepower is optional. All Highlanders come with automatic transmissions.
Prices start at $23,880 for the four-cylinder model with front-wheel drive. With full-time four-wheel drive, the four-cylinder Highlander lists for $25,280. V6 models are priced at $25,460 with front-wheel drive and $26,860 with four-wheel drive.
Even the base trim level is well-equipped, and includes air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, cloth upholstery, and anti-lock brakes. Some of the Limited's standard features are offered as options on the base Highlander, either by themselves or grouped into packages.
Highlander Limited ($29,935 with 2WD, $30,795 with 4WD) comes with the V6 as standard equipment, and adds automatic climate control, an eight-speaker JBL sound system, eight-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, aluminum wheels, roof rack, fog lights, rear privacy glass, heated mirrors, remote keyless entry with security system and engine immobilizer, wood-grain interior trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and other amenities. Leather upholstery, heated front seats, and an in-dash six-disc CD changer are optional.
With either trim level, and especially with the V6, we highly recommend the optional Traction Control with Vehicle Skid Control ($850). We also recommend the seat-mounted side-impact airbags ($250).