2005 Highlander New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Highlander has become the best-selling vehicle of its type, a car-based midsize sport-utility vehicle. Its independent suspension is set up for comfort and ride quality as a priority. The 2005 Toyota Highlander offers a choice of four-cylinder or V6, with front-wheel drive or full-time four-wheel drive.
First introduced as a 2001 model, the Highlander was substantially revised for 2004. The 2005 Toyota Highlander adds standard features that were optional. Optional curtain-style airbags and side-impact airbags are designed to protect passengers' heads and torsos in a side impact or rollover.
The Highlander remains the easiest of motoring companions. Getting in and out is easy due to the relatively low floor height. Its flexible interior makes it easy to various combinations of people and cargo. Seating for five comes standard, with an optional third-row seat to carry up to seven passengers, though they'd be cramped. The third row folds flat and the second-row seat folds nearly so, revealing 80 cubic feet of cargo space, more than a Toyota 4Runner. The Highlander can swallow impromptu flea-markets buys with ease, and tote them home despite sudden worsening of the weather.
The Highlander offers a relatively soft, smooth ride for an SUV and the interior is unusually quiet and free of wind noise and engine vibration. The base model, equipped with the revised 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and front-wheel drive, performs well around town and on the open highway, delivering responsive performance when merging into highway traffic. Equipped with the larger 3.3-liter V6 and all-wheel-drive, the Highlander offers strong power and secure handling in nasty weather. Highlander offers much of what made the Lexus RX 300 popular, but without Lexus-sized monthly payments.
The Toyota Highlander is available in base or Limited trim, each with either front-wheel drive or full-time all-wheel drive. A choice of engines is available: A 2.4-liter inline-4 comes standard, rated at 160 horsepower. A new 3.3-liter V6 that produces 230 horsepower is optional on the base Highlander and standard on the Limited. Four-cylinder models come with a four-speed automatic transmission; V6 models get a five-speed automatic.
The base four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive model ($24,080) comes with air conditioning, power windows and door locks, cruise control, cloth upholstery, sophisticated anti-lock brakes, seating for five, and electronic stability control (VSC). The all-wheel-drive model ($25,480) is similarly equipped. The V6 is optional ($1,060), but if you order it on the 4WD model, then you have to take the optional third-row seat as well ($850).
Highlander Limited 2WD ($29,980) and 4WD ($31,380) come standard with V6 and third-row seat as standard equipment. The Limited also gets automatic climate control, an eight-speaker JBL sound system, eight-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, four-way power passenger seat, 17-inch 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-trimmed seating (Ivory or Ash Gray) is available for the Limited ($670) or base model ($2,255). Other options: tilt-and-slide glass sunroof ($900), in-dash six-CD changer ($595). The optional rear-seat DVD system ($1,770) includes two wireless headphones, RCA input jacks for video games, and a household-style 115-volt AC power outlet. GPS navigation ($2,200) is offered on Limited only. A Towing Package ($160) includes trailer wiring plus an upgraded radiator, transmission oil cooler, and 130-amp alternator.
We strongly recommend getting the optional side-curtain and seat-mounted side-impact airbags ($680), which are designed to protect the heads and torsos of passengers in the first two rows. Highlander's airbag system uses sensors in both front seats to adjust the frontal airbags to react appropriately to the severity of the collision and the weight of the passengers. A new low-tire-pressure warning system is standard. Always wear your seatbelts as they are your first line of defense in an accident.
The Highlander Hybrid, which will go on sale late in 2005 as a 2006 model, will deliver the fuel economy of a compact sedan and will be classified by the government as a Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle, or SULEV. The 2006 Highlander Hybrid combines a 3.3-liter V6 with electric motors. Toyota expects there will be a waiting list for the vehicle when it hits the market.