2008 Toyota Highlander – Click above for high-res image gallery The Highlander's undergone a nearly Kafka-esque transformation from its start as essentially a Camry wagon with all-wheel-drive and extra ride height. For 2008, Toyota's middle-child 'ute has been bulked up into more of a maxi-cruiser than previously. At first glance it appears what's emerged from the chrysalis is a grotesquely overinflated Forester, but the new Highlander is more butterfly than cockroach. %Gallery-10456% All photos ©2007 Dan Roth / Weblogs, Inc. The styling does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Subaru Forester, but in person the scale of the 2008 Highlander separates it from Fuji's small CUV. The stance is far more purposeful than the previous Highlander, and there are plenty of little easter eggs hidden in the lines that will delight for months. One of the marks of good design is that it continues to surprise as it reveals itself over time, and living with the Highlander is punctuated by regular moments of "hey, look at that!" The Highlander has been bulked up considerably, occupying a similar space as the 4-Runner. Measuring just an inch shorter than the 4-Runner (188.4 vs. 189.2 inches), the Highlander is just as wide and nearly as tall. As you'd expect, the unitized construction of the Highlander pays dividends once you move inside. All the measurements that equal passenger comfort; headroom, legroom, and hiproom are superior to the body-on-frame 4Runner. Only third row hiproom in the 4Runner is superior to the Highlander, which bests its truck-based stablemate significantly when it comes to accommodating the human form. The Highlander is exceedingly well thought out for the way people use their vehicles. At every turn, the details have been considered and that's a joy for the end user. The interior is a big improvement over its predecessor, and the materials and design have taken a sizeable step forward. The four shower-sized knobs for the radio and ventilation system are wonderful in practice, and their damped motion feels expensive when you give one a twist. From where the driver sits, there's command over the three-zone HVAC system. The front seat passenger gets his own temperature knob, and folks in the rear also get their own climate controls, able to be engaged or disengaged by driver's master controls. The up-down button for the blower fan would have been better executed as a small knob, as would the mode switch to direct airflow. Also marginally maddening is the integrated audio/navigation system. The menus are moderately Byzantine – it took three days to find the radio presets, for example – and the navigation system itself is only okay, in our opinion. The map display and operation isn't as easy as a Nissan or Ford nav, and loading or using the CD changer is confusing. You have to endure the self-animated LCD screen when adding or removing discs, and it's a bit of a fiddly routine to have to sit through just to get to the music. While we didn't immediately …
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