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2012 Toyota Highlander

Base MSRP: $28,240 to $37,195
May 2012
by ConsumerSearch
2012 Toyota Highlander

  • Comfortable, reliable and efficient
  • Versatile second-row seating
  • Good safety scores
  • Cargo space falls short of rivals
  • Cramped third-row seats

The Toyota Highlander carries over largely unchanged for 2012. A comfortable ride and smooth, 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 are its hallmarks, and reviewers say the Highlander continues to be one of the best all-around midsize SUVs. In addition to a polished ride, the Highlander performs well in crash tests and carries a good reputation for reliability.

While the aforementioned V6 engine is mentioned most often in reviews, the Highlander's base engine is a 187-horsepower 2.7-liter 4-cylinder. (Toyota also manufactures a hybrid version of the Highlander, which we cover in our separate report on Hybrid SUVs and Crossovers.) The V6 is paired with a five-speed automatic, the 4-cylinder gets a six-speed auto and the hybrid (also a V6) gets a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). Note also that the 4-cylinder Highlander is only available with front-wheel drive.

Most reviewers say the Highlander's flexible second-row seating is a big bonus, even though the third-row seat isn't particularly roomy. In a comparison test, Motor Trend says that there is "one party trick that amazes us all: its magical, disappearing middle seat," referring to the clever system that allows you to remove the center section of the second-row seat and stow it under the front-seat armrest. notes that the midsize SUV segment is "highly competitive," and that the Highlander "isn't the only pick to offer a compelling balance." The 2012 Dodge Durango (Base MSRP: $28,995 to $42,995) and 2012 Mazda CX-9 (Base MSRP: $29,725 to $35,125) generally rank ahead of the Toyota in the eyes of reviewers.

EPA Fuel Economy Estimates

4-cyl 2WD: 20 mpg city / 25 mpg highway / 22 mpg combined

V6 2WD: 18 mpg city / 24 highway / 20 combined

V6 AWD: 17 mpg city / 22 highway / 19 combined

V6 Hybrid: 28 mpg city / 28 highway / 28 combined

All Toyota Highlander fuel economy estimates assume the use of regular-grade gasoline.

NHTSA Safety Ratings:

Front Impact: 4 stars

Side Impact: 5 stars

Rollover Resistance: 4 stars

Overall: 4 stars

IIHS Safety Ratings:

Front Offset Impact: Good

Side Impact: Good

Roof Strength: Good

Top Safety Pick 2012

For additional details, see our 2009 review

The 2012 Toyota Highlander carries forward essentially unchanged. For a more complete picture of what reviewers have to say, visit our full report on the 2011 Toyota Highlander (Base MSRP: $28,090 to $37,045).

Our Sources

1.'s overview of the 2012 Toyota Highlander runs down the various trim levels and options, and gives editors impressions of the Highlander's performance and all-around utility.

Review: 2012 Toyota Highlander, Editors of


The 2012 Highlander remains unchanged from the 2011 model year. Our complete review has a breadth of sources, and compiles reviewers' opinions into one place.

Review: 2011 BMW X6, Editors of, May 2012


Depending on powertrain choice, the 2012 Toyota Highlander is estimated to deliver anywhere from 19 to 22 mpg in overall driving. That's for non-hybrid models; the Highlander Hybrid is rated at 28 mpg overall.

Review: 2012 Toyota Highlander, U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency


After going through NHTSA's crash-test regimen, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes away with a 4-star overall safety rating, out of a possible 5.

Review: 2012 Toyota Highlander, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration


The Toyota Highlander aces the crash and roof-strength tests conducted by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, resulting in its being named a Top Safety Pick.

Review: Toyota Highlander, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

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