New Car Reviews

2009 Toyota Highlander

A 187-horsepower four-cylinder lugging around a two-ton SUV? Why not? The four-cylinder Highlander may not be overly powerful, but it was perfectly adequate for my daily commute. That the Highlander is even available with a four-cylinder is news, as last year it came only as a V-6 (or with a hybrid powertrain). Obviously, the four-cylinder option is a reaction to the wildly fluctuating gasoline prices that we saw in 2008, and the fact that it will get an estimated 27 mpg on the highway doesn’t hurt. However, buyers will have to sacrifice 4WD if they opt for the four-cylinder, because it’s available only with front-wheel drive.

Inside, the Highlander looks and feels very much like the Toyota that it is. I appreciated the large dials for the radio and climate controls, as I was wearing my gloves because of the frigid temperatures we were experiencing in Michigan post-Thanksgiving holiday. The Highlander is a sort of no-frills SUV – you’ll find pretty much everything you need in this type of vehicle, such as 5- or 7-passenger capacity, plenty of cupholders, and decent cargo capacity – and that’s probably good enough for loyal Toyota customers.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

This is the first Toyota I’ve driven in a while that felt like the old days – when Toyotas were pretty basic modes of solid transportation without a lot of frippery and electronic doodads and so on – that just got you and your stuff where you needed to be with no fuss, no muss, and at a reasonable price. Our fairly no-frills, dark gray on light-gray Highlander (with fabric seats) is probably closest to the base $27,600, though this was a pre-production prototype so it didn’t come with a Monroney sticker. Anything under $30,000 would make this a good deal, just based on reliability and resale.

But I couldn’t help but wonder what this Highlander would feel like with four or five people in it, instead of just me and a fairly decent-sized empty cabin. With only me at the wheel, there was just enough power to get me to the bank on time, to handle snowy roads with aplomb, and to haul seven-month old Robert Garcia dePadua (aka “Bob”) the Chesapeake to his first dog show. He won Best in Class.

Back to the Highlander. The competition in this category is fierce these days, but a reasonable price, decent fuel economy, and the golden Toyota nameplate should bode well for a four-cylinder Highlander.

Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief

Base Price (with destination): $27,600-41,020
Price as tested: N/A


Fuel Economy: 20/27/22 (city/hwy/combined)

Size: 2.7 liter I4
HP: 187 HP @ 5,800 RPM
Torque: 186 lb.-ft. @ 4,100 RPM

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 4,050 lbs.
Wheel/Tire Info:
17 x -TBD- alloy (size)
P245/65R17 front, P245/65R17 rear

Buying Guide
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0-60 MPH:

8.7 SECS


20 City / 27 Hwy

Cargo (Std/Max):

NA / 95.4 cu. ft.