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

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