Our left-brain loves the Toyota Highlander. It squeezes three rows of seats into a relatively small package (although like so many other crossovers, it has grown over the years). It outflanks competitors with three powertrain offerings--a in-line four-cylinder, a V-6, and a V-6 hybrid that achieves 28 mpg combined. The six-cylinder likely would get better fuel economy if it, like the 2.7-liter four-cylinder, came with a six-speed rather than a five-speed automatic. The interior, largely unchanged after four years on the market, remains a strong point, with large, attractive controls and all the technology buyers in this segment expect. There are also some features that will please former minivan owners, like second-row captain's chairs that can slide together to become a bench seat. A power liftgate is standard on all but base models. The Highlander's problem is that it has been overprocessed and overengineered to the point that it hardly registers any emotion. The steering and handling fail to provide any information to the driver. Styling, revised last year, tries to borrow from Toyota's larger, tougher trucks, but the Highlander mostly looks awkward and bland at the same time. Offerings from GM and Mazda drive and look better. Of course, keep in mind that we are talking about the crossover segment, where the Highlander's technical prowess is much more important than how it appeals to the emotions.
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