2008 Toyota Highlander - East Valley Tribune: Business

2008 Toyota Highlander

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Posted: Saturday, September 22, 2007 12:00 am | Updated: 7:07 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The good news for fans of roomy, practical transportation is that a new Highlander is arriving. The really great news is that it’s available in a more appealing wrapper and sings a sweeter song under the hood.

The good news for fans of roomy, practical transportation is that a new Highlander is arriving. The really great news is that it’s available in a more appealing wrapper and sings a sweeter song under the hood.

Toyota smacked one out of the park when it introduced the Camry-based Highlander for 2002. If the small RAV4 worked, why not something a little bigger? It worked like a charm, of course, despite the fact that its plain styling took a back seat to passenger- and cargo-carrying practicality. This time around, the ’08 Highlander makes up for lost time.

The new model, while not jawdropping, is eye appealing and nicely proportioned. There are similarities to the compact-sized RAV4, which is a good thing. Toyota claims the new body is better at cheating the wind and therefore helps reduce fuel consumption, particularly at highway speeds.

Physically, the Highlander has grown by close to four inches in length, more than three inches in width and about the same amount between the front and rear wheels. That extra space translates, according to Toyota, into 16 percent more overall volume and increased leg, shoulder and head room for second- and thirdrow passengers.

The redesigned cabin includes a handsome dash with extra-large gauges. As well, the driver’s seat comes with a cushion length adjuster that adds thigh support, which is great on long trips.

The three-place second-row bench can be converted to two stand-alone chairs by sliding the center cushion into the rear of the floor console. As before, a third-row bench that’s best used for two junior-sized riders is optional. A set of levers located near the tailgate can remotely lower the

second- and third-row seat backs to create a perfectly flat load floor.

The Highlander’s standard powerplant is now a 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 270 horsepower, 55 more than last year’s 3.3-liter V6. The 155-h.p. 2.4-liter four-cylinder from 2007 has been dropped.

Returning for ’08 is the Highlander Hybrid with its 3.3-liter V6 that works in conjunction with front and rear electric motors to produce a combined 270 horsepower, equal to the 3.5-liter V6’s rating.

A five-speed automatic transmission delivers power to either front-, or full-time four-wheel-drive gasolinepowered models, while the Hybrid, which is equipped with a different ondemand four-wheel-drive setup in the interests of fuel efficiency, operates through a continuously variable unit with no set gearing.

Base, Sport and Limited make up the gas-model lineup while a Hybrid and Hybrid Limited round out the selection.

All versions arrive with the expected air conditioning and poweroperated controls plus a CD/MP3 player, keyless remote entry, tilt/telescoping steering, cruise control, overhead console and a six-cupholder floor console.

The Sport adds 19-inch wheels, flip-open glass hatch, exterior chrome dress-up items (including a rear spoiler), CD changer, backup monitor, power driver’s seat and steering-wheel audio controls.

In addition to the Sport content, Limited buyers get a leather interior, fancier trim, dual-zone climate control and keyless push-button start.

The content level on the base Hybrid model is significantly greater than that of its gasoline counterpart, while the content of the Hybrid Limited is similar to that of the gas-powered version.

Of course, a number of options, including entertainment, navigation and towing packages, can be ordered.

With the current softening in the minivan category, Toyota should do well with its resized and reshaped Highlander. Not only can it carry as many passengers and nearly as much cargo, but it can do so in a variety of weather conditions and, finally, with plenty of style.

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