The Toyota Highlander gets a number of visual changes, some new interior features and reshuffled equipment packages for 2011. Offered in front- and all-wheel drive, the Highlander crossover comes with a four-cylinder or V-6 engine. Competitors include the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Flex and Honda Pilot.
The Highlander Hybrid, meanwhile, gets a stronger gas-electric drivetrain and additional visual changes to differentiate it from the non-hybrid model.
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Toyota says the hood, lights and fenders have been restyled for 2011. Chrome accents adorn the rocker panels, and base and SE trims have new 17-inch alloy wheels. The Highlander SE adds fog lights, a glass hatch that opens separately from the liftgate, and black roof rails. The Highlander Limited adds 19-inch wheels and silver roof rails.
At 188.4 inches long, the Highlander is one of the smaller three-row crossovers on the market. Its turning circle, 38.7 feet, is on the narrower side of its class.
Little has changed inside, but a third-row seat is now standard, and it folds into the floor in a 50/50 split rather than last year's single piece. The second-row bench features a removable center seat that stows in a compartment below the front-seat center console. Without it, the second row converts into two captain's chairs with a center aisle or a center console (also removable). Both seats can recline and adjust forward and back, and the passenger-side seat has a walk-in feature for easier third-row access.
Fold all the seats down, and the Highlander's 95.4 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume is class-competitive. With the second and third rows up, however, there's just 10.3 cubic feet of cargo volume — small for this league.
New for 2011 are standard air-conditioning controls for rear passengers; last year's Highlander had air vents but no separate rear controls. Other standard features include cruise control and a CD stereo with an auxiliary MP3 jack. The SE adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, power driver's seat, moonroof, backup camera, USB/iPod stereo integration and a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls. Limited models add a keyless access system with push-button start, three-zone automatic climate control, faux wood trim and a power passenger seat. Many features included on higher trims are optional on lower ones; other standalone options include a navigation system and an upgraded JBL stereo.
Under the Hood
Standard on the base and SE trims is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 187 horsepower and 186 pounds-feet of torque. It works with a six-speed automatic transmission. A 3.5-liter V-6 is available on the base and SE; it makes 270 hp and 248 pounds-feet of torque, and it teams with a five-speed automatic. The V-6 is standard on the Highlander Limited.
Four-cylinder models come only in front-wheel drive, but V-6 models offer front- or all-wheel drive. Maximum towing capacity with the four-cylinder is 3,500 pounds; with the V-6, it increases to 5,000 pounds.
Seven airbags, including rollover-sensing curtain airbags for all three rows, are standard. So are active head restraints, an electronic stability system and all-disc antilock brakes.
A 3.5-liter V-6 replaces last year's 3.3-liter V-6 to underpin the 2011 Highlander Hybrid's drivetrain. With the help of an electric motor, the Highlander Hybrid makes a combined 280 hp. Equipped with standard all-wheel drive, the hybrid uses an additional electric motor to power its rear wheels, rather than the usual driveshaft coupling in most all-wheel-drive vehicles. The Highlander Hybrid can cruise at low speeds on electric power only. Like before, a dashboard "EV" button allows drivers to maximize the threshold for electric-only propulsion, given a sufficient battery charge.
An electrically variable automatic transmission is standard. A gauge display alerts drivers to which sources of power — the gasoline engine, electric motors or a combination of both — the Highlander Hybrid is using, as well as its battery charge and overall gas mileage. The Highlander Hybrid is EPA-rated at 28/28 mpg city/highway, much better than even the four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive Highlander's 20/25 mpg.
The Highlander Hybrid gets styling updates similar to the non-hybrid Highlander, but several additional changes — a unique grille and bumper, plus new vertical fog lights — aim to differentiate the two. The headlights and taillights are tinted blue as well. Trim levels include the base and Limited, with equipment similar to the regular Highlander. Back to top
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