Already one of Toyota’s most popular vehicles in its extensive brand lineup, the midsize Highlander undergoes significant revisions for 2011.
The popular Crossover Utility Vehicle has gone through some key styling updates on the outside, which helps keep its looks fresh and appealing among the young family buying audience, and on the inside these buyers will like the new user technology amenities, too.
Starting with the front exterior, the 2011 Highlander gets some zip to its appearance. The fascia, hood and fenders sport a more sophisticated redesign accented by attractive chrome around the grille, headlights and lower bumper. The crossover vehicle’s profile is also accented with chrome and black rockers and the standard 17-inch alloy wheels are redesigned as well.
The 2011 Toyota Highlander is sold in Base, SE, Limited and Hybrid models in two-wheel and four-wheel-drive configurations with four-cylinder and V-6 engine options. Prices for 2011 begin at $27,390 for the Base 2WD trim and range to $37,290 as the starting price for the Hybrid model.
My tester was the 4WD V-6-equipped Limited with a base price of $34,520. The exterior color was a version of popular silver, called Magnetic Gray Metallic. Heavily optioned with several extra cost amenities — including a $3,400 comprehensive technology and convenience package — the tester’s out-the-door price was $39,464.
The 3.5-liter V-6 coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission is quite well-powered for this 4,464-pound midsize crossover that’s designed to carry seven passengers with its three rows of seating.
Toyota’s 24-valve, V-6 engine is rated at 270 horsepower with 248 lb.-ft. of torque. The tester’s 4WD fuel economy figures are EPA tested at 17 miles per gallon city and 23 mpg highway. The 2WD version, with its reduced curb weight of 4,255 pounds, does slightly better at 18/24 mpg. The V-6 Highlander can tow 5,000 pounds.
Toyota has hedged its bets in this newly evolving era of the four-cylinder demand marketplace by broadening its availability of the I-4 on the midsize Highlander. I’m not sure how satisfying consumers will find a four-cylinder on a seven-passenger CUV, but it’s going to be offered to them optionally on 2011 Highlanders in the line’s most popular and high sales volume trim, the SE (2WD only). The four-cylinder is already the standard engine in the Base model.
The 2WD Highlander, weighing in at 3,946 pounds, has a 2.7-liter four-cylinder that produces 187 horsepower and 186 lb.-ft. of torque with fuel returns of 20/25 mpg. Tow ratings are limited to a maximum of 3,500 pounds.
Toyota has expanded amenities and tech offerings for 2011 on the Highlander. The Base and SE grades now include a 50/50 split third-row seat. Manual rear climate controls are now a standard amenity on all Highlander models. Today’s contemporary “connected” gadgets are more prevalent on the 2011 Highlander. Toyota features a new Tech Audio system that comes with a USB port, XM radio, and Bluetooth.
The 2011 Highlander is well-equipped with safety and security features. The midsize SUV comes with seven airbags, including the driver’s knee airbag; active head restraints; and the Toyota Star Safety System. The TSSS is a combined team of stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electric power steering, brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution that work when called upon to help the driver steer the crossover through skids, slides or slippery conditions. — Connie Keane, Motor Matters

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