4th place: 2011 Toyota Highlander 4WD V6 Sport - 76.6%
Now here's an entrant none of us thought would be as high up on the list as it actually is. The Toyota Highlander turned out to be surprisingly able and quite satisfactory overall. And with the fastest 0-100 km time (7.3 sec), the shortest breaking distance (44m) and second-best fuel economy (13.18 L/100 km), it also turned out to be the most capable. So, how come it only managed to hit 4th place?
Well, for starters, the exterior leaves something to be desired. The term “bland elegance” was heard uttered throughout the day's drive, and that's pretty much spot-on. It's not that it's offensive in any way, or even ugly, just that it kind of just... is. Which doesn't really wow anyone or leave an impression at all. That same kind of in-between blandness continues inside, with knobs that aren't very attractive, but are highly functional. The ergonomics are very easy to adapt to and the seats are large, comfy and supportive.
As far as space and cargo is concerned, the Highlander claims to be a 7-seater, but fairs much better as a 6-seater. The middle seat in the second row is pretty unusable by anyone over the age of 8. The third row of seating is good, but when it’s up, there is very little trunk space left; just 292L, which is actually only 10% more than a Yaris with its seats up. Shame on Toyota for that one.
Driving the Toyota Highlander is almost as bland as the exterior design. It's not that it's bad, just that it just... is. Again. The 3.5L V6 mated to Toyota's 5-speed autobox offers smooth, strong acceleration with a bit of low-end grunt we all appreciated. It actually felt like the sportiest SUV of the bunch, which was one of the shocking revelations we discovered and partly why the Highlander landed as high up on the list as it did. Steering is light and reassuring, despite the body roll in tight corners. It's an easy-to-drive, easy-to-park SUV. Nothing more, nothing less.
Read more on the 7-seater SUV comparison test:
2011 7-passenger SUV comparison test
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