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2004 Toyota Highlander Review
Whole family fun.
Reviewed by Automotive on
Introduced in January of 2001, the Toyota Highlander is a crossover sport utility vehicle (SUV) that has quickly won over consumers to become the most popular of Toyota’s five SUVs. It is also a crossover companion to the rugged, truck-based 4Runner midsize. Much of the appeal is the fact that it rides like a car while offering the elevated height and king-of-the-highway feel of a truck. Consumers rave over its on road comfort thanks to its independent rear suspension and unit body construction.
Engines: 3.3-liter V-6, 2.4-liter four-cylinder
Transmissions: four-speed automatic, five-speed automatic
Models: Toyota Highlander, Toyota Highlander Limited
The 2004 Toyota Highlander has more V-6 power, thanks to the 3.3-liter engine that has replaced 2003’s 3.0-liter. A five-speed automatic transmission steadily delivers this new engine’s 230 horsepower and 242-lb-ft at 3600 rpm. The result is a very much-improved V-6 model with better highway fuel efficiency. The two-wheel drive now gets up to 25 mpg, while the four-wheel drive is up to 24 mpg. More power has also been added to the 2004 base model’s 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, which is now up to 165 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm. It should be noted that only the four-cylinder four-wheel drive base model has an improved fuel economy rating. Moms already drawn to it will love the fact that there is now more seating for the whole family.
The 2004 Toyota Highlander Limited model now includes a standard third-row seat designed to hold two occupants, meaning it can now seat up to seven passengers. This third-row seat is optional with base models. A DVD entertainment system is also available for Limited models to keep back-seat passengers content and entertained. For enhanced safety, all models now feature a tire-pressure warning system and electronic vehicle stability control. The stability control will reduce engine power when necessary, in addition to breaking an appropriate wheel whenever the system detects skidding. Also new in 2004 are optional side curtain airbags to protect those seated in the first and second rows. Keep in mind that these airbags do not extend to third-row passengers. Rounding out the changes is a bold new horizontal grill, new tail and fog lamps, fresh headlights, new seat fabric, and new trim for the door and instrument panels.
The 2004 Toyota Highlander shares the same basic design with its Lexus companion with some styling differences. Riding a 106.9-inch wheelbase that stretches 184.4-inches long, it is four inches longer than the original Lexus RX300 but two inches shorter than the Lexus RX330. It has a more noticeable, squared-off exterior style that distinguishes it from the RX330’s slanted roof pillars.
The 2004 Toyota Highlander base model seats five people with two-bucket seats in the front and a three-passenger split folding rear bench in the second-row. It is the first to have the third-row seat, changing occupancy from five people to seven. This third-row seat can also be folded down when not in use for additional cargo space. It adds this third-row without making it longer or restyling it in anyway. Only slight modifications were made to the suspension and interior floor plan. For example, the spare tire has been moved from inside the vehicle to outside under the cargo area. For this reason, the third-row seating is most accommodating to small children and petite adults with 30.2 inches of legroom and 36.3 inches of headroom. Another noticeable trait is the automatic-transmission lever. The lever is mounted below the dashboard at what appears to be an odd angle. For the driver, the location of the lever actually ends up being very convenient despite its odd look. Its interior style is much richer than previous models. A satin metallic finish makes the dashboard pop.
Performance & Handling
The 2004 Toyota Highlander's appeal has always been its exceptionally smooth car-like ride. It maneuvers very well for its size with very minimal body roll even on tight curves. The steering feel is perfect. Unlike other SUVs built on truck-based platforms, it is quiet, jostle-free, and changes made in 2004 to the vehicle’s suspension have only made it better. There is very little vibration felt it rides over manhole covers or patched segments of paved roads. Acceleration is strong from a standstill. The elevated height allows for great visibility over and around other vehicles.
The 2004 Toyota Highlander has an NHTSA rating of five-stars for front driver and passenger safety and protection.
EPA Fuel Economy
Toyota Highlander Limited: 17/23 mpg city/highway
- Car-like ride and handling
- Seats up to seven passengers
- Smooth and powerful V-6 engine
- Fuel efficient four-cylinder engine
You Won't Like
- Bland look
- Price can get expensive with options
- Limited towing and off-road utility
Whole family fun.
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