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2012 Toyota Highlander

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2012 Toyota Highlander Review

Meeting the people's needs

Reviewed by Automotive on

The 2012 Toyota Highlander is a mid-size SUV with the look, feel, and fuel economy of crossovers. Based on the Toyota Camry, the Highlander is available in three models (base, Sport, and Limited); offered with two engines, and front or all-wheel drive.

The Toyota Highlander is the middle child of Toyota's "Marsha, Jan, and Cindy" trio of midsize crossover/SUVs: 4Runner, Highlander, and FJ Cruiser. Unlike the 4Runner and FJ Cruiser though, the Highlander is strictly designed for the pavement. All Toyota Highlander SUVs come well-equipped as both people and cargo movers. The Highlander comes with available three-row seating and can carry one driver and up to six passengers and their cargo. All Toyota Highlanders are feature-rich, with standard front and rear air conditioning; eight-way adjustable driver's seat (10-way on Limited); manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel; cruise control; conversation mirror; full-size spare tire, etc., just to name a few. Higher trims offer standard features like leather, backup camera systems, navigation, and power moonroof. Last year, Toyota refreshed the Highlander exterior with a new hood, grille, and bumper design.

The Toyota Highlander can hold up to an EPA-estimated 95 cubic feet with both second and third row seats down. The SUV can tow up to 5000 pounds when properly equipped.

The Range

Body style: SUV
Engines: 2.7-liter four-cylinder; 3.5-liter V-6;
Transmissions: five-speed automatic, six-speed automatic
Models: Base, Sport, Limited

What's New

Toyota heavily refreshed in 2011, so the 2012 Toyota Highlander SUV carries over into the new model year unchanged. The 2011 Toyota Highlander model received a new grille, headlights and hood design, and fog light housing.


Toyota refreshed the Highlander sheetmetal for 2011, which carries over into the new model year. Changes include a new hood, fenders, and front grill. The Toyota Highlander now looks less boxy than prior models, looking much more like a crossover than an SUV. A clean character line strip creases the flat sides, and the Toyota offers 19-inch alloy wheels to give the SUV a more muscular look.


The 2012 Toyota Highlander continues to offer plenty of space, able to seat up to seven people including the driver, though the third row is best for smaller passengers like children. The five seat configuration comes standard in the Toyota Highlander, and the second-row folds flat for cargo. The 2012 Toyota Highlander offers over 95 cubic feet of space with second and third-row seats both down.

Performance & Handling

The 2012 Toyota Highlander drives and rides more like a car than a truck-based SUV thanks to the fully independent suspension. Road feel is smooth, almost floating, with steering light enough to make parking in crowded parking lots easy. While the four-cylinder engine offers adequate power, the V-6 offers surprisingly strong acceleration and decent fuel economy as well.


The 2012 Toyota Highlander, like all current Toyota vehicles, comes standard with the Toyota STAR safety system which includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), brake assist, Smart Stop (SST), traction control (TRAC), and vehicle stability control (VSC). The standard airbag configuration includes driver and front passenger airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, three-row side curtain airbags, and a driver knee airbag are standard.

EPA Fuel Economy

Base: 17-20 mpg city/23-27 mpg highway
Sport, Limited: 17-18 mpg city/23-24 mpg highway

You'll Like

  • Configurable seating offers plentiful interior spacing
  • Intuitive dash design
  • Engine power especially the V-6

You Won't Like

  • Engine surprisingly noisy at speed
  • Pricey at higher trims, options

Sum Up

Meeting the people's needs

If You Like This Vehicle

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See the New 2015 Highlander.

Front & Driver Side View

2012 Toyota Highlander Consumer Rating

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