2008 Toyota Highlander Road Test Review
The term "Crossover", it is said, started when Lexus introduced the RX300 to the world as a 1998 model. This was a vehicle that looked to the world like another rugged sport utility vehicle in a sea of SUVs that American families have been developing an insatiable appetite for.
What Lexus realized at that time was that, while people were buying these rugged off-road capable vehicles, few were actually taking them off the highways and byways, and while they loved the space, comfort and utility that these vehicles provided, they complained about the truck-like ride and poor fuel economy that went along with the package.
Why not design a vehicle that has all the utility and space of one of these truck-based vehicles and build it up on a car platform. That would mean that the vehicle would have the comfort and ride quality of a sedan, but all the versatility and commanding seating position of an SUV
The formula worked so well for Lexus, that Toyota, who owns the Lexus brand, decided to take the RX300 platform and build a more affordable, mainstream crossover. The result was the 2001 Toyota Highlander became one of the most popular crossover vehicles sold in this country.
Now, for 2008, Toyota is introducing the Highlander 2.0. The evolution of the Highlander was not taken lightly by the Toyota design team. They talked to many people who bought Highlanders and asked them what they liked, and what they didn't like. But they didn't stop there, they also asked people who were considering buying a highlander, but ultimately found something they liked better, why they made the choice against the Highlander.
Bland styling was high on the list of some folks, while others wanted a more upscale interior and more functionality for family activities.
Manufacturers were always looking for that special something that will let their chariot stand out from this extremely crowded segment of mid-sized crossovers, so the folks at Toyota, working closely with the Calty design studios in Southern California. That group went to work and the end result is bold and innovative in a way that only Toyota could pull off.
Toyota currently has 3 mid-sized SUVs available as well as 3 wildly popular hybrid vehicles in their portfolio and the new Highlander needed to fit in both of these groups. the 3 mid sized SUVs are, 4Runner, Highlander and FJ Cruiser. The 3 hybrids are the Camry Hybrid, the Highlander Hybrid and the Prius.
The styling certainly is no longer bland and looks muscular and substantial. Inside, thoughtful touches abound.
Massive infusion of performance has been added, but without using more fuel, in fact, it is more economical then the previous model
The model lineup for the Highlander starts with the Base Highlander, Sport, Limited, Hybrid & Hybrid Limited
vehicles blend attributes of an SUV, a car and a truck. Because they are designed to haul people and things, crossovers are essentially the minivans of the new millennium, according to Maria Rohrer, Buick marketing director.
Buick unveiled the 2008 Enclave to automotive writers last week. Technical presentations were accompanied by a half day of driving in the country south of St. Louis.
Minivans are so pass that General Motors no longer builds them. The Enclave shares its basic chassis platform with theSaturn Outlook andGMC Acadia. All three vehicles reflect new levels of refinement and style, but the Enclave seems to stand out as the boldest of the trio.
Styling is a key attribute of the Enclave, which combines fashion with luxury, handling and performance in a way that puts it on even footing with the best-selling vehicles in the segment. The bold exterior bulges in all the right places and it has wheels that sit out nearly flush with the body sides. The cabins greenhouse, or window area, is slightly narrower than the rest of the body, adding to the muscular, well-planted stance. Inside, there is room for seven or eight, depending on the configuration.
The Enclave comes in front-wheel or all-wheel drive in two trim levels. Base prices start at $32,055 and range to $36,255. Popularly equipped models will range from the mid-$30,000 level to more than $40,000.
On the twisting two-lane roads of rural Missouri, the Enclave sat firmly and confidently. The body stayed admirably flat in turns, and the ride is both comfortable and responsive. A compact independent rear suspension plays a big role in the vehicles overall handling prowess, but some credit also goes to the Michelin tires that were designed specifically for the Enclave to provide good grip without sacrificing ride quality or noise. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard and 19s are optional.
Quiet vehicles intrinsically feel luxurious, and Buick engineers paid a great deal of attention to noise reduction throughout the Enclaves design. The windshield utilizes glass with a sound-deadening laminate, portions of the body have laminated steel panels, and expandable foam that absorbs noise fills many body cavities. Its easy to talk inside the vehicle at 70 miles per hour, even from the third row. As one engineer said, you have to be careful what you say about your kids because now they can hear every word.
The Enclaves interior is both warm and welcoming. The level of materials and surfaces is on par with other vehicles in this price segment. The front seats have excellent lateral and lumbar support. The optional second-row captains seats are not only pleasant to sit in, but they also tip and slide forward to ease access to the third seat. The third seat is not just a penalty box for children, but a seat that is actually usable by adults.
The Enclaves 3.6-liter V-6 is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. This transversely mounted powerplant, also used in the Outlook and Acadia, has dual overhead cams, four valves per cylinder and variable valve timing. Horsepower is 275.
Out on the road, this engine is smooth and relatively quiet. Mash the throttle and it responds with good power. I found that cruising through hilly terrain with three persons aboard caused the engine to shift up and down frequently to maintain a consistent speed. More midrange torque would give the Enclave even stronger performance in these situations.
Price: We drove a wide variety of vehicles, both front-wheel and all-wheel drive. The front-wheel-drive CX has a base price of $32,055. An all-wheel-drive CXL begins at $36,255. Add $735 to each number for the destination charge.
Warranty: Four years or 50,000 miles, with a five-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty.