The Toyota Highlander premiered for the 2001 model year and is considered a pioneering midsize crossover SUV. The first generation of the Highlander was equipped with either a 2.4L four-cylinder engine capable of around 155 horsepower or a 3.0L V6 which produced up to 220 horsepower. Engines were mated to a standard four-speed automatic transmission. Trim levels for the model were the base, Sport, and Limited. The base Highlander was equipped with power accessories, cruise control, air conditioning, and a CD stereo. The Sport kicked it up a notch with a sport-tuned suspension, 17" alloy wheels, foglights, a power driver’s seat, and a leather-steering wheel. Top-level Limited models offered heated mirrors, power-front seats, and an upgraded audio system. In 2004, the V6 engine was increased to 3.3L and directed through a new five-speed automatic transmission. A fold-flat third row became available in the Highlander Limited along with a navigation system.
Safety features for the first generation Highlander included antilock brakes, brake assist, electronic brakeforce distribution, and Vehicle Stability Control as an option before becoming standard for 2004 along with a tire-pressure monitoring system. Front-seat mounted and side-torso airbags were offered as options. A hybrid version of the Highlander rolled off the line for 2005, making it the first seven-passenger vehicle to be offered as such. The second-generation of the Toyota Highlander was unveiled at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show and went on sale for the 2008 model year. The four-cylinder engine was no longer the base configuration, as a more robust 3.5L V6 took over (270 hp) married to a five-speed automatic transmission. However, come 2009, a 2.7L four-cylinder engine was implemented once again, this time for five-passenger front-wheel drive versions of the Highlander.
The second generation of the Highlander kept the same trims from the first (with the exception being that the Sport model was replaced with the SE trim in 2010). The base Highlander shows off a large amount of standard features such as cruise control, remote keyless entry, an AM/FM stereo with MP3 capability, a tire-pressure monitoring system, heated front seats, power windows and locks, parking assist, and more. The SE and Limited take the luxury options a step further with leather upholstery, a touch-screen DVD navigation system, the Smart Key System, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system, and an upgraded JBL audio system. Since its time on the road, the Highlander has been a strong representative in its class. The Toyota Highlander was nominated as the 2002 Motor Trend SUV of the Year along with being named the Best Mid-Size SUV by AMI Auto World. It also received the AAA Auto Guide Award for an SUV under $30,000 and has been named a Consumer Guide Best Buy (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006).
The Toyota Highlander has trekked its way across the land for a while now, impressing all left in its wake. This sporty crossover showcases the versatility and efficiency that drivers need, offering expansive cargo space and very comfy passenger seating for a model in this class. The Highlander does not have many rivals in the fashion department, as it is a stylistically designed SUV with the right mix of aerodynamic and refined parts. It can perform with a boost and handle with rich efficiency on most terrains, underlining even more reasons why the Highlander stands so tall.
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