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In the world of plain boxes, boxes don’t come any plainer than the Toyota Highlander. Its styling wasn’t so much drawn as cleaved; it looks like a block of Wisconsin cheddar with four wheels attached and a Toyota emblem stuck on the front. In its base, four-cylinder, two-wheel drive form, the Highlander is unpretentious enough to, by definition, lack the pretense necessary to qualify a car-based vehicle as an SUV. The base Highlander, no matter what Toyota, its dealers or anyone else says, is in fact a station wagon.
A really fine, useable, wholly sensible station wagon.
Big, but not too big
Sitting on a 106.9-inch wheelbase and stretching out 184.4 inches in overall length, the Highlander isn’t particularly large. Sure it’s more than eight inches shorter overall than Toyota’s Land Cruiser and 19.5 inches shorter than the behemoth Sequoia, but its wheelbase is also 0.2 inches shorter than the Camry’s and it’s 4.8 inches shorter overall than that sedan. The Highlander is tall, however. Not counting roof rails, the two-wheel drive Highlander is a full 65.7-inches tall – that’s 7.8 inches loftier than the basic Camry. And that height translates into interior volume.
The Camry’s slightly longer wheelbase leaves it with incremental advantages over the Highlander in front and rear leg room, but the Highlander has it covered in head room and swamps it in cargo capacity. The Camry’s trunk is rated at just 16.7 cubic feet, while the Highlander has 38.5 cubes behind its rear seat when it’s up; it swells to 81.4 cubic feet when that seat is folded forward. The Highlander can’t match the humongous Sequoia’s 128.1 cubic feet of total cargo volume, but at 3485 pounds the base Highlander is 1585 pounds lighter than a base Sequoia SR5 (and just 189 pounds more than a base Camry LE).