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The family-car experts at TheCarConnection.com read the latest road tests to write this comprehensive review of the new 2008 Toyota Highlander. Experts from TheCarConnection.com also drove the Toyota Highlander to offer you a definitive opinion on this mid-size SUV. This review also compares the 2008 Toyota Highlander with other vehicles in its class to give you the best advice even when other reviews present conflicting opinions.
You're looking at the second-generation 2008 Toyota Highlander, which is bigger inside and out than the SUV it replaces. While the Highlander used to be sized closely to the Ford Escape, it's now in line with the Ford Explorer. Its styling has grown even more rounded but less distinctive, and while the interior feels like a quality piece, it's not a standout in terms of style, either.
Inside, the increased room is put to good use. Two rows of seats are standard, but the 2008 Highlander Limited and Sport models drove by TheCarConnection.com team featured three rows of seats. Second-row room proved ample for American-sized men, especially when the standard rear bench seat was configured like individual buckets. There's a Center Stow Seat that provides a spot for a third (small) behind. When stowed (an action that takes less than 15 seconds) in a rattle-free cubby under the front console, the space between the outboard bucket seats is wide enough to provide access to the two-person foldable third-row bench. While an adult wouldn't want to be in the third row for more than a few miles, the space is plenty large for the kids that will be crawling back there for their ride to soccer.
A version of Toyota's corporate 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 is the only engine available in the 2008 Toyota Highlander. A five-speed automatic handles shifting duties, but even though Toyota calls it the "Super Intelligent Electronically Controlled Transmission," its lethargic performance, even in manual mode, drains some of the zest out of the big V-6.
Dynamically, the Sport is the only nonhybrid model in the 2008 Toyota Highlander crossover line that will appeal to enthusiasts. The Highlander base and Limited editions are too softly sprung to be interesting on a twisty road, plus the electric steering offers zero feedback, and the springs and dampers feel mushy. Most drivers aren't enthusiasts, but all drivers want to feel in control.
With 8.1 inches of ground clearance and available full-time four-wheel drive (with a 50/50 torque split), light off-roading is also part of the 2008 Highlander's repertoire, especially since Toyota engineering finally acquiesced and put an Off switch for the traction control. No longer will you get stuck on beach access roads or your snow-covered driveway.