Interior / Exterior » 7
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STYLING | 7 out of 10
Substantially larger, roomier and more powerful than its predecessor...
Kelley Blue Book
Large, easy-to-read gauges and high-mounted audio and climate controls...
...The layout and detail of the instrument panel tilt toward the functional, with larger dials and clear labeling of controls...
...More aggressive and muscular styling...
Car and Driver
...The control layout remains simple and easy to understand...
The Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid have been getting some work done, as the polite euphemism goes. It's a mini-lift at best, since the Highlander's hood and fenders are reshaped, but no other metal has been touched. From the windshield back, it's almost indistinguishable from the 2008 models. With the exception of the space-age Prius hybrid, Toyota vehicles rarely stand out, and that includes the Highlander--but the new front end does help matters. It has some of the flair applied to the Venza wagon, and a few more angles and creases so spotters will be able to distinguish it from the 2010 models.
A few small distinctions divide the Hybrid models from the gas-only Highlanders, too. Mostly, it's differently shaped fog lamps, some blue plastic and chrome trim that draw the visual line between the different versions.
Call it unexciting--and you'd be right--but the Highlander's well-built, well-equipped cabin puts all the controls where they need to be. It's not particularly stylish, which seems to be just fine with hundreds of thousands of Highlander buyers. A simple binnacle covers the primary gauges, which are tucked into cut tubes of plastic, and Toyota's traditionally large buttons and knobs drive the climate and audio controls. A band of metallic plastic trim changes to woodgrain on the Limited version, which also dons leather for its seats, which warms up the interior immensely. A small LCD screen houses the rearview camera on some trim versions; a bigger LCD on models with navigation dominates the center stack, giving some relief to the Highlander's thick dash.
They're evolving toward handsome--but for now, the 2011 Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid are more forgettable than most big crossovers.