Think Ferrari for a moment. The F430 competes directly with few supercars, for two reasons. Firstly, the small V8-engined Italian is in a segment where potential owners will likely buy the competitors, as well. Secondly, in that upper stratosphere of exoticars, only the Lamborghini Gallardo; Porsche 911 GT2; and soft alternatives from Bentley and Aston Martin come to play.
Now back to this Good 12 Supersize-winning Highlander. Below, but overalapping, is the Toyota RAV4. Parked alongside is the Toyota 4Runner. Identically-designed but equipped to delve into a loftier market - the Lexus RX350. The new Toyota Venza is more Camryesque and potentially cooler than the Highlander at the same time. One could argue that the Toyota FJ Cruiser, Sequoia, and Land Cruiser interfere to a degree. And we haven't even left the Toyota dealership. See the point? Ferrari simply builds the F430 (rather well) and because it is, it sells. Toyota has to produce a superb Highlander just to garner attention inside its own store.
Outside these doors you'll find competitors from almost every mainstream automaker in the world. Why choose the Toyota? Apart from obvious reasons like reliability, quality (both perceived and real), durability, fuel efficiency, positive dealer experiences.....
The Highlander is one of the best vehicles Toyota offers in North America. It doesn't look like a dork, for starters. Actually, the Highlander has drive-by presence that most competitors can't match. Power and fuel economy aren't mutually exclusive, but if you want to enhance your fuel economy beyond what most SUVs are capable of, a hybrid is available. Even the new 4-cylinder option has enough juice to move the Highlander along.
Space isn't just plentiful, it's practical. This isn't some niche model where Toyota could get away with a lack of cupholders or storage bins. Everything is where you want it to be and feels nice. Indeed, part of what makes the Highlander so great is that feel; a Lexus feel. People buy this vehicle as a Lexus (it looks different, has more features, but is oh-so-similar) and think nothing of paying a lot of extra money. Smart buyers can take home the Toyota Highlander and know they got a Lexus for less. Want more fun? Take a look at the Mazda CX-9 elsewhere in The Good 12 Supersize. Desirous of everything that the best-selling automaker in the world does well, wrapped up in something the whole family will enjoy? Here it is.
Engines: 187 horsepower and 186 lb-ft of torque from a 2.7L four-cylinder or 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque from a 3.5L V6 or 209 horsepower and 212 lb-ft of torque from a 3.3L V6 (with 235 total electric motor horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque not necessarily concurrent)
City Mileage: 17-27 miles per gallon
Base USD Price: est. $25,705
Cargo Capacity: 95.4 cubic feet behind front row
Towing Capability: 2,000-5,000 pounds