$9,807 - $13,424

2010 Toyota Highlander Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2010 Toyota Highlander was new.


Performance: 8.0

The 2010 Highlander offers strong engine power and a smooth ride, though most complain about its numb steering and sub-par handling. The similarly priced Nissan Murano and even less expensive Mazda CX-7 offer zippier, sportier driving experiences.

  • "Compared with a traditional body-on-frame SUV, the unibody structure is less heavy and cumbersome, which gives the Highlander driving dynamics similar to those of a large car but with a high seating position." -- Car and Driver.
  • "Performance could've used a bit of an increase in size. Some staffers went so far to say they had to double-check that it wasn't a hybrid Highlander they were driving, and not simply because of how quiet it is once you push the ignition button." -- AutoWeek
  • Ultimately, the Highlander's performance bends under its own weight, but doesn't break. It's a soft ride and electric power steering provides a solid, but not precise, feel. Making it bigger naturally has caused it to add about 300 pounds, tipping the scales at 4,000 pounds." -- Detroit News
  • "Although the redesigned Highlander is considerably larger and heavier than before, it's still easier to drive than most midsize SUVs, even those of the crossover variety." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The 2010 Highlander base model comes with a 2.7-liter, 187-horsepower four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Sport, SE and Limited models upgrade to a 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 270 horsepower and is paired with a five-speed automatic. Reviewers largely prefer the extra power of the V6 engine even though it provides worse fuel economy.

According to the EPA, four-cylinder models achieve 20/27 mpg city/highway -- a figure on the high side for the class. Two-wheel-drive V6 models achieve a less impressive 18/24 mpg city/highway, while 4WD V6 models achieve 17/23 mpg.

  • "The 4-cylinder provides adequate acceleration overall. Passing punch is lacking, but its 6-speed automatic transmission has smooth shift action. Models with the conventional V6 engine have good all-around power. They're peppy off the line and competent during midrange passing." -- Consumer Guide
  • Although we hadn't yet driven a Highlander with the new, 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine at publishing time, we don't expect it to move the roughly 4000-pound Highlander with any real gusto. The V-6 is far better suited to hauling around a Highlander loaded to the gills with occupants and their stuff." -- Car and Driver
  • "In accelerating to 60 mph from a full stop, we timed the Highlander at 7.9 seconds, which is reasonably speedy for an SUV." -- BusinessWeek
  • "We found the 3.5-liter V6 is buttery smooth. Also smooth is its five-speed automatic transmission, which downshifts seamlessly to provide ample passing punch." -- New Car Test Drive

Handling and Braking

Most find the Highlander has car-like manners and a soft ride. However, the Highlander's steering is a low point because of its numb feel.

  • "Among the best in class. Test Limited models floated smoothly over smaller bumps, though larger ones sometimes pounded through. Note that the Sport model has a sport suspension that rides more stiffly." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The suspension is tuned to give a quiet and supple ride that will absorb most road imperfections with ease, even when equipped with the optional 19-inch wheels." -- Car and Driver
  • "The Highlanders handle like tall, thoughtfully engineered station wagons. Ask them to change direction, and they do it without the trucky reluctance one often encounters in real S.U.V.'s." -- New York Times
  • Since Camry based, Highlander has car-like manners. Ride is soft so you don't get beat up and bounced around the cabin. But handling is very minivan-like. Expect wide swings in corners, lean in turns, and loose, less-than-pinpoint steering with a tendency to wander." -- Chicago Tribune
  • "Steering feel...with Toyota's new electric assistance, felt numb, offering little feedback from the road to the driver's hands. On paved roads, the steering delivers a small but constant vibration that contradicts the feeling of separation." -- Popular Mechanics

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