$12,022 - $16,443

2011 Toyota Highlander Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2011 Toyota Highlander was new.


Performance: 7.9

The 2011 Highlander offers strong engine power and a smooth ride, though most complain about its numb steering and sub-par handling. However, it's one of the few midsize SUVs to offer a base four-cylinder engine, which gets excellent fuel economy.

  • "If you're used to the lumbering truck-like feel of a traditional SUV, the 2011 Toyota Highlander will be a pleasure to drive." -- Edmunds
  • "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

Acceleration and Power

The 2011 Highlander base model comes with a 2.7-liter, 187-horsepower four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. 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 and either front- or all-wheel drive. Reviewers largely prefer the extra power of the V6 engine even though it provides worse fuel economy. Those who want great fuel economy without sacrificing V6 power or all-wheel drive should consider the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

According to the EPA, four-cylinder models achieve 20/25 mpg city/highway. Front-wheel drive V6 models achieve a less impressive 18/24 mpg city/highway, while all-wheel drive V6 models achieve 17/22 mpg.

  • "The 3.5-liter V6 adds to the appeal by providing strong acceleration that makes this 4,000-pound crossover seem smaller than it is. The fact that this powertrain is also among the most fuel-efficient in the category is an added bonus." -- Edmunds
  • "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 critics find that the Highlander has car-like road manners and a soft ride. However, the Highlander's steering is a low point because of its numb feel.

  • "While the Highlander performs well objectively, it falls a little short subjectively. The steering comes across too light and artificial, lacking the organic directness of the CX-9's. The suspension, tuned on the soft side for a Limited-fitting luxurious ride, nonetheless seems busier and slightly harsher than the Mazda's, which just happens to work in conjunction with larger 20-inch wheels." -- Motor Trend
  • "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." -- The New York Times
  • "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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