Toyota's 2008 Highlander is available in base, Sport, and Limited models, each with either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. A 3.5L V6 engine making 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque is offered on all three, but there's also a Highlander Hybrid model, offered in base or Limited trims, that pairs a 3.3L V6 engine with an electric motor-generator system to make 270 horsepower together. The Hybrid now has an EV mode, for driving short distances at low speed on electric power only, and there's also an ECON mode that limits acceleration to conserve energy.
Both powertrains are quite fuel efficient. The standard powertrain returns 18 city, 24 highway, and the Hybrid gets 27 city, 25 highway, according to the revised EPA estimates.
Inside, there's now seating for seven, with a third-row seat that folds and stows away, and a 40/20/40-split folding second row that slides fore and aft and also reclines. The Highlander is one of the most refined vehicles in its class. In particular, Toyota employs new measures to minimize road noise, and uses a sophisticated engine mounting system to isolate noise and vibration.
Vehicle safety control and anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist are standard on the Highlander; a total of seven air bags are offered, too, including front side air bags, roll-sensing side-curtain bags, and even a driver's knee bag. Additionally, the hood and fenders themselves are designed with crumple zones.
An electric power steering system is installed across the model line. The system also serves several safety functions. The non-hybrid Highlanders have straight-line steering, which means the power steering system helps offset a pull to the side due to different surfaces in hard braking. All Highlanders now also have a corner braking feature in which power steering assist guides the driver toward restoring vehicle stability.
The Highlander Hybrid also includes the VDIM (vehicle dynamics integrated management) system, which integrates all of the safety electronics--including throttle and brakes--together to more seamlessly intervene if a loss of control is anticipated. Also, to help when negotiating a steep hill where traction might be difficult, both hill start assist and downhill assist control are offered.
The Highlander's standard feature list includes keyless entry, air conditioning, cruise control, and power accessories. The Sport model adds 19-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, front captain's chairs, leather-trimmed steering wheel, an upgraded sound system with a six-disc changer, and a number of appearance improvements. At the top of the line is the Limited, which adds leather upholstery and Satin Mahogany interior trim, automatic climate control, Smart Key entry system, fog lamps, heated power mirrors, and a heated windshield, along with a host of cosmetic details.
Major options include a power back hatch that can be opened with the key fob, voice-activated navigation, leather upholstery and multi-stage heated seats, a rear-seat navigation system, tri-zone air conditioning, a tow package, a moonroof, and a JBL premium audio system with Bluetooth.