2005 Toyota Highlander 4-door Limited AWD (523)


This week I tested the 2005 Toyota Highlander SUV. “Oooooh, the weather outside is frightful but the fire is so delightful … when the temperature goes way down low, let it snow, let it snow, let it snooow…” Yes, my test took me on a thanksgiving trek to snow country, but this Highlander was right at home. Bun warmer seats and all wheel drive. What more could you ask for on perhaps the best if not the coldest holiday of the year.

Well, the drive to the Pacific Northwest can be rough, but I’ve gotta tell you, this Toyota turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It was up to the trek and really shined in spite of the elements. Rain, snow and sleet bar the way for a lot of vehicles but that explains the extreme popularity of SUV’s. The reasons are logical but the cost is not. The cost to run such gas-guzzlers goes beyond purchase price, all the way to operation and the cost to society and the world is inestimable.

So why does it appeal to you and me so much? I think it’s because we want the choice to live on the edge “in comfort”. And because of that, we’re beginning to see manufacturers respond to the demand and mitigate the fuel cost with Hybrid’s, DOD technology (displacement on demand), fuel cell designs and simply better running and performing traditional internal combustion engines.

Thus consumers have in a sense pushed carmakers to produce more fuel-efficient engines. Nice job guys, because you have helped, in a round about way, to encourage our fight to battle dependence on the Middle East for oil.

Toyota is doing as much as the rest of the automotive industry to create solutions and provide options for consumers to be able to drive more economically. The Prius for example, that I reviewed several weeks ago, can achieve up to 60 mpg of gasoline. This Highlander’s actual performance for me was 21 mpg on the highway. I know it says 24, but the way most of us drive 21 is about the best you’ll get on this one. The real average for the Prius is about 41 mpg, which is about the best of any car in the world.

Handling & Performance:

Outstanding. There is no way you can argue with near perfection. Toyota just continues to do it better. And although you’ll pay more for the experience, there is no denying the Japanese superiority in car making. They obviously try harder to make them better, and that costs a bit more. All wheel drive does wonders for hugging the road and the confidence in cold, rain and snow is worth the added cost.


Very nice. I really like this addition to their fleet.

Fit and Finish:   

Very good.


Pricey if you must have the navigation system at about $2,000 and leather seating will set you back another $1,400, and if you crank up the volume by upgrading the stereo system and CD changer and opt for a moon roof you’ll pop for another $1,100. With a few other ups and extras you can quickly be at $38,000.


I guess the only one I missed being in the colder climate is the “Remote Start” feature. But it does apply only to the cold places in this great land, and since I don’t live at the North Pole or Detroit, I can do without it.

Customer Recommendation:

Surely you will not have a problem finding competition. There is plenty and they are all good. I suspect purchase price and fuel economy will be the determining factor, and many today are quality conscious. They want their cars to last a long time. That wasn’t always the case when only American cars were on the road. They truly dictated what people would drive. They were powerful when only the “Big 3” was in the drivers seat (so to speak). Today people have more to choose from and they choose well built over break-often American cars of the past. That is not as true today since Ford, Chrysler and GM have new kids on the block who want to punch their lights out.

The Competition:

Highlander $24-31,000, Chrysler Pacifica $29-32,000, Mitsubishi Endeavor $25-33,000, Hyundai Santa Fe $18-25,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $18-23,000, Jeep Liberty $18-25,000, Kia Sorento $19-25,000, Infiniti FX $35-45,000, Nissan Murano $28-31,000, Ford Escape $19-27,000, Mazda Tribute $20-24,000, Subaru Outback $19-33,000, Saturn Vue $17-24,000, Honda Pilot $27-34,000.  

Good News:   

Toyota quality, nice design, wonderfully comfortable ride – a great highway vehicle. Roomy, responsive and confident.

Bad News:   

Pricey. Not great fuel efficiency.

Standard Equipment:   

3.3 liter V6 engine with VVT (variable valve timing), 5-speed auto trans with snow mode, full time 4-wheel drive and ABS power assist disc brakes with EBD (electronic Brake Distribution), front air bags, power mirrors, privacy glass, fog lights and roof rack, cloth interior with power front captains chairs, fold flat 60/40 split second and fold flat third row seat, JBL sound system with cassette and CD player with 8 speakers and steering wheel controls, leather trim tilt steering wheel and shift lever, climate control, power windows and locks, multi information display, cruise control, auto headlights, keyless entry, anti theft alarm and engine immobilizer and burled maple wood grain style trim.

Gas Stats:

18 City and 24 Highway MPG.


MSRP $31,380.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2004 – An Automotive Love Affair

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2014 – An Automotive Love Affair.

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