Midsize SUV; Built in Japan
  • 4-door wagon
  • transverse front-engine/front- or 4-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $5,300 – $17,700*

2002 Toyota Highlander

2001 Toyota Highlander

2001 Toyota Highlander interior

2003 Toyota Highlander

2002 Toyota Highlander

  • Instruments/controls
  • Passenger and cargo room
  • Fuel economy

Aside from slightly elevated ground clearance, Highlander doesn’t really do anything better than an AWD minivan would, sacrificing in the bargain such agreeable features as space-efficient sliding side doors and seven-passenger seating. That said, for most shoppers the Highlander is a far smarter choice than a truck-based SUV. Its all-around competence, pricing, and Toyota design make it more than a match for midsize SUVs of any stripe. New or used, it’s an easy Best Buy.


Adding a fourth sport-utility vehicle to the Toyota line, the new midsize 2001 Highlander was an under-the-skin sibling to the popular car-based Lexus RX 300. Both were built on the Toyota Camry/Lexus ES 300 sedan platform. Highlanders, however, displayed more traditional wagon styling than the RX and strode a 4 inch longer wheelbase, with most of the increase going to extra cargo room.

Toyota saw the Highlander as a midsize SUV for buyers interested more in on the-road comfort, refinement, and performance than in offroad ability and a truck-tough image. The unibodied Highlander was slightly longer than Toyota’s body-on-frame 4Runner, but stood about half an inch lower and 5 inches wider.

Two models were available: a price-leader four cylinder, and an upscale V6. The vast majority of sales were expected to be the better-equipped V6 version, which held Toyota’s familiar 3.0-liter engine. The sole transmission was a four speed automatic.

Like the RX, both Highlanders came with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, which lacked low-range gearing. Toyota expected the V6 AWD to be the best-selling individual model.

Highlanders initially came in a single trim level, but with an upscale Limited package available. Standard equipment included air conditioning, a cassette/CD player, cruise control, and a tilt steering wheel. Limiteds added automatic climate control, an eight-way power driver’s seat, 16-inch alloy wheels, and a full-size spare tire. Antilock four-wheel disc brakes and 16-inch wheels were standard. An antiskid system and front side airbags were optional. Other options included a moonroof and (in V6 models) heated front seats and leather upholstery.

Seating five passengers, Highlanders went on sale during the first quarter of 2001. Competitors included the Acura MDX, Lexus RX 300, Mercedes-Benz M Class, Ford Explorer, and GMC Envoy.

Yearly Updates

2002 Highlander
For 2002, Highlanders gained a standard rear-seat armrest, cabin air filtration, and a redesigned center console. Base and Limited models were offered.
2003 Highlander
A full-size spare tire was now standard, replacing the compact “space-saver” tire. Highlanders faced new competition from Honda’s Pilot.
2004 Highlander
Toyota added more power, an available 3-row seat, and optional curtain airbags to its midsize crossover SUV. A new 3.3-liter V6 with 230 horsepower replaced the old 3.0-liter unit. It mates to a 5-speed automatic. The optional 3rd-row seat ups passenger capacity to seven and folds flush into the floor. The optional curtain airbags protect only the front- and second-row passengers.
2005 Highlander
Midyear introduction of a gas/electric hybrid version highlights 2005 for this midsize SUV. The Hybrid combines the gas V6 and battery-powered electric motors for a total of 268 hp. It uses a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and offers 2WD or AWD. Standard on Hybrids and optional on other models are head-protecting curtain side airbags covering the 1st and 2nd seating rows; front torso side airbags are included.
2006 Highlander
Midyear addition of a Sport model highlights 2006 for this car-type SUV. Sport models use the 3.3-liter V6 and get a sport suspension.
2007 Highlander
Side airbags and curtain side airbags are standard instead of optional for 2007 on all versions of this midsize car-type SUV. Previously standard only on Hybrids, all Highlanders now have front side airbags and curtain side airbags that cover the first two seating rows and include rollover deployment.


transverse front-engine/front- or 4-wheel drive

Highlander’s 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine produced 155 horsepower, while the 3.0 liter V6 generated 220 hp. Both engines mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. Highlanders could have either front-drive or all-wheel drive. Replacing the 3.0-liter V6 in 2004 was a larger 3.3-liter V6. It had 230 horsepower and mated to a 5-speed automatic. The Hybrid introduced in 2005 combines the gas V6 and battery-powered electric motors for a total of 268 hp. It uses a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and offers 2WD or AWD.

dohc I4
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 2.4/144
Engine HP 155
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 163
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic


dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.3/202
Engine HP 208
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 212
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
CVT automatic

dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 220
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 222
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic



dohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.3/302
Engine HP 230
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 242
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic



EPA ratings with 2WD are 19/23 mpg for the V6 engine and 22/27 mpg for the 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Hybrid: Combined gas-electric output is 268 hp.

Road Test

Capable all-around, the Highlander benefits from Toyota-style reliability. An AWD Highlander with the 3.0-liter V6 accelerated to 60 mph in a pleasing 8.5 seconds. Models with the larger 3.3-liter V6 did even better getting to 60 mph in just 8.1 seconds. Still, a fully loaded Highlander feels a bit lazy off the line and also in midrange passing, despite smooth, responsive automatic transmission. Surprisingly, the 4-cylinder doesn’t feel underpowered, but does lack midrange passing power. With the 3.0-liter V6 and AWD, Highlanders averaged 16.4 mpg in mostly city driving, and 17.6 mpg including performance testing. In a mix of urban/suburban commuting, fuel economy rose to 19 mpg. Economy with the 3.3-liter V6 slumped to just 15.1 mpg. Toyota recommends premium fuel for the V6 and regular grade for the four cylinder. Engine noise is seldom intrusive. Wind noise rises sharply with speed, and coarse pavement tire drone causes rear-seat riders to raise their voices.

A firmer suspension than in the RX 300 lets most every bump register, but the Highlander’s ride is not jarring, always composed, and shuns the side-to-side wiggling motion that afflicts some SUVs. Pleasant-handling Highlanders are maneuverable and stable. The body leans in turns, but overall control is among the best of any midsize SUV. Helping is steering with fine road feel, despite being slightly overassisted. Standard ABS with Brake Assist furnishes acceptable performance, but pedal action is mushy, and nosedive is evident in hard stops. The optional antiskid system provides appropriate corrections in slippery corners. AWD is not as capable off-road or in deep snow as traditional 4WD might be.

Main gauges are set deeper in “coves” than ideal for readability. They’re still legible, though painted surrounds reflect sunlight. The gearshift sprouts from the dashboard, as in the RX 300; it’s inviting to use, but can get knocked into Neutral by a driver’s hand returning from cupholder to steering wheel. Cupholders are too large to secure a soda can. Controls are positioned conveniently and move smoothly, though audio and climate system graphics aren’t always obvious. The cabin is solidly assembled from durable materials, but ambiance is middle-market austere even with leather.

Front space is generous in all dimensions, though the moonroof housing eats into head room. Seats are nicely supportive, but unexpectedly firm. The driver gets an elevated view of the road, over a long dashtop that’s more minivanlike than SUV-style. Entry/exit requires slight extra effort, due to SUV-like ground clearance. Second-row head, shoulder, and knee clearance are spacious, but tight toe space tarnishes the advantages of a virtually flat floor. The second-row seat is too firm. The optional 3rd-row seat is only fit for kids.

Absence of a third-row seat creates a tall, wide cargo hold. Split 60/40, the rear seat moves down and forward to form a nearly flat load floor. With headrests removed, front seatbacks fold rearward for sleeper-ready versatility. With the 3rd-row seat, storage space is skimpy, somewhat better with it folded. Storage bins are plentiful.


Model Tested: 2001 Toyta Highlander AWD V6

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.


Acceleration - 5
Fuel Economy - 4
Ride Quality - 5
Steering/Handling - 6
Quietness - 5


Controls/Materials - 7
Room/Comfort Front - 7
Room/Comfort Rear - 7
Cargo Room - 8


Value - 6

Total: 60


4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
106.9 184.4 71.9 66.1
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
81.4 19.8 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
40.0 39.8 40.7 36.4
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 2002 Highlander 4-door wagon


(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - 4
Front Passenger Injury - 4

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A


(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision N/A
Injury N/A
Theft N/A

Trouble Spots

Description: The airbag warning light may illuminate in very cold weather (below zero F) due to problem with the passive restraint computer. (2001-03)
Dashboard lights
Description: Both the check-engine light and antilock-brake warning light may come on due to a problem with the skid-control computer for which there is an updated replacement. (2001-02)
Engine noise
Description: Belt squeal and rattle on cold engine due to faulty tensioner on 2AZ-FE engine requires updated tensioner. (2001-04)
Engine noise
Description: Squeak, squeal or rattle from engine compartment usually due to faulty drive belt tensioner and an improved unit has been made available. (2001-04)
Transmission leak
Description: On 4WD drive models, transmission fluid my leak from the transfer case right side oil seal. (2004-06)

Recall History

Description: Brake master-cylinder cap may induce a vacuum, introducing air into the master- cylinder reservoir. This could cause abnormal brake noise and increased pedal stroke, resulting in longer stopping distances. Dealers will bleed the air from the brake lines and replace the reservoir-filler cap.
Description: In a crash, fuel-breather hose at top of the fuel tank might contact the underside of the body, causing the nozzle to break. Possibly resulting in fuel leakage if the vehicle rolls over after a high-speed frontal crash. Dealers will rotate the specified clamp.
Description: When rear door is closed very hard with child protection lock lever set to “lock” position, lever may contact body panel, causing lever to move into “unlock” position, which could allow door to be opened from the inside.
2003 in Southern states w/alloy wheels
Description: Spare tire may require the use of a different style of wheel nut to attach it to the vehicle, and using the wrong lug nuts could lead to a loose wheel. Owners will be provided with different style lug nuts, a warning label for the spare re/alloy wheel, and an owner’s-manual addendum.
2004-2006 Highlander
Description: If replacement brake fluid is used that does not contain certain polymers, or that contains only small amounts, a part of the rubber seal located at the rear of the brake master cylinder may become dry and a small amount of brake fluid could slowly leak from the seal into the brake booster. A leak of brake fluid could lead to a change in brake pedal feel and overtime, degradation in braking performance, increasing the risk of a crash. Dealers will replace the seal with a newly designed one. This service will be performed free of charge.
2004-2006 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid
Description: If the forward retention clip used to secure the floor carpet cover, which is located in front of the center console, is not installed properly the cover may lean toward the accelerator pedal and interfere with the accelerator pedal arm. If this occurs, the accelerator pedal may temporarily become stuck in a partially depressed position rather than return to the idle position. A stuck accelerator pedal may result in unintended and sustained vehicle speeds and make it difficult to stop, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash. Dealers will replace the floor carpet cover with a newly designed one free or charge.
2004-2006 04-05 Highlander or 06 hybrid with 1MZ-FE or 3MZ-FE engine
Description: Inadequate adhesive between outer and inner ring in the crankshaft pulley could lead misalignment, causing noise, illumination of the battery discharge indicator light, and/or loss of power steering.
2006-2007 Highlander Hybrid passenger cars manufactured from February 16, 2005, through August 30, 2006.
Description: A module inside the inverter module may contain inadequately soldered transistors that during high-load driving, may be damaged by heat caused by the large current. If this occurs, various warning lamps, including the malfunction indicator lamp, slip indicator light, brake system warning light, and master warning light, will be illuminated on the instrument panel. The vehicle may enter a fail-safe/limp-home mode that limits the drivability of the vehicle. It is possible that the hybrid system will shut down while the vehicle is being driven, causing the vehicle to stall unexpectedly, increasing the risk of a crash. Toyota dealers will inspect the hybrid inverter production number to determine whether the inverter contains suspect transistors and replace the module free of charge.
2007 Highlander
Description: Power window master switch assemblies may malfunction and overheat due to irregularities in the lubrication process during assembly.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.


Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.