Ch-Ch-Changes: 2009 Toyota Highlander to Offer Four-Cylinder


When Toyota introduced the redesigned Highlander for 2008, it defended the V-6-only drivetrain by saying four-cylinder buyers would drop down to a RAV4. Evidently that’s changed: With gas prices as high as the junkies in “Pineapple Express,” a four-cylinder Highlander seems like a good move. Under the hood is the new 2.7-liter four-cylinder from the Venza, whose 189 hp represents a healthy gain over Toyota’s current 157-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Final mileage ratings are pending, but Toyota spokesman Bill Kwong put preliminary estimates at 20/26 mpg city/highway for a FWD four-cylinder, which is about 10% better than the FWD V-6’s already-decent 18/24 mpg rating. (Memo to Dodge: This unseats the four-cylinder Journey, which gets 19/25 mpg, as segment-best.)

The four-cylinder Highlander comes as a two-row, FWD base model. Options include a third-row seat and an upgraded stereo, and Toyota says it can be equipped to tow 3,500 pounds, versus 5,000 pounds for the V-6. The automaker has yet to announce pricing, but considering that the difference between a four-cylinder Camry and a V-6 version is $3,600, we’d expect the four-cylinder Highlander to start under $25,000. The 2009 Highlander V-6 starts at $27,600. Four-cylinder Highlanders go on sale in mid-January 2009, and Kwong said that if the model proves popular — and we think it will — expanding its availability to Sport and Limited trims is a possibility.

By Kelsey Mays | August 15, 2008 | Comments (24)
Tags: Toyota



in my limited experience, many people who shop for Japanese cars prefer their 4-cyl for the good combo of power and efficiency. if people didn't mind the slug-like "performance" of Hummers and 6-cyl Tourags that guzzled gas anyway, then a more efficient 4-cyl seems a good move for Toyota ...


Gee, I can't wait... Toyota's four-cylinder engines are noticeably louder and not as smooth as Honda's, but I seldom see reviewers mention this.


Who wants a 4 cylinder Highlander when there is a RAV4? Honestly.

Is the Venza's 2.7L from Tacoma?


RAV4 is clearly smaller in size.

similarly, one might wonder who'd want a V6 RAV4 when you can get the bigger Highlander.

one might also wonder who'd want a $60k Land Cruiser when there is a bigger Sequoia and a Lexus with more flash.

I would say who wants a Highlander at all. The Rav-4 is almost as big, 4 runner is ALWAYS on sale and it can tow more and go off-road, and almost every other crossover looks better (except journey and tribeca (original nose was way better IMO)). Since these have come out I have seen two limiteds, and it may have been the same one, and a ton of base looking ones with enterprise stickers on them. I think Toyota should look into trimming the fat a little. On one of their commercials they actually brag about having the most SUV's out if any company. I know, before I get attacked, they have the prius and other small cars and the big three are evil and will eat your children, lol- but I just don't see the HIghlander thriving in their lineup anymore.



Well RAV4 would be too small to use frequently for larger families, and so a four cylinder Highlander would offer more creature comforts and convenience than the RAV4... I say this as an owner of a 2006 4 cylinder RAV4.


Highlander's removable center seat gives you an aisle to the 3rd row sow kids can access it without having to flip a seat forwards. Limits you to 6 seats, though, but being able to haul 4 kids in car/booster seats is nice.

I think they saw the opening for a 4 cylinder because of the Journey's relative success with it. The Highlander is a step up from Journey in terms of room and mileage. Sales for the V-6 highlanders have also been slipping. Smart/easy move for Toyota to make.

The Venza is sooooo nice, the Highlander looks plain and frumpy in comparison. It will surely eat into more highlander sales, as there are single people like myself who want a midsize crossover and could care less about a third row seat.

Also, I agree with HappyMantis, but if you have a big family, is a 4 cylinder going to cut it? When I think of that, I am reminded of one of my high school friend's mom's Previa (the coolest van ever, BTW). It took a little bit less than a minute to get to highway speeds, j/k.



If you have 2 kids or more, and a house, the car like a Larger SUV or Minivan is a MUST. And there is nothing wrong to have it with 4 cyl engine, better fuel economy, etc. Why such vehicle must have a huge engine? The answer is = for power. But the power race is over. Lets get back to basics. And BRAVO Toyota

July sales of 6700 was not too bad for the Highlander considering most in this class sold less. Offering the 4 cylinder couldn't hurt.

sales were down 30% in July and 8% for the year. They need a four cylinder to offset the slide. It makes sense.

But yes it sells near the top in the segment. I think only the Pilot, also way down in %, sold more units.


honestly, im not to optimistic of any gains in fuel economy. the four cylinder if going to have to work HARD to move the Highlander around; it weighs over 4400 pounds. that said, the Rav4 weighs about 1000 lbs less but uses an engine with less power.



But consider this: 4Runner is a truck-based SUV, the Highlander is a car-based "crossover".
There is a clear difference in terms of ride quality. :)



the 4Runner is really one of Toyota's last few great products. for a truck-based SUV, the ride is very comfortable, more so even than the Rav4. the interior is probably one of Toyota's last "good" interiors; everything after the 4Runner seems to have a cheaper interior that the previous generation (like the Camry, Corola, Rav4, Tundra, Sequoia, Matrix, and even the Highlander). the 4Runner is also the last SUV from Toyota to have small blind spots (for an SUV). the pillars are all really thin, and the mirrors integrated in the rear roof pillars are a great help. the Rav4, Highlander, and Sequoia all have HUGE blindspots to the rear from the roof pillars.

Stephen Bonsall

JM your facts are incorrect on the weight difference between a Toyota RAV4 v. Highlander. It's not 1,000lbs but more like 627lbs. And that's comparing a RAV4 4 cyl to a Highlander 6 cyl. If you figure in the "new" 2.7 the weight differential will shrink to 436lbs. It's still a fair amount of weight but no where near the 1,000lbs you quoted. As far as the pillar issue goes you sound like a whiner.


The Highlander is one of the best vehicles on the road. The 4 cylinder version will ride better than any of the cute utes, have more room and equal the highway mpg of the Highlander hybrid. This is a no brainer. As for the engine allegedly having to work too hard, our 2001 Highlander has 155,000 miles and runs like new. No other crossover comes close.


Are we talking about the new Highlander (redesigned for 2008) or the old one?


Well, at least it has a 6 speed automatic.
Compare to the Dodge Challenger V6 & 4 SPEED AUTOMATIC.


On a competitor forum, many owners of 2008 V6 FWD HLs report 26 and even 28 mpg on the highway when driven conservatively [slow acceleration and limiting speed to 65 mph]. I DON'T see the 2.7 4 cyl improving upon this but for a slightly cheaper MSRP. Seems like a waste IMHO. Would have made much more sense to have put the 2.7 in the RAV4 with the 6 speed. 2009 RAV4 still has a 4 speed.


On a competitor forum, many owners of 2008 V6 FWD HLs report 26 and even 28 mpg on the highway when driven conservatively [slow acceleration and limiting speed to 65 mph]. I DON'T see the 2.7 4 cyl improving upon this but for a slightly cheaper MSRP. Seems like a waste IMHO. Would have made much more sense to have put the 2.7 in the RAV4 with the 6 speed. 2009 RAV4 still has a 4 speed.


We've been in the market for a people hauler for a few months now and are hugely frustrated that mpg gains for recent fwd models have been small. The GM Lamdas, Honda Odyssey and Pilot, Toyota Sienna and Highlander are all on our list. We're middle aged, with young kids, and thinking like this; the 60's/70's technology Suburban of our youth gets only 13 mpg city, and the 21st century vehicles on our list get 16 - 18 mpg city. 3 - 5 mpg increase over 40 years of development??? Big whooop! We are not excited about pulling the trigger on a purchase. (Don't ask me to deal with the batteries of a hybrid, or wait another 18 months for diesel!) However, if the 2.7 4 cyl Highlander is smooth (like all big 4 cyls, it is counter balanced) and propels the vehicle decently, and gets a reliable 20 mpg city, it's our buy, and will be also for many like-minded shoppers. Why does a mere 2 - 4 mpg increase make it a winner? Getting city mpg out of the teens and into the 20's crosses a psychological barrier in the same way stocks get support, or resistence, at milestone dollar amounts. Make plenty of 'em, Toyota! Watch and learn, Ford, GM, Chrysler, et al.

alex perez

I have owned an a 4 cyl highlander since 2005 and must say it has surpassed my expectations; great on gas, seats 7 with the 3rd row up, even haul a 3000 Lb boat every other weekend, amazingly on 4 cylinders.. I'll be trading it in for an 09 model since the Rav4 is simply not spacious enough.


I own a 2009 Toyota Highlander 4 Cyl. and I love it! It is not loud, it gets awesome gas miliage, its smooth, accelerates wonderfully and is a very comfortable car. I would reccomend it to anyone!

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