Joe LoGiudice: If you're Searching for a smart balance of car-like comfort and SUV-like versatility at a decent price, you'll likely end up with a 2008 to 2011 Toyota Highlander on your shopping list.
Vanessa Leigh: Refined enough to be considered a well-mannered mid-size crossover, yet big and beefy enough to manage seven passengers or a hefty load of cargo, the Highlander scores well for quality and reliability
Joe: This generation of Highlanders offers four trim levels - Base, Sport, SE and Limited. Economical 4-cylinder models come with front-wheel drive, while V6 models can be found with all-wheel drive. A hybrid's available, too.
Vanessa: Standard features include air conditioning and power doors, windows, locks and mirrors. But look for a Limited model if leather seating and upscale wood trim are on your list of required amenities.
Joe: The dashboard layout is attractive and there's plenty of room up front and in the second row. But the third row is a bit of a squeeze. Plus, it leaves little room for cargo.
Vanessa: Fortunately the cargo area is very adaptable. The second- and third-row seats, as well as the second-row console, can be stowed flush to the floor, opening up over 95 cubic feet of storage space
Joe: We recommend the optional power rear hatch for added convenience.
Vanessa: Navigation, a powerful JBL audio system, and a DVD entertainment center are nice options, too. And in some 2010 and later models, you'll find a power moonroof and backup camera.
Joe: Throughout this generation, Highlander uses a V6 engine, sending as much as 270 horsepower to the front wheels or available all-wheel drive through a 5-speed automatic. But beginning in 2009, a 2.7-liter inline 4-cylinder entered the lineup, delivering better fuel economy.
Vanessa: But its 187 horsepower labors a bit under the weight of the Highlander and it's only available with front wheel drive.
Joe: On the other hand, the 6-cylinder gasoline only model offers a great blend of power and fuel economy. And this version of the Highlander is more nimble than larger crossovers like the Buick Enclave and its General Motors cousins, the Acadia and the Traverse.
Vanessa: For the best combined city/highway fuel economy and V6 power, find a 2011 Highlander hybrid. That's the year Toyota gave it a 3.5-liter V6 instead of the 3.3-liter V6 it had in earlier years.
Joe: The Highlander gets high safety marks in front and side crash tests, and in 2011 it was a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. As for recalls, Toyota is obligated to fix them free of charge. Check with one of their dealers.
Vanessa: The Highlander measures up well in the crowded crossover marketplace with its unique combination of convenience, economy and SUV power and utility. But contenders like the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-9 and Ford Explorer deserve a look, too.
Joe: Overall, the 2008 to 2011 Toyota Highlander makes a solid choice for a used crossover SUV.