We did get a chance to do some good mileage runs and found, without surprise, a big four-cylinder engine that needs to produce good grunt doesn't get stellar fuel-economy numbers. Over our 350-mile run, some of which was done in city traffic and log-jams on the freeway, our overall average came out to 23.9 mpg (good, but not great), with our best highway cruising numbers at 27.2 mpg. EPA city/hwy numbers for the 2.7L I-4 are 20/27 mpg. Our 2WD Highlander test unit had the optional third-row seat, was two-wheel drive, and ran with only one person in the car most of the time. Your mileage may vary.

Toyota is hoping the new automotive landscape will make a four-cylinder Highlander a better choice for those looking for multipassenger options, some light towing (it is rated to 3500 lb with the Tow Package), and the smallest fuel penalty possible. And it could all translate into (Toyota is guessing) between 10,000 and 20,000 unit sales for the 2009 model year. You can expect base trim packaged Highlanders to start at just over $26,000.

2009 Toyota Highlander 2.7L I-4
Engine type I-4, alum block and head
Bore x stroke, in 3.54 x 4.13
Displacement, ci/L 163.1/2.7
Compression ratio 10.0:1
Valve gear DOHC, 4-valves/cyl, dual VVTi
Fuel induction Sequential
SAE Horsepower, hp @ rpm 187 @ 5800
SAE Torque, lb-ft @ rpm 186 @ 4100
Transmission type six-speed auto
1st 3.30:1
2nd 1.90:1
3rd 1.42:1
4th 1.00:1
5th 0.71:1
6th 0.61:1
Reverse 4.15:1
Axle ratio 4.36:1
Final drive ratio 2.66:1
Rpm @ 60 mph 1800
Recommended fuel Regular unleaded
Base curb weight, lb 3960
Payload capacity, lb 1540
GVWR, lb 5500
GCWR, lb 9000
Towing capacity, lb 3500 (w/tow package)
Fuel capacity, gal 19.2
Acceleration 0-60 (sec) 9.7 (mfg est)
EPA fuel economy (city/hwy) 20/27
As-tested fuel economy (city/hwy) 23.9
Base price $26,450