2002 Toyota Highlander There can be only one, I say, in my best pinched Christopher Lambert voice. Although, actually, when it comes to sport utility vehicles with the Toyota badge, there are five - each different enough to satisfy just about every taste and need in the SUV consumer market.
Brand-new Tom Wood Toyota sales associate Lisa Boyken set me up with the last 2002 Highlander on the lot - seems these well-conceived SUVs disappear off the lot more quickly than a haggis at a Scots family reunion! Aye, lassie, this mid-sized sport-ute is designed for the 90 percent of SUV drivers who don"t go off-roading. The full-time all-wheel-drive is better put to use on wet, twisty roads than rugged Highland terrain. It"s built for the wee soccer moms with loads of bairns - or on-the-go couples with a Border Collie or two. It"s built for sullen, piercing-eyed immortals who carry an ancient, unwieldy broadsword with them everywhere they go, in case they need to lop off someone"s head Ö and for normal people with lots of gear to haul, but who don"t like it all exposed to the damp Scottish - er, Midwestern - weather. Larger in capacity than the 4Runner, the Highlander offers flexibility in cargo configuration: The 60-40 rear seats fold flat for big loads. Built on a Camry chassis, the uni-body Highlander provides a quieter, smoother ride than truck-based SUVs. Without the stiff truck suspension, you"ll feel some of the bumps, but if you"re tough as a Scot, you"ll hardly notice them. Engine noise is minimal, and rrrrrrrroad noise won"t drrrrrrrown out the skirrrrrrl of bagpipes on the CD player. It accelerates adequately, but hey - this is not Jimmy Clark"s Lotus, so don"t expect 0-to-60 in a flash of British racing green! In the movie it may be "better to burn out than to fade away," but don"t expect to burn a lot of rubber in this sophisticated, well-shod Highlander. No "Quickening" sensation. Its 3.0-liter V6 produces 220 horsepower, but it"s a steady, smooth power. And it"s an automatic, so no short-shifting or engine squealing. Just quiet, Sean Connery/James Bond dignity. The ABS brakes are similarly sufficient and smooth. In between starting and stopping, the Highlander handles much like its parent, the Camry. A light touch is all that"s necessary to maneuver it into tight spaces or around sharp corners. There"s body roll at high speeds, as in just about every SUV. But there"s no shame in taking the curves a wee bit slower, lad; even Jackie Stewart would have to lift in the Highlander! Ye don"t want to lose your head - if your head comes away from your neck, it"s over! No fear of that when you sit in the Highlander. Not only does it have head room enough for a 7-foot-tall Scot the likes of William Wallace, it has enough leg room, front and back, for him as well. The reclining front bucket seats are comfortable and adjustable to suit jockey-size race car drivers and bigger-than-life heroes. Dual heated front seats are available for V6 models - for those cold mornings on the moor. And because the cabin floor is flat, you can move about easily. The well-conceived interior - with aluminum accents - is Bond-like in its subtlety, never calling attention to itself, yet for the most part convenient and efficient. The car-like step-in and easy liftgate will make sure no one finds out what a Scot wears beneath his kilt! Wheel-mounted cruise, plenty of cupholders and a multitude of storage pockets and cubbies make the Highlander as cozy as a pair of Argyles. Excellent visibility and standard Toyota safety features make it a sensible choice. Toyota"s reliability, longevity and resale value definitely add to the Highlander"s appeal. The reasonable price will surely appeal to the Scot in you! Not stunningly attractive, and not as sporty as the RAV4 or as purposeful as the 4Runner - both of which are smaller, by the way - the Highlander presents a proud, tall profile. You might say it grows on you. Before you know it, you"ll be at Tom Wood Toyota doing your own test drive. And when Lisa says time"s up, you"ll be crying, "Ye can take away my freedom, but ye can"t take away my HIGHLANDERRRRRRRRRRRRRR!" 2002 Toyota Highlander Sticker Price: $29,887 3.0-liter V6 engine produces 220 horsepower; also available: 2.4 liter four-cylinder engine for 155 horsepower Automatic transmission Fuel mileage: 18/22 Four-wheel-drive 16-inch wheels Full size spare Wheel-mounted cruise control Power doors, locks, windows Cargo area: 38.5 cubic feet