Which car should I buy next?

I have a 2001 Subaru Outback -AWD - and love it. But its time to replace it with something a bit larger so we can take drive trips in it.

I am looking at a 2012 highlander 4 WD - will it drive the same? Another words, is it really AWD or front wheel drive until it needs it then it goes by itself into 4 WD? All the sales persons I talk to at toyota dealers really don’t seem to know how to explain to me - a woman - how it operates? AWD or front wheel drive? Until it senses that I need 4 wheel drive? I am a poor driver on ice and the Subaru helped me considerable? I am really confused on the highlander and how it operates.

Is the highlander a good choice? Or what would you suggest?

The Highlander is a very good vehicle if you spend a lot of time on bad roads and in snowy areas. Our family doctor, an outdoors type, has one and loves it.

However, if you are used to a car-like ride the Highlander may disappoint you. As will many other larger SUVs, like the Chevy Suburban.

If you want lots of room with car-like ride, try the Ford Flex (available in AWD); it has all those in spades. It is most like the traditional large station wagon. Alternatively, really examine why you want AWD or 4WD. Very few people actually need it and a good set of winter tires will do the trick.

The Highlander is based on the Camry platform. It is a far better ride then MOST if not all mid to large SUV’s. I know a couple of people who own them…and they are very comfortable. Not as comfortable as a most mid-size cars…but still very good. As far as I’m concerned it’s really a cross-over. Toyota use to call it a cross-over when it was first introduced. It has some of the features of a SUV, but lacks some too. Unless you need 4wd then I suggest you get a good mid-size car instead. I was very disappointed with the gas mileage of the highlander. Not much better then my 4runner (which can tow a LOT more…true 4wd…rwd (great for towing)).

Ride is a subjective quality. I personally liked the firm ride of the Highlander that we rode tested before we bought a 4Runner. I liked the even firmer ride of the 4Runner better. I think that the Highlander has full time four wheel drive or AWD.
When we were shopping for a 4 wheel drive vehicle, most sales people were clueless as to how it operated. We finally found a knowledgeable salesman at a Toyota agency in another town that understood the difference in the 4 wheel drive configurations. The year we bought the 4Runner, which was 2003, the Highlander and the V-8 powered 4Runner had AWD. The V-6 4Runner we bought had selectable 4 wheel drive. There is a knob that selects 2 wheel drive, 4 wheel drive Hi or 4 wheel drive Lo. There is also a button to lock out the differentials so that all wheels will turn at the same rate when the car is in 4 wheel drive lo. In 4 wheel drive Hi the vehicle behaves as an all wheel drive.
As far as gas mileage is concerned, I run about 23-24 on the road with the 4Runner and about 16-17 around town. I think the Highlander is better. I know that most midsized cars get better mileage, but I’ll pay the premium for lower gas mileage in order to sit higher and have better vision. My wife feels even more strongly about this–she would often take the 4Runner on the trips she made to recruit graduate students for our institution and get a mileage allowance rather than have to drive one of the conventional cars from the fleet.

Full-Time 4WD/AWD All Wheel
Sienna and Highlander gas
This systems sends variable power to
both axles. It incorporates the front
differential, center differential and trans-
fer case into one compact unit. Rear
differential is located at rear axle.
AWD system relies on a specialized Elec-
tronic Control Unit (ECU) to control
wheel spin by applying the brakes to
that wheel therefore directing power to
other wheels with traction.
This is a light duty system that allows a
vehicle exceptional traction at all times
while utilizing all the features of VSC
and TRAC

If you’re concerned about driving on ice, then the first order of business is to put on good winter tires, which are much better than all-season tires in this area.

The Highlander has always been a very good choice, if you prefer Subaru there is the Tribeca (the newer ones without the Impreza style nose) basically an outback packaged like the Highlander/Pilot. A set of winter tires would be worth the investment if you plan to keep the vehicle for more than a couple of years, as long as you have the room to store an extra set

It’s based on the Camry, so a front wheel drive car most of the time. Not a good system for hardcore offtoading, but these systems can do a decent job of keeping a car under control. If you’re in an area with icy winters, proper winter tires are a good idea. I’m not sure why you find the Outback inadequate for road trips, unless you really need a lot of room. The current Outback is bigger, not much smaller than a Highlander. I like the Toyota well enough, but if you’re concerned about the awd system, you may be better off with Subaru. The Subaru Tribeca doesn’t sell in large numbers, but isn’t bad, if you want the next size up and want to stay with Subaru.


My brother has a 2008 Highlander and loves the car, but not the fuel economy.

If the Highlander you’re considering uses the same 245/55R19 tires, be forewarned that you have very few choices and most tire shops do NOT have them in stock. My brother has been through this a few times. Even though I rotated the tires every 50K miles, they didn’t last very long.

If you waited 50k miles to rotate the tires, it’s amazing they lasted that long :smiley:

Have you looked at a new Outback ? They are quite a bit larger and they get better gas mileage. Generally, Subaru uses a more balance Awd system a front facing motor and tends to be one of te best Awd systems for the money. Everyone has traction and stability control. If you don’t need the ground clearance, the regular Legacy matches the Camry in room , quietness and economy and is still Awd. You can have it all. Where you like your Outback, at the very least, I would recommend you try one out…a new bigger one. I have a friend who has a new model Subaru Outback 6 cylinder and a BMW 6cylinder 3 series. Though obviously the BMW handles better, according to him, responsiveness between the the two is similar…that says a lot.

I don’t think they make a Legacy wagon anymore. They are all badged as Outbacks. I didn’t much like the last redesign when they jacked it up so much higher it’vs effectively a crossover. Now I’d take the less expensive Forester. It is just about as roomy and looks less awkward.

It seems now the biggest competition for the Outback is the Forester. The new Outback is so big, why sell the Tribeca. The last design of the Outback was more slopped and the cargo area too small. Guess everyone is finally oming to the realization that SUVs made more like a box sell better. A compromise could have been the size and shape of the Volvo Crosscountry.

I have a similar question. I have 2005 Outback wagon and want to go smaller but still have 4 WD. Need better gas mileage. Only looked at Subarus because that’s all I know. Some don’t recommend AWD. Does 4WD get better mileage? Recommendations? Was thinking Legacy but it is AWD.

Smaller = Forester or Impreza. AWD and 4wd are used interchangeably, have similar effect on mpgs. How small do you want to go? Do you need AWD/4wd?

I need either AWD or 4WD. My road and commute are awful in winter. Main concern is gas mileage.

Test drove a Legacy sedan, seemed smaller but I hear its same size as Outback.

Yes, they’re the same. In you situation I’d look at a Forester, Impreza, or a Mazda CX-5 (first on my list).

Interesting. Mazda have good repair record?

Overall Mazda and Subaru are about the same, based on their Consumer Reports ratings. Both are typically ‘better than average’. The CX-5 is fairly new, so it hasn’t been rated yet, but that’s also true of the new Forester and Impreza. I wouldn’t have a problem with any of them, reliability-wise.