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This vehicle was never really intended for off road driving according to our manual and it is true that there are better AWD systems out there but for it to be able to do this, I say that's pretty good considering the sensitive traction control system, the lack of terrain option and basic AWD open diff system. 😁
I know this is an old thread but I find it funny how the owners manual changed from 2nd gen to 3rd gen.
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I also completely agree with the OPs line of thought. We recently bought a 2021 Highlander and the front end is extremely low. I don’t care if you say that crossovers (or midsize SUVs whatever you wish to call them) should not be used for off-roading, they should all have enough approach angle to not rub their large chins on curbs and parking stops. I’ve had to be very careful about not pulling all the way forward until the wheels stop because I don’t want to rub my bumper. You can definitely see the clearance difference in this picture of 2nd gen Vs 4th gen.
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These vehicles should not be called SUV's, or midsized cross-overs. These are cars with a hatchback. They used to be called Station Wagons. But they are not much different than a regular sedan with AWD. So just because the roofline is a little higher, that means it's an SUV?? The ground clearance is less than some cars. The Subaru Crosstrek (based on Impreza platform) has over 8 inches of ground clearance.
It's a shame that car reviewers followed the manufacturers thinking about calling these SUV's or Cross-overs. It is, and always has been, a marketing gimmick to call these type of vehicles SUV's... so soccer mom's think they can drive anywhere.
 

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The Tacoma is a reliable capable truck, but in my area they are highly sought after and very, very expensive. It's a great truck for off-roading. I mostly drive 99% on pavement so my Highlander is better, smoother, more economic. I do tow a small camper in the summer months though. If I bought a pickup I'd choose an F150 because Tacoma tow and payload capacity is not enough as I'd likely buy a bigger camper.
 

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These vehicles should not be called SUV's, or midsized cross-overs. These are cars with a hatchback.
The definition of a Midsize Cross-over is a car that's lifted. So yea it's a cross-over. It's a very good cross-over that is very capable in multiple road conditions. AWD and better road clearance over a 4wd sedan makes it very good in snow. Light off-roading. Good smooth car like ride. Not as nimble as a sedan, but still very good. And so far mines been extremely reliable. 160k miles with zero issues. Just normal maintenance.
 

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2019 Highlander XLE Blizzard pearl
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How about this
Has the highlander ever had low range transfer case?
No?
Then it was never designed to go off road
The 3rd gen has 8 inches of clearance
Good enough to handle most road surfaces
Gravel ridge in the center of a road etc
A sedan will belly out especially when laden
If you attempt to offroad, then without the the lo range option, departure and approach angle difference are rather irrelevant
The 3rd gen looks way better to me than the 2nd gen, it has landcruiser 200 vibes
Toyota has the 4 runner if one wants proper off road capability
The OP shopped wrongly it seems
Both times
I recommended the original highlander to a relative that lived down 10 miles of arduous gravel road, they owned a camry at the time
They never intended to use it off road
They never regretted it outside of the fuel economy and traded it for a 2nd gen at a later date
 
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