This website is accessible to all versions of every browser. However, you are seeing this message because your browser does not support basic Web standards, and does not properly display the site's design details. Please consider upgrading to a more modern browser. (Learn More).

You are here: home > living > autos

Consumer Reports names Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Avalanche as top choices for midsized SUVs and pickups

Posted Thursday, March 12, 2009

e-mail E-mail this page   print Printer-friendly page

Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Avalanche replace Hyundai Santa Fe and Chevrolet Silverado


Yonkers, NY — Consumer Reports has named its Top Picks for 2009, which includes two new models—the Toyota Highlander and the Chevrolet Avalanche, as top choices for midsized SUVs and pickups.

Having proven reliable in its first year since a major redesign, the top-rated Toyota Highlander dethroned the Hyundai Santa Fe, last year’s winner in the midsized SUVs category, while the improved reliability of the new Chevrolet Avalanche helped it to replace the Chevrolet Silverado as top pickup.

Those are some of the results of the Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Issue, announced at a Washington Automotive Press Association (WAPA) press conference.

Despite the arrival of more gas/electric hybrids, the Toyota Prius remains Top Pick in the “green” car category for the sixth straight year. The Prius’s 44 overall mpg is the best Consumer Reports measured in any five-passenger car.

Consumer Reports’ Top Picks are the best all-around models in their categories and must meet stringent road test, reliability, and safety requirements. Each Top Pick scores at or near the top of its category among more than 300 vehicles Consumer Reports recently tested at its Auto Test Center; has average or better predicted reliability (based on the problems subscribers reported on more than 1.4 million vehicles in Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Survey), and performed adequately in overall safety if tested by the government or insurance industry. In addition, each model must offer electronic stability control (ESC), a proven lifesaving safety feature, as standard equipment or as a readily available option.

Consumer Reports’ testing procedures are the most comprehensive of any U.S. publication or Web site. More than 50 individual tests are performed on every vehicle, including evaluations of braking, handling, comfort, convenience, safety, and fuel economy. Roughly 6,000 miles of general driving and evaluations are racked up on each test car during the testing process.

Here, by category, are the 2009 Top Picks:

  • SMALL SEDAN: Hyundai Elantra SE. The Elantra SE ($18,695) is a comfortable, roomy small car that provides good fuel economy, a quiet and nicely finished interior, and plenty of features for the money. Only the SE version comes with standard electronic stability control, which is absent on many other small cars.

  • MIDSIZED SUV: Toyota Highlander. The Highlander ($26,000 to $41,000) is a very refined and versatile vehicle. It provides a comfortable and quiet ride, a nicely finished interior, three rows of seats, and decent fuel economy for its class. The Highlander Hybrid’s fuel economy, 24 mpg overall, is among the best of any SUV in Consumer Report’s Ratings. First-year reliability has been excellent.

  • PICKUP TRUCK: Chevrolet Avalanche. The Chevrolet Avalanche full-sized crew cab ($36,000 to $47,000) is one of the most versatile and comfortable pickups that Consumer Reports has tested. Its unified bed and cab helps give it a solid feel and a comfortable, quiet ride. Its innovative partition, between the cab and the bed, can be folded to allow longer cargo to extend into the back of the cab.

  • BEST OVERALL VEHICLE: Lexus LS 460. With a road test score of 99 out of 100, the Lexus LS 460 ($64,000 to $77,000) is Consumer Reports’ highest-scoring vehicle. It provides a luxurious, uncompromising driving environment, with a supremely comfortable ride and a roomy, well-finished, and exceptionally quiet interior. The LS is brimming with electronic amenities, yet the controls are easy to use. Its 380-hp, 4.6-liter V8 and eight-speed automatic transmission deliver smooth, quick acceleration and relatively good fuel economy.

  • FAMILY SEDAN: Honda Accord. The Honda Accord ($21,000 to $31,000) is a roomy, well-rounded sedan that’s easy to live with and enjoyable to drive. It offers a comfortable ride, agile handling, and efficient, refined four- and six-cylinder powertrains. Electronic stability control is standard, and crash-test results are impressive.

  • UPSCALE SEDAN: Infiniti G37. One of the highest-rated sedans tested, the G37 (33,000 to $36,000, formerly G35) combines sportiness and luxury in a very appealing package. It has a very lively powertrain, agile handling, a comfortable ride, and a nicely appointed interior. For 2009, it also has a larger, 328-hp, 3.7-liter engine and a seven-speed automatic transmission, which improves fuel economy.

  • FUN TO DRIVE: Mazda MX-5 Miata. The Miata ($22,000 to $29,000) is a true sports car at a reasonable price. With quick, precise steering, a crisp-shifting manual transmission, and balanced handling, it virtually tied the Porsche Boxster in test scoring, but it costs about half the price.

  • SMALL SUV: Toyota RAV4. Thanks to a larger and more powerful four-cylinder engine and other upgrades for 2009, the RAV4 ($23,000 to $30,000) narrowly outscored the Subaru Forester to remain our Top Pick for the third straight year. It provides agile handling, a roomy and quiet interior, a comfortable ride, and an optional third-row seat. The four-cylinder version gets the best fuel economy of any automatic, nonhybrid SUV CR has tested.

  • MINIVAN: Toyota Sienna. The Sienna ($26,000 to $38,000) offers a spacious, versatile, and comfortable way to carry up to eight people. Consumer Reports found that the quiet, well-finished interior rivals that of some luxury sedans. Electronic stability control is standard. This is the only minivan available with all-wheel drive.

  • GREEN CAR: Toyota Prius. Despite the arrival of more gas/electric hybrids, the Prius ($22,000 to $24,000) leads this category for the sixth straight year. The base model’s 44 overall mpg is the best Consumer Reports has measured in any five-passenger car. The interior is roomy and versatile, and reliability remains excellent. A redesigned Prius will arrive in early summer.
Consumer Reports’ Annual Auto Issue is on sale March 3 to May 4 wherever magazines are sold. Free highlights from the issue will be available at

With more than 7 million print and online subscribers, Consumer Reports is one of the most trusted sources for information and advice on consumer products and services. It conducts the most comprehensive auto-test program of any U.S. publication or Web site; the magazine’s auto experts have decades of experience in driving, testing, and reporting on cars. To become a subscriber, consumers can call 1-800-234-1645. Information and articles from the magazine can be accessed online at

Consumer Reports has no commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor appearing on this newspaper's web site.
e-mail E-mail this page
print Printer-friendly page
Consumer Reports names Toyota Highlander and Chevrolet Avalanche as top choices for midsized SUVs and pickups
Consumer Reports has named the Toyota Highlander and the Chevrolet Avalanche as top choices for midsized SUVs and pickups.
Latest articles in Autos

Got Feedback?
Send a letter to the editor.

Sign up for the Chatham Chatlist.

Promote your brand at

Subscribe now: RSS news feed, plus FREE headlines for your site