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Monday, December 03, 2007

Consumer Reports Rates Toyota Highlander Tops Among Three-Row SUVs

The redesigned Toyota Highlander received top scores in a new Consumer Reports test of four midsized three-row SUVs, though it did not earn the organization's Recommended designation. Still, the Highlander now tops a field of 14 similar vehicles. The Buick Enclave and Ford Taurus X didn't score as well in this test, but both bested the Subaru Tribeca.

In a test extra, the new Dodge Grand Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans proved disappointing. Details are available in the January issue of Consumer Reports magazine, on sale tomorrow.

The Highlander is the first model to feel the effects of a decision by Consumer Reports that it would no longer automatically award Toyotas with its Recommended designation because its Annual Car Reliability Survey showed several other models had problems. In the past, Consumer Reports automatically Recommended new and redesigned Toyotas based on the company's excellent reliability history. If the reliability of Toyota vehicles improves to those levels for a sustained period, automatic Recommended designations could return.

Consumer Reports only applies its Recommended label to vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on Consumer Reports' Annual Car Reliability Survey of its seven million subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.

"All four of the SUVs scored 'Very Good' or 'Excellent' in our testing," says David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports' Auto Test Center. "But because we recommend only models with sufficient data to predict average or better reliability, only the Ford Taurus X and Subaru Tribeca are Recommended from this group."

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