Should You Take the 2008 Toyota Highlander Off-Road?

The 2008 Toyota Highlander has 8.1” of ground clearance but lacks the necessary drive train for off-roading. Learn more here.
Written by Rob Shapiro
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
The 2008
Toyota Highlander
can handle certain off-road trails and hills. It has an impressive 8.1” of ground clearance, as well as decent torque. That said, it does lack in certain areas, like only having front-wheel drive and not being equipped with all-terrain tires.  
Adventure driving is a ton of fun. There are few feelings that match the triumph of climbing a steep rocky hill or powering through a muddy field. Here’s the catch: even if they look the part, not all off-road vehicles are equipped to traverse every terrain.
, the
super app
that saves drivers money on
car insurance
, will help you figure out if your 2008 Toyota Highlander is good enough for your adventure driving excursions. Keep reading to learn about the 2008 Toyota Highlander’s specs, off-road rating, and how it stacks up against some of its competitors.

Can the 2008 Toyota Highlander go off-road?

The answer to this is a little complicated. It really depends on how “adventurous” your expeditions are. The 2008 Highlander has the ground clearance to journey on unpaved trails without destroying its undercarriage, but it might not have the power to climb more challenging hills.
The ‘08 Highlander’s MSRP was $27,500, making it an affordable option with the functionality, safety, and comfort to successfully tackle a lot of environments. Let’s check out what the 2008 Toyota Highlander can do when it veers off the road well travelled. 

Ground clearance

When choosing an off-roading vehicle, ground clearance should be the first thing you evaluate. The 2008 Toyota Highlander’s minimum ground clearance is 8.1 inches. This is more than enough for most expeditions and it’s the best off-roading feature of this vehicle. It almost makes up for some of its weaknesses. 
The ideal ground clearance is between 8.8 and 10.8 inches. This is important because the higher the clearance, the less likely that a vehicle’s undercarriage will be wrecked as you navigate rough terrain. As you can imagine, replacing an undercarriage costs a lot of money
If you want exceptional ground clearance, you might check out the 2021
Jeep Wrangler
, which is equipped with 9.7 inches of ground clearance. This trumps the 2008 Highlander and gets the green light to go where few cars can venture. 


When off-roading, power is king, and speed should be treated as an afterthought. You want a strong amount of low-end torque, which can help you power across most hills and bumps, even at low speeds. 
Low-end torque provides the power to help a vehicle overcome steep inclines. It’s your best bet against sliding down a hill without any control over your car. 
The 2008 Toyota Highlander has 248 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm, which is merely okay. It should be adequate for the average off-roading trip, but it might not be enough to get through more challenging courses.
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The 2008 Toyota Highlander came standard with P245/65R17 tires. To give yourself the best chance of returning safely home, you should upgrade your tires to improve your vehicle’s traction
We always recommend
all-terrain tires
for off-roading. They are designed with an aggressive tread pattern that provides better grip and traction, so they’re versatile enough to handle both the highway and off-roading. Remember, all-terrain tires have a shorter lifespan than most all-season tires, so you’ll have to pay to replace them more often.  


Here is where things get sticky with the ‘08 Highlander. It has front-wheel drive, which is less than ideal. You want all-wheel drive (AWD) to make sure your car has the power to get through whatever an environment throws at it. 
AWD is engineered to tackle gravel roads, trails, and most light off-roading. For some, it’s a must in an adventure vehicle. Because the 2008 Toyota Highlander lacks AWD, it’s not the best choice for serious off-roading.


Don’t forget about approach angle and departure angle, which are vital considerations for anyone who wants to take their vehicle off-roading.
The approach angle is the maximum angle a vehicle can ascend without interference whereas the departure angle is the maximum angle that a vehicle can descend without interference.
With an approach angle of 29º and a departure angle of 24º, the ‘08 Highlander might struggle with more steep inclines and declines. These numbers aren’t bad, but there are models on the market that offer more in this area. 

Off-road rating: Rough and Ready

Jerry’s one-of-a-kind DIRT rating system is a great tool to evaluate the level of off-roading a vehicle can handle without breaking or suffering damage. The categories are:
Don’t Try It
Vehicles better suited to highway conditions
In a Pinch
Vehicles that can handle off-road conditions in certain circumstances
Rough and Ready
Vehicles designed for casual off-roading
Trail Boss
True off-road vehicles capable of tackling a range of terrain
The 2008 Highlander gets an R rating. It can handle light off-roading and some more challenging environments if you upgrade the tires. 

The best off-road alternatives to the 2008 Toyota Highlander

The ‘08 Highlander is not without its rivals. The market offers several options, some of which are more eco-friendly or capable of handling tougher terrains.
Check out these alternatives to the 2008 Toyota Highlander:
Good alternative for serious off-roading
2020 Kia Telluride
A handy third-row for extra cargo space, a roomy interior, and a strong 3.8-liter V6 engine result in a solid amount of power and torque.
Another good alternative for serious off-roading
2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee
This SUV packs a punch with a 295 horsepower V6 engine and a luxurious cabin complete with leather upholstery.
Best eco-friendly alternative
Ford Escape Titanium Hybrid
With a fuel economy of 5.9L/100 km, this vehicle will leave a smaller footprint in natural environments. It also has 878 liters of cargo capacity.
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