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Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

Lasted edited by Andrew Munsey, updated on June 14, 2016 at 10:12 pm.

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Driving a Toyota Highlander Hybrid takes some getting used to. All the controls work the same as in any other Highlander, but the sounds which emanate and the feel are unique.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has some notable differences. After turning the ignition on (by twisting the key), "READY" lights up on the dashboard. Driving away, the Highlander Hybrid's computer automatically starts and stops the gas engine as needed. The Highlander can run on pure battery power at low speeds such as in stop and go traffic. In instances like these, fuel economy gets better, which is the exact opposite of conventional vehicles.

Power delivery is nearly instant, and performance levels are within some of the best available in the There was an error working with the wiki: Code[11] segment, Hybrid or otherwise. The Highlander Hybrid's powertrain is identical to that developed for the There was an error working with the wiki: Code[12]. The dual-cam There was an error working with the wiki: Code[13] is modified to utilize an electric air conditioning compressor and power steering pump instead of conventional belt driven ones. This modified There was an error working with the wiki: Code[13] alone produces 208 There was an error working with the wiki: Code[15] and 212 lb-ft of torque. Coupled to the There was an error working with the wiki: Code[13] is an electric motor that turns the front wheels making the equivalent of 167 hp and 247 lb-ft of torque. All-wheel-drive (AWD) Highlander Hybrid's, have a third electric motor aboard to drive the rear wheels if and when the There was an error working with the wiki: Code[17] detects slippage in the front wheels. It can respond to conditions by electronically distributing power from front to rear, reducing power to the front as the rear traction motor is turned on. That third motor generates 50 kW, or 68 There was an error working with the wiki: Code[15] and 98 lb-ft of torque. The sum of all these powertrains is the equivalent of 268 There was an error working with the wiki: Code[15]. Supplying electricity to run the motors is a direct-current nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) battery, stored beneath the second-row seat. The electric motor(s) can act as generators to capture the kinetic energy of heat from braking. It can then be transformed into electricity when returned to the battery for recharge.

Interestingly, Toyota comments the Highlander Hybrid is "not an off-road vehicle," but more of a soft-roading, people hauler of sorts. This second motor is used for full-throttle acceleration duties front wheel drive and all wheel drive models. A higher-voltage battery pack beneath the second-row seats powers all of the electric Hybrid devices such as the water pump, air-conditioning compressor, and power steering (all being electrically driven on this vehicle), to be able to run these components when the gasoline engine (selectively) shuts down. The braking system's software allows virtually imperceptable transitions from regenerative braking to friction stopping.

EPA mileage figures of 33 city/28 highway for the front wheel drive Highlander Hybrid and 31/27 for the AWD are good, if not impressive, given this vehicles curb weight. The Highlander Hybrid can tow up to 3,500 lbs when properly equipped.

See also the main fact sheet for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

High Points

Powerful acceleration

Nicely proportioned body design

Economy

Outstanding performance in snow and rain

Overall handling is like a car (excellent)

Low Points

3rd row seating only fit for toddlers or people of smaller stature

No real off-road capability

Limited trim is priced at a level similar to marketplace offerings from more premium brands.

Performance and Handling

The Hybrid Highlander offers a 3.3L There was an error working with the wiki: Code[3] (CVT) and front or all-wheel-drive guise. Two electric motor-generators which provide motive power and recharge the batteries under certain driving conditions. The whole powertrain combined produces up to 268 horsepower, making acceleration quick. Handling is surefooted on pavement, wet or dry. The suspension offers a comfortable ride, which can become floaty when pushing hard. Challenging roads can produce prominant undulations in the Highlander Hybrid's suspension.

Gas Mileage

As seen on the FuelEconomy.gov website, the City/Highway MPG averages are as follows:

Trim

2006 Highlander Hybrid FWD

2006 Highlander Hybird AWD

MPG

33/28

31/27

Safety

Front seat-mounted side There was an error working with the wiki: Code[20]s (SRS)

Driver's and front passenger's advanced There was an error working with the wiki: Code[21] system (SRS) with crash-severity sensors

Front and rear roll-sensing side curtain There was an error working with the wiki: Code[22]s

Driver's knee There was an error working with the wiki: Code[23]

Star Safety System with (VDIM)

There was an error working with the wiki: Code[4] with There was an error working with the wiki: Code[24]

Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (There was an error working with the wiki: Code[5])

Reinforced Body

Three-point seatbelts with pre-tensioners There was an error working with the wiki: Code[6] for all seats

Lower Anchors, tether anchors for children (LATCH) in 2nd row seat

Daytime Running Lights

There was an error working with the wiki: Code[7] (VSC)

Traction Control (TRAC)

Theft-Deterrent System with engine immobilizer

LED taillights

Reliability and Maintenance

The Toyota warranty covers Basic: 36 months/36,000 miles (all components other than normal wear and maintenance items), Powertrain: 60 months/60,000 miles (engine, transmission/transaxle, front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, seatbelts and airbags), and

Rust-Through: 60 months/unlimited miles (corrosion perforation of sheet metal).

Interior and Comforts

The Highlander Hybrid's cockpit differs little from other Highlanders, with two major exceptions: The tachometer is replaced by a power meter, which shows the combined output of the engine and electric motors in kilowatt-hours. And a central video screen (only as an add-on or in the Limited edition) includes a nifty color display that graphs your fuel economy and displays the power flow to and from the engine, motors and battery. (The same screen doubles as a display for the optional navigation system). That aside, it's typical Highlander fare comfortable seats, great visibility and faultless ergonomics.

The back seat got a thumbs up from both adults and kids. It boasts a flat floor and seats that slide fore-and-aft they offer adequate legroom even when all the way forward. But watch what you put on the floor -- just below the seats are the vents for the hybrid's battery pack which must not be blocked.

The one pockmark on an otherwise flawless complexion is a third-row seat that supposedly allows the Highlander to seat seven. Seven what? The alleged "seat" eats up nearly all the luggage space and is uninhabitable by anything that weighs more than 25 lbs. and has a spine. Climbing back there requires nerves of steel and bones of Jell-O. Forget it - the Highlander is a five-seater, period.

Exterior

Unique styling attributes to the Highlander Hybrid are resultant of the different powertrain. A revamped grille and fascia have larger air intake vents and round foglamps to address the Hybrid's need for more cooling capacity. Light-emitting diode (LED) tailight assemblies have replaced the normally aspirated Highlander's conventional ones. These high-visibility lights promote increased safety and look better while doing so. 17-inch alloy wheels mount on 225/65R17 tires to help meet the increased traction requirements.

Highlander Hybrid has a fairly long wheelbase and a squatty stance. The body styling is more attractive than its more expensive corporate sibling There was an error working with the wiki: Code[25], with a more squared-off roofline and nicely proportioned fender arches. The outside design allows a more people-friendly interior, also affording a third row seat. The There was an error working with the wiki: Code[26] can't match this item, as its silhouette is too smooshed down in the rear quarter.

Styles and Options

There was an error working with the wiki: Code[1] Highlander Hybrid Limited interior w/ Leather Seat Package]]

There was an error working with the wiki: Code[2] Highlander Hybrid interior w/ JBL Sound System]]

Standard Equipment

Fabric-trimmed interior

Silver interior trim pieces

Tilt steering wheel

Power tilt-and-slide There was an error working with the wiki: Code[8] with one-touch open/close and sliding sunshade

Remote keyless entry

Hybrid Optitron IP gauges with kW power meter

Roof rack with rails

Air Conditioning with clean air filter

Deluxe AM/FM/Cassette/CD audio system with 6 speakers

HomeLink® Universal Transceiver

Limited Package

Leather trimmed interior w/power adjustable driver and front passenger heated seats

Burled maple wood grain simulated wood trim

JBL® 8-speaker Premium Audio System with There was an error working with the wiki: Code[9] changer

Leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls

Leather trimmed shift lever with chrome stalk

Automatic on/off headlamps

Integrated foglamps

Anti-theft alarm and engine immobilizer

Optional Equipment

Premium JBL® Navigation System/8-speaker Premium Audio System with There was an error working with the wiki: Code[10] changer - $2,000

Rear-seat DVD entertainment system with rear-seat audio and two wireless headphones (includes 115V power outlet and RCA jacks)

Dealer Accessories

All-weather floor mats

Car cover

Cargo mat

Cargo net

Front-end mask

Tow-hitch receiver

Wheel locks

Wireless headphones

Main Competitors

Ford Escape Hybrid

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Saturn VUE Green Line

External Links

Toyota Highlander Hybrid - Official Site

Toyota Motor Company USA - Offical Site

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