The Toyota Highlander Hybrid just like its gas-engine counterpart, has good performance, a comfortable cockpit, and a reasonably roomy third seating row without the bulk of a Tahoe or Expedition plus much better fuel economy.
What does Hybrid really mean in this version of the Highlander? First, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid uses a V6 gasoline engine that drives the front wheels. There is one electric motor that provides hybrid power to the front wheels. A second electric motor provides rear traction, when needed, and makes this Highlander an all-wheel-drive SUV, sort of, but mainly for traction on wet or snowy road surfaces, not true off-road travel.
So what can one expect from a Toyota Highlander Hybrid? Better Fuel economy, of course. The Highlander Hybrid is rated at 27 mpg city, 25 mpg highway, and can get almost 28 mpg in mostly highway driving. For better mileage, you can press the ECON button on the dash which recalibrates the Highlander for modestly slower acceleration, which you won’t notice around town. If there’s battery power available, pressing the EV (electric vehicle-only) button lets you creep into or out of the driveway if you’re leaving early, or coming home way too late. For comparison, the V6 non-hybrid is rated at 18/24. The base Highlander with 187-hp four-cylinder engine gets 20/27, but with 3,845 pounds to move around, you might be asking a lot of the engine unless you’re driving mostly highway miles.
There is a price premium to be paid for the Hybrid Highlander version as you may have guessed. The non-hybrid Highlander versions are four- and six-cylinder with front-drive or all-wheel-drive, and they start at $27,800 while the cheaper of two Hybrid models is around $37,500. The upscale Hybrid Limited is $45,000 plus vs. $38,500 for the comparably equipped AWD Highland Limited gasoline model. A nicely equipped Hybrid Highlander runs close to$50,000.
On the inside the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is flows uncluttered and the maple center console trim feels upscale. The vehicle measures 188 inches long, about the same as a midsize sedan, yet it’s pretty big inside and offers a third row bench seat that isn’t bad for children although you wouldn’t ask your mother-in-law to sit back there. When the second row and third row are folded flat, you’ve got a big, let’s haul some stuff cargo bay.
The navigation system is the Generation 6 Navigation and is reasonable to operate. It’s touchscreen with voice input assistance. Toyota navigation systems always make it easy to put up a moving map if that’s all you need, without lots of button presses or layered menus. The navigation package includes upgraded audio, and Bluetooth.
Here’s the Question…Should You Buy Hybrid? or Gasoline? If you’re in the market for a midsize SUV or crossover with people-and-stuff hauling capabilities, the Toyota Highlander is an excellent choice in a market full of them, including the GM triplets Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia; Hyundai Veracruz; Mazda CX-9 and Mazda CX-7; and the longer Ford Flex. many well satisfied owners find the Highlander appealing. Reliability is very solid.
The bigger issue is whether to go with the hybrid edition of the Highlander. If it’s a dollars and sense decision, it could take a bit over 20 years to make back the hybrid premium. If you average 26 mpg combined in the hybrid and 21 mpg in the V6 non-hybrid, you’ll save $330 a year on gasoline at $3 a gallon. That’s right on top of a 20 year payback. Only if gasoline reached $5 a gallon and if you increased the mpg margin over the gasoline Highlander from 26 mpg vs. 21 mpg to 28 mpg vs. 21 mpg would you fall under 10 years for payback. In other words, it would be better to look at the Toyota Highlander Hybrid as something you’re doing for the environment and for the future rather than for your pocketbook and R.O.I..
If cost is an issue, the 2008-2010 Toyota Highlanders are essentially similar, and good deals can be had on used Toyota Highlanders with upgrade warranties. The 2001-2007 Highlanders are the first generation and are good solid vehicles to pick up as well.
Here’s The Borrom Line…The Toyota Highlander Hybrid Provides Good Mileage, Road Manners, And Carrying Capacity. You’ll Need Two Decades To Earn Back The Hybrid Premium. Could Be Worth It To Some Though…