MPG-o-Matic Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review Summary: The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a seven seat SUV that plays a trump card in the sport utility market, by delivering the best gas mileage in its class.
Equipped with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy drive system and a 3.3 liter V6 engine, the Highlander Hybrid produces a total of 209 horsepower and 212 foot pounds of torque.
The official gas mileage estimates for the four wheel drive Highlander Hybrid Limited are 27 city / 25 highway miles per gallon (MPG). (Overall, the Highlander Hybrid’s numbers represent a significant step above the conventional Highlander’s 18/24 rating.)
We were able to exceed the official highway estimate, pulling down an easy 28.9 MPG on the highway in summer weather that ranged from the high 70s to low 90s.
In combined testing, our Highlander Hybrid delivered 30.3 MPG.
The Hybrid Synergy drive system and 24-valve VVT-i V6 delivers top of class mileage without compromising acceleration.
Our fully equipped Highlander Hybrid test unit was loaded up with options that swelled the base price of roughly $40,000 all the way up to over $48,000. A standard base Highlander, by comparison, starts at a MSRP of $27,500.
While not quite as plush as the Lexus 400h hybrid we tested earlier this year, the Highlander Hybrid Limited is more roomy. There’s no discounting the flexibility and convenience of the Highlander’s fold-flat third row seat.
While we did well by feather footing the Highlander Hybrid on our highway tests, like all Toyota hybrids, the Highlander’s history screens clearly show the truck delivering its best results at lower speeds when the Synergy Drive’s EV mode is invoked.
No question about it, the Highlander Hybrid’s dual LCD screens turn the quest for optimum MPGs into a never-ending video game. Toggling through the modes on the smaller upper screen with the steering wheel control provides information on tire pressure, real-time MPGs, mileage since the last fill up, and even a MPG comparison with prior tanks of gas.
The optional navigation system includes a nine-speaker, satellite-radio-ready JBL audio system that pumps out the tunes. Unfortunately, the iPod integration is limited to a dash-mounted line-in jack. (Toyota’s Scion brand provides USB iPod integration at roughly one-third the sticker price.)
When it comes to the elemental creature comforts, the optional front dual zone climate control and rear air conditioning system earn high marks. With this option, they’ll be no calls from the peanut gallery to crank up the AC on the way to the beach.
After a week of testing, we found the Highlander Hybrid a solid choice for its best-in-class fuel economy, comfort, and convenience. But taking the close-to-$50,000 price tag in mind, we have our fingers crossed that we’ll see a plug-in Highlander Hybrid — with dramatically higher gas mileage — in the very near future.
– by Daniel Gray