2011 TOYOTA HIGHLANDER HYBRID REVIEW
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Fri, Sep 2, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By John-Fredrik Wright I remember driving one of the first Priuses (Prii) to hit the USA market. They were slow, and not much fun to drive. Yet, they were very efficient (especially for that time), which was the whole point. Hybrid technology has come a long way since then, and it’s also now available in many other cars. I have, however, been a little skeptical about hauling around hybrid batteries in an SUV, since SUVs didn’t seem to make much eco-sense—hybrid or not. Average mpg estimates were still under 20, with a huge V8 gulping up your last dollars. So, I approached this hybrid version of the Toyota Highlander with more than a bit of apprehension. I was not, however, skeptical of the Highlander itself. My experience with this crossover SUV is fresh and positive. I drove my uncle’s late-model Highlander just a few days prior to driving the new hybrid. I was impressed then, and I’m impressed again now. Smart Toyota solutions, a smooth ride, and lots of space are some of the features I enjoyed in the older version. Spending more time in the new Highlander just added to my satisfaction.
First off, the Highlander is not a slow hybrid. With a very efficient 3.5-liter V6 engine working with the electric motor system, this car gets up and goes in a major league way. Passing on one-lane highways is a breeze, and the hybrid system is seemless throughout the entire acceleration process. Yet, even taking into account passing, cruising around town, and the necessary rough-handling obligatory to testing a vehicle, I never go much below the 28 mpg EPA rating that this SUV has. At times, when driving conservatively with not much exuberant acceleration going on, that number will grow higher. To further enhance the range, and to load the battery up on that sweet electric juice, the Highlander hybrid comes with a special function on the gear lever. You have the usual P, R, N, and D, but then, at the bottom of the row, there is a B. You guessed it, putting the lever into B will, as soon as you let up on the accelerator, slow the vehicle down while loading the battery. Save on the brakes, use the B!
The Highlander is a sweet ride all by itself. Slap the LTD badge on there and this spacious vehicle will take you to your destination in style and comfort. The cockpit of the LTD is just a notch below Lexus level. The leather is of a very high quality, and all the features you can image are included. The seats are very comfortable, allowing for drives long and far. Amenities such as a GPS can be added on, as is the case in most cars. However, even without the large screen a GPS usually brings, the Highlander comes with a backup camera—a smaller screen that projects expected range and other efficiency numbers, doubling as a backup screen. The second row will hold two-to-three people, depending upon how you set it up. Amazingly, the middle seat folds and stores under the center console of the two front seats. Instead of a seat, you can switch to a console that goes in between the now captain chairs making up the second row. Both the third seat as well as the console fit under the front mid-console. Pretty neat. Second row seats recline, to further make the ride a pleasurable one, and the rear passengers are also in charge of their own climate system, with controls easily located between the two front seats. Fans is something that Toyota installed a bunch of; fire up the air conditioning system and you’ll have air coming from all directions, including your feet—even in the back seats.
The third row seats two people. For shorter rides, adults are able to endure the space. Getting into the third row seats is either done through the rear or by easily folding either of the mid-row seats out of the way. The third row can itself be folded away, making the storage space big enough for most toys or large dogs. The rear window can be opened without opening the entire tail-gate, making it easy to put more stuff in there without having things fall out. All-in-all, this Highlander is a great vehicle. With great fuel economy and great handling (this crossover SUV is car-based), superb loading and comfort capacities, the Toyota Highlander LTD Hybrid is a vehicle that will get the job done, and then some. Usually, at the end of a review, I ask myself: Would I consider buying this car for personal use? For the Highlander, that is a definite yes. For more information about Toyota products, go to toyota.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander LTD Hybrid 4WD-i V6 SUV Price: $42,945 (base) $44,720 (as tested) EPA fuel economy rating: 28 mpg (city) 28 mpg (highway) Engine size and type: 3.5-Liter Double Overhead Cam (DOHC) 24-Valve V6 with Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i), EV and ECON modes Power: 280 hybrid system net hp (209 kW) Transmission type: Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT) Drive configuration: Electronic On-Demand 4WD with intelligence Steering (type): Electric Power Steering; power-assisted rack-and-pinion Suspension (front and rear): 4-wheel independent MacPherson strut suspension with front and rear stabilizer bars Brakes and tires: Power-assisted ventilated 12.9-in. front disc brakes/solid 12.2-in. rear discs with Electronically Controlled Braking (ECB) system, integrated regenerative braking and Star Safety System™ P245/55R19 tires Dimensions: Length: 188.8 in Width: 75.2 in Height: 69.3 in Curb weight: 4762 lbs