The page of the new Highlander Hybrid on the official Toyota website fully lives up to the slogan of the vehicle: anything but boring. In fact, the new Highlander is exciting because of the two reasons: it is perhaps the most family friendly SUV in the flooded segment, and now it became an even more environment-friendly vehicle with the addition of anticipated hybrid powertrain. Some reviewers have already called it the best family SUV in 2016 because of space and entertainment capabilities and the fact that many buyers, especially in the North American market, have traded their RAV4s for Highlanders. Also, the sales of the previous year have exceeded 158,900 units, so a quick redesign of Highlander was pretty much predicted.
Let’s see whether the hybrid Highlander will be as comfortable and enjoyable as the rest of SUVs from Toyota.
The new Highlander looks quite nice. Although its exterior hasn’t been significantly changed from the 2014 model, its appearance is appropriately aggressive, and the presence is commanding. Moreover, it is big, modern-looking, and it rides pretty high – everything that a cool current SUV has. As usual, Toyota has brought great exterior fit and finish, which is exactly what we expected.
The front fascia of the vehicle somehow reminded us of Camry with a little bit of Lexus style in the grille, but an average fan of SUV won’t recognize any of that. In the back, we find an adjustable power liftgate feature that allows to open the liftgate and adjust how high it goes, with a simple press of the button. If you need to grab something small, the flip-up hatch window is here to help you without having to open the liftgate.
Overall, the exterior is exciting and aerodynamic, which is added by a little aggressiveness of the grille and LED Daytime Running Lights.
The designers of Highlander were pretty generous in terms of providing the cargo space. Even though the model is considered as mid-sized SUV, the cargo volume was increased to 83.2 cubic feet when all seats are folded. That’s a decent amount of space that allows using the vehicle for very comfortable long trips with family plus the favorite dog. In addition, the vehicle has a roof rail in case the owner needs some extra space for luggage.
According to the official Toyota website, the dash has undergone a slight redesign because it is now made of softer materials that are added with metallic accents and wood-grain details. It also features a shelf that provides easy access to the power outlets and USB jacks, which is very convenient and frees the cabin from cables. Other entertainment functions include a premium sound system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Siri Eyes Free for iPhone.
The seats are very upscale and provide an unmatchable comfort from Toyota. The driver’s seat is a leather-trimmed, heated, and 8-way power adjustable unit that can be equipped with all-season comfort features for maximum pleasure. Furthermore, the steering wheel can be added with a heating function to keep the hands warm on chilly days which is a nice touch.
Perhaps the biggest news about the new Highlander is its powertrain. While basic configuration is equipped with a 2.7-liter unit that produces 185 horses and 184 lb-ft of torque, the hybrid model has 3.5-liter V6 beast that generates 231 horses and 215 lb-ft of torque. It is added with two electric units with one placed at the front and the other at the rear; according to Toyota, the front unit produces 167 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque while the rear one adds 68 hp and 103 lb-ft.
Indeed, it is a great power boost to the gas unit that combines for a total of 280 hp and contributes to smooth performance on the road. The vehicle is provided with CVT transmission and AWD function, which is great news for Highlander fans as well.
In terms of fuel economy, the hybrid requires 27 and 28 mpg in the city and highway respectively. The drive is smooth, and the transmission responds very well, making the driving experience pretty enjoyable.
Given that Highlander is positioned as family SUV, the automaker has provided a number of advanced safety features to keep everyone fully protected on the road. They include vehicle stability control, tire pressure monitoring, hill start assist, rear parking assist sonar, traction control, numerous airbags, anti-whiplash seats, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and smart stop technology.
All these features are included in the Toyota’s Start Safety System and provide a great level of safety for occupants of the cabin. Another family-minded safety feature is the LATCH system that provides lower anchors and tethers for children in the middle seat of the second and third rows.
The Hybrid was recognized for such high levels of safety by being named a 2015 IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus (with the pre-collision system). Indeed, the new Highlander is great when it comes to safety, which makes driving and parking very easy and once again proves Toyota’s commitment to highest standards in the area.
2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Pricing and Trim levels
According to Toyota’s official website, the basic configuration hybrid starts from $40,915 while the inclusion of optional features may increase the price up to $51,000. The Limited Hybrid trim’s starts at $47,870, which is explained by a number of premium features, such as 19-inch Chromtec alloy wheels and Hybrid Synergy Drive system.
Although the SUV segment is very hot right now, the new Highlander definitely stands out because of impressive cargo space, safety capabilities, and environment-friendly powertrain. It is a perfect option for taking the family for long trips because it provides a great deal of comfort and entertainment, which will keep the children occupied.
If you are considering the Limited trim, you will get a lot of premium features that will make the ride even more entertaining, and, more importantly, safer. However, regardless of the trim, no matter what you choose you will get a perfect SUV in return that certainly worth the money spent on it.