The Toyota Highlander SUV is the strict middle child of Toyota's SUV vehicles lineup, which includes the full-size Land Cruiser and Sequoia, the midsize FJ Cruiser and 4Runner and Venza, and the smaller RAV4. The midsize Toyota Highlander tucks neatly between the 4Runner and FJ Cruiser. The Highlander SUV, like the RAV4 and Venza, is a capable a city and suburban vehicle and can transport driver and up to seven passengers or five passengers and some cargo.
Toyota took its Hybrid Synergy Drive gasoline and electric motor drivetrain system and inserted it into the Highlander to produce the Highlander Hybrid, which made its debut in 2007 as a 2008 model. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 28 mpg city/28 mpg highway, a few ticks above the gasoline-powered versions, which get an estimated 20 mpg city/25 mpg highway with its 2.7-liter four-cylinder and 17 mpg city/22 mpg highway with the optional 3.5-liter V-6 engine. However, the Highlander Hybrid promises the power of the V-6 model with the fuel economy of the four-cylinder. Two Toyota Highlander Hybrid models -- base and Limited -- are available. In 2011, Toyota updated the Highlander with a new grille, headlights and hood design, and fog light housing. The Highlander Hybrid received its own signature grille to distinguish it from its gasoline-powered siblings.
Body style: SUV
Engine: 3.5L V-6 plus electric motor
Transmission: continuously variable transmission
Models: Base, Limited
Toyota revamped the standard gasoline-powered Highlander SUV and Highlander Hybrid in 2011, primarily with a new hood and grille design and revamped headlight display. The automaker further distinguished the Toyota Highlander Hybrid with its own unique grille, bumper, chrome-accented lower panels, and unique head, tail, and fog lights.
While technically classified as mid-size, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV and its siblings appear quite large especially with its prominent grille and blatant wheel arches. Measuring over 15 feet long, 6 feet wide and nearly as tall, the Highlander is based on a stretched version of the mid-size Toyota Camry. Besides the grille and hood, Toyota also refreshed the Highlander's character lines across the SUV's broad sides to give it a more muscular look while the wheel wells can fit either standard 17-inch or 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels.
Like its gas-powered siblings, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid continues to offer plenty of interior space, and is capable of transporting up to eight people total, though the third row seating is best for smaller folks like children. The five seater configuration comes standard in the Toyota Highlander, and the second row folds for added cargo space. The standard-issue 2012 Toyota Highlander offers over 95 cubic feet of space with second and third-row seats both down. Note that, because of its hybrid configuration, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid has slightly less cargo space than the standard model, holding up to an estimated 91.4 feet of cubic space versus the regular model's 95 cubic square feet.
Performance & Handling
The 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid drives and rides more like a crossover than a traditional SUV thanks to the fully independent suspension. Road feel is smooth, almost floating, with steering light enough to make maneuvering in crowded parking lots easy.
The 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, like all current Toyota vehicles, comes standard with the Toyota STAR safety system which includes anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), brake assist, Smart Stop (SST), traction control (TRAC), and vehicle stability control (VSC). Standard airbag configuration includes driver and front passenger airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, three-row side curtain airbags, and a driver knee airbag are standard. Both the base and Limited Toyota Highlander hybrid models come with all-wheel drive which provides better road traction which, in turn, offers road safety while driving.
EPA Fuel Economy
Toyota Highlander Hybrid: 28 mpg city/28 mpg highway
- Fuel efficient for its class
Multiple interior configurations
You Won't Like
Third row for children only
Low towing capacity
People mover just got more fuel efficient
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