While hybrid cars have been around since the late 1990s, it was only a matter of time until that technology migrated to SUVs. Toyota's Highlander Hybrid was the first hybrid to offer all-wheel drive, seating for seven and even more power than its conventional gasoline variant. The standard gas-powered Highlander already enjoyed a reputation as an excellent midsize crossover with carlike drivability, SUV convenience and reasonable fuel consumption. The hybrid model was designed to offer all this, plus more power and even greater fuel economy.
Now in its second generation, the Highlander Hybrid is larger and roomier than it used to be. But no matter which generation you're looking at, you can expect high levels of versatility, comfort, fuel economy and safety. It's an excellent option for growing families with an aversion to oversized and thirsty SUVs.
Current Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Besides having admirable fuel economy figures, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is notable for its uncommon power, attractive cabin and flexible utility. In a less flattering light, however, it does come at a steeper price and the third-row seats are rather cramped. With a lack of viable rivals, however, the Highlander Hybrid is still a class leader.
The Highlander Hybrid is powered by a combination of a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine and electric motor/generators for a total of 280 horsepower. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) sends power to the front wheels. At 28 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, the Highlander Hybrid's EPA fuel economy estimates are better than those of pretty much any other midsize or large SUV.
The current Toyota Highlander Hybrid is offered in two trim levels. The base model's feature highlights include 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, cruise control, air-conditioning (with rear controls), a sliding and reclining 40/20/40-split second-row seat with a removable center section, a 50/50-split-folding third-row seat, a rearview camera, Bluetooth, a touchscreen display with Toyota's Entune app integration, a navigation system and a six-speaker sound system. The Limited trim adds 19-inch wheels, a power liftgate, leather upholstery, heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, a sunroof and an upgraded sound system. A rear seat entertainment system is optional.
In reviews, we've found that the current Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers a useful compromise of performance and fuel economy and a thoughtfully designed cabin with reconfigurable second-row seats. Potential downsides include a smallish third-row seat and a high price relative to the regular Highlander.
Used Toyota Highlander Hybrid Models
The second-generation Toyota Highlander Hybrid debuted for the 2008 model year. Compared to earlier Highlander Hybrids, it benefits from more interior room (for both passengers and cargo), as well as a more refined hybrid power system. Originally, the Highlander employed a 3.3-liter V6 that made 270 hp and was rated at an EPA-estimated 26 mpg for combined driving. The 3.5-liter V6 and its higher fuel economy debuted for 2011. That year the Hybrid also received a minor styling update and a more versatile 50/50-split-folding third row of seats, replacing the previous one-piece bench. Toyota's Entune infotainment system debuted in the 2013 model year along with standard navigation.
The first-generation Toyota Highlander Hybrid was built for just two years, 2006 and 2007, though it was based on the original Highlander that was introduced for 2001. Just like its gas-powered siblings, the hybrid Highlander was based on the Camry platform, giving it carlike drivability. Along with the significant fuel savings, the hybrid system kicked power output up to 268, adding almost 40 hp over the standard gas-only V6. While the hybrid's price of admission was quite a bit more than the standard Highlander, its miserly approach to fuel consumption made the initial financial hit more bearable.
The extra weight of the hybrid system made handling a bit more sluggish than the lighter, nimble conventional gas Highlander. A stiffer suspension helped to alleviate the added heft without sacrificing ride quality too much. Even still, the carlike maneuverability made navigating parking lots and running errands as painless as with a smaller wagon.
Two trim levels were available for the original Toyota Highlander Hybrid -- standard and Limited. For a premium, the Limited version included foglights, steering-wheel-mounted controls for the upgraded JBL sound system, and some enhanced interior and exterior trim, including cabin wood-tone accents and a rear spoiler. A touchscreen navigation screen was available as an option, but only with the Limited package.
Read the most recent 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Toyota Highlander Hybrid page.