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4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Heck of a First Car -- Will Post 1yr Review as Well
By sovereign on
Vehicle
2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.3L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
Review
As the title suggests, this is my first car. Purchased at 43k miles from a dealer. Having driven only my parents' cars until now, those being minivans (Odyssey, Villager) and sedans (Impala), a small SUV is certainly different. That "hybrid" and "luxury features" are not mutually-exclusive (nor do they require a premium nameplate) is a good thing. The "hybrid premium" also shrinks to almost nothing (by Edmunds estimates for similarly-equipped vehicles quoted at dealer retail). 2006 Limited 4x4 loaded minus DVD: $20,923. 2006 Limited 4x4 Hybrid loaded minus DVD: $21,445. That's $523, so one would need to save 125 gallons of gas in mileage vs. nonhybrid. Such savings is easy.
Favorite Features
Hybrid-ness, many options on non-hybrids standard for hybrids including airbags. A mixed city-highway trip can net 34.1MPG on the Toyota readout; typical city driving is 22-23 for now which is well below the rating. However, this is due almost entirely to "user error" (not knowing how to drive a hybrid). It is very easy to reconfigure the interior based on current needs (people, cargo, both). That I can tow 3500LBS takes an axe to the stereotype of "useless geeky hybrid."
Suggested Improvements
The interactive displays are nice, but a simpler design might help save fuel more than the current complicated readouts. Certain competitors evaluate one's driving and give "leaves" as symbols by the gauges (5 leaves - great, 1 leaf - horrible). The existing feedback system shows a lot of information, which can be overwhelming. Maximizing fuel economy depends on developing muscle memory unless one wants to take eyes off the road (which is dangerous).
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By sovereign
on 04/19/12 17:45 PM (PDT)

If anyone reads these, here's an update. It's not exactly a year, but I've had the car long enough (read: through winter) that I can comment on what I didn't know before. Gas savings vs. used non-hybrid equivalent is easy to make up for, as I said earlier. Hybrid buyers should be aware that MPG drops through the floor in the winter, even if you do not run the heater (which, if on, forces the engine to idle instead of shutting off). I avoided using the heater due to the seat-heat--still returned only 20MPG city in the winter. Granted, short trips meant the engine never warmed up. Once the warm weather returned, efficiency did as well. Mixed city-highway nets 30MPG (on the readout) with careful driving. Yes, even up to 65MPH is okay! The key is pulse-and-glide; that is, set the small readout to the battery-wheel. Once the engine is warmed up to the shutoff point (60 degrees or warmer and normal driving will result in it almost never idling), once you've gotten up to speed let up on the gas until the battery-wheel shows neither acceleration nor regeneration. Up to 40MPH, the engine stays completely off. Under the right conditions, this can be exploited to the point of 35MPG (measured at the pump). Be warned that pulse-and-glide reglects battery regcharging solely to regenerative braking, so be careful with the A/C, sound system, and creeping along on battery alone. If the battery depletes, you WILL get 5MPG as the engine idles to recharge it.

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