2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV

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Toyota Highlander Hybrid Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 3.5 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain All Wheel Drive
  • Transmission CVT Automatic
  • Horse Power 280 hp @ 5800 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 28/28 mpg
  • Bluetooth Yes
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

  • Combining seven-passenger seating with excellent fuel economy and performance, the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a very appealing alternative to conventional crossovers.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Exceptional balance of performance and fuel economy, attractive cabin, flexible second-row seat design, standard third-row seat.

  • Cons

    Steep price compared to standard Highlander, all-wheel-drive system isn't as robust as most, kids will only fit in that third row.

  • What's New for 2011

    For 2011 the Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets new styling updates, a few more standard features, better fuel economy and 10 more horsepower.

Full 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

What's New for 2011

For 2011 the Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets new styling updates, a few more standard features, better fuel economy and 10 more horsepower.


If you're like most folks, you probably think that midsize SUVs aren't exactly fuel sippers. And you'd be mostly right. But did you know that there is a seven-passenger, midsize crossover SUV that earns an EPA combined estimate of 28 mpg while also packing 280 horses worth of performance? Well, there is now, and it's the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Its impressive mileage rating represents a 2-mpg improvement compared to last year's Highlander Hybrid and is about 50 percent better than the 17-19 combined mpg that you'd get in a typical, gas-only midsizer.

Other improvements for the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid include more power via a larger V6 engine (3.5 liters versus 3.3 liters), more standard features and updated styling. The latter includes a number of features that distinguish it from the non-hybrid Highlander, such as a unique grille and front bumper, color-keyed rocker panels with chrome accents and a light blue tint for the headlights and taillights. This year also brings more standard features for the base trim, including a power driver seat, an upgraded audio system, rear climate control and a standard third-row seat (that thankfully now features a 50/50 split/folding design that allows for greater cargo/passenger flexibility). The Limited trim also gets a few new standard perks in the form of perforated leather seating and tri-zone automatic climate control.

Compared to other hybrid SUVs, the Highlander Hybrid rates just 1 mpg less in combined driving than the much smaller, five-passenger Ford Escape Hybrid, and 7 mpg better than the full-size, truck-based 2011 Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid (and its GMC Yukon Hybrid twin) that doesn't offer much more in the way of cargo or passenger space. The Highlander Hybrid is also very quick for a large crossover -- expect a 0-60 mph time in the mid 7-second range.

As far as downsides, there are a few. The third-row seat is really only suited for kids, so if you need to carry more than five adult-sized people on a regular basis, the Tahoe/Yukon hybrids or something like the 2011 Ford Flex will be preferable. Then there's the price. Though about $12,000 less than the big GM hybrids, the Hybrid is about $7,000 more than a base Highlander with the V6 and AWD -- it'll take quite a few years to make that all back on fuel savings alone. Lastly, the Highlander Hybrid's AWD system is powered by a separate electric motor, so it's theoretically less capable in snowy conditions than the full-fledged gasoline AWD Highlander.

But all things considered, the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is easy to recommend to anyone looking to significantly reduce their fuel consumption and carbon footprint without sacrificing true SUV-grade functionality.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

For 2011, the midsize Toyota Highlander Hybrid crossover SUV is offered in two trim levels: base and Limited.

The base model comes fitted with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglamps, keyless ignition/entry, cloth upholstery, an eight-way power driver seat, a 40/20/40 split-folding/sliding/reclining second-row seat with removable center seat, a 50/50 split-folding third-row seat, cargo area-mounted releases for folding down the second-row seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering column, air-conditioning (with rear climate control), a rearview camera and a six-speaker audio system with CD/MP3 player, satellite radio, an iPod/USB interface and Bluetooth connectivity/streaming audio.

Spring for the Highlander Hybrid Limited and you get 19-inch alloy wheels, a roof rack, additional chrome exterior trim, power-folding/heated outside mirrors (with puddle lamps), a power liftgate (with a flip-up rear window), a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, perforated leather upholstery, power-adjustable heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel (with audio and climate controls), tri-zone automatic climate control, a rear cargo area cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and wood-grain cabin accents.

Options for the base Highlander Hybrid include 19-inch alloy wheels, a power liftgate, an upgraded JBL sound system (with six-CD changer and subwoofer), a navigation system (includes the JBL sound system but with a four-CD changer), a rear seat DVD entertainment system, a Cold Weather package (heated sideview mirrors and windshield wiper de-icer) and a Leather package (includes the leather upholstery, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, heated front seats, the sunroof and the auto-dimming rearview mirror).

The Limited can be had with the JBL sound system, the navigation system and the rear seat DVD entertainment system.

Powertrains and Performance

Powering the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a hybrid system consisting of a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine and a trio of electric motors. It all adds up to a healthy 280 hp, which is transferred to the pavement via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and an all-wheel-drive system that uses a separate electric motor to power the rear wheels when there's a need for extra traction or acceleration.

In Edmunds performance testing, the updated Highlander Hybrid went from zero to 60 mph in 7.4 seconds, which is pretty quick even by conventional crossover standards. Properly equipped, the Highlander Hybrid can also tow trailers up to 3,500 pounds.

This muscle is even more impressive considering its EPA fuel economy estimates of 28 mpg city/28 mpg highway and 28 mpg in combined driving.


The 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front side airbags, active front-seat head restraints, a driver knee airbag and full-length side curtain airbags. Also standard is a hill-start assist feature that keeps the vehicle from rolling backward when starting off on a steep incline. In Edmunds brake testing, the Highlander Hybrid came to a stop from 60 mph in a tidy 120 feet.

In government crash testing, the Highlander Hybrid received a perfect five stars for driver protection and four stars for front passenger protection in frontal impacts. Side-impact testing yielded five-star ratings front and back. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the conventional Highlander its top "Good" ratings in both frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests.

Interior Design and Special Features

While the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid's powertrain gets most of the attention, the cabin deserves its fair share of praise. In addition to seating up to seven passengers, the interior features quality materials and a user-friendly control layout. The 40/20/40-split second-row seat slides fore and aft and features reclining seatbacks. It also incorporates a removable center section that can be replaced with a handy center table or stowed away to permit minivan-like walk-through access to the third row.

The optional third-row seat is cramped compared to those of some larger crossovers, but it's useful for kids, and adults of shorter stature can squeeze back there for short trips. For 2011, it's split 50/50 to offer additional flexibility when carrying a mix of people and cargo.

For hauling purposes, the Highlander Hybrid offers a maximum of 94 cubic feet of cargo room with the second- and third-row seats folded. There's a healthy 42 cubic feet of stowage behind the second-row seatbacks.

Driving Impressions

The 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid features a smooth ride and secure if uninspiring handling. Road noise is nicely suppressed, and engine noise is reduced to a barely perceptible electric hum when the gas engine shuts off. The hybrid powertrain's lively performance and seamless transition between gas and electric modes adds spice and character as well as efficiency. A driver-selectable "EV" mode can propel the Highlander for short distances at low speeds on battery power alone, and hitting the "Econ" button softens throttle response to improve fuel economy.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

We love this hybrid suv!

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)

We needed a small SUV to haul rigid hull inflatable boats (typically less than 2000 lbs). We had the 3500 lbs tow package installed (much nicer than aftermarket). I wanted a hybrid because "peak oil" is real, I want to be able to keep driving and boating foryears to come :) This is a technology wonder. We love it. We routinely take long trips for the business and nobody complains. Everyone is surprised how fast we get there although this is the first car I have ever own that I don't feel compelled to speed in. It's trained me that I can get at destination roughly at the same time without speeding. It's also trained me that fast starts are incredibly wasteful on gas. Easy to get 30 mp

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Better gas mileage than expected

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)

I have been getting over 30 mpg on nearly every tank of gas. Once or twice around 32 mpg, based on hand calculations. The hand calculations average 1 mpg less than the computer values. The trick to high gas mileage is to pay attention to the display and try not to waste gas by accelerating and braking. Every time you brake you are wasting the gas you used in accelerating. The interior is cavernous for a vehicle getting this mileage. Highway mileage is over 30 mpg if you stay below 65 with just yourself driving. It drops to 27 if you are going 75 with the family a bags loaded in. AC and heat affect mileage because they may require the engine to run when not accelerating.

1 of 13 people found this review helpful

Poor milage

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)

I bought this suv in this past feb, I went to a family function 300 miles away and I noticed under a full tank the max range was 300 while the small computer to the rt said avg mpg was 29-30 so about 520 cruise range...yet I only got 300 going one way and fulling up and 300 comming back and fulling up. All toyota technician could say is that the inacuracy is due to driving conditions and other factor which makes no sence since this is a hybrid and not a gas model vehicle. I am dissapointed and my next vehicle is going to be a U.S made hybrid SUV

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

If mileage is the major

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)

this is the' SUV for you. Aside from the mileage, power liftgate and keyless entry, I have made a sizable downgrade from a Lexus GX. Comparable size, yes but here's a few other things to consider. No dual seat memory controls, soundsystem is very average, fit and finish is not nearly as nice, steering is numb, absolutely NO offroad capability with this SUV. Fun factor, think Ford Taurus wagon. My wife wanted a hybrid suv in our price range and I did the best I could. She really likes it. The vehicle will meet the needs of most every day users and they will be very satisfied. But, if you are looking for a driving experience whatever you push the button, this is not your car

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

2011 highlander hybrid

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)

We previously owned a 2003 Honda Ody and were happy with it. Downside was that 90% of the time we only needed 4 seats- and half the time just the driver's! Nice to be able to haul stuff, great for vacations, but rising fuel costs a concern. We wanted to keep the 3 row flexibility in our next vehicle, improve fuel economy, and perhaps get something that was not over 200+ inches, making it a tight squeeze in the garage. The Highlander Hybrid hit these major features and more.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

Good but not like the

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Vehicle: 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)

Just bought our new HH Limited 2011 before Christmas. So about 6 weeks ago. Drives very good - 8K millage just 9L/100KM which is not what the book says but I think that will come. I am disappointed in many of the interior design. We owned 2 Prius and many of the Steering controls that are in the Prius and found in the dash - a good stretch away from the driver. I find the Smart key - proximity is not as good and often doesn't catch if I am coming from the rear side of the vehicle. I have not found a lock button on the rear liftgate so I have to use my Smart Key or go to a side door. The sound system is excellent - the cargo space is good but small features are absent

Talk About The 2011 Highlander Hybrid

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Discussions See all Started By

Steve, I believe this is a pic of the 2011 Highlander Hybrid, not the 2014. Please click on the following link for pics of 2011 HLH for comparison: link title...

Last night I was driving my 2011 Highlander Hybrid and suddenly the power steering and brakes stopped working while I was driving. A loud warning sensor went off and several messages crossed the scree...

2011 Highlander Hybrid model MSRP = $37,490...

Read more about the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Gas Mileage


  • 28
  • cty
  • 28
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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