If you lay into the throttle, the Highland hybrid is quicker than a regular V6 Highlander because it has 10 horsepower more in total. If you drive it gently, it'll return 28 mpg combined. The planetary CVT transmission is utterly smooth.
Braking is quite good and handling is balanced and secure. The steering is accurate enough, but there's a feeling of detachment because the electric-assist steering doesn't send much feedback to the driver.
Smooth and quiet. Neither overly firm nor floaty.
Wind and road noise are well-controlled. Engine noise is never high, but the hybrid CVT transmission does sometimes allow the engine to rev differently than expected under heavy throttle. Fans of quiet cars will be pleased with this one.
The controls are very easy to use. They're logically grouped by function, clearly marked with good-sized labels and sized large enough for easy use. It doesn't get much better than this.
There's plenty of glass, the front pillars do not block out large chunks of scenery, but the rearmost ones are a bit thick. The rear hatch window line is a little high, too, but the available back-up camera takes care of that.
Seat Access & Space
Ingress and egress is easy. Step-in height is just about right, and there's plenty of space once seated. Rear seats reclince and slide. Third row, accessed from the passenger side only, is best for average-height adults and children.
Cargo & Storage
Not as much as a minivan or full-size truck-based SUV, but there's still up to 94 cubic feet here. The load floor is flat, the seats fold down via remote levers in the hatch area and the thrid seat now has 50/50 split-fold capability.
Tight gaps, rich-looking materials and good paint give the Highlander hybrid a well-built feel.
Rated at 3,500 pounds, the Highlander Hybrid can indeed tow a little something. Remember to deduct the weight of your backseat passengers and luggage from the rated capacity, though.
The Highlander Hybrid's 4-wheel drive isn't designed for backcountry offroad use. Its electrically-driven rear wheels only operate for seconds at a time in slippery conditions. Don't take it anywhere you wouldn't take a 2wd crossover.