Voice-Activated Touchscreen DVD Navigation System ($2,650 -- includes integrated back-up camera, JBL AM/FM four-disc CD changer, 9 speakers including subwoofer, automatic sound leveling, XM radio with NavTraffic including a 90-day subscription, USB port with iPod connectivity, hands-free phone and music streaming capability via Bluetooth wireless).
Naturally aspirated gasoline V6 with auto-stop/start
3,456cc (211 cu-in)
DOHC, four valves per cylinder, variable exhaust-valve timing
Surprisingly quick. This vehicle benefits when "brake torqued" because this forces the gasoline engine to start for a faster launch. CVT is obviously seamless and maximum electrical assist is indicated at 60 mph. Only a wisp of tirespin at launch with Trac off, so it might not be truly off or, more likely, it's getting a shove from the rear.
Highly susceptible to surface variations (dust/grit and small undulations) that produced 16-foot differences. Still, even at its longest, the Highlander stops as short as its peers. Some dive, but again, it's not horrible.
Skid pad: Steering lacks feel but build-up is appropriate. ESC "off" is not truly off, but in this mode intervention happens later, when understeer gets noticeable. With ESC on, the system starts closing throttle and dabbing brakes before understeer begins. Thankfully, the usual Toyota ESC "beep-beeping" is not present here. Slalom: With ESC "off" (it isn't truly), the Highlander Hybrid turns in crisply, but gentle understeer limits ultimate performance. Also, ESC goes berserk by the last gate, so timing it right makes a difference. Same results with ESC on, only slower.