2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

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Edmunds' Expert Review

  • Impressive fuel economy
  • hushed and upscale interior
  • luxury-grade ride
  • seven-passenger seating
  • reassuring handling.
  • Luxury-grade pricing
  • eight-passenger layout only available on regular Highlander.

The 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a satisfying three-row crossover SUV that gets an unbeatable 28 mpg in mixed driving, but the up-front price might be a bit tough to swallow.

Vehicle overview

If you want a family-friendly vehicle that gets impressive mileage, the 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is one of the best vehicles for the job. Just like its gas-only sibling, the Hybrid is easy and pleasant to drive. It's quick to accelerate, smooth-riding and one of the quietest vehicles we've ever tested on the highway. It also has a pretty roomy interior with seating for seven, high-quality materials and plenty of features. Of course, the added bonus for the Hybrid is the excellent EPA-estimated 28 mpg combined rating for fuel economy. The gas-only Highlander has just a 20-mpg combined estimate.

However, with that refinement and fuel efficiency comes a pretty hefty price tag. Toyota offers the Highlander Hybrid in just the top two trim levels: Limited and Limited Platinum. Those trim levels are well equipped to be sure, but even compared to the gas-only Highlander versions, you'll be paying a premium of several thousand dollars when new. The Highlander Hybrid even rivals many luxury brands for price.

Still, those able to stomach the cost will find the Highlander Hybrid worth it, which is essentially what we concluded in our Edmunds "A" rating of this Toyota. We also like it more than its closest rival, the Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid. The Pathfinder is less expensive, but it doesn't match the Highlander Hybrid for acceleration or general refinement. (The related Infiniti QX60 is priced closer to the Toyota and is also available with a hybrid powertrain and lots of luxury trimmings.) If seating for seven isn't a requirement, check out the Audi Q5 Hybrid or Lexus RX 450h. There's no doubt, though, that the 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers the best overall combination of fuel efficiency, power, comfort and interior space in its class.

2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid models

The 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a three-row midsize crossover offered in Limited and Limited Platinum trims. Seven-passenger seating is standard, with a layout that includes two second-row captain's chairs and a 60/40-split third-row bench with three seats. The gas-only Highlander is reviewed separately.

Standard features include 19-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, LED running lights, foglights, a flip-up rear hatch window, an adjustable-height power liftgate, a rear spoiler, keyless ignition and entry, ambient interior lighting, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery (with synthetic SofTex vinyl for the third row), heated and ventilated front seats, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, driver memory functions, a four-way power passenger seat, driver voice amplification for communicating with rear passengers ("Driver Easy Speak"), a second-row table between the captain's chairs and retractable second-row sunshades. Electronic features include a navigation system, a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sensors, a back-up camera, an 8-inch central touchscreen, smartphone app integration (Entune App Suite), Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, and a 12-speaker JBL audio system with satellite radio, HD radio and iPod/USB connectivity.

Optional for the Limited is the Driver Technology package, which adds Toyota's Safety Connect telematics (stolen vehicle locater, roadside assistance, automatic collision notification), adaptive cruise control, a collision mitigation system with automatic braking, a lane departure warning system and automatic high-beam control headlights. A rear-seat Blu-ray entertainment system with a 9-inch display is offered as a stand-alone option.

The Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum (also known as the Platinum package) includes all those items plus a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel and heated second-row seats.

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2015 Highlights

The 2015 Toyota Highlander carries over unchanged.

Performance & mpg

The 2015 Highlander Hybrid is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 combined with multiple electric motors and a battery pack. Total output is rated at 280 horsepower. All-wheel drive is standard, as is a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Under normal conditions, the hybrid operates as a front-wheel-drive vehicle, but if wheel slippage is detected or serious acceleration demanded, the rear axle's electric motor kicks in for full traction and power.

During Edmunds testing, the Highlander Hybrid went from zero to 60 mph in just 7.9 seconds. That's a slightly quicker time than average for a crossover this size, let alone a hybrid version.

According to the EPA, the Highlander Hybrid returns 28 mpg combined (27 city/28 highway), which is about as good as it gets for a three-row crossover.

A properly equipped Highlander Hybrid can tow up to 3,500 pounds, or 1,500 fewer than the conventional Highlander V6.


The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes standard with stability control, antilock disc brakes, hill-start assist, front-seat side airbags, a driver knee airbag, a front passenger seat-cushion airbag and full-length side curtain airbags.

A rearview camera and blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors are also standard, while the optional Driver Technology package adds a frontal collision mitigation system with automatic braking, lane-departure warning and Toyota's Safety Connect telematics (emergency assistance, stolen vehicle location and automatic collision notification).

During Edmunds braking testing, the Highlander Hybrid came to a stop from 60 mph in 127 feet, which is a few feet longer than average for the segment.

In government crash tests, the Highlander Hybrid earned five out of five stars for overall crash protection, including four stars for total frontal-impact safety and five stars for total side-impact safety.

In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the non-hybrid Highlander received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. In the small-overlap frontal-offset test, it received the second-highest rating of "Acceptable." Its seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.


On the road, the Highlander Hybrid definitely feels large, but it is still easy to drive on a daily basis. In city traffic, the 280-hp hybrid system provides decent pickup, and the V6/CVT combination gives it some real pep off the line. As with most hybrids, the regenerative braking system produces a characteristically odd pedal feel that may strike some drivers as a little touchy until they've acclimated.

It's worth noting that the Hybrid is around 350 pounds heavier than a comparable gas-only Toyota Highlander. Nonetheless, the Highlander Hybrid confidently handles the road within its predictably modest limits. The steering has a firm, reassuring feel as well, but it can be a bit heavy during slow-speed maneuvers.

Of course, what you'll use the 2015 Highlander Hybrid for most is ferrying passengers around in comfort, and that's where it truly shines. The cabin remains impressively quiet at speed, and bumps and ruts are generally shrugged off by the crossover's compliant suspension.


While some hybrid vehicles may have unique interior flourishes to set them apart from their non-hybrid counterparts, the 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid does not. Aside from the usual smattering of hybrid-specific gauges and information screens, the Hybrid is basically a Highlander Limited with a different powertrain. While this may be disappointing to some -- especially considering the Highlander Hybrid's significantly higher starting price -- the interior is nice enough to pass muster. Supple surfaces cover the dashboard with subtle stitching at the seams. The Infiniti QX60 Hybrid's cabin might look and feel more special, but Toyota's modest deficit here shouldn't be a deal-breaker.

Toyota has baked a number of handy storage features into the 2015 Highlander's interior. There's a unique built-in shelf on the dashboard, for instance, that can serve as a resting place for phones and other small personal effects. The shelf's short height, however, can make it hard to actually fit your hand in there to place or retrieve those items. Vastly more spacious is the storage box under the console armrest that's big enough for a large purse.

Operating the various electronics features has a very simple feel, but they are positioned far away from the driver. The 8-inch touchscreen provides crisp graphics, large "virtual" buttons and quickly accessed mode buttons around its perimeter. The navigation system is intuitive as well, while the audio system features the tried and true volume knob on the left and a tuning knob on the right.

Since the Hybrid only comes in Limited trim, it doesn't offer the three-person second-row bench that's standard on lesser non-hybrid Highlander models. The two captain's chairs are quite pleasant, however, and they slide farther forward than they used to, permitting easier access to the third row. Speaking of the way-back, adults will still find it cramped relative to some rivals, but kids will be fine, and the three-across seating in the third row bolsters the Highlander's credentials as a minivan substitute.

Even though the Highlander Hybrid's cargo capacity is diminished by its large battery pack, there's still considerable storage space inside, especially once you start folding the rear seats down. There is a usable 13.8 cubic feet of space behind the third row, expanding to 42.3 cubes with the third row folded, and a maximum 83.2 cubic feet of capacity with both rear rows folded.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

5 out of 5 stars
An exceptional vehicle
Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
I now have 4,000 miles on my 2015 Highlander Hybrid. I traded in my Avalon Hybrid (a fantastic car) to gain AWD and more room for travel. This is an extremely well thought out vehicle. It is very quiet, quick and very comfortable. The new generation info/entertainment system is excellent. The latest navigation system is accurate and easy to use. My wife drives a late Lexus RX 350. The Highlander Hybrid is every bit its equal and in some respects superior. In both city and highway driving it has no trouble meeting and exceeding the EPA mileage estimates. It is an exceptional long distance driver. The third seat is for kids (or adults you don't like) but it is handy when needed.
5 out of 5 stars
Impeccable quality + MPG beyond expectation
Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
As I read everywhere before owning my Highlander Hybrid (Limited Platinum), the quality and the reliability are so far so good (2 months ownership). MPG for last 3 fueling averages 30.5MPG by actual tank filling - meter reading method. Considering expected depreciation and gas saving, my calculation said 5 yr or more ownership will be break-even when compared with gas only version. If I learn more gas saving tricks, I will get some saving. Super quiet operation when the engine is completely stopped is one of my favorite factors of hybrids. Update on 2017-11-23: I am keeping records of MPG. Since I purchased this car, I have fueled 120 times according to the record. The average of in-dash display numbers: 28.86MPG, the average of filling - meter reading method: 28.42MPG. They are reasonably close. At filling - meter method, best one-tank record: 32.81MPG. Summer average: 27.0MPG, winter average: 31.5MPG. A/C usage at Phoenix, AZ is the cause. Now my ownership length is more than two years. I am as happy as I was when I purchased this car.
4 out of 5 stars
Comfortable, but electronics are a letdown
Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
2018 05-05, 44.5K mile update: Having re-read the review below, I'll stand by the cons, but add that the outstanding mileage I noted early on has ebbed. Where I used to average 28+ mpg combined, I am now seeing 25.6 mpg. My dealership claims this is due to summer gasoline formulation. I'm dubious, since the averages are consistent year round. Granted, I'm not babying the car in city driving anymore trying to maximize the mileage, but I'm also not a lead-foot. Highway mileage has slipped by 2 mpg whilst my highway driving habits haven't changed. The payback on the Hybrid will take longer than the 7 years I initially calculated. On the plus side, I added rain deflectors around the windows, and while they add to the wind noise at higher driving speeds, they do allow you to drive with all four windows cracked while keeping the rain out of the car. I enjoy boulevard cruising with all the windows and the sun-roof wide open. It's a slightly nicer "top down" experience than that of my convertible - there being no wind coming at your head from behind. If you have a convertible, you'll know what I'm talking about. My wife doesn't get her hair-do ruffled in the Highlander - not so for my roadster. Forget third row seating, but cargo room and storage are outstanding. I've taken the car on long road trips - 1500 & 3000 miles. By and large, the car is comfortable. Adaptive cruise control is a must have for such excursions. Wind noise at speed remains a minus... as do Nanny State restrictions and slow response on touch screen control. I wish there was an upgrade option for better seats - think BMW... Original Review: The Highlander is generally a very nice vehicle but it has some infuriating flaws. It handles fairly well, gets good gas mileage (thought the Hybrid premium will take years to pay for itself), is relatively comfortable over the short haul and has an audio system that handles my Apple iPod classic better than most vehicles I looked at during my search last Spring. That last item was a deal breaker with several of the cars I considered buying. The adaptive cruise control is pretty slick (when it’s not raining – see below). Now for the bad news… I ABSOLUTELY HATE HATE HATE the voice command system, the touch screen AND the Nanny State controls on the Navigation System and Phone controls. The touch screen is painfully slow and non-responsive. And while the Navigation System itself isn’t half bad, if you preprogram everything before you start rolling, using voice commands to try find a POI while driving (or do much of anything else) invariably results in a full blown case of road rage with me swearing I’m going to dump the Highlander at the first opportunity. Any salesman who touts voice command as the solution to Nanny State restrictions on the electronics while driving, should be called out as a liar. I started making a list of all the failed attempts to have the voice command system do what I ask it to do but, to be honest, given my overall dissatisfaction with the system, I’m leaning very heavily towards replacing the Toyota with something else with dial controls (Equus or BMW X5. Because the Touch Screen controls are so slow, you must take your eyes off the road longer than necessary to do some tasks. The Nanny State restrictions are beyond belief. Really? you can’t display more than a page or two of previous destinations? You can't even display your Contacts while driving? If you’re using the Blue Tooth hands free telephone, but need to key in a number to work your way through an automated attendant, you have to handle your cell phone to get to the number pad because your vehicle’s system doesn’t won't let you. Try calling your Toyota dealer from a Highlander while driving sometime for a real lesson in frustration and futility. Smaller annoyances with the Toyota are the manually operated and less than optimal steering wheel controls and steering wheel heater that fails to heat to my expectations – the wheel doesn’t warm well enough, quickly enough or cover enough steering wheel territory. For shorter outings the car is comfortable enough but for long highway stretches the cabin isn’t as quiet as it could be, the seats don’t adjust as well as I’d like (granted I came from first a BMW 7 Series and then an Equus, so, I could be a little spoiled) and the windshield wipers cancelling cruise control, when wipers are set to fast, render the Highlander less than optimal. The third row seating isn’t comfortable even for smaller kids. They have to ride with their knees pulled up to their chests and the seatbacks don’t recline at all – meaning the kids have to sit bolt upright. As a result of this shortcoming, my wife will not take the Highlander off my hands when she retires her Sienna. You cannot comfortably seat more than 4 in this car. So, another reason to find a buyer while I still have relatively low miles on it. Good luck,
4 out of 5 stars
Good downsize from suburban
Tracy Sword,01/29/2016
Limited Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
Good, easy hauler, could have larger openings for easier loading of large items. Bigger storage is good. Nice, comfy interior. Wish gas mileage was better, but is in range of similar vehicles. Overall very happy.


NHTSA Overall Rating

5 out of 5 stars
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
    Overall4 / 5
    Driver4 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Side Crash Rating
    Overall5 / 5
  • Side Barrier Rating
    Overall5 / 5
    Driver5 / 5
    Passenger5 / 5
  • Combined Side Barrier & Pole Ratings
    Front Seat5 / 5
    Back Seat5 / 5
  • Rollover
    Rollover4 / 5
    Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
    Risk Of Rollover16.9%
IIHS Rating
The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.
  • Side Impact Test
  • Roof Strength Test
  • Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
  • IIHS Small Overlap Front Test
    Not Tested
  • Moderate Overlap Front Test

More about the 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Used 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Overview

The Used 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is offered in the following submodels: Highlander Hybrid SUV. Available styles include Limited Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT), and Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT). The Used 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: continuously variable-speed automatic. The Used 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 2 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What's a good price on a Used 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

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Should I lease or buy a 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

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