2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

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Edmunds' Expert Review

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

The 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a family-friendly three-row crossover that gets an unbeatable 28 mpg in mixed driving, but the up-front price might be a bit tough to swallow.

Vehicle overview

It's a simple law of physics, at least in the era of steel and aluminum: The bigger and heavier the car, the worse the gas mileage. This basic principle isn't going to change any time soon, but there are ways to reduce the effects of weight on the mileage equation. That's where the 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes in.

For families that don't need a V8 toy-hauling behemoth or can't bring themselves to own a minivan, the Highlander Hybrid represents the current apex of three-row crossover size, utility and fuel efficiency. It offers a spacious, comfortable and quiet cabin, seating for seven and high-quality materials and finish. The hybrid gas-electric V6 engine delivers quick acceleration when called upon, smooth and quiet cruising, and at 28 mpg combined, unsurpassed fuel economy. By comparison, gasoline-only V6 Highlanders are rated at 20 mpg combined.

It may look like a standard Highlander, but the Highlander Hybrid delivers considerably better mileage in day-to-day driving.

So why isn't every family driving one? Because starting at almost $50,000, the Highlander Hybrid is a fairly rich taste for such a blue-collar brand. The Hybrid comes in just two top trim levels, Limited and Limited Platinum. Those trim levels are certainly well-equipped with leather upholstery, navigation, smartphone integration and a premium sound system, but even compared to the gas-only Highlander versions, they'll cost you a premium of several thousand dollars when new. The Hybrid rivals many luxury brands for the price.

Still, those who can stomach the cost will find the Highlander Hybrid worth it, which is essentially what we concluded in our Edmunds "A" rating of this Toyota. You'd have to stretch to the Infiniti QX60 Hybrid to find a crossover of equal size with a bit more refinement, luxury trimming and similar price, but slightly less fuel-efficient (26 mpg combined) and much less powerful (250 horsepower compared to the Highlander Hybrid's 280 hp).

If seven-passenger seating isn't a requirement, buyers can consider the more luxury-focused Audi Q5 Hybrid or Lexus RX 450h. There's no doubt, though, that the 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers the best combination of fuel efficiency, power, comfort and interior space in its class.

2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid models

The 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a three-row midsize crossover offered in Limited and Limited Platinum trims. Seven-passenger seating is standard, with two captain's chairs in the second row and a 60/40-split bench in the third row. The gas-only Highlander is reviewed separately.

Standard features include 19-inch alloy wheels, a sunroof, roof rails, 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 leather-wrapped 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.

There are only two trims levels of the Highlander Hybrid, so expect to pay well north of $40,000 to get your hands on one.

Electronics 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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2016 Highlights

For 2016, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid carries over unchanged.

Performance & mpg

The 2016 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 hp. All-wheel drive is standard, as is a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Under normal conditions, the hybrid is driven by its front wheels. But if a wheel begins to slip or the driver demands serious acceleration, the rear axle's electric motor kicks in for full traction and power.

The "Eco" gauge on the left is one of the few hints that this vehicle uses a gas-electric drivetrain.

In Edmunds testing, a Highlander Hybrid accelerated from zero to 60 mph in just 7.9 seconds. That's quick for a crossover of this size, let alone a hybrid version. Fuel economy is an EPA-rated 28 mpg in combined driving (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 2016 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).

In Edmunds 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 still easy to drive every day. The 280-hp hybrid system offers quick acceleration in city traffic and the V6/CVT combination gives it some real pep from a standstill. 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 Highlander Hybrid is around 350 pounds heavier than a comparable gas-only model. Nonetheless, the hybrid confidently handles the road within its predictably modest limits. The steering has a firm, reassuring feel as well, but can be a bit heavy during slow-speed maneuvers.

Of course, most people will use the 2016 Highlander Hybrid primarily for 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.


Some hybrid vehicles have unique interior flourishes setting them apart from their non-hybrid counterparts. But aside from the usual smattering of hybrid-specific gauges and information screens, the 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is basically a Highlander Limited with a different powertrain.

While this may disappoint 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.

The interior is nicely trimmed and designed for maximum practicality.

Toyota has baked a number of handy storage features into the 2016 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 items. 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. A 120-volt power outlet and a 12-volt power source in the second row also offer flexible options for charging devices and gadgets.

The Hybrid only comes in Limited trim, so it doesn't offer three-passenger seating in the second row like non-hybrid Highlanders, only dual captain's chairs. The chairs are quite pleasant however, and slide far forward to offer good access to the third row. Adults will still find the third row cramped relative to other competitors, but kids will do just fine, and the three-across seating bolsters the Highlander's credentials as a minivan substitute.

Behind that third row are nearly 14 cubic feet of cargo-carrying capacity, which when the rear seats are lowered maxes out at 83.2 cubic feet, an average figure for this class of vehicle. The available height-adjustable power liftgate with memory height settings is also a boon in garages with low ceilings.

There's plenty of available cargo space if you don't need to carry any passengers.

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the Used 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

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Most helpful consumer reviews

4 out of 5 stars
I am looking forward to years of enjoying driving
mike chinnock,07/07/2016
Limited Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
You can read all the expert reviews, and I pretty much find no fault with most of what is said. To get the most out of the hybrid I think requires learning a different way of driving. I drive down the interstate at 55 mph and I am getting 40 mpg on the straight and level, 30 mpg on the gradual road elevation increase and 325+ mpg as the road elevation decreases. On acceleration I see 6 mpg, on deceleration I see 9999 mpg. The Highlander has normal, ECO and EV modes, with specific conditions under which they function best. I am still learning to use these modes to get the best mpg I can. I pretty much think I can expect 27 mpg combined with 1/3rd highway & 2/3rds city driving if I drive this hybrid the way it is ment to be driven ... no rapid starts (Use EV mode), long gradual slow downs to stop (gotta drive well ahead of the traffic) in ECO mode, and cruise the interstate 55-65 mph.Your mileage may vary, and will based upon your driving habits. This is no 'Magic cure' for poor gas mileage. However I must say I am am really pleased that this big, good looking and comfortable beast can achieve such respectable gas mileage. It does take effort though. Update: I have been driving this Highlander Hybrid 6 weeks now. I still find it a very comfortable and pleasant vehicle to drive. I bought the right vehicle for me. I have learned that unlike most hybrids, and my previous hybrid (2009 Ford Escape) I do not get better gasoline mileage in city driving where I am constantly slowing to a stop, then accelerating to operating speed, then repeating often. During these cycles I am seein 6 ... 9 .. 14 ...19 ... mpg fuel economy. It is with the steady 60 mph highway speed that yield the 30+ mpg fuel economy returns. I have noted that the more highway verse city miles I drive the better my combined fuel economy. I have also concluded I need to be very gentle with the accelerator pedal. If you like to start quick, zoom to the next red light, come to a quick stop and await the green light just to zoom to the next light, I do not think this is the vehicle for you. UPDATE 1/23/2019 I liked the 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid so much I traded it in for the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. I considered the new dynamic cruise controls and multiple camera views to be 'the frosting on the cake', and very beneficial to this disabled veteran when driving. I still have the 2017 Toyota Highlander. I have 18,000 miles on it now, and still average 22-24 mpg Summer and Winter, and 24-26 mpg Spring and Fall. There are times when most, or all the tank full was freeway cruise mileage and I get 28-30 mpg. The comfort is still there, the technology still satisfies me, and I have had no problems with any aspect of this vehicle.
4 out of 5 stars
Traded up using my 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid
Limited Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
I really liked the Ford and was disappointed they did not continue the hybrid line. The Highlander is bigger, which I find more comfortable. It is higher off the ground which gives me better visibility. Since it is bigger and heavier, it does not get the fuel economy I got with the Ford. With the Ford I could rely upon 32 mpg in the Spring and Fall, and 29 mpg in the Winter and Summer. Thus far I am getting a solid 27-28 mpg (Spring/Summer) with the Highlander on mixe city/highway driving without air-conditioning, or heating. Is 4-5 mpg less in order to have twice the cargo capacity worth it ? I think it is, There is so much more to learn and understand about the Highlander Hybride over the Escape Hybrid. The Owners manual is at least 3 times as thick. I like how quiet the Highlander is compared to the Escape (6 cylinder vs 4 cylinder engine might have something to do with that). I like the visibility of the Highlander over the Escape (the 19" wheels on the Highlander vs the 16" wheels on the Escape might account for that). I have a service dog that goes where I go. When my girl friend and her dog and me with my dog need to go someplace the Highlander will earn its price, for the Highlander is after all a 'Family oriented vehicle'. One I think hard to beat. A big point in many professional writeups is the low (relative) price of gasoline does not justify the $6,000 cost increase in the hybrid. I bought the Escape when gasoline went up to $4 a gallon. I expect one day it will be back there. In the mean time I like the lower emissions put out by the hybrid ... just my version of being a 'Tree hugger'. 6 month update: I still give this Toyota Highlander Hybrid an A+ rating, but then I am a very conservative driver. Unfortunately the fuel economy is not there when doing lots of city driving, with stop and go being the normal. Under these conditions 22 mpg I consider amazing for this hybrid. On the all highway cruise at 60-65 mph I get a typical 33-34 mpg. The average usually is running about 25 mpg. I do not complain about this and think it pretty good for a 5,000 pound vehicle, though 27-28 mpg would be better. It seems to definitely depend upon how I drive the Highlander. I do not know what mpg I would get from a non-hybrid Highlander, but I suspect it would be less than the EPA rating and less than I am getting with the hybrid version. I am happy with my choice even though it might never pay for itself. The vehicle still is a quiet, comfortable ride. I have no complaints about any feature of the vehicle. It has plenty of room for my needs and I find it not short on acceleration when needed. I have no regrets in this purchase, except maybe with the dealership chosen. I drove the 2016 Highlander Hybrid for a year. My opinion is it is quiet and comfortable. I got what I consider very good fuel economy for a 5,000 pound vehicle. I was never at a loss for cargo space and I have a large service dog that always goes with me. The only negative I had was the result of my being a disabled veteran, blind in one eye. While the back up camera was great tool, the front and sides were the weak spot. I did not like taking my power mobility due the that problem. I solved the problem by trading in the 2016 Highlander Hybrid Planium for a 2017 Highlander Hybrid Platinum. The added cameras were the major reason. This was an impulse purchase based upon my being at the dealership for servicing. As I said I am sold on the Toyota Highlander, then I am a very conservative driver. The camera additions were a great hook, and have turned out every bit as wonderful for my ease, and safe operation of my vehicle and have no regrets for the change to the 2017 Highlander. The improved horsepower and fuel economy seemed like frosting on the cake, and I wait to have that show up as a positive. Those two features certainly are not diminished, but I have yet to notice any noticable improvement. I like that the engine shuts off at traffic stops and conserves fuel (less emissions ... I am still a tree hugger). I age with most professional reviews with gasoline at $3 or below the hybrid will take a long time to break even with, but if you choose to do your best with the environment and still drive a gasoline engine vehicle it does not matter the pay back time. Bottom line, I think the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a terrific vehicle if you are concerned about the environment, need a family vehicle with cargo space, like a quiet comfortable ride, and are not in the habit of driving 75, or more mph, jack rabbit starts to race to the next light and quick stop, just to repeat (fuel economy and starting up really suck for me, it is the cruising on the highway where the fuel economy shines (I can get 35-45 mpg at those times)). This is still the best vehicle for my driving needs. UPDATE: I sold the 2016 Highlander Hybrid at the one year point, and bought the 2017 Highlander Hybrid. The Highlander Hybrid I find an A+. quite and comfortable ride.
3 out of 5 stars
Overpriced & Misleading
Limited Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
This car would be a great value below $40k, but when priced at or above $50k, get something else. Many of the premium features are misleading and the car does not get the reported gas mileage in city/stop go driving. For example, the heated steering wheel should say partially heated steering wheel. The premium audio system is not very good. It's a big vehicle and the camera views and parking sensors are subpar, nothing helping you in the front of the vehicle. The paint also shows scuffs very easy. I don't recall anything ever even touching the vehicle, however the black trim around the wheelwells and the bumper are very prone to marks. The bluetooth audio system never pairs with my iphone. If you don't factor in the price of the car, any of these things would be overlooked. It's a comfortable car with reasonable features, but I find myself asking why didn't I buy an MDX, the Volvo XC90. I also feel the Explorer Limited/Platimum or the Honda Pilot are more bang for the buck. City gas mileage wouldn't be that much different in the items mentioned above either.
5 out of 5 stars
My 2nd Highlander Hybrid
Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl gas/electric hybrid CVT)
I traded a 2008 Highlander Hybrid with 200K miles on this vehicle. We never had a single repair that was not routine maintenance. I hope this new one is as reliable. The 2016 doesn't seem all that different from the 2008; it is a little quieter and more solid feeling. They get about the same gas mileage. There have been some improvements in the features (e.g. one button memory for adjustments to seat and mirror positions). They seat the same number of people, just switched the three seater from the second to the 3rd row. That third row is tight for anyone but kids. Update: We've had this vehicle for a year now, and I would rate it exactly the same. Another new feature that we have grown to appreciate is blindspot detection. It's really nice to have the extra assurance that it's safe to change lanes or back out of a parking space. We've also had a chance to drive it in snow and it handles very well, with good traction. Update: We've now had this vehicle for over 30,000 miles. I would still rate it the same. However, I've got a minor beef with Toyota. The vehicle requires maintenance every 5,000 miles, and the company agreed to pay for service for the first 25,000. What they didn't say is that they only pay for oil changes at 10,000 mile intervals even though the maintenance manual calls for it every 5,000. Also, the dealers like to hit you for extras like tire balance and alignments (which they claim it needs every 15,000 miles). It's a little galling that they nickel and dime the customer after claiming to pay for ALL service up to 25,000 miles. I'm not going to take it back to a dealer again unless I have no choice.


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 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Used 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Overview

The Used 2016 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 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: continuously variable-speed automatic. The Used 2016 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 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

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Should I lease or buy a 2016 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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