2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

High fuel economy and family hauling versatility come together in the Highlander Hybrid.
5.0 / 5
Edmunds overall rating
author
by James Riswick
Edmunds Editor

Edmunds expert review

Are you hoping to get high fuel economy from a three-row crossover SUV? You can't do much better than the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. It gets close to 30 mpg while still providing the high levels of comfort and utility that the regular Highlander is known for. It's a bit expensive, but worth it.

Much like the regular Highlander, the hybrid version boasts a just-right size that isn't too cumbersome to drive yet still manages a competitive amount of passenger and cargo space. For 2017, the Highlander Hybrid's appeal grows due to the addition of entry trim levels — last year you could only get the priciest trims. That opens it up to more people, but it's still quite pricey. When new, a basic Hybrid LE costs thousands more than the equivalent non-hybrid Highlander. Considering you'd likely save only a few hundred bucks every year on gas, that math really doesn't add up. But if you simply like the idea of cutting your carbon footprint but need a family-friendly vehicle, the Highlander Hybrid is a great way to go.



What's new for 2017

For 2017, the current-generation Toyota Highlander Hybrid receives its first significant update. Its gasoline engine is more powerful and efficient, and the exterior styling has a fresh look to it. There are also a couple of new, more affordable trim levels this year. Finally, the Toyota Safety Sense suite of accident avoidance features is now standard equipment.

We recommend

Frankly, you should only buy the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid instead of its conventionally powered sibling because of environmental concerns. It's extremely unlikely that you'll be able to pay back the Hybrid's price premium through gas savings alone. Having said that, the XLE trim level is likely where you'll want to start, as we think most people will appreciate its extra helping of equipment, including a power liftgate, power front seats, and its leather seating and steering wheel.




Trim levels & features

The 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a large three-row SUV that comes standard with eight- or seven-passenger capacities, depending on trim level. Those include LE, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum trim levels. The LE isn't exactly a stripper model, but the XLE has enough universally desired extras that you'll likely want to pay extra for them. The Limited and Limited Platinum slather on luxury content but in the process receive luxury brand-like price tags.

Every Highlander Hybrid comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine paired with three electric motors. Total system output is 306 horsepower, and all-wheel drive is standard.

Starting things off is the LE, which has 18-inch wheels, a windshield wiper de-icer, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, lane departure intervention, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, a rearview camera, tri-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, Bluetooth, a 6.1-inch touchscreen and a six-speaker sound system.

Our favorite is the XLE. You get the LE's equipment plus a sunroof, a height-adjustable power liftgate, a flip-up rear window, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert systems, heated power front seats, leather upholstery. second-row sunshades, upgraded interior materials, an 8.1-inch touchscreen, satellite and HD radio, and a navigation system.

If you want more, there's the Limited with 19-inch wheels, LED running lights, rear parking sensors, ventilated front seats, driver-seat memory functions, second-row captain's chairs and a 12-speaker JBL sound system. At the top of the range is the Limited Platinum with a panoramic sunroof, automatic wipers, front parking sensors, a 360-degree parking camera system and a heated steering wheel.

The XLE and Limited can be equipped with a rear entertainment system.



Trim tested

Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions, although trim levels share many aspects. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (3.5L V6 hybrid | CVT | AWD).  NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Highlander has received some revisions, including a new V6 engine, additional feature content and new, less expensive trim levels. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Highlander.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall5.0 / 5

Comfort

5.0 / 5

Seat comfort5.0 / 5
Ride comfort5.0 / 5
Noise & vibration5.0 / 5

Interior

4.0 / 5

Ease of use3.5 / 5
Getting in/getting out3.5 / 5
Roominess3.5 / 5
Quality5.0 / 5

Utility

3.5 / 5

Small-item storage4.0 / 5
Cargo space3.5 / 5

Driving

The Highlander Hybrid has a competent hybrid powertrain, proficient brakes and intuitive, albeit numb, steering. Additionally, good highway manners, acceptable towing capability and decent off-road credentials make it appealing.

Acceleration

The 2017 Highlander Hybrid's powerful V6 engine and electric motors, in combination, move it off the line quickly. It's not as quick as the regular Highlander, but acceleration is acceptable.

Braking

Despite a vague-feeling pedal, the Highlander provides sufficient emergency braking effectiveness and good fade resistance. In daily situations, pedal engagement can sometimes feel awkward.

Steering

The Highlander's steering is reassuring when cornering and provides straight-line stability on the highway. The steering of other, albeit non-hybrid, SUVs instill more confidence, however, and provide more engagement to the driver.

Handling

A confident and competent handler, right up to the relatively low limit set by the electronic stability system that really lets you know when you're asking too much of it. Again, others are sharper, but most drivers will find it to be acceptable.

Drivability

This is an easy SUV to drive, even if it can feel a tad large compared to certain non-hybrid competitors. As far as hybrids go, though, the brakes aren't weird, and there aren't any strange sensations that will make you feel as if you're driving a science experiment.

Off-road

There are no low-range gears, and it doesn't have a traditional all-wheel-drive system (the rear wheels are simply powered by a separate electric motor). But its 8 inches of ground clearance, hill hold and hill descent systems, and advantageous approach/departure angles are admirable.

Comfort5.0

Lexus-lite. The Highlander's seats, ride comfort and utterly silent atmosphere are nearly as good as those found in SUVs by corporate cousin Lexus.

Seat comfort5.0

Heated leather front seats (XLE and above) are as comfy as furniture and offer tons of adjustment, including extendable thigh support. The second row is firmer but slides and reclines in a wide range. The third row is merely acceptable; some other crossovers have roomier third-row seating.

Ride comfort5.0

One of the Highlander's best qualities is its ride comfort: The suspension easily absorbs bumps and ruts without feeling like a floating barge. Very few, if any, road irregularities intrude.

Noise & vibration5.0

It's one of the quietest SUVs we've ever measured. An occasional wisp of wind noise is evident on a gusty highway pass. At full throttle, the engine's drone does find its way into the cabin.

Interior4.0

This is a very competitive segment, and although the Highlander Hybrid is quite good in each of these areas, it also doesn't have a clear advantage over more recently redesigned competitors.

Ease of use3.5

Some controls, specifically those for the audio system, are located too far away. Otherwise, Toyota's typical array of controls are easy to use.

Getting in/getting out3.5

It can be difficult to reach the third row because the second row (be it the captain's chairs or bench) doesn't get out of the way enough to provide the sort of access provided by certain competitors. The doors are large, though, and the seats are of a reasonable height.

Driving position

Abundant seat adjustments, including power thigh support (a rare feature) on most trim levels. Sufficient seat and telescoping-wheel travel for taller drivers.

Roominess3.5

As in its competitors, the first and second rows provide copious room for most occupants. The third row is squishier than those in some rival models despite have three seat belts — only small kids are likely to fit three abreast back there.

Quality5.0

The quality of materials is among the class best, and during the course of our one-year long-term test of a Highlander, everything in the cabin remained nicely screwed together. Impressive.

Utility3.5

Overall cargo capacity is average for this segment, which means that most families should have abundant room. Small item storage is very good.

Small-item storage4.0

There's a unique built-in shelf on the dashboard that serves as a resting place for phones or other personal items, though it can be hard to get your hand in there. A vast amount of space is found under the sliding armrest cover — it's big enough to store a laptop or a sizable purse.

Cargo space3.5

The Highlander offers an average amount of cargo capacity for the segment regardless of how many rows are in place — nothing significantly outdoes it. Others are better behind the third row, however, specifically the Ford Explorer.

Towing

A properly equipped Highlander Hybrid Limited can tow up to 3,500 pounds, compared to 5,000 pounds for the conventional gasoline Highlander and most competitors.

Technology

The Highlander's standard suite of accident avoidance tech is a big reason to consider this family crossover, especially if you don't have the money for a range-topping model. Infotainment tech is pleasantly easy to use.

Audio & navigation

Toyota's touchscreen infotainment interfaces aren't the flashiest or feature-packed, but they are easy to use. The Highlander's upgrade 8-inch screen is notably quick to respond to inputs and features large, easily pressed icons.

Driver aids

Every Highlander comes standard with forward collision warning and automatic braking (includes pedestrian detection), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and steering assist. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional.

Edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.