2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LTD Review


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2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

SEE ALSO: Toyota buyers Guide

THE AUTO PAGE
By JOHN HEILIG

SPECIFICATIONS

Model: 2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LTD
Engine: 3.3-liter V6
Horsepower/Torque: 209 hp @ 5,600 rpm/212 lb-ft. @ 3,600 rpm + 167 hp @ 4,500 rpm and 247 lb.-ft. @ 0-1,500 rpm for electric motor
Transmission: Electronic CVT
Wheelbase: 109.8 in.
Length/Width/Height: 188.4 x 42.3 x 69.3 in.
Tires: P245/55R19 (full-size spare)
Cargo volume: 10.3/42.3/94.1 cu. ft. (behind 3rd row/behind 2nd row/behind 1st row)
Fuel economy: 27 mpg city/25 mpg highway/21.2 mpg test
Fuel capacity: 17.2 gal.
Curb weight: 4,641 lbs.
Sticker: $46,174 (includes $800 delivery charge and $5,054 in options)

The Bottom Line: Hybrids are everywhere, but nowhere are they more practical than in small sport utility vehicles. One of the most practical is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. It offers all the utility of a small SUV with the added economy of a hybrid powertrain.

While I sometimes rail against hybrid owners who think they're making an environmental statement by owning hybrids, then driving them like idiots sucking up more gas than they would in a standard car, I do appreciate the technology. Hybrid technology is a way for manufacturers to increase their Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) numbers, and they do work - WHEN DRIVEN PROPERLY. I'm a big fan of hybrid small sport utility vehicles. I like the size of the vehicles, and combining a hybrid powertrain makes the SUV even more useful.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is such a vehicle; good size, excellent performance and good, not great economy. I'd still like to see numbers closer to 30 mpg, but that's one of my few complaints with this vehicle.

Starting the Highlander Hybrid (HH) presents the driver with the standard hybrid problem; how do you know when it's ready to roll? Well, I could have looked at the instrument panel and seen the green "ready" light, but that was too much work. Besides, the first couple of times I drove the HH, I didn't even know it was there. But then I found it and all was well.

The unusual thing about the HH is that it's silent all the time. Even when it's running under gasoline engine power, the engine is relatively silent. despite my aversion to tachometers in automatic transmission-equipped cars, it would definitely help in this case because of the silence of operation. There is some nois eunder heavy acceleration, but it's far from objectionable.

As for the size of the HH; we put two child seats and an adult in the second row. The adult had plenty of leg room because of the flat floor. There's excellent cargo capacity (42.3 cubic feet) even with the second row seats up.

Third row seats are easy to raise and lower. There's also decent third row legroom. The only problem we had was that with the third row seats in place, the rear carpet was all bunched up.

When we were driving the HH we had torrential rains, masking 4-wheel drive a nice choice. There was no loss of stability versus dry pavement. We also liked the puddle lights that come on when you hit the remote to unlock the doors.

Despite the lack of a tachometer, the instrument panel is complete. Replacing the tach is a "power use" gauge that isn't very intuitive. In the center of the dash is a "hybrid meter" that shows if you're in gasoline or electric mode, or if you're charging the battery. There's also an instant mpg meter on top of the dash.

We had a slight problem with the wipers. Where I had the front seat positioned, the wipers reflected on the bottom of the two large instrument panel gauges making you think the lights are going on and off. It's probably an anomaly caused by my particular seat position, but it's something to be aware of.

The front seats were comfortable and leather-surfaced. The interesting exterior color was not tan and not green. Toyota calls it "Cypress Pearl."

As I noted earlier, I wasn't thrilled with the economy. We drove a good mix of suburban roads and highways and would have expected a test figure in the 25 mpg range.

The HH is a very nice package overall with hybrid technology. Its essentially silent operation makes it a pleasure to drive. As with most hybrids, the HH's hybridness is transparent, meaning you're not aware of it. But is it worth the higher price?

2010 The Auto Page Syndicate

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