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2017 Toyota Highlander LE Hybrid AWD Review By John Heilig

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2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE V6 AWD

By John Heilig
Bureau Chief
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEWED MODEL: 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE V6 AWD

ENGINE: 3.6-liter V6
WHEELBASE: 109.8 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 192.5 x 75.8 x 68.1 in.
TIRES: P245/60R18
CARGO CAPACITY: 13.6/42.0/83.2 cu. ft. (behind 3rd/2nd/1st row)
ECONOMY: 30 mpg city/28 mpg highway/27.2 mpg test
FUEL TANK: 17.2 gal.
CURB WEIGHT: 4,825 lbs  #/HP: 15.8
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Acura MDX, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Explorer
STICKER: $37,479 (includes $960 delivery, $249 options (floor and cargo mats)) 

BOTTOM LINE: The new Toyota Highlander Hybrid delivers exceptionally quiet operation, with minimal tire noise and good economy.

My first introduction to the new 2017 Toyota Highlander (2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE V6 AWD) was at the vehicle’s media introduction in December. Despite considerable begging, I wasn’t able to drive the Highlander on an extended test until late August. The wait was worth it.

Physically, the big change to the Highlander is third row seating. While the third row does offer adequate seating and legroom for teenagers, adults might find it a bit tight. Lower those third row seat backs, however (it’s a matter of pulling two straps) and a ginormous amount of cargo capacity appears. 

Lower the second row seats (more of a chore), and you can carry a small sofa home from Costco (we did). Our tester had optional all weather floor and cargo liners that made the cargo area more useful and reduced any nervousness from potential spilling. The cargo area is more than capable enough to carry four sets of golf clubs plus shoe bags, etc. with the second row seats up. With all seats up, though, cargo capacity is limited.

Highlander’s quiet operation is almost eerie. Yes, our tester was a hybrid, but we felt as if it was in full electric mode all the time. Yet there is no lack of power. Total combined horsepower with the gasoline and electric motors is 306. Punch the accelerator and the Highlander gets up and goes. You get some engine noise on acceleration, but the Highlander returns to quiet mode once the desired speed is reached. 

Handling is very good. At the car’s media introduction we had an opportunity to drive it in the mountains around Ojai, California. The Highlander handled the tight mountain curves and mountainous terrain with aplomb. 

Ride quality is very good. Although classified as a standard SUV, there is no truckiness to the ride, as there is in some of the truck-based competition. We carried a full complement of passengers with no complaints. 

In fact, the only serious complaint with the Highlander is with the Electronic Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT). It whines on deceleration and is very annoying. Put some good music on the audio system and the whining (in all cases) disappears. 

Front seats are comfortable with minimal side support. Our tester had manual seats, but we had no problems adjusting them for comfort. A large 24.5-liter console/arm rest with a clamshell opening separates the front seats. 

Highlander has a nicely designed, swoop dash. I liked the tray running along the bottom of the dash. It is ideal for holding a phone or sunglasses, or other small objects that you want to keep close at hand. Front passengers have two cup holders that can hold normal or super size cups. 

Second row seats slide back and forth creating excellent leg room. They even recline a bit. The second row seat is a bench, and a flat floor would make it easier for a center passenger. In addition, rear passengers have their own HVAC controls and outlets. There is excellent visibility all around. I have a friend who has a wheelchair-bound son. He was interested in the Highlander because of the third row that would allow him to stow the chair while his son rides in the second, or first row. He eventually bought one and is pleased with the vehicle since it meets all his needs.

Highlander is equipped with Toyota’s safety suite of accessories that includes a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering assist (the wheel vibrates when you go off-lane), Automatic High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. Our tester could have used a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic alerts. It does have warnings that alert you when you get too close to objects.

Overall, the redesigned Toyota Highlander offers a quite, comfortable ride with a substantial amount cargo capacity.

(c) 2017 The Auto Page Syndicate 

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