Toyota’s New Highlander Hybrid

The Highlander Hybrid has long been a family favorite. Now it’s even better with a new, very stylish design based on an all-new platform with more tech than before, and an updated hybrid drivetrain now offering front- or all-wheel drive.

The Toyota Highlander family-size, three row SUV is a new, fourth generation model based on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA-K). It’s available in both gasoline and hybrid versions. The highly-efficient hybrid edition is available in front- or all-wheel-drive and in LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum trim levels.

Highlander Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder DOHC engine and a pair of electric motors to deliver a total system output of 240 horsepower. The rear-mounted electric motor distributes torque to the rear wheels when slip is detected, while the all-wheel version uses this same motor to drive the rear axle. Normal, Sport, and Eco drive modes can be selected.

A sequential shifting switch controls regenerative braking to allow ‘downshifting’ in steps to maximize regen efficiency. Information from the navigation system anticipate traffic conditions ahead, enabling the Highlander Hybrid to coast longer distances when the driver’s foot is off the throttle.

New computer integration and a smaller, lighter power stack installed directly above the transaxle reduces energy transmission losses. The battery pack is installed under the rear seats without compromising cargo or passenger space. Highlander Hybrid’s Predictive Efficient Drive system analyzes a driver’s habits, routes, and road conditions, then uses this data to charge and discharge the battery most efficiently.

Toyota expects the Highlander Hybrid to deliver a combined EPA fuel efficiency rating in the mid-30s, a significant efficiency bump up from the 29 combined mpg rating for the previous generation’s AWD version.

The Highlander Hybrid’s standard Safety Sense 2.0 suite of active safety systems includes adaptive cruise control, lane-departure alert with steering assist, automatic high-beams, and pre-collision with pedestrian detection. Two new features are lane-tracing assist and road sign assist.  Lane-tracing assist recognizes lane strips to keep the SUV centered in its lane, while road sign assist recognizes road signs and notifies the driver to pay attention via visual or audible alerts. Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automated parking with brake assistance are available depending on the trim level.

All trim levels get Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa, along with Waze, Wi-Fi, and Sirius XM. Infotainment is controlled on a standard 8.0-inch touchscreen, while the Platinum trim has a 12.3-inch screen. Starting price for the Highlander Hybrid is just over $38,000.