Test Drive Notes Library
- Nice place to be. The Highlander is comfortable and well set-up. The ride tilts towards comfort, and the surroundings back that up. Interior materials in our Limited Platinum AWD trim are stitched and padded in a nice caramel colored leather. Other than some engine noise, it’s very quiet inside, unless you crank the 11-speaker JBL system, undoubtedly installed to drown out the kids. Front and second row seats (captain’s chairs) are leather covered, heated, supportive, and roomy.
- Comfortable. Bumps are well absorbed and the ride is undisturbed. While Toyota has made the exterior a little more truck-like, in order to appeal to minivan-averse suburbanites, the ride remains well grounded in car-dom.
- Huge screen. We remember when minivans were battling for the hearts and minds of American families, and what seemed to matter more to buyers than anything else was the number of cupholders. It got to where one manufacturer had an offering with something like 3.4 available cupholders per passenger. Well, now screen real-estate and USB power ports are what people want, and the Highlander delivers with an enormous looking 12.3 inch monster that’d be at home in Best Buy’s TV department, plus USB outlets everywhere. We only wish the infotainment software was as impressive.
- Mileage. We got 29.5 miles per gallon in mixed driving. The EPA claims you can see 35, but even something close to 30 in a nearly full-sized SUV is impressive. Toyota has been producing hybrid systems for longer than anyone else, and the Highlander’s works flawlessly. There’s a bit of thrum from the four-cylinder, 2.5 liter engine on acceleration, but that’s the only time you notice it. 243 hp total.
- All the safety. As a vehicle marketed to families, you would expect the Highlander to come standard with a full suite of modern safety tech, and it does.
- Turning circle. This is one of those seemingly minor things that makes a vehicle easier to live with. The turning circle is that of a much smaller vehicle. That makes the sizable Highlander easier to maneuver in supermarket parking lots, driveways, and anywhere else you need to turn it or park it.
- Video rear view. We love the video rear view mirror. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing headrests, headliner, snotty noses, and the bezel around the rear window with a little bit of actual traffic behind you, the video feed that’s displayed on the traditional rear view mirror/screen shows an unimpeded feed from a camera built into the tailgate. It’s bright, clear, colorful, and provides a perfect view of whatever is behind you. The only downside we noticed is that when we tried to check the rearview to see if there was any spinach in our teeth, the only grill we saw was that of the BMW behind us.
- The Toyota factor. Typically, Toyotas deliver excellent reliability and good resale value. They also seem to be priced fairly. Our Limited Platinum AWD Highlander Hybrid rang out at just over $52,500. Not cheap, but you get a lot of luxury SUV for that. It feels reasonably priced for all you get. And by the way, the hybrid battery comes with a 10 year/150,000 mile warranty.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Gets worse as you move towards the back. There’s a class system in the Highlander Hybrid, where the accommodations decline as you move towards the rear. If you’re using the third row of seats, you’ll find the syllable “oof” coming out of your mouth. And if you fold down the third bench to load cargo, you’ll notice a high load floor and limited capacity compared to the non-hybrid version (or a minivan). It has a high load floor.
- Infotainment software. Toyota simply hasn’t figured this out yet, which surprises us. The software that runs the screen information is confusing and slightly outdated-looking. We constantly fought with it to get the information we wanted to be displayed. Fortunately, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are built in, so plan to plug in your phone as quickly as you can, and skip the Toyota system.
- A reach. While the hard controls are well designed and easy to use, the one exception is the “tuning” button for the entertainment system, which feels like it’s in another county. Chalk it up to the extra wide screen. Fortunately, it’s not a control you’ll need to use much.
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