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#1

in 2009 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $18,443 - $23,590
Original MSRP: $34,700 - $41,020
MPG: 27 City / 25 Hwy
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2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The Highlander Hybrid's ride is geared more toward comfort than sporty driving, but that didn't bother reviewers. In fact, they said that driving the SUV is almost like driving a gasoline-powered car.

  • "The suspension is fully independent and tuned to give a quiet and supple ride that will absorb most road imperfections with ease, even when equipped with the optional 19-inch wheels." -- Car and Driver
  • "On the road, the ride is smooth and quiet. The electric power steering has above-average feel, and while the Highlander is no sports car, handling is better than you'd expect." -- Orlando Sentinel
  • "Toyota has engineered a larger, more powerful ... Highlander Hybrid. And its complex personalities understand the value of working together, each system quietly supporting the other instead of proclaiming its gas or green individuality." -- Edmunds
  • "Under acceleration, engines emit a rich, subtle purr, but the Hybrid's electric motor is annoyingly whiny." -- Consumer Guide

Acceleration and Power

The Highlander Hybrid comes with a 3.3-liter V6 engine that reviewers said is more than adequate. It's paired with an electric motor, continuously variable transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive. The EPA estimates that the 2009 Highlander Hybrid gets 27/25 mpg city/highway.

  • "Thanks to the responsive torque of the electric motor, the Highlander hybrid has brisk acceleration." -- Car and Driver
  • "The transition between electric and gas power is so seamless that it's easy to miss the handoff unless you're staring intently at the blue LED power meter and watching for the green or gas-guzzler personality to emerge." -- Edmunds
  • "When we had to give it the gas, the Highlander didn't exactly leap forward, but it did seem willing to go the distance. It would sedately accelerate, and that acceleration would carry on up whatever hill faced us. That type of performance is typical for continuously variable transmissions, which lack a hard gear where you can build up lots of revs." -- CNET
  • "The hybrid power-train in the Highlander operates more smoothly than some other examples that have been evaluated in the AutoblogGreen Garage. The automatic start-stop of the engine was smoother than either the Saturn Aura or the Nissan Altima hybrids although not as seamlessly as the Two-Mode Hybrid Chevy Tahoe." -- Autoblog Green

Handling and Braking

The Highlander Hybrid's rack-and-pinion steering and smooth ride pleased most test drivers when the vehicle was new, though there were a few minor complaints about its brake feel. That's a fairly common complaint in a hybrid, due to their regenerative brakes that capture some of the car's energy.

  • "The size and high center of gravity of the Highlander Hybrid means cornering can be a little scary. We were initially disconcerted by the amount of body roll, but found the car handled an emergency maneuver without a problem. Steering is relatively tight on the Highlander Hybrid, without a lot of play in the wheel." -- CNET
  • "One area where the Highlander was vastly superior to other recent Toyotas was the braking and slip control system. The brake pedal feel was good and braking force was easily modulated. Compared to the new Tundra pickup truck, the ABS hydraulic control unit was quieter and the feedback through the brake pedal was more subdued." -- Autoblog Green
  • "Braking is fine until the final feet when the drive train disengages and the vehicle tends to surge forward a bit." -- Boston Globe
  • "Our only major gripe with the Highlander hybrid is a slightly touchy brake pedal that results from the regenerative braking function." -- Car and Driver

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