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#8

in Affordable Midsize SUVs

MSRP: $47,300 - $49,790
Invoice: $43,185 - $45,459
MPG: 27 City / 28 Hwy
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Toyota Highlander Hybrid Performance

According to test drivers, the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a comfortable highway cruiser and has composed handling, with sharp steering and controlled body motions through turns. However, some test drivers find that the regenerative brakes feel a bit soft at first, which is a common criticism of these types of brakes. Reviewers say the Highlander Hybrid is peppy off the line, though some note that its CVT makes highway acceleration feel a bit sluggish. The Highlander Hybrid's fuel economy is very good for the class.

  • "If you wish to stretch those mpgs even further, opt for the Highlander Hybrid, which turns in 27 city/28 highway fuel economy. No matter which powertrain you decide on, the latest Highlander delivers a quality on-road experience, allowing some engine and road noise into the cabin, though certainly less than the previous model." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "I probably don't need to tell you that none of these drivetrains are particularly thrilling, but they certainly get the job done." -- Autoblog
  • "The Highlander Hybrid is downright Lexus-like in the way it glides over the road." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 and electric motor system that together produce 280 horsepower. All-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission (CVT) are standard. Fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 27/28 mpg city/highway, which is very good for the class.

Some reviewers report that the Highlander Hybrid is responsive from a stop, but others note that the CVT makes highway acceleration seem somewhat tepid. Critics add that the hybrid model feels less responsive than the gas-only V6 Highlander, and mention that the hybrid makes more sense for shoppers who do lots of city driving. Reviewers like that the transition between the gas engine and electric motors is hard to detect.

  • "Over in the engine room, the 280-hp hybrid system is pretty punchy, but the CVT tends to hesitate before opening the floodgates, which makes the hybrid Highlander feel less responsive than the conventional Highlander (which has an exceptionally good six-speed automatic transmission)." -- Edmunds
  • "The Hybrid powertrain is more responsive off the line, where the immediate torque of electric motors helps most. However, the CVT never shifts, creating a somewhat numb feel during acceleration. Turn the key, and the Hybrid's gas engine usually doesn't start until you get on the throttle." -- MSN Autos
  • "The transition from electric to gas power is near-seamless and undetectable. The thud you used to feel in hybrids as the gas motor took over is gone." -- Road and Track
  • "The Hybrid may have a few more horses, but there's a noticeable delay when you step on it, whereas the regular Highlander V6 downshifts immediately and leaps forward with impressive pace. Unless you do a lot of city driving, it's hard to justify the Hybrid's hefty price premium." -- AutoTrader

Handling and Braking

Test drivers report that the Highlander Hybrid has a composed ride quality, feels planted through turns and has sharp steering. Critics write that the regenerative brakes' soft pedal feel takes a while to acclimate to.

  • "… the meaty three-spoke steering wheel inspires confidence, and within its predictably modest limits, the Highlander Hybrid handles the road with uncommon crispness and confidence. We have found that the regenerative braking system produces a characteristically odd pedal feel that may take some getting used to." -- Edmunds
  • "The brake pedal had a slightly artificial feel due to the energy recovery system, but it would have been far less noticeable had I not just stepped out of a non-hybrid Highlander." -- Road and Track
  • "The steering feel is sportier than that of the previous generation and body roll has been minimized, attributes that allowed me to feel quite confident on the snaking roads that run along the cliffs near Big Sur. Any vehicle that allows the driver to take those hundred-foot-high turns at speed without breaking into a cold sweat is good in my book." -- Autoblog
  • "But the extra weight of all that hybrid stuff and the squishy regen brakes make the Hybrid Highlander feel more sluggish and clumsy than its stablemates." -- Motor Trend
Review Last Updated: 5/14/14

Next Steps: Toyota Highlander Hybrid