?2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited-Platinum AWD?
Sets Benchmark for Three-Row Midsize Crossovers
Since the Toyota Highlander pioneered the midsize crossover SUV category 15 years ago, it had a head start on becoming a benchmark for the class. The third-generation model, now entering its third year, provides room for up to eight, a choice of three powertrains and four model grades, all adding up to an ideal family vehicle.
The Toyota Highlander Mid-size SUV entered its third generation with the 2014 model lineup which consisted of a new grade strategy featuring four well equipped trim levels: LE, LE Plus, XLE and Limited. LE is FWD only, while all other grades offer both front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations, and the AWD gas versions will include Dynamic Torque Control as standard fare. Each grade level provides progressively more feature content. A special Platinum Package is available for Limited and Hybrid models (the Hybrid is only available in Limited trim).
All Toyota Highlander grades feature a 3.5-liter V6 engine and new six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission that offers selectable manual sequential shifting. The LE grade is also available with a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and the Limited grade is available with a hybrid powertrain.
The 2.7-liter engine is a DOHC, 16-valve inline four-cylinder with dual VVT-I that makes 185 horsepower along with 184 pound feet of torque. The 3.5-liter DOHC, 24-valve V-6 with dual VVT-I delivers 270 horsepower and 248 pound feet of torque. All engines except the Hybrid System are coupled to a new, electronically controlled 6-speed automatic with intelligence in three variants depending on the engine and drive configuration. The Hybrid features a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with a planetary gear unit for gear reduction and power splitting; electronic all-wheel drive control system. AWD-i models are equipped with front and rear electric drive motors.. V6 models feature a sequential shift function.
The Hybrid System nets 280 horsepower (209 kW) with three permanent magnet Motor Generators ? 650V max voltage. Max output MG2=167 hp (123 kW) / 247 lb. ft torque / MG3= 68 hp (50 kW) / 103 ft.lb. torque. Sealed nickel metal hydride battery pack with 288V nominal voltage and 45 kW Max power output. The System yields an impressive EPA fuel rating of 27 mpg city/28mpg highway/28 mpg combined, best in class for a three row mid-size SUV. Towing capacity is 1,500 pounds for LE 4-cylinder models, 2,000 pounds for LE and LE Plus models, and 5,000 pounds for XLE and Limited grades.
Visually, this latest iteration Highlander presents a bolder and more dynamic exterior persona, with a lower, sleeker roofline and narrowed ?A? pillar. It has grown in length by approximately three inches while the width has increased one-half inch. Up front, the hood merges with a redesigned trapezoidal grille, wraparound headlamps and deeply chiseled and pronounced fenders, delivering a more athletic appearance. The length of the profile, from the front fenders to the rear quarter panels, boldly stands out with sculptured wheel wells at the corners, allowing for prominently protruding wheels. The cabin glass area has been lengthened with blacked out ?B? and ?C? pillars and a bright surround that adds to the Highlander?s aero-dynamicism. The rear end finishes with a newly designed height-adjustable rear lift-gate with an available one-touch power open/close and driver selectable memory height settings. The taillights and bumper display both style and strength. An integrated rear roof spoiler lip hints at performance. Acoustic-type glass is utilized for the windshield, helping to reduce noise entering the cabin. Even the panoramic moonroof design works to help reduce wind noise, even when open.
The 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid also benefits from a more premium interior design with advanced technological features, offering increased spaciousness for up to eight people, with an extensive array of standard comfort, convenience and technology features and equipment. Premium materials are utilized delivering an upscale ambience, with most models featuring standard contrast seat stitching. All Highlanders come equipped with a soft-touch instrument panel; and silver-painted, satin, and chrome-plated accents thoughtfully placed throughout the interior.
Premium fabrics, available smooth and perforated leather trim seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add to Highlander?s upscale interior. The adoption of a high quality knit roof lining and available second-row sunshades also contribute to Highlander?s refinement and comfort.
A roll-top center console provides a comfortable armrest, or when fully opened is large enough to hold a large handbag. All Highlanders will feature a newly designed LCD in-meter-cluster Multi-Information Display available in 3.5-inch black & white or 4.2-inch color display. Available ambient lighting around the front dash makes for a relaxing environment.
The second row offers bench seating for three passengers or two captain?s seats that feature a collapsible side tray with cup holders for added convenience. Entry into the third-row is made easier with the addition of a one-step second-row sliding seat function on both driver and passenger sides that provides nearly three more inches of space for easier third-row ingress and egress. An overall interior width increase of 3.7 inches in the third-row and a standard recline function enhance comfort for up to three passengers. Like the second-row bench, the third-row will be 60/40 split for added passenger and storage flexibility and convenience. Rear cargo space behind the third-row has been increased by 34 percent for added storage capability.
My 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited-Platinum AWD tester came with a base sticker of $47,870 and a final total of $51,385 after factoring in options plus the Delivery processing and Handling fee. The exterior wore a coat of Nautical Blue metallic, while the interior was executed in Ivory and Charcoal tones.
SUMMARY: The 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid represents a considerable improved over its predecessors, especially in the visual appeal department, with the Limited AWD and the Hybrid Platinum Package getting top billing. It benefits from sleeker, yet bolder styling, along with enhanced interior appointments. Basically, everything about it is improved from comfort levels to performance and operating efficiency. The Highlander Hybrid is highly efficient and the Hybrid Synergy Drive system operates seamlessly.
It is truly accommodating for the entire family with seating capability for up to eight, with gear. Rear seat entertainment is available to keep kids and grandkids busy during travel, and an in-dash shelf with a pass through to USB and 12V plug-ins allows for easy cable management. The center console will hold a large woman?s purse or 58 juice boxes. Second and third row air vents are provided with available three-zone climate control. Limited models come with heated and ventilated front seats, with an available heated steering wheel and heated second row seats. A panoramic moonroof is also available.
The Highlander comes with a Backup Camera and Toyota?s next generation Entune audio systems. Limited models offer advanced safety technologies such as Blind Spot Monitoring with Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Parking Assist Sonar, and an available Driver Technology Package includes a Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Automatic High Beam Headlights and Safety Connect.
Most of all, this latest iteration Highlander handles spirited driving maneuvers deftly. Okay, it?s not a sports car, but it is stable on the road, handles with an agile, on-center steering feel, and it delivers a most comfortable ride quality. In terms of its performance capability, with a full complement of 8 occupants, on a steep uphill grade, the 3.5-liter V6 is obviously trumps the four banger.
Considering the wide grade range in terms of equipment and feature content, the 2016 Toyota Highlander presents itself as an ideal mid-size, three-row SUV. providing several choices for a variety of consumers. It comes with a choice of attractive exterior colors and a basic limited warranty coverage: a 3-year/36,000-mile Comprehensive, a 5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain, a 5-year/unlimited-mileage Corrosion Perforation, and an 8-year/100,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage. The Highlander also comes standard with Toyota Care, a complimentary plan covering normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first.
The 2014 model year marked the first year that all Highlanders were assembled at the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana in Princeton, Indiana and exported to 12 other nations. Look for even more enhancements in styling and features for the 2017 model Highlander lineup.
2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum V6 AWD
Base Price: $47,870
Price as Tested: $51,385.
Horsepower (bhp): 231 @ 5,800 rpm
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 215 @ 4,800 rpm
Engine Type and size: 3.5-liter DOHC, 24-valve V-6 with dual VVT-I and
electronic fuel injection. Hybrid System net 280 horsepower (209 kW) with three permanent magnet Motor Generators ? MG1-650V max voltage. Max output MG2=167 hp (123 kW) / 247 lb. ft torque / MG3= 68 hp (50 kW) / 103 ft.lb. torque. Sealed nickel metal hydride battery pack with 288V nominal voltage and 45 kW Max power output.
Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) with planetary gear unit for gear reduction and power splitting; electronic all-wheel drive control system.
Drive Train: Transversely mounted front engine / AWD with front and rear drive electric motors.
Suspension: Front – Independent MacPherson Strut retuned coil springs and low-friction material in shock absorbers
Rear – Double-Wishbone with front and rear stabilizer bars and relocated coil springs and shock absorbers.
Brakes: Power-assisted, electronically controlled four-wheel discs (vented front) with ABS, EBD and VDIM.
Tires: Bridgestone Dueler H/L 245/55 R19 mounted on 5- sculpted geo spoke- alloy wheels.
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
Length Overall: 191.1 inches
Width: 75.8 inches
Height: 68.1 inches w/o shark fin antenna / 70.1 with.
Curb Weight: 4,861 lbs.
Turning Circle: 38.7 ft.
Approach Angle: 18 degrees
Departure Angle: 24 degrees
Ground Clearance: 8.0 inches
Fuel Capacity: 17.2 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 27 mpg city / 28 mpg highway
Drag Coefficient: 0.34
0 – 60 mph: Not tested.
Arv Voss is a Northern California based freelance motoring Journalist and member and past officer of several noted Automotive Journalist organizations who contributes regularly to a number of national and international media outlets. He reviews not only cars, trucks and SUVs, but motorcycles and unusual wheeled vehicles as well.