We reasoned — it?s a hybrid, so it should get good fuel economy and it?s a four-wheel drive, which was good in case it snowed; plus it is roomy and comfortable.
Several hundred miles later in the Highlander Hybrid we determined our reasoning was right on target, in fact the Toyota Hybrid turned out to be much better than we had ?reasoned?.
The Hybrid has some interesting other features, too.? For example, the EV mode, which is activated by a switch located on the center console, allows the driver to motor silently over a short range and at a low speeds — under 30 mph. There is also a new ECON mode which changes the throttle controls to reduce response during acceleration, thereby improving fuel economy.
The Highlander four-wheel drive system is non-traditional.? There is no driveshaft, power-transfer gearing or buttons to push.? When four-wheel drive is needed, the 4WD-i system automatically transfers power to the rear wheels, which are driven by a second electric motor. The system automatically varies the torque between the front and rear wheels to provide power to the wheels with the best traction.? The rear motor generator also charges the batteries during braking and coasting conditions.
The Hybrid comes in two trim levels, base and the Limited.? The gas version has three levels and either a four-cylinder or V-6 engine.? Our $38,300, including the destination charge, test vehicle was the base model Hybrid, but you certainly wouldn?t know it with the extensive standard equipment and the $4,329 list of options. The additions included features like 19-inch alloy wheels, a leather package (which included Bluetooth, hands-free phone controls, moonroof, alarm and HomeLink in addition to the leather seats) and a power rear liftgate.
The Highlander Limited Hybrid, priced at $43,955, includes most of the features that were optional on the base model we drove (leather, big wheels, moonroof, etc.) along with several cosmetic and convenience additions. With all the options, including navigation, the Limited Hybrid can go as high as $48,585.? Gasoline versions start at $28,350 for the four-cylinder, front-wheel drive and go as high as $37,305 for the 4WD Limited V-6.