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2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader March 2017

The 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid seems like a perfect family vehicle. On one hand, it offers the practicality and equipment that comes with Toyota's excellent, well-rounded Highlander SUV: 3-row seating, lots of room for people and cargo and a carlike ride with convenient storage spots throughout the cabin. It's also well-made, dependable and has superior safety credentials.

But then on the other hand, the Highlander Hybrid goes one giant leap further with its excellent gas mileage. Achieving nearly 30 miles per gallon from its hybrid powertrain means it gets 5 mpg better than the regular, V6-powered Highlander. That's exceptional.

Ah, but there's one issue. That fuel economy difference equates to saving about $250 per year on gas, which is nothing to sneeze at until you consider that the Highlander Hybrid costs about $2,000 more than a comparable V6 Highlander. That's actually a modest premium compared to other hybrids, but certainly something to consider given that it could take you at least five years to make your money back on savings alone.

So, there's certainly some calculations to be done, but as a family car, the 2017 Highlander Hybrid should certainly not disappoint.

 What's New for 2017?

The current generation Toyota Highlander gets its first significant update for 2017. As we highlight in 2016 vs 2017 Toyota Highlander: What's the Difference?, Toyota's three-row crossover gets a subtle styling update, a more powerful and efficient gasoline engine and new feature content including standard accident avoidance tech and five USB ports. Perhaps most importantly, though, you can now get the Highlander Hybrid in cheaper LE and XLE trim levels that makes it more attainable for more people.

 What We Like

Standard accident avoidance tech; superior fuel economy; a just-right size in terms of interior space and exterior maneuverability; excellent reliability reputation.

 What We Don't

Will take a while to pay back hybrid price premium; third-row seat less roomy than those of rivals.

 How Much?

$36,300-$47,900

 Fuel Economy

As its name implies, this Highlander model features a hybrid powertrain consisting of a 3.5-liter V6 engine paired to a trio of electric motors. One is tasked with driving the rear wheels and thus provides standard all-wheel drive. Total system output is 306 hp. Fuel economy is rated at 29 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 28 mpg combined.

 Standard Features & Options

The 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid can be had in LE, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum trim levels.

Standard equipment on the base LE ($36,300) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, forward collision and automatic braking, lane-departure warning and intervention, adaptive cruise control, a windshield wiper de-icer, passive entry and keyless start, a backup camera, tri-zone automatic climate control, a height-adjustable driver seat, a 6.1-in Toyota Entune touchscreen, Bluetooth, five USB ports and a 6-speaker sound system.

The XLE ($41,300) gains a height-adjustable power tailgate, a flip-up rear window, a sunroof, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems, second-row sunshades, leather upholstery, heated power front seats, satellite and HD radios, a navigation system and an 8.1-in Entune touchscreen.

The Limited ($44,800) gains 19-in wheels, LED running/accent lighting, rear parking sensors, ventilated front seats, driver memory settings, second-row captain's chairs (reduces seating capacity to seven) and a 12-speaker sound system.

The Limited Platinum ($47,900) upgrades the sunroof to panoramic status plus adds front parking sensors, an upgraded 360-degree parking camera, automatic wipers and a heated steering wheel. The XLE and Limited trims can be equipped with a rear-seat entertainment system that features a 9-in display.

 Safety

No other three-row crossover can top the 2017 Highlander Hybrid's standard safety equipment. Besides the usual allotment of antilock brakes, stability control, front side airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera, it boasts a driver knee airbag, a front passenger under-cushion airbag, forward collision warning and automatic braking and lane-departure warning and keeping. The XLE trim and above includes blind-spot and rear cross-traffic warning systems.

In government crash tests, the Highlander Hybrid received a perfect 5-star overall rating, with a 5-star score in frontal- and side-impact tests and a 4-star rollover rating. In tests conducted by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Highlander received a coveted Top Safety Pick+ due to its excellent performance.

 Behind the Wheel

The 2017 Highlander Hybrid boasts a high-quality and versatile cabin that also looks pretty good. We appreciate the ample and clever storage solutions up front, including a dash-spanning shelf and a cavernous center console bin. The Highlander's technology is also worthy of praise, with simple and quick-to-respond touchscreens that are easy to use despite being a bit far away.

In back, the second-row seats slide and recline generously, while making third-row access reasonably easy. It's still pretty cramped back in row three compared to its more adult-friendly competitors, but its three-across bench means you can carry an extra kid, if necessary.

The upside to the Highlander's slightly smaller size is that it's a bit more maneuverable. Indeed, with its more manageable dimensions, tall seating position and decent sightlines, it's pretty easy to park. You should also find that the latest Highlander strikes a pretty good balance between comfort and driving response.

As for its Hybrid-ness, the revised V6 engine provides stronger acceleration than most would expect from a hybrid of any sort. Sure, the Hybrid weighs more than its gas-only sibling, but 306 hp is still 306 hp and you get the added bonus of the electric motor's buttery smooth, instantaneous torque. Like other hybrids, though, you will need to deal with some droning caused by the electronically controlled continuously variable transmission as well as a slightly odd brake pedal feel, but under normal conditions, we think you'd happily get used to them.

 Other Cars to Consider

2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid -- A minivan! Yuck! OK, give us and the Pacifica a chance as this new model is really the only other hybrid people hauler available. It'll also outdo the Highlander's interior space and fuel economy -- it's actually a plug-in hybrid that can go 33 miles on electricity alone.

2017 Honda Pilot -- OK, so it's not a hybrid, but the recently redesigned Honda Pilot is the Highlander's closest competitors in all other key areas, including interior quality, fuel economy and pricing. It has a more spacious interior, though, without sacrificing maneuverability.

2017 Mazda CX-9 -- Again, not a hybrid, but the Highlander is the only one in the segment and the CX-9 has the best fuel economy of anything without electric motors. It's also the athlete of the segment that boasts a lovely interior and ample feature content.

Used Lexus RX 450h -- If you're considering the top Highlander Hybrid trim levels and don't really need its three-row space, the RX 450h is your best hybrid SUV bet that still maintains the superior reliability that Toyota/Lexus offer. It'll cost more, so you'll probably need to consider a used model.

 Autotrader's Advice

Now that it has a full range of trim levels, the Highlander Hybrid is much easier to recommend. The base LE is actually very well equipped, but we think you'll find the XLE's extra features (leather, heated power seats, power liftgate, sunshades) to be well worth the extra cost.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: New Car Review - Autotrader