2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Review
From good to slightly more good.No Comments
It's a damn great crossover, and it embodies the Toyota experience in a wholly positive way.
For 2014, the Toyota Highlander went under the knife and came out prettier, larger, and - on the whole - better. That's not a bad way to start off 2015. Of course, being the year directly after a major redesign such as this, the Highlander comes rolling into 2015 totally, completely unchanged. But your author thinks of that as a good thing; if the car is just that good after only one year, and it's meeting every expectation laid out before it, then it's okay to let the engineers take a little vacation.
It's still a great crossover, and it embodies the Toyota experience in a wholly positive way.
Gone are the frustrating gauge tunnels, and in its place is a flat design with a prominent center screen. Just to the right, that second display atop the dashboard is now completely gone, and in its place is a single-screen arrangement that cuts down on physical switchgear without frustrating the owner. The HVAC controls now feature a digital readout, too. On the whole, both the aesthetics and the materials inside the Highlander Hybrid make the car feel far more premium than before. There's even a nice little shelf that runs from the center stack all the way to the end of the dashboard on the passenger side.
The Highlander's back two rows have been fixed up, as well. Our tester featured second-row captain's chairs (standard equipment on Limited and up), which we found comfortable and easy to articulate. There's also a much-improved method of accessing the rear seats, which made the third row feel as if it is no longer available to just gymnasts and contortionists. The third row's folding has also changed from 50/50 to 60/40, which is good if you absolutely need to maximize both cargo and human space.
The smoothness with which this vehicle drives is not relegated to the hybrid system alone. Nay, it's a bit like driving a library. Toyota knows what it's doing when it comes to outside-noise mitigation, and its best engineers clearly went to work on the Highlander Hybrid (after finishing up every Lexus vehicle there is). The suspension is equally well tuned, preventing a great deal of shudder and shimmy from making its way to the driver and passenger.
In short, the Highlander Hybrid is most definitely an appliance, but it's a good one. It's like one of those refrigerators you see at Sears that dispenses sparkling water and has a damn television screen on the front. It's a fancy appliance, looking and feeling as premium as its price suggests, if not more so. It might be a bit much if you never have more than 5 people inside it, but as far as flexibility and usability are concerned, the Highlander is well suited to work with families of all shapes and sizes.
Transmission: Continuously variable
Drivetrain Layout: Front-engine, all-wheel drive
Power Output: 280 horsepower (net)
Fuel Economy (mpg): 27 city / 28 highway
Base Price: $47,500
As Tested: $51,820 (incl. $885 destination)
Driver Technology Package: Forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, automatic high beams
Individual Options: Rear-seat Blu-ray entertainment system with nine-inch display, remote, and headphones.