Modern Motoring: 6 takeaways from the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid


New for 2017 is a 3.5 litre six-cylinder engine mated to Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive system, producing a combined 306 horsepower, which is plenty for this three-row crossover. 
There is ample “get up and go” beneath the hood, although most of my week was spent driving with one or zero passengers. Add on a few kids, sports gear and perhaps a boat/trailer and there’ll be a difference in acceleration. Keep in mind that if you’re looking at a hybrid that’s not a Tesla, your focus should be on the green factor and functionality opposed to raw power.

Fuel Economy

Toyota rates the Highlander Hybrid for L/100km at 8.1 city and 8.5 highway (odd that city driving gets better figures) and during my week, which included a trip up to Creemore, I averaged 12.4.  And that was with me putting my lead foot away for the week. 
I attribute this to it being a cold test week, so my heated seat was often on and the heater was always on, so the more pull from the battery results in higher consumption.
My real world figures weren’t bad but they certainly were a far cry from Toyota’s figures.

Trim levels

There’s only two to pick from here (thankfully) and here they are:

The XLE starts at $49,985 and sees 6 speakers, seating for 8 (2 + 3 + 3) heated front seats, a backup camera, navigation and many other goodies.

The top end Limited trim gives you 12 speakers, heated and cooled front seats, seating for 7 (2 + 2 + 3) surround view cameras, front and rear sonar park assist, lane departure alert, 19” wheels, puddle lamps and a few other cool options. 
For $55,990 ($6,005 more than the XLE) it’s worth the cost for all the extras you get.

Both trims give you an 8” infotainment screen, a 4.2” dashboard display screen,  Toyota’s  Safety Sense suite of safety features and many other standard features on a mid-sized SUV.
There’s a refreshed look for 2017 that includes a new front grille design and LED headlights with LED daytime running lights.  The Highlander keeps to its modest design and unlike the new Prius, is conservatively good looking. In the coming years, perhaps there’ll be some envelope pushing with the design but until then, I find it to be good looking just the way it is.


The centre console sees a two-tiered system with a smartly designed shelf beneath the infotainment screen, which is great for phones/electronics, the large infotainment system is very easy to read and operate with large dials and buttons, the higher seating position gives you a great vantage point of what’s ahead and the leather seats are quite comfortable. The centre arm rest has two sliding doors for ease of use and slopes downwards for a comfortable right-hand position and even though it’s a larger vehicle, you don’t get that “I have to haul and lift myself up” feeling getting into the car. 
Similarly to the exterior, the inside sees more function over fashion and for a people hauler, that’s exactly what the Highlander Hybrid should be.

On the road

The CVT isn’t all that bad as its inclusion into newer vehicles increases.  I don’t absolutely love it but knowing that it’s an inescapable piece of technology, I’m ok with it.  This SUV isn’t built for a driving enthusiast so its surefootedness and all-wheel-drive system (which worked very well in the snow and rain I experienced) is a definite positive. There is, however, a trim on the gasoline Highlander that comes in front-wheel-drive, which I’m thankful I didn’t have during my week.
Road noise is average and if it really bothers you, turn up the 6 or 12 speakers (depending on trim.)
Steering feel and handling are good for this class of vehicle and if you’re zipping on a straightaway, you’ll appreciate the Highlanders strong and steady drive quality more than you would if you were maneuvering through scenic Belfountain.
I can say that I didn’t have an unpleasant driving experience either in town or through the rural parts of Ontario and that the Highlander Hybrid, while a bit steep at nearly $60K, does exactly what it’s meant to do; provide a decent and comfortable ride for you and whoever else joins you.

Enjoy the full gallery below: