Test Drive Reviews Toyota 

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Test Drive Review

There are plenty of mid-size crossovers out there and a growing number offer high levels of luxury, but the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum is a unique offering among the bunch by cramming the attributes of a Lexus, a Toyota Prius and a Toyota Sienna all into a family-sized crossover. The 2017 model year brings a host of improvements to the entire Highlander lineup, and the updated Highlander Hybrid now becomes an even better option for mainstream crossover buyers with a new engine that delivers an increase in both power and efficiency.

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Exterior:
Like the non-Hybrid model, the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets a refreshed exterior with key styling highlights focused on the front fascia, grille, rear fascia and taillights. The current body style was introduced in 2014, and the front end has proven to be a polarizing element on the third-gen Highlander. Up front, the almost Lexus-like grille is massive and a bit over the top, but it also shows some of the crossover’s more detailed touches such as the chrome bars carrying over from the grille into the headlights. Another cool touch on this Limited Platinum tester was the puddle light under each mirror that projected “HIGHLANDER” onto to ground at night similar to many high-end luxury cars, and speaking of lighting, this trim level also gets upgraded projector beam headlights with a tinted look and LED daytime running light strips. This trim level also gets 19-inch Chrometec black-chrome alloy wheels with a really cool 3D five-spoke design, and this tester was finished in a Shoreline Blue Pearl paint job.

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Interior:
Being the top trim level, the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum has an interior fit for a luxury car. From the plush carpeted floor mats to the new Saddle Tan perforated leather seats, the Limited Platinum feels more like a Lexus than a mainstream mid-size family crossover. This trim level also adds heated and ventilated front seats, heated second-row captain’s chairs, rain-sensing windshield wipers and a heated steering wheel. For technology and entertainment, the Limited Platinum comes with a 12-speaker JBL Audio, Toyota’s Entune infotainment system with Integrated Navigation and App Suite and a nifty Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, which gives a 360-degree camera when backing up and also lets you change angles. Sadly, the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid does not offer the convenience of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, but the 2017 model year does add four new USB charging ports (for a grand total of five).

Passenger comfort is the name of the game with the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid with seating options for seven or eight passengers. There is excellent room for the front two rows and the second row tilts and slides to provide easy access to the third row, but the “way back” is best left for smaller passengers; the split third-row seats can fit an adult, but it probably wouldn’t be comfortable riding back there for too long. HVAC vents in the headliner are a welcome touch to keep rear occupants comfortable.

The Highlander’s cavernous interior also allows it to store plenty of stuff. For starters, there is the storage shelf that stretches two-thirds of the instrument panel and a cool center console (with dual retractable covers), but the big deal is the cargo capacity of up to 83.2 cubic feet (on Limited Platinum) with the rear rows folded flat; with the three rows in place, the Highlander can still haul 13.6 cubic feet of stuff including a small area concealed under the cargo floor. For added ease of loading cargo into the Highlander, the liftgate features a flip-up rear glass, which is an often overlooked convenience on modern SUVs and crossovers.

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Powertrain:
The biggest change made to the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is found under the hood where, for the first time, the Highlander and Highlander Hybrid share the same engine: a 3.5-liter V-6 that uses the Atkinson-cycle and Toyota’s D4-S direct injection for optimal performance and efficiency. Paired to the electronically controlled continuously variable transmission and a trio of electric motors (one of which is dedicated to powering the rear wheels for the standard Electronic On-Demand AWD system with intelligence), the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a net power output of 306 horsepower, which is an improvement of 26 hp over the 2016 Highlander Hybrid. Also improved is the fuel economy with EPA-rated fuel economy estimates of 29 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway** for this Limited Platinum tester, and that’s a 2 mpg highway improvement from 2016 and, just for reference, that is 9 mpg city and 1 mpg city better than the non-Hybrid version of the Highlander Limited Platinum.

The extra power is instantly obvious in the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid with acceleration that definitely doesn’t feel like a hybrid with fuel economy that is easy to attain in the real world. In my week of driving this hybrid crossover, I saw an average of just under 28 mpg in mostly highway driving… very respectable for a three-row vehicle that weighs almost 5,000 pounds! The electric power steering system is quick and responsive, but the brakes do suffer from the same squishy feel of most other hybrid vehicles (an unfortunate result of the regenerative braking).

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Safety:
The 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has not been tested by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but the non-hybrid version has received top marks from both agencies including an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ rating and a NHTSA five-star overall rating. This is thanks to standard safety features including eight airbags, Toyota Safety Sense P (with Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Auto High Beams and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control) and Star Safety System (with Electronically Controlled Braking, Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management, Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Brake System, and Electronic Brake-force Distribution with Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology). The Limited Platinum adds even more with standard features like front and rear sonar parking assist, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Safety Connect (Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Automatic Collision Notification).

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Overall:
In a segment flooded with options (such as the Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango and Volkswagen Atlas), the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid allows this crossover to stand out from the crowd. In fact, the only direct competition to the Highlander Hybrid might be the new Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivan. While a base Highlander starts at $30,630*, the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is priced starting at $36,270*, but this decked-out Limited Platinum came with an as-tested price of $47,880. Looking at the competition, this price is about the same as the Acadia Denali and Honda Pilot Elite, but the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers far better fuel economy… 11 mpg more in the city!

Make sure to visit your local AutoNation Toyota dealership and test drive the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid today!

*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.
**Based on 2017 EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.

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