The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has been designed with three rows which offer seating for 7-8 passengers – the modern day equivalent of a large family station wagon. A 2.5-Liter L4HV Double Overhead Cam (DOHC) 16-Valve D-4S Injection Atkinson Cycle Engine and two electric motors – one is an integrated starter/generator and the other is a drive motor – provide a combined 243 horsepower, which permits the hybrid to achieve 0 to 60 MPH in 7.3 seconds. The vehicle uses a 3rd electric motor to take charge of the rear wheels.
If fuel economy and reducing your CO2 footprint is important to you, and you’re looking for a 3-row family SUV HEV, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is an excellent choice. Toyota claims it sells about 10,000 of its highly popular Highlanders a month worldwide. The car is a slam dunk for people-moving efficiency, a large, friendly cabin, decent mileage, renowned reliability and extensive safety features.
Says U.S. News & World Report: “Yes, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a good SUV. It has across-the-board appeal, from its lively powertrain and smooth ride to its large cargo capacity and richly outfitted infotainment system. It also gets great mpg estimates, even when compared to other vehicles in our hybrid and electric SUV rankings. This Toyota has an outstanding combination of quality and value in its class, which led us to name it our 2021 Best Hybrid Or Electric SUV For The Money. In addition, we named it a finalist for our 2021 Best Hybrid Or Electric SUV For Families Award, thanks to its solid combination of cargo and passenger space, safety and reliability ratings, positive reviews from automotive journalists, and available family-friendly features.”
The hybrid is a fourth generation model built with Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA) – a structural innovation which greatly improves the car’s moving, turning and stopping abilities. Highlander Hybrid comes with Front-Wheel Drive (FWD), or optional Electronic All-Wheel Drive (AWD). The hybrid offers 4 driving modes: NORMAL for everyday excursions, ECO for creating maximum hybrid efficiency, SPORT for increased acceleration, and EV MODE which provides electric-only power at low speeds for short distances. TRAIL MODE is an available option.
The HEV comes in 4 trims: Hybrid LE ($38,735 MSRP), Hybrid XLE ($41,535 MSRP), Hybrid Limited ($45,490 MSRP), and Hybrid Platinum (MSRP: $48,690).
The car has a sleek, rakish design that turns heads. Accentuated fender flares, muscular character lines, stylish standard LED headlights, twin-tip chrome-plated exhausts, 20-inch alloy wheels and sporty front and rear designs define a blend of power and sophistication for the hybrid’s exterior. This is a big driving machine. But instead of being boxy, it’s adventurous and pleasing from all angles.
Highlander hybrid’s interior is plush, modern and versatile. An 8.0-inch Audio Plus multimedia system uses 6 speakers, a USB media port, 4 USB charge ports, hands-free phone capability and music streaming via Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple carPlay. A 3-month trial subscription to SiriusXM is included and the system is Alexa compatible.
Hylander’s storage space is impressive. Without passengers, the second and third rows can fold flat and open up to 84.3 cu. ft. of space. That’s some major cargo capacity! A nice touch: the hybrid battery pack fits under the floor without compromising interior space.
Highlander Hybrid performs exceedingly well against competitors in its segment. The Ford Explorer Hybrid is one example. While Explorer Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 27/28/27 MPG for city/highway/combined, Highlander Hybrid achieves an EPA-estimated 35/34/35 MPG for city/highway/combined. The Explorer Hybrid’s range is 465 miles, compared to Highlander Hybrid’s range of 598 miles.
Most importantly, Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s base MSRP ($38,735), is around $11,000 less than the Ford Explorer Hybrid’s base MSRP ($49,855). Striking comparisons like these make the Highlander SUV Hybrid a major standout in a market that includes Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid and RAV4 Prime, the Ford Escape Hybrid, the Honda CR-V Hybrid, the Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, and the Kia Sorento Hybrid, to name a few.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the 2021 Highlander a five-star safety rating (it’s highest). Highlander has also been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Highlander Hybrid’s safety systems are expansive. The car’s highly acclaimed Star Safety System includes the following features; Electronically Controlled Braking (ECB), Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) and Smart Stop Technology (SST). Safety Connect includes Emergency Assistance, Stolen Vehicle Locator, Roadside Assistance and Automatic Collision Notification. There are 3-point seat belts for all seating positions; a driver's-side Emergency Locking Retractor (ELR) and an Automatic/Emergency Locking Retractor (ALR/ELR) on all passenger seat belts. LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) includes lower anchors and tethers on outboard second-row seats and tether anchor on middle of second and third-row seats.
The base Hylander Hybrid LE comes with the features previously listed plus cloth upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated sideview mirrors, tri-zone automatic climate control, proximity keyless entry, LED fog lights, a power lift gate and a rearview camera.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited adds a wireless device charging, a moonroof, second-row captain's chairs, rear sunshades, synthetic leather upholstery, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, and heated front seats. You can add Navigation for an additional $1,040. A second-row bench seat can be added at no extra cost.
Highlander Hybrid Limited trim adds navigation, a JBL premium audio system including 11 speakers, a hands-free power lift gate, front and rear parking sensors, ambient lighting, genuine leather upholstery, parallel park assist, heated and ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel. A 12.3-inch touch screen infotainment system and a surround-view parking camera system can be added for $1,050.
Opting for the Highlander Hybrid Platinum gets you a 12.3-inch touch screen, a surround-view parking camera system, a head-up display, a panoramic moonroof, and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Kelley Blue Book says: "The Highlander is a great crossover. It’s among the most recommendable 3-row midsize SUVs, with superb practicality, strong resale values, and an impeccable reputation for reliability."
In addition to its standard 36-month / 36,000-mile warranty and 60-month / 60,000-mile powertrain warranty, the 2021 Highlander’s hybrid-related components are covered for 8 years / 100,000 miles. The car’s hybrid battery is covered for 10 years / 150,000 miles.
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