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Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV stands to be one of the most popular vehicles for 2006. With its Hybrid Synergy Drive system featuring regenerative braking, the Toyota Highlander hybrid may take on the Prius for the most popular hybrid vehicle next year.

The Highlander currently comes in two varieties, one using a standard gasoline combustion engine and one fit for the hybrid gasoline-electric engine.

The regenerative braking feature is standard on all Toyota hybrid vehicles. With regenerative braking, the Highlander Hybrid and other vehicles will recharge the battery pack by simply stepping on the brakes.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is offering either 2-wheel or 4-wheel drive models. The hybrid 2WD model uses a 3.3-liter DOHC 24-valve VVT-i V6 gasoline engine combined with a high-torque electric engine at the front axel. The 4WD-i version is the same except it has an additional electric motor at the rear axel. The Highlander Hybrid also uses its gasoline engine to recharge the battery pack as needed and shuts down, running on battery power when not needed.



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According to ACEEE's Green Book, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV achieves 22 mpg city and 27 mpg highway. Other independent fuel economy tests put the numbers closer to 25 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the world's first 7-passenger SUV, qualifying as a midsize rather than a compact SUV. One would think that Toyota would have introduced a compact hybrid SUV first, such as engineering the popular RAV4 for hybrid capabilities. But, Toyota in its focus-on-the-future thinking decided to up the ante from the get go with the other automakers and combine the popularity of a midsize SUV with the increasing popularity of owning a green machine.

The load-carrying requirements of the Highlander Hybrid far outweigh that of the Prius so new technology had to be developed around this. Unlike the Prius, the Highlander Hybrid has a larger capacity battery pack that delivers double the power as the Prius battery. In addition, the Highlander Hybrid is equipped with an all new high speed electric motor delivering more than twice the power of the hybrid cars and with a combined power rating of around 270 horsepower.

With an eye for safety, the Highlander Hybrid is also equipped with a Vehicle Dynamic Management (VDM) system. This VDM system monitors a variety of sensors and anticipates a number of vehicle stability problems. The system makes adjustments with a combination of braking, power steering, ABS, brake-force distribution, brake assist, traction and throttle control, in order to maintain a smooth and safe ride.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with standard air conditioning, power windows, mirrors, and door locks, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, and a deluxe 3-in-1 AM/FM/ETR cassette/CD sound system with six speakers. The hybrid, with 3 rows of seats, also delivers some new features such as tire pressure warning system, optional front seat-mounted side airbags, front- and second-row curtain side airbags, rear privacy glass, a rear heater system, rear seat cup-holders, walk-in steps and a 60/40 split-fold seat.

As far as performance, the Highlander Hybrid can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 7.3 seconds making it no slouch on the highways. The Highlander Hybrid also has sophisticated energy load management system and an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT) for optimum driving performance.

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV far out-performs the competition in regards to fuel economy, performance and features for a midsize green SUV. The only other midsize hybrid SUV that comes close is the Lexus RX400h Hybrid, which also happens to be manufactured by Toyota. Go figure.