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