Going above and beyond – the 2021Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The recipe for the perfect family-friendly SUV includes starting off with an excellent base platform, delivering a car-like ride, and offering a roomy interior that can hold plenty of people and cargo. Oh, and it must have plenty of convenient features, be attractively styled and get good gas mileage. In other words, the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
Currently in its sophomore year, the current Highlander rides on Toyota’s TNGA platform which is the same one used in the RAV4. The Highlander’s exterior styling is bold with many sculpted lines, making it one of the best-looking Highlanders ever. In addition, this fourth generation Highlander is also the largest Highlander ever.
From the outside, the Highlander Hybrid looks nearly identical to its gasoline-only sibling, with the exception of a few badges.
Where the Highlander scores big is on the inside, where it features one of the most attractive cabins in its class. Fit and finish is top notch and the design is clean and tastefully simplistic. Storage areas are everywhere including the built-in shelf on the dashboard.
A 12.3-inch display (standard on the Premium, optional on the Limited) dominates the dash, with easy to use controls under it. The center console houses the shifter, some cupholders as well as some other switch gear. The instrument cluster is a little busy, but the optional heads-up display projects vital information on the windshield in front of you.
With three rows of seating, the Highlander Hybrid has the credentials to be a minivan substitute. I still wouldn’t want to be the one to sit in the third row, but kids shouldn’t mind. Don’t need that third-row? Simply fold it flat into the floor. Although the large battery pack cuts into storage space, the Highlander Hybrid can still accommodate 84 cubic feet of stuff.
Under the hood, the Highlander Hybrid uses a 2.5 liter four-cylinder engine that is paired to an electric motor to make 243 total horsepower. That combination sets up the Highlander Hybrid to get an EPA rating of 35 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. While the use of a four-cylinder engine over a six-cylinder means less overall power, going with the smaller engine has several advantages, mainly better fuel economy and lower overall vehicle cost throughout the lineup.
About that lineup – there are four trim levels: the base LE, XLE, Limited and the top-of-the-line Platinum. Seating for eight is standard on the base LE model, and optional on all other trim levels except for the Platinum. The other models come standard with second-row captain’s chairs, which reduce total seating to seven. Each trim level is available in FWD and AWD.
The tester was dressed in a beautiful Blizzard Pearl White exterior and a two-tone tan and black interior, it easily qualified as Lexus-Luxury. Some amenities that the Platinum includes are heated and vented front seats, heated second-row seats, panoramic moonroof, 12.3″ touch screen, JBL audio system with 11 speakers, 4 USB ports and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities. Another feature that I was thrilled to see in the Highlander is a rearview camera mirror. Previously only seen in GM vehicles, this feature gives you the option of changing your rearview mirror into a camera for much better viewing of what’s behind you. This fully loaded Highlander Hybrid carries with it an MSRP of $51,915.00
On the road, the hard working four-cylinder makes the Highlander Hybrid a tad bit nosier than one would expect and it could stand to use a little more power. Still, the step-up in interior quality and materials more than makes up for it. And plus, families that are in the market for three-row hybrid crossovers won’t care about being slightly down on power.
The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid continues to be the have-it-all SUV for mainstream America. Folks gotta have their SUVs. They want lots of room. They want luxury and fancy features. They want good gas-mileage. This version of the Highlander has all those wants – and then some.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD
Base Price: $50,315.00
Price as Tested: $51,915.00
Layout: front-engine / all-wheel drive
Engine: 2.5 liter four-cylinder with electric motor
Horsepower: 243 hp
Torque: 175 ft/lbs
EPA Fuel Economy: 35 city / 34 highway mpg
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