Review Toyota Highlander Hybrid: Seas of space and waves of pulling power

What is striking about the Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

Its format. The Toyota Highlander is clearly not designed for Europe. It dates back to 2000 and has spent three generations in Japan, China, the US and Australia. This model is from the fourth generation from 2019. It is about 5 meters long and almost 2 meters wide. In a 1930s street in Utrecht – where I live – that’s a challenge. With cars parked on either side, you really have to be careful not to drive someone’s mirror off.

In the driver’s seat you imagine yourself on a throne, from where you look down on your subjects in Toyota Aygo’s and Peugeot’s 108. If you overtake a van or small truck on the highway, you can see inside the driver. With us, Toyota supplies the Highlander as a seven-seater as standard. The luggage space is 865 liters. And when two of the three rows of seats are folded down, there is even room for 2000 liters of suitcases, bags and boxes.

What’s good about the Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

We have already had the advantages of the Toyota Highlander above. It has room for seven passengers and can carry an entire department store stock in the luggage compartment. Furthermore, the huge Japanese SUV is popular with caravan tractors with its maximum towing weight of 2000 kilos. And you won’t get there quickly if you couple a rut cabin to the towbar. On average, an empty caravan weighs less than 1000 kilos.

Furthermore, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a quiet, comfortable, well-equipped touring car. The infotainment system works fine and fast. And hurray, there are physical buttons for the most important functions. The biggest drawback of the interior is that you can see that it is designed for the Japanese and American buyers. The design is not very inspiring and in places you will encounter the cheapest imaginable pieces of plastic. Although everything is neatly put together, by the way.

What could be better about the Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a difficult car to place. According to the importer, there are two reasons why he is now coming to Europe. One: the Highlander is finally available as a hybrid and that makes a difference in terms of CO2 emissions (and in the Netherlands therefore in terms of price). Two: Toyota wants to take full advantage of the SUV craze and is missing a model in the segment above the RAV4. The Land Cruiser sees the brand as an off-road vehicle. This Highlander must be the suv alternative.

But yes, the large SUV segment is primarily a premium segment, with models such as the Audi Q7, BMW X5, Mercedes GLE and Volvo XC90. And premium… the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is not. Incidentally, the car cannot be blamed, but the fact it lacks that cachet will make it difficult for him in the Netherlands. Although we must honestly say that Highlander Hybrid is a lot less expensive than the above-mentioned German competitors. It saves 20,000 euros and more.

Then its powertrain: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with hybrid technology and an output of 248 hp and 270 Nm of torque. A supple, refined whole, which in our opinion could have been a bit more powerful. The Highlander Hybrid weighs more than 2000 kilos and 248 hp is actually just not enough for that. If you floor the accelerator, the hefty Toyota moves forward, but not wholeheartedly. According to the WLTP statement, the Highlander Hybrid 1 should run at 14.2. We picked up on the highway and in the Eco mode 1 to 12.

When will the Toyota Highlander Hybrid come and what does it cost?

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is available from 63,000 euros (our test car costs 77,000 euros). That is a lot of money, but just a great price for such a hefty SUV. It’s hard to find competitors for the Highlander. Ford supplies the Explorer Plug-in Hybrid (also from America), but it has a six-cylinder with 457 hp and a starting price of 77,910 euros. And that actually ends, because the size-comparable models from Audi, BMW, Mercedes and Volvo are more expensive.

What do I think of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid?

It’s just a cool thing. Ready! It’s styled like an old-fashioned SUV. No fuss, just a slap of a car. And therein lies being unique selling point. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is large, spacious, comfortable, offers space for seven people and a ditch of luggage, and can pull a whopper of a trailer. Its hybrid powertrain is relatively economical (for such a heavy ‘truck’), but could have been a bit stronger. The Highlander will have a difficult time in the Netherlands. Because the market for cars like this is small.

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