2010 Highlander Hybrid New Car Test Drive
The Toyota Highlander is smooth and comfortable, a crossover SUV with generous space for passengers and cargo. The Hybrid version delivers excellent fuel economy with minimal emissions, while the base-level four-cylinder model offers decent fuel economy at a lower price point. An available V6 engine delivers smooth performance and respectable fuel economy.
A versatile cabin adds to the attractiveness of the Highlander as a family vehicle. The second row can slide forward and back, and the third-row seat is hospitable for children and capable of carrying adults. Getting in and out of the first two rows is easy, and Toyota provides both a walk-through and a fold-and-slide-forward second-row seat to ease access to the third row.
The Highlander was completely redesigned for 2008, and made larger than the previous generation in every significant dimension. A more economical four-cylinder version arrived for 2009. Displacing 2.7 liters, the four-cylinder makes 187 horsepower and 186 pound-feet of torque, and delivers attractive EPA fuel economy ratings of 20/27 mpg City/Highway. It has a variable intake manifold and Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i) to optimize torque and fuel efficiency and to deliver strong response at all engine speeds. The inline-four is matched with a six-speed electronically controlled automatic overdrive transmission, and is available only with two-wheel drive.
The 2010 Highlander is available with a power tilt-and-slide moonroof on both four-cylinder and V6 models. The Highlander V6 comes standard with a multi-information display, including back-up camera. And the mid-range Sport model is being replaced by the Highlander SE, which is more near-luxury and less sporty.
The V6 is a 3.5-liter unit that delivers 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. We found the 3.5-liter V6 is buttery smooth. Also smooth is its five-speed automatic transmission, which downshifts seamlessly to provide ample passing punch. Front-wheel-drive Highlanders with the 3.5-liter V6 are EPA-rated at 18/24 mpg City/Highway, while all-wheel drive models are rated slightly lower at 17/23 mpg.
The Highlander Hybrid has a gas/electric powertrain that provides smooth, plentiful power. The gasoline engine is a 3.3-liter V6 that delivers 209 horsepower and 212 pound-feet of torque and is matched to an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT). With its gas engine and three electric motors, the complete Hybrid powertrain can deliver the same 270 peak horsepower as the 3.5-liter V6 alone. The Hybrid is rated at 27/25 mpg City/Highway.
Gasoline-only Highlanders come standard with front-wheel drive, with all-wheel drive available for customers who want all-weather capability and enhanced safety. Hybrids come standard with all-wheel drive.
The Highlander is a so-called crossover, meaning it's built more like a car than like a truck. The Highlander is based on the architecture of the Toyota Camry midsize sedan. As a result, the Highlander offers a quiet cabin and a luxurious ride quality. Overall, we found the Toyota Highlander to be a pleasant way to carry a group of people.
The 2010 Toyota Highlander offers a choice of three powertrains, three trim levels and front or all-wheel drive. The base Highlander comes with the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine ($25,855) or a 3.5-liter V6 ($27,750). The Highlander SE ($32,480) and Limited ($33,220) come standard with the 3.5-liter V6. The all-wheel-drive models all have the 3.5-liter V6, and are available in base ($29,200), SE ($33,930), and Limited ($34,670) trim. Highlander Hybrid models come standard with all-wheel drive and are available in base ($34,900) and Limited ($41,220) trim only.
Highlander comes standard with cloth upholstery; air conditioning; three-row seating for up to seven passengers; a 40/20/40 second-row seat with a removable center section that can be stowed under the first-row center console; AM/FM/CD with six speakers and MP3/WMA playback; power windows, door locks, and foldable mirrors; remote keyless entry; cruise control; variable intermittent wipers front and rear; rear defogger; rear spoiler; tilt/telescope steering wheel; two front and one cargo-area 12-volt power outlets; and 245/65R17 tires on alloy wheels. A fold-flat third row is standard with the V6, optional ($740) with the four-cylinder.
Hybrid models come with keyless entry and starting, and a 3.5-inch multifunction display screen that includes a rear backup camera, a clock, tire-pressure display, air conditioning readout, and outside temperature and trip computer information, in addition to all the hybrid-related features. Like the four-cylinder model, base Hybrids come standard with two seating rows; the third row is optional.
Highlander SE adds leather seats with heat for the front row, tri-zone automatic climate control, power tilt/slide moonroof, six-disc CD changer, Homelink universal transceiver, heated outside mirrors, daytime running lights, and a tow package.
Highlander Limited models upgrade with a 10-way power driver's seat, four-way power front passenger's seat, Smart Entry, fog lamps, a multi-function display, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and display controls, lighted vanity mirrors, visor extenders, second-row reading lights, opening glass in the rear hatch, a rear tonneau cover, and a lever in the cargo area to fold the second-row seats. The Limited models are distinguished with more chrome and bright trim than other models, and bold 19-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels wearing 245/55R19 tires. Hybrid Limited models come with the same features as the Limited.
Options are too numerous to list and vary in both price and availability with trim level. Among them: a power tilt/slide moonroof ($910); a multi-information display for the base V6 ($500). Base models offer a power-adjustable driver's seat ($320), rear air conditioning ($415), a tow package ($220), and a Cold Weather Package ($60) consisting of a windshield-wiper de-icer grid and heated outside mirrors. Higher-level models offer a JBL audio system with nine speakers and a Bluetooth hands-free cell phone link, with navigation ($2,625) or without ($750); a power rear tailgate ($400); rear DVD entertainment ($1,780); and automatic rear air conditioning ($585).
Safety features on all models include dual front airbags, front side-impact airbags for thorax protection, head-protecting curtain side airbags that cover all three seating rows, a driver's knee airbag, active front headrests, tire-pressure monitor, antilock brakes, traction control, antiskid control, and hill-start assist. Hill descent control is standard on AWD models.