2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid second opinion review: A quiet and refined SUV


EDITOR’S NOTE: TFLcar recently reviewed the 2016 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. This reprinted review by Dan Jedlicka is another opinion of the midsize crossover.

Toyota wishes it had less cars and more midsize SUVs such as the quiet, refined Highlander because this vehicle fits in the red-hot midsize SUV/crossover market.

This handsome SUV is the third-generation Highlander model and is car-like in many respects. It has accurate steering, a smooth ride, good handling and easy braking. It’s also got an above-average step-in height, but occupants sit high for good visibility.

Here’s a tip for ladies: The console box is roomy enough to hold a large handbag.

Controls can be easily used, but the gauges are hard to read in bright sunlight. The gearshift lever partly blocks the front cupholders, and a driver needs to use the large outside mirrors because the roof design partly blocks rear vision.


The quiet, upscale interior is roomy, at least in its first and second seating areas.The third row seat is for kids.

The 2016 Highlander comes in LE, LE Plus, XE and Limited trim levels with front- or a seamless on-demand all-wheel drive (AWD) system.

The AWD “Dynamic Torque Control” system works with a high-speed interactive management system that coordinates control of the AWD, vehicle stability control and electric power steering systems to enhance performance, handling and safety.

List prices range from $30,490 for the base model to $50,485 for the Hybrid Limited AWD with the Platinum Package, which has such items as a panoramic moonroof.

All Highlanders are well-equipped. For instance, the LE Plus version has a power rear hatch, eight-way power driver’s seat, three-zone automatic climate control and an eight-inch display monitor.


I tested the $47,870 Highlander AWD Limited, which is just below the Platinum model. The Highlander Limited with AWD weighs a hefty 4,354 pounds. But it delivers an EPA-estimated 27 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on highways with its Hybrid Synergy Drive system.

The smooth-working system pairs a 3.5-liter V-6 with a high-torque electric drive motor-generator.

For icing on the cake, the Limited Hybrid is the most powerful Highlander, delivering 280 total system horsepower and strong, virtually seamless acceleration.


Other available Highlander engines are a 2.7-liter four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and a 3.5-liter V-6 with 270 horsepower. They’re not gas guzzlers, although the Highlander is big and heavy.

The four-cylinder delivers an estimated 20 miles per gallon city and 25 highway, while the V-6 delivers 19 city and 25 highway. Only 87-octane fuel is needed, and the Highlander has a 19.2-gallon fuel tank for a decent cruising range.

A towing package is standard with all V-6 models and allows them to tow a trailer up to 5,000 pounds

The gas-only model engines work with a smooth six-speed automatic transmission, while the Hybrid uses a continuously variable automatic (CVT) transmission.

Toyota says the Highlander seats up to eight persons, but seven is a more realistic number, providing the third seat is occupied by kids.

The third seat is hard to reach unless you get second-row captain’s chairs. They come with a collapsible side tray with cupholders and allow an aisle for entry to the third seat. While narrow, the aisle beats trying to reach the third seat via the rear doors and sliding second-row seats.

Cargo room is only moderate with the 60/40 split third-row seatbacks in place, but cargo capacity is greatly enlarged when the third-row seatbacks are lowered. The standard second-row seats also fold flat for even more cargo room.

The enormously heavy hood held open with a prop rod. No Highlander is inexpensive, so I expected to find hydraulic hood struts.


My test Highlander’s bottom-line price jumped from by $1,525 because it had a Driver Technology Package that included a pre-collision system with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control and Lane Departure Alert.

However, my test Highlander Hybrid Limited’s standard safety features included stability and traction controls, brake force distribution, blind spot monitor with cross-traffic alert and Smart Stop technology, besides the usual array of air bags. After all, this is primarily a family vehicle and safety thus is a major consideration.

Lease itOn the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy It,
  • Lease It,
  • Rent It,
  • or Forget It,

The 2016 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid gets a Lease It!

The Highlander is a handsome, roomy, smooth midsize SUV that is one of the most useful and car-like family vehicles.

Check out this related TFLcar 0-60 video review of the 2016 Toyota Highlander and the Honda Pilot: