2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review: The Best Mid-Size Family Hauler?

It's starting to show its age, but a new Highlander will arrive soon

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
[Photos: Toyota]

Comfort and Convenience

The 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has pleasant styling for a roomy mid-size SUV. It is about as long as a mid-size car and thus is fairly easy to maneuver. Keep in mind, however, that as a tall crossover it takes a little extra effort to climb aboard.

Toyota says there is seating for up to eight if the middle row doesn’t contain two captain’s chairs, as did the Limited model I drove. Although, the tight third seat is best left to small kids. Putting eight full-sized people in the Highlander Hybrid with a second-row bench seat would be a squeeze. The seats also weren’t tremendously comfortable on their own. They felt stiff and offered relatively little thigh support.

While the seats could be more comfortable, the quiet interior is upscale with strategic soft-touch materials. Since this is the Highlander Hybrid model, the left-hand gauge constantly jumps around from CHG (Charge) to Eco (Economy) and PWR (Power) depending on the driving conditions. That can be a bit distracting if you’re not used to driving one of Toyota’s hybrids. Move past that though, and the interior is well-equipped, and you can get a JBL premium audio system.


A large front console contains a cavernous storage area with twin covers that’s large enough a few large items. It also serves as a comfortable arm rest. Front doors have large storage pockets and bottle holders. There’s a mixture of clearly marked small and large dashboard controls that a driver can easily use.

There are safety features galore. They include a pre-collision system with pedestrian protection, lane-departure alert with steering assist, dynamic radar cruise control, blind spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking sonar and eight air bags. The large power adjustable heated outside mirrors provide good rear vision.

The 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid uses Toyota’s Entune system, but this model does not support Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Toyota highlander cargo area
The Highlander Hybrid offers impressive cargo space, at least with all the seats folded.

Cargo space

The 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid does come a power liftgate on XLE and higher trims. You can also open just the rear window, which can be handy. The cargo opening is wide, but moderately high.

There isn’t much cargo room (13.8 cubic feet) behind the third seat when it’s fixed in place.. Folding the 60/40 split fold-flat rear setbacks forward and cargo space expands to 42.3 cubic feet. Then it goes to an impressive 83.7 cubic feet with the fold-flat second row also lowered.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
[Photo: Toyota]


The three-row Highlander Hybrid AWD comes in various trim levels. I tested the top-line $45,510 Limited Hybrid V-6 AWD-i. It’s powered by a 3.5-liter V-6 and a high-torque electric drive motor-generator to produce 306 horsepower. It comes with an electric on-demand AWD system with AWD-i as standard. The AWD-i uses a second, independent electric motor to drive the rear wheels when needed to help maintain optimal traction. 

Acceleration is quick off the line, as power is fed to an electronically-controlled CVT transmission with a manual-shift feature. The automatic works well, though, so you may as well leave it in “drive” mode during normal use. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.

Steering is nicely weighted, but quicker than a driver might initially think. Handling is surprisingly good, considering this car weighs over 4,800 pounds in its fully-loaded form. A good suspension, all-wheel-drive system and large tires on 19-inch chrome wheels help keep it planted on the road. The ride is generally smooth, although sharp freeway bumps cause mild jolts. Merging and passing are no problem, and the brakes work smoothly.  

Estimated fuel economy is 29 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on highways. Only 87-octane fuel is needed.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
[Photo: Toyota]

TFLcar’s Take

The roomy 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited is fuel-efficient and comfortable. Many buyers of mid-size SUVs want roominess, driving ease, comfort and safety. The 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited V-6 is an all-wheel drive mid-size SUV that delivers these features.

The Toyota Highlander competes in the fiercely competitive mid-size crossover segment. There are several traditional competitors, though relatively few have hybrid variants. There is a new version of the Highlander coming as well, and it will face off against the likes of the new Ford Explorer.

2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Specifications:

Price as tested$45,510
Engine3.5-liter Atkinson-cycle V6 w/ two electric drive motors (1 front, 1 rear)
Power231 hp @ 5,800 rpm
Torque215 lb-ft @ 4,800 rpm
TransmissionElectronically-controlled CVT
Drivetrain layout AWD
Curb weight4,861 lbs. (Limited)
Towing Capacity3,500 lbs.
Fuel Economy (EPA)29 / 27 / 28 (city/hwy/combined)
Wheelbase109.8 inches
Ground Clearance8.0 inches
Length x Width x Height192.5 x 75.8 x 70.1 inches
Cargo Volume behind 3rd row13.8 cu. ft.
Cargo Volume behind 2nd row42.3 cu. ft.
Max Cargo Volume83.2 cubic feet
Warranty3-year/36,000-mile comprehensive warranty
5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty