2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: All you need, and then some

9 Sep 2011 | 2,134 views | No Comment
If ever there was a car that had just about everything I need, it's the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Hybrid economy in a crossover? Yep. It's rated at 28/28 with its 3.5 liter, 280 horsepower hybrid drive system. And annual fuel costs are estimted at $1,606 a year, based on 15,000 miles and $3.00 a gallon gasoline.  All-wheel drive? Check.  Room for a family of five? Uh-huh. Easy to use navigation. Are you kidding?  Toyota's systems are among the best on the road. Hands down. Decent looks? I think so, though it's a bit conservative.  Lots of room for all that my big family has to throw at it?  Of course. Low price?  Well....can't have everything.  Our tester had a base price of  $43,145, and after you add options, you're looking at $48,729 and change.  Whew.  That's too rich for my system.  But I can dream, can't I?     The Highlander was one of the earliest of crossovers, and it's been carefully refined over the years.  Itis popularity is increasing pretty dramatically, with 9,522 moving off showroomm floors in July  and into homes--an increase of 27 percent over July, 2010.  For the year so far, sales are up 21 percent over the same time last year, with 57,489 Highlanders sold.        Our tester had a base price of $43,145, and that price included a hybrid drive system that put out 280 horsepower.  Alloy wheels, full power accessories,  traction control, anti lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution, 50/50 split third row seats,  andn 40/20/20 second row seat were all part of the  standard package. A moonroof, six speaker AM/FM CD Player/ stereo sysem and satellite radio also were included. Adding a rear seat DVD entertainment system,, navigation with voice activated touch screen audio upgrade and other items were  on the option list.  Final price was $48,729, as we said earlier. The interior of the Highlander, though not flashy or gadget laden, was still attractive, with an eye to practicality. There were plenty of  cupholders, everything was within easy reach, and all controls were intuitive--that is, you could jump in the ar, take a look at the gauges and operate everything right off the bat without having to consult your owners manual. Meanwhile, the navigation system was wonderfully simple to operate and to understand, which came as no surprise to us because Toyota's navi setups are among the best navi systems anywhere, with clarity, ease of reading and operation being strong points.       And Highlander is no slouch on the open road. It's lively and fun to drive despite the hybrid system, and cornering is reasonbly sure footed.  The only fly in the ointment for us was that the steering system was overly assisted, making for a need to make corrections every now and then as we went along.  Brakes were excellent, however.           For 2011, the Highlander got a new front end, hood and fenders, headlights and taillights, and the Hybrid got its own grille treatmen. In addition,  all Highlanders now come equipped with a third row seat as standard equipment and a climate control system for rear passengers.  If you want to increase your fuel economy even more, try the  driver selectable "econ" mode.  We beat the 23 miles per gallon minimum estimate made by the federal government, getting from 24.5 and 26 in a mix of driving. By the way, there's a eight year, 100,000 mile warranty on components of the hybrid system, and a 5 year, 60,000 mile warranty on the powertrain overall.      Overall,  the Highlander isn't about excitement, but it's brimming over with value, comfort, pleasant driving, and all the safety and security that you will ever need.  and five yeras/60,000 ,

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