The 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is one of only a very few hybrid 3-row SUVs out there. Think about it, how many non-PHEV, hybrid SUVs are there? The Kia Sorento Hybrid, the Ford Explorer Hybrid… and that’s it. Not a long list. So how does the Highlander hybrid stack up?
Engine – The standard Toyota Highlander is powered by a naturally aspirated V6 engine. The hybrid version has a 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder that is aided by 3 electric motors. There’s a couple of motors sandwiched between the engine and the transmission and another in the back providing an e-AWD system. The total output is 243 hp (181 kW). Toyota won’t say the torque figure. In an SUV that tips the scales at 2,040 kg (4,497 lbs), this hybrid powertrain doesn’t make the Highlander a quick vehicle. It takes the engine quite a while to get the SUV up to speed when merging onto a highway or going up a hill at speed; relatively speaking when compared to the Explorer Hybrid. It’s even worse when all 7 seats are filled or when you’re towing up to the rated 3,500 lbs. However, when you’re commuting to work, the 2022 Highlander can return some impressive fuel economy numbers.
Fuel Economy – The 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is rated for 6.7 L/100km (35.1 MPG) in a city and 6.8 L/100km (34.6 MPG) on a highway. The highway fuel economy is a bit higher because the SUV doesn’t switch to EV driving at speeds above 70-ish km/h. You don’t see that little green EV icon light up often on highways unless you’re coasting. In a city environment at slower speeds, the car runs often on electricity. With a nearly fully charged battery, it can also accelerate on electricity alone up to approximately 65 km/h. You have to be extremely gentle with the throttle pedal to get it up to that speed. There is an EV-mode that allows for faster electric-only acceleration but that mode is automatically disabled if you go past 30 km/h. Also, if you don’t use the climate control, the Highlander Hybrid will run more often on electricity. This has allowed me to get better than advertised fuel economy figures. I averaged 6.4 L/100km (36.8 MPG) during my time with the SUV.
Transmission – Like many other Toyota hybrids, the 2022 Highlander Hybrid is paired with an eCVT automatic. It doesn’t try to fool you into thinking it’s anything else as it behaves like a traditional CVT automatic. It does provide virtual gears when you shift the gear selector into the “S” mode but it doesn’t make the Highlander any more sporty.
Braking – The Toyota Highlander charges up the battery through regenerative braking and by the engine directly. The regen braking is indistinguishable from the standard friction braking. Which is a good thing. The brake pedal is easy to modulate for smooth stops and has a firm enough feel.
Handling – Unlike the Explorer Hybrid, the Highlander Hybrid does not drive quite as well around twisties. Then again, it’s not meant to be that type of 3-row SUV. However, it has a stable and planted driving manner. It’s also easy and not tiring to drive. The steering is light enough so that it doesn’t strain your arms when you try to park the Highlander but it firms up nicely on highways so that it doesn’t feel like a Jeep Gladiator. For a family focused 3-row SUV, ease of driving is arguably what’s most important and the Toyota Highlander excels at that job.
Ride Comfort – This particular Bronze Edition Highlander is equipped with 18-inch wheels and really thick sidewall tires. This aids in providing a soft ride, in addition to the soft tuned suspension. The ride is supple and forgiving, important characteristics for a family SUV.
The second row is also spacious with the Highlander Hybrid being behind only the Palisade in terms of 2nd row legroom. The second row comes standard as a bench with this Bronze Edition upgrading (or downgrading depending on how you look at it) to captain’s chairs.
The 3rd row however is extremely tight, even for children. The 2022 Highlander has very limited legroom and headroom for occupants in that row. It feels more like a punishment if you get relegated to the far back seats. That’s how tight they are.
Behind the seats, the 2022 Highlander Hybrid has 453 L (16 cu-ft) of space behind the 3rd row, 1,371 L (48.4 cu-ft) behind the 2nd row, and 2,387 L (84.3 cu-ft) behind the 1st row with all seats folded.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – Of course when the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is being propelled by the electric motors, it is a quiet SUV. But even with the engine running at a constant cruising speed, it still has a relatively quiet cabin. It’s only when you put your foot down to overtake a vehicle or go up a steep hill does the engine begin to sound like as though its valves are about to pop out. This particular demo vehicle came equipped with snow tires so those made a bit of noise on highways but all-season tires should be quieter.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid starts at $46,750 CAD for the LE AWD ($39,055 USD, FWD). Here in Canada, the hybrid powertrain is only available as an AWD. In the United States, it’s an option. This particular demo vehicle came equipped to the cost of $53,335 CAD ($46,105 USD).
Gadgets – This particular Highlander Hybrid is a mid-range XLE trim with the Bronze Edition package which adds the aforementioned 18-inch bronze wheels, bronze door sills, rear camera mirror, rain sensing wipers, ambient lighting, memory driver’s seat, 2nd row captain’s chairs, and hands-free power liftgate.
If you need more gadgets, the Highlander Hybrid is also available in the top spec Platinum trim. With that, you can get heated & ventilated front seats, a panoramic sunroof, a head-up display, surround view cameras, wireless phone charging, a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen, leather upholstery, and the list goes on.
Interior Design – The interior of the Highlander was made with families in mind. The controls are physical buttons and within easy reach. There are a lot of storage bins throughout the cabin for small items or water bottles. There are also enough USB ports to charge an entire Apple Store worth of devices.
Exterior Design – The exterior has a lot of smooth curves and lines, unlike its little Rav4 brother which looks to have been styled using only a ruler. The Toyota Highlander has a more grown up look but that front grille looks as though it’s disapproving of everything. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I’m ok with the design of this 4th generation Highlander.
Safety – The 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ which includes forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection and emergency steering avoidance, lane departure warning with lane keep, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and Left Turn Intersection Support which can detect an oncoming vehicle and provide an alert or apply the brakes in case of an emergency.
The IIHS gave the 2022 Toyota Highlander a Top Safety Pick+ with good ratings for crash tests and good or marginal scores for the headlights (depending on trim level).
Warranty – The 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is covered by a 3 year / 60,000 km basic and 5 year / 100,000 km powertrain warranty. The hybrid components are covered by an 8 year / 160,000 km warranty. For more information on Canadian warranty, click here. For information on USA warranty, click here. (Scroll to bottom of page)
Conclusion – Considering that the Ford Explorer Hybrid only has one trim level and the Kia Sorento Hybrid is only available with 6-passenger seating and has less cargo capacity, the 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid makes a lot of sense for the budget conscious family. It may not be the most engaging to drive nor might it not have a whole lot of space in that 3rd row, but it is affordable, fuel efficient, and family focused. Hard part now is finding one in the limited market of 2022.
Thank you to Toyota Canada for providing the vehicle. www.Toyota.ca