`2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited
Pros-Roomy. Fuel-thrifty. Absorbent ride. Good handling. Quick acceleration. All-wheel drive. Safety features galore.
Cons-Fairly high step-up.Tight third-row seat. Narrow rear door openings. Scant cargo room behind third seat.
Bottom Line-Accomplished mid-sized three-row SUV.
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 feature.
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.
Estimated fuel economy is 29 miles per gallon in the city and 27 on highways. Only 87-octane fuel is needed.
Acceleration is quick off the line, as power is fed to a responsive 8-speed CVT automatic transmission with a manual-shift feature that doesn't automatically drop to first ("1") gear when you stop if you, say, left it in a higher gear after a manual shift. But the automatic works so well 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 is a high 4,000-plus-pound vehicle. A good suspension, all-wheel-drive system and large tires on 19-inch chrome wheels help.The ride is generally smooth, although sharp freeway bumps cause mild jolts. Merging and passing are no problem, and the brakes work smoothly.
The 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.
It takes a little extra effort to climb aboard. The quiet interior is upscale with strategic soft-touch materials, although the starter button is hidden behind the steering wheel rim. And the gauge near the speedometer that reads CHG (Charge), Eco (Economy) and PWR (Power) constantly changes and soon is ignored. Forget the show-biz and just replace it with a tachometer.There's a premium JBL sound system.
Toyota says there is seating for up to eight if the middle row doesn't contain two captain's chairs (as did my test Highlander Hybrid Limited), although the tight third seat is best left to small kids. Moreover, the seat, itself, isn't very comfortable because it's stiff and provides little thigh support. However, it's only moderately difficult for a reasonable supple adult to reach. A very narrow aisle between my test Highlander Hybrid's two captain's chairs led to the third row, or I could reach it by flipping the car's second row seat backs forward.
There's comfortable seating for only four, with heated and ventilated front seats, if the third row is ignored. Putting eight in there with a regular second-row seat (no captain's chairs) would be a squeeze.
A large front console contains a cavernous storage area with twin covers that's large enough to hold a purse-or an object of similar size. 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.
The console contains two large cupholders, although the the shift lever partially gets in the way of them when the Highlander Hybrid is in "Drive." Large, nicely shaped interior door-opening handles help make it easy to get out.
There isn't much cargo room (13.8 cubic feet) with the third seat in its upright position. 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.
A power hatch on struts with a flip-up window is handy, especially in the rain, and there's a power tilt/slide moonroof with a sunshade. The cargo opening is wide, but moderately high.
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.
Opening the hood calls for the muscles of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger and is held open with a flimsy looking prop rod. At least it has an interior sound insulation blanket that helps keep the cabin quiet.