2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Test Drive: 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The Toyota Highlander is a popular choice in Canada when it comes to three-row midsize crossovers and I have the feeling that status will only grow once people see and experience the revised 2017 model.

In terms of looks, the revamped Highlander is one of the nicest-looking in its class (for me, the Mazda CX-9 ranks a notch higher, though).

And Toyota didn’t stop at just looks for the Highlander, giving the family hauler more safety features, adding a new SE trim level, and improving performance and efficiency of both the gasoline and hybrid versions.

We recently had a chance to experience the revised 2017 Highlander Hybrid, the Japanese automaker’s largest hybrid, and the takeaways were pretty much all positive.

The base price of the Highlander Hybrid starts $49,985, while the Limited with all-wheel drive we tested comes in at $55,990 before taxes and fees.

Depending on configuration, the Highlander can seat up to eight passengers, while the Limited trim is, well, limited to only seven people because of the second row captain’s chairs.

The Highlander Hybrid’s new powertrain features a revised 3.5-litre six-cylinder gas engine paired with Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive. Power gets moved to the wheels through an Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission that I found to be rather good.

The system produces a net of 306 horsepower, which is ample for the crossover and never left me with the feeling of being overwhelmed by what I was asking of it.

Fuel consumption for the Highlander Hybrid is rated at 8.1 litres per 100 kilometres in the city and 8.5 L/100 km on the highway. Unfortunately, I could do no better than 12.2 L/100 km in mostly city driving.

As I mentioned earlier, the revamped Highlander is quite fetching.

There’s a totally new front grille design, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, nice lines overall and haunches over the wheels that give it a sportier look.

The two-tier grille gets a different treatment depending on your trim level, so each grade of Highlander looks a bit different.

The rear of the Highlander also gets the LED taillight treatment, with a large wraparound light assembly.

The whole look is capped off by a set of 19-inch black chrome clad alloy wheels.

The stylish exterior design carries over into a redesigned interior.

The dashboard is two-tiered and features a shelf area that can be used to hold a variety of items, including electronics plugged into the USB ports in the lower part of the centre stack. In all, Toyota has spread out five USB ports throughout the cabin.

At night, the shelf is lit with some nice accent lighting to give the cabin a warm glow.

Seating in the Highlander Hybrid Limited we tested was on the comfortable side, and the perforated leather seats are heated and cooled. The leather seats features a nice accent stitching for an upscale look.

The panoramic moon roof makes sure that the interior is bathed in natural sunlight when the visor is opened.

While you give up a seat when you opt for the second-row captain chairs, there’s a fold up set of cup holders between the two seats that come in handy for longer trips with a full vehicle. A bonus in the tested trim is that the middle row seats are heated.

The third row passengers won’t have to use acrobatics to get back there, but there is minimal legroom, so whoever draws the short straw will hopefully be tiny.

Occupants, no matter where they are, will be able to enjoy the sweet sounds of the JBL Synthesis audio system with 12 speakers on the Limited trim.

The infotainment system features a large 8-inch screen with a nice clear image, which comes in handy for the navigation system and the Bird’s Eye View Monitor. Coupled with front and rear parking assist sonar, getting the Highlander into tight spots is not difficult.

All the buttons and controls around the infotainment screen are large and easy to decipher and operate.

The Highlander Hybrid offered seamless performance no matter what combination of powertrain was moving it forward. Whether in the snow or on dry pavement, the Highlander never faltered and, heck, I even enjoyed the CVT. I don’t say that too often.

The cabin was quiet and had little wind and road noise intrusion, making for a pleasant ride even on the highway.

Given that the Highlander will be on the shopping list of many who will use it as a family vehicle, safety is a major consideration.

With that in mind, Toyota had added Safety Sense to the Highlander. That package includes a pre-collision system, which comes with forward collision warning, emergency brake and pedestrian detection). There’s also a lane departure alert with automatic steering adjustment, auto high beams and dynamic radar cruise control.

When you take it all together, the Highlander Hybrid Limited is a complete package. Of course, you are paying close to $60,000 for that.

It has the performance, handling, room and safety features that many families today look for in their vehicles, and the new design is sure to draw in some customers who may not have considered it before.

2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
Price as tested: $57,878.47
Freight: $1,760.00
Configuration: front engine/All-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.5-litre six-cylinder with Hybrid Synergy Drive/ Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission
Power/torque: 306 horsepower
Fuel (capacity): Regular (65 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 8.3 L/100 km
Warranties: 3-years/60,000 kilometres (basic)
Competitors: Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer (although none available as a hybrid)

Related links:

Toyota Canada
Consumer Reports

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