While the fuel economy of the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid doesn’t rival the smaller hybrid cars like the Prius, the Highlander Hybrid has some distinct advantages over its smaller fuel-sipping brother. It offers more passenger space and cargo space, it has more power thanks to the standard V6 engine and – most importantly – it comes with a standard all-wheel drive system. There are all-wheel drive hybrids, but they are all smaller SUVs or hatchbacks, so if you are after this combination of size, power, all-wheel drive and hybrid technology, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the best option.
Now, I am sure that some owners of front wheel drive hybrid vehicles like anything in the Prius lineup are reading this, questioning why someone would want an all-wheel drive hybrid. After all, in opting for the larger vehicle with standard all-wheel drive, Highland buyers are compromising heavily on the fuel economy numbers which make modern hybrids so popular – so why get this hybrid rather than one that gets better MPG numbers?
It all comes down to the year-round functionality that the Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers that you just don’t get with the other, more fuel-friendly hybrids on sale today. The Highlander Hybrid offers the same capabilities to drive in rough winter weather or rough country roads, so while a Prius owner living in Miami or Los Angeles might not be able to appreciate the advantages of all-wheel drive, anyone who lives in the Snow Belt can under the need for something more than front-wheel drive.
Fortunately, while I was driving the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the area was blanketed in deep snow, giving me a great chance to experience the advantage of an AWD hybrid.
Daily Driving the Highlander Hybrid
Before getting into how the all-wheel drive system of the 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid makes this vehicle better than your average 50-mpg hybrid, let’s look at how it performs in everyday driving. The odds are good that Highlander Hybrid owners are going to spend far more time on dry, paved roads on warm days and in spending a week behind the wheel – the majority of my driving was on dry paved roads. The temperatures were cold, but much of my daily drive could be performed in almost any vehicle and in these conditions, the Highlander Hybrid performed just as well as the traditional Highlander.
As larger hybrid vehicles go, the Highlander is surprisingly quick from a stop and it feels far more willing to exceed highway speeds out on the open road. With so many hybrids being powered by tiny engines and drivetrains designed to optimize highway fuel economy, the compromise is that they aren’t particularly strong at highway speeds, but the V6 hybrid drivetrain in the Highlander doesn’t suffer from that issue.
In addition to packing V6 power which is rare in a hybrid, the 2017 Highlander Hybrid offers a smooth ride and a quiet interior while taking that ride. Really, if not for the badging and the fact that it can drive on an all-EV mode at lower speeds, the Highlander Hybrid is the same popular vehicle as the non-hybrid version. The difference is that during that cruising time, the hybrid model can get 30mpg on the highway with some delicate driving and with a heavier mix of city driving, you can very easily average better than 30mpg – making the hybrid about 7mpg better than the non-hybrid.
About the Reviewer:
Patrick Rall is a professional writer and photographer with a passion for all things automotive. Having grown up in his father’s performance shop, he spent extensive time at the oval track and drag strip – both driving and wrenching on various types of vehicles. In addition to working as a writer, Patrick previously worked as an automotive technician before moving on to a business office position with a chain of dealerships, and this broad spectrum of experience in the industry allows him to offer a unique look on the automotive world.
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