Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Research with the help of a Toyota Highlander review

The Good

This is a versatile all-around performer that scores high marks for interior comfort and overall reliability.

The Bad

Some Toyota Highlander reviews complain that the exterior styling is plain and unimaginative. Options really add bulk to the vehicle’s sticker price. The steering isn’t optimally responsive.

The Bottom Line

If you are looking for a fuel-saving full-sized SUV and you tend to do a lot of driving, this vehicle makes a good option as it tends to hold its resale value better than its competitors.


The 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is available in two different trim packages: a Base and a Limited model. The Limited model has a more generous body size and larger wheels, and also comes with enhanced standard features.

MSRP: $38,175 (Base) to $44,370 (Limited)

Average paid: $38,100 (Base) to $43,188 (Limited)


Acceleration and power

One of the improvements in the 2012 model over the previous year’s is a boost in the overall horsepower output. The 2012 Highlander Hybrid puts out 10 more horsepower than its predecessor, though this has a negligible effect on the vehicle’s performance as a whole.

The continuously variable automatic transmission affects vehicle performance in a positive way. Rather than constantly shifting gears, the transmission simply adjusts gear ratios, which results in very smooth and even acceleration across both city and highway speed ranges.

Power specifications, however, leave a little to be desired. The vehicle produces a peak of only 231 horsepower, which doesn’t stack up to other full-size hybrid SUVs.

Handling and braking

One of the biggest drawbacks of this vehicle is the sluggish steering response. While the Highlander handles fairly well for a larger vehicle, many reviewers and test drivers reported that it was necessary to seemingly overcompensate behind the steering wheel to get the desired response.

However, the SUV’s braking capabilities were strong and reliable. The Highlander Hybrid is powered by all-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake assist, greatly enhancing the overall safety and stability of the vehicle.



In the front, the seats have a relatively high mounting position, which provides superior visibility. The vehicle offers standard seating for seven passengers, with split bench seats in the second and third rows and bucket seats in the front. While the front seats are reasonably comfortable, they lack contour to a certain extent and can feel flat.

Both the second row and third row seats can be collapsed to enhance the overall cargo capacity of the vehicle. On the whole, the seating quality is comfortable and of above-average quality.


An entertainment system with built-in DVD player is standard on both trim packages, and the vehicle fully supports MP3 and Bluetooth technologies. The hybrid version of the Highlander also includes some unique interior features, such as fuel consumption and energy monitoring gauges on the trip computer and attractive blue gauge trim.

The vehicle offers an optional navigation system. Many Toyota Highlander Hybrid reviews pointed out that the voice navigator was woefully inaccurate at times. You might opt to purchase an aftermarket GPS system rather than springing for the optional factory navigator.

Cargo space

When the second row and third row seats are collapsed, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers up to 94.1 cubic feet of cargo space. While this is fairly generous, it is still a little ways off the class leaders. However, the Highlander has just over 10 feet of standard luggage space, which isn’t a whole lot for a vehicle its size.


While crash test safety data is not available for this vehicle, it does include a wide range of standard safety features. In addition to front-impact and side-impact airbags, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV also has overhead airbags and knee airbags to help prevent injuries in the result of an accident.

Front seats include anti-whiplash head restraints, which can help you avoid painful neck problems if you get hit from behind. Electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes and a built-in security system round out the standard safety features.


The Highlander last underwent a major redesign for the 2008 model year, and the 2012 model is virtually unchanged from the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, save for minor variations in the standard features and trim packages.

  • Transmission: 2-speed continuously variable transmission with overdrive capability
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel drive
  • Engine Type: V6 hybrid fuel cell/gasoline combo
  • Engine Size: 3.5 L
  • Horsepower: 231 @ 5800
  • Torque: 215 @ 4800
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid MPG, City: 28 MPG
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid MPG, Highway: 28 MPG
  • Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.2 gallons
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