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Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The 2019 Toyota Highlander is a nicely-sized crossover utility vehicle with three rows of seats and room for up to eight passengers. Even though Highlander blurs the line between the mid- and full-size segments, its size feels just right for urban settings and family road trips.

Available in a wide variety of trims and offering an available hybrid powertrain, Highlander features a roomy cabin, long list of standard safety technologies, and a pleasing ride.

Its aggressive front end styling may not appeal to all, but its tranquil cabin and refined driving characteristics are two great reasons to take a closer look.

Cabin

There is plenty of head and leg room in the first two rows, but as you might expect, the third row is a bit cramped for adults.

Two second-row captain’s chairs are available in place of the 3-passenger bench for those who prefer comfort over capacity. Cargo space behind the third row is 13.8 cubic-feet. It expands to 42.3 with the third-row folded, and 83.7 with both second- and third-rows folded.

All Highlander models come standard with a total of five USB ports, three up front and two in the rear. A rear-seat Blu-ray Disc entertainment system with 9-inch display screen is optional in higher trim levels.

At the lower trim levels, though, Highlander features some inexpensive looking surfaces. And noticeably missing from all Highlander models is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Equipment

All Highlander models come very well-equipped. Of course, stepping up to Limited trim level adds luxurious accoutrements and opens the door to the Platinum Package that includes a panoramic moonroof, heated steering wheel, perforated leather heated second-row outboard seats, rain-sensing wipers, surround-view camera and darkened 19-inch wheels.

Safety

All Highlander models come standard with Toyota Safety Sense P, which includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with full-speed automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, active lane control and automatic high beam headlamps.

Performance

The base Highlander LE model ($31,530) features a 185-horsepower 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This combination is only available with front-wheel drive.

A 295-horsepower 3.5-L V6 engine is optional in LE and standard in all other non-hybrid trim levels. This V6 is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission and can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive.

The four-banger in the base Highlander LE is weak and delivers 20/24 mpg. The V6 and 8-speed automatic in non-hybrid models delivers 21/27 mpg (FWD) and 20/26 (AWD).

Hybrid Specialty

Obviously, hybrid versions deliver much improved fuel economy. The Hybrid LE trim delivers 30/28 mpg while the Hybrid XLE and Hybrid Limited models are rated at 29/27 mpg.

All Highlander Hybrid models are powered by a unique 3.5-L V6 engine, continuously variable transmission (CVT) and twin electric drive motors, one for each axle. Hence, all hybrid models are standard with all-wheel drive.

The Highlander Hybrid powertrain delivers a net 306 horsepower. When it comes to hybrid powertrains, Toyota is a leader.

The transitions from engine off to engine running, and vice-versa, are ultra-smooth and almost imperceptible. An EV button lets you operate in full electric mode for low-speed driving. An ECO button helps you achieve better fuel economy.

When you want power, the hybrid powertrain delivers impressively. But, there is a bit more noise in the cabin of hybrid models than non-hybrid models when accelerating hard.

Still, the Highlander Hybrid feels very refined and smooth. Pricing for the Highlander Hybrid ranges from $37,170 – $48,830. Pricing for non-hybrid models ranges from $31,530 – $47,210.

Get behind the wheel of the Toyota Highlander and you will see why it is one of the best in its class. 

This auto review was researched and written by SteinPro Content Services and provided to the Sun-Times for publication