The Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV is big--full-size hauler big--so Inhabitat wanted to know if it could deliver on its estimated 28 mpg for folks who need a larger vehicle but still want to drive green. After all, 28 mpg may not sound like much, but that's the average fuel economy for a non-hybrid sedan, so considering all the vehicle you get for $40,000-$46,000 here, the Highlander deserves a chance to prove its greenness per pound. How did the test drive go? Well, Inhabitat went for a real-world spin and hauled a whole garden of plant flats in this giant truck, groceries, and a kid with room to spare, and got anywhere from 30 to 40 mpg on average between highway and city driving--and up to 55 for low-speed cruising! How on earth can an SUV outpace most hybrid sedans?
In this case, it’s all about usage. The Highlander Hybrid is the kind of vehicle you might buy for a family that needs to haul gear but still wants to go green. That’s suburb territory, generally. And Toyota found the sweet spot for this application. The energy required to accelerate from start in a vehicle this size seems to cancel out the usual gains you get from regenerative braking, so the best use for the Highlander is suburban drives. The Highlander is smooth, there is a fine amount of horsepower for an SUV, and the vehicle includes great amenities such as online apps, DVD player, and rear HVAC controls you would find in any upmarket SUV.
Do you need this car? If you can make do with a smaller vehicle or drive mostly in city traffic, you’ll be happier in a littler hybrid, but for people needing a larger car, the Highlander Hybrid SUV is one of the first SUVs we have seen that really delivers on its mileage promises. But that’s for low-speed cruising. If you drive this for high-speed commutes your mileage will go down, and in-town stop-and-go can’t pull in the efficiencies here like you can get in a small hybrid. Hockey moms rejoice! (Or artists schlepping canvases downtown.) The Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV is some serious green for your hard-driving lifestyle.