September 28, 2010

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid will start from $37,290

The refreshed 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid crossover SUV will be delivered to the U.S. market with a single 3.5-liter V6 gasoline powerplant, four-wheel drive system and a choice of only two trims: Base ($37,290) and Limited ($42,945.)

Choosing between a "normal" and a hybrid-powered Highlander will be a tough thing, especially if you make the choice not only with your wallet (the Highlander SE V6 FWD costs $4140 less than the 4WD Highlander Hybrid Base,) but also with your eyes and heart. The hybrid-powered version of the SUV with its exclusive front fascia looks rather dull and uninspiring, but at the same time offers better mileage in city driving.

According to EPA estimates, the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which is equipped with a 270hp 3.5-liter V6 engine and a 10hp high-torque electric motor, will offer around 28 mpg in a city cycle, which is 3 mpg better than a base Highlander with a 187hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine can achieve.

The hybrid's "4WD-ness" is a kind of marketing trick, however, since the vehicle's rear wheel is powered only by the electric motor. As many owners of the Lexus RX 450h may witness, this kind of 4WD system often proves ineffective when the vehicle's front wheels are suck in a snow drift or in a particularly nasty mud hole. The electric motor is just too weak to pull the heavy SUV out of the trouble.

However, if you do not plan going off the well-paved roads and live in a warm climate, the Highlander Hybrid may be an interesting choice. While being very fuel efficient and not particularly expensive (especially when compared to the RX 450h that starts from much more impressive $43,235,) the crossover SUV offers a number of pleasantries, including seven-seating capacity, and an optional Leather Package that includes leather-trimmed front seats with front seat heaters, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear shift knob. The list of features also includes power moonroof, HomeLink, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, as well as an engine immobilizer with security alarm.

For some extra money one may also get a Tech Audio package including a USB port, integrated XM Satellite and Bluetooth, a backup monitor with 3.5-inch multi-information display, an eight-way power drivers seat, tonneau cover, engine immobilizer, easy-clean fabric interior, flip-up liftgate window, fog lamps and black roof rails.

See also: 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid debuts

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