Toyota Highlander hybrid – is one smooth operator
Roseville, Calif.- For some unknown reason, the other day I had an aging song continuously playing in my head – “Smooth Operator.” As is often the case, I have no idea how that mid-1980s song by Sade became my latest “earworm.” Yet it did for days.
As I was mulling over the tune, the thought occurred to me that the vehicle I was driving on a ski trip to Lake Tahoe – the 2022 Toyota Highlander hybrid – is one smooth operator.
The Highlander has always been a favorite here. And the hybrid version drives even more effortlessly than the standard Highlander, a midsize SUV that has three rows and can haul seven or eight passengers.
Comfortable, quiet ride
Looking for a comfortable, quiet ride from a midsize SUV? The venerable Highlander fits the description.
All versions of the fourth-generation Highlander received lots of attention in 2020, thanks to a smart major redesign that included exterior styling updates, improved performance, additional safety features, and some technology additions.
No additional changes have taken place the past two years. Sometimes that can be a good thing, making us feel like the redesign was highly successful and nothing needs changed or added.
At a Glance – 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
- Performance: two electric motors, 2.5-liter, four-cylinder, 243 horsepower
- Mileage estimate: 35-36 mpg
- Estimated price: $38,900 to $50,950
- Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain: 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance: 2 years/unlimited; corrosion: 5 years/unlimited
Toyota has always had a thing for hybrids and has produced some good ones. That includes the Highlander, which was introduced in 2007 and now is the only three-row hybrid SUV to survive that long in the U.S.
Overall, the Highlander offers a pleasing ride, has an energetic powertrain, and is excellent in regard to fuel economy (35-36 mpg). It can be a bit pricey, starting at approximately $39,000. Yet we feel it delivers lots of value and is worth the price.
The Highlander receives praise for its driving capabilities. It handles the daily commute with ease and also performs well when negotiating challenging, twisting roads and steep mountainous passes.
It’s very safe as well. Standard features include blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, lane keeping system, forward collision mitigation, road sign assist, adaptive cruise control, and automatic high-beam assist.
A smartly designed, upscale cabin is user-friendly and includes some thoughtful dashboard storage cubbies and a convenient spot for a cell phone – atop the center console.
Standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, Amazon Alexa, Wi-Fi hot spot, satellite radio, Bluetooth, six-speaker stereo, and five USB ports. It also has an 8-inch touchscreen (12.3-inch is optional).
The front seats are wide and provide good comfort even on long drives, while the available second-row captain’s chairs also deliver in those areas.
The main issue – as it normally is with third rows on any SUV – is lack of adequate space for all but small children. It continues to be the Highlander’s greatest liability.
The Highlander is also suitable for smaller families that like to have the third row folded down to create a larger cargo space (48.4 cubic feet). With the third row up, the storage area is dramatically different – a smallish 16 cubes.
Even though it’s not initially quick, we never felt the Highlander underperformed going over some sizable mountainous passes. It’s equipped with two electric motors that combine with a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder to generate 243 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid goes 0-60 mph in 8.2 seconds and can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
The 2022 Toyota Highlander hybrid continues its long tradition of being an SUV that provides considerable comfort, a smooth ride and terrific gas mileage. It remains near the top of its class.