When you measure fuel economy, hybrid cars are usually a better option than the same models with gasoline engines, yet they are not more cost effective in most cases. Yes, the MPG numbers are always bigger, but the prices are dramatically higher in favor of hybrids. For instance, the regular Toyota Highlander currently costs around $30,630, while the same hybrid SUV starts at $37,230. As you may see, there is a huge gap here. However, we are not so sure whether the 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid really deserves to carry this price tag.
2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: Powertrain
The Japanese car manufacturer introduced an updated version last year, which means that the 2018 model won’t get anything new at all. Still, since the carmaker added a new powertrain this year, the 2018 Highlander Hybrid will be very interesting SUV without any doubt.
Toyota’s mid-size crossover combines a 3.5-liter V6 engine and a pair of electric motors. In contrast to its predecessor that was able to deliver 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque, the updated V6 mill pumps out 295 hp and 263 lb-ft of twist. When you add a 167-hp motor that powers the front wheels and around 68-hp electric motor that’s fitted to the rear axle, you will get a hybrid drivetrain which is netting up to 306 horsepower. If you do the math, you will notice that the new system produces 36 ponies more than the predecessor. Of course, the CVT stays the only gearbox option and so is the all-wheel drive.
The Japanese had an idea to improve the fuel economy of the crossover with this hybrid powertrain, but the 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid can’t really brag with the results. Our best shot is the LE trim level that managed to achieve 29 mpg combined, 30 mpg city, and 28 mpg highway. Essentially, this is just a few mpg better from the gasoline V6 model, but it’s very good result for a large three-row crossover. Plus, the hybrid model weights around 310 pounds more that the non-hybrid, which is a reason more for a standing ovation, because the 2018 Highlander hybrid accelerates significantly faster and smoother from its gasoline sibling.
As for the rest, exterior and interior of the 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid don’t differ too much from the regular model. The three-row utility vehicles got a bit redesigned look, so it’s now significantly more attractive finishes than earlier. The carmaker added a new grille and restyled headlight, which make it more aggressive and pretty handsome. You may find the Highlander’s ride quality a bit firmer, but you can always go for an optional sportier suspension tune that makes things right.
In case you don’t need a car for eight passengers, we strongly suggest you a seven-seat model. This way, you will choose a crossover that has second-row captain’s chairs, which are notably cozier from the rear bench. As for the rest of the interior, the mid-size SUV gets an amazing styling and plenty of new features. As you probably know, the 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is available in LE and XLE trims, and we always recommend the second one, simply because it’s a far better option.
Anyway, based on our experience, the 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid may be the cost-payable option if you get one with the base price. However, taking into account that the hybrid SUV can easily reach almost $48,000, we would reconsider the gasoline model as well.