Safety and creature comforts are key to road trip happiness.
That and snacks. And the ability to easily access snacks. All are part of the well-designed 2017 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Add the great gas mileage from a hybrid and even those annoying interstate traffic jams get slightly less irritating. Or, at the very least, they lessen the worry you’ll run out of gas.
Who This Car is For:
- Drivers who need a 7-passenger SUV with third row seating
- Drivers who like cargo space
- Families looking for safety features that come standard
- Eco-conscious drivers who still want an SUV with power
What It Costs
Toyota’s suggested retail prices for the Highlander Hybrid models are:
- LE Hybrid AWD V6: $36,270
- XLE Hybrid AWD V6: $41,330
- Limited Hybrid AWD V6: $44,760
- Limited Platinum Hybrid AWD V6 (the model I drove): $47,880
Read More: What are the best road trip snacks?
Highlander Design Makes Even a Solo Road Trip Tolerable
Toyota loaned me the 2017 Highlander Hybrid for a solo road trip from Chicago to Iowa to visit my daughter at college. Hubby couldn’t take the time away from work. That meant I was on my own. No co-pilot to hand me snacks, help me navigate or keep me company. This is not my preferred method of travel. I would rather fly. Or have someone else drive me—or at least drive with me. But the Highlander made my trip a reasonable 6 hours each way.
My road trip started with a whimper. Nasty Chicago highway construction coupled with an even nastier accident meant it took more than an hour to go less than 15 miles. But the hybrid engine and start and stop engine system (which turns off the car when it stops fully and restarts when you lift your foot off the brake pedal, saving emissions and conserving fuel) meant that I used hardly any gas at all. The first leg of my trip, I racked up a very respectable 29.8 miles per gallon!
Cockpit Design Features that Make Solo Driving Easy
Two design features that made my long, lonely drive more doable: a huge center console and a shelf for holding my phone while it charged.
The center console storage area was just the right spot for keeping snacks handy. When the console was closed, it was a soft spot to rest my elbow as I drove. The shelf above the three (count ‘em—three!) USB ports in the dash meant I didn’t have to worry about the phone flying around the car or sliding out of reach as I drove.
A Key That Is Smart Enough to Lock and Unlock the Car without Ever Touching It
The smart key system meant that I never had to dig around and find the car key when I stopped for a break. All I had to do was grab my purse off the passenger seat, get out and close the car door, putting my thumb on the driver door handle to lock the car. When I returned, with the key somewhere in my messy bag, the door automatically unlocked when I grabbed the handle.
Feeling Safer in a Toyota
Another challenge for me on a solo road trip is staying alert. With no one to talk to, I find my concentration can sometimes lag. But the car was a great co-pilot. When I drifted a bit out of my lane, the lane departure warning nudged me back. On those rare occasions when I came upon other cars during this Iowa road trip, the dynamic cruise control automatically slowed the car, and then speeded up again once I was clear of the slow-poke. Clicking a button on the steering wheel changed the distance between my car and the one ahead.
Toyota Safety Sense, standard on all Toyota vehicles, also includes pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic emergency braking. Fortunately, I didn’t get to test either of those systems.
Getting a Bird’s Eye View of My World. Or At Least My Parking
By far my favorite new car tech is the back up camera. This 7-passenger SUV goes a step further: It enhances the backup camera with a bird’s eye view camera. I sometimes find it challenging to park a bigger vehicle inside the parking lines. I used the bird’s eye view camera to help me line up the car right between those two white lines at every rest stop along the way. Then I used it again as I backed out into traffic, aided by the blind spot monitor and cross traffic alert as well.
Toyota technology uses cameras mounted on the front, the side mirrors and rear of the car to project a panoramic view of the vehicle’s surroundings on the central multimedia monitor. The system offers drivers assistance when parallel parking, and when pulling in and out of parking spaces. The Bird’s Eye View Camera system also features a Toyota-first function called “perimeter scan,” which provides a live rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle, helping the driver to see potential obstacles in certain conditions.
An Abundance of Family Friendly Features
The Toyota Highlander 7-passenger SUV is just 192.5-inches long—only slightly bigger than a midsize sedan. There’s plenty of space on the inside. The third-row seats fit three children although I think three adults would be a tight fit. Getting in about of the third row is easy, though, thanks to sliding second-row seats on both the driver and passenger sides of the car. Even better the third row seats recline!
Yelling at the kids is easy in the Highlander, too. XLE grades and above come standard with a feature Toyota calls “driver easy speak.” That’s a microphone located in the overhead console that amplifies the driver’s voice and broadcasts it through the audio system’s rear speakers. So it’s easy to tell the kids to “Stop fighting or I’m going to turn this car around!” And it’s a one-way system, so there’s no need to hear the kids whining about who did what to whom.
Cargo Made Easy
There’s plenty of room for hauling all of the family’s stuff. Even with the third row seats in use, there is an impressive 13.8 cu. ft. of carrying space. Fold down the 60/40 split third-row seatbacks for 42.3 cubic feet of cargo space. It expands to more than 83 cubi feet when the 60/40 split fold-flat second row is also lowered.
If that still isn’t enough space when you need to carry something super long—12-foot 2X4s anyone?—the Highlander rear hatch window raises so you can drive your haul back from the home center.
It’s Pretty as Well as Functional
The taillights were upgraded in 2017 to have a sleeker look with standard LEDs. And, even if it sounds a little girly, I really liked the color. Toasted Walnut Pearl is what mine is called. It also comes in Celestial Silver Metallic and the hot- sounding Salsa Red Pearl.
What We Loved
- Height-adjustable power rear liftgate with flip-up rear hatch window
- Bird’s eye view camera
- Toyota Safety Sense driver assist package comes standard
- 5-star overall government safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- 8-way power driver seat with lumbar support
- Entune™ Audio Plus with SiriusXM® Satellite Radio and HD Radio™ featuring an 8-inch display monitor
- Three-zone automatic climate control
- Smart key system with push button start
- Power tilt-slide moonroof
- Driver easy speak
- It’s American made, at the Princeton, Indiana, assembly plant
What You Need to Know
- Toyota’s 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items.
- Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and corrosion with no mileage limitation.
- The hybrid-related components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles, whichever comes first.
- The Highlander also comes standard with Toyota Care, a complimentary plan covering normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first.