2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
There are other more pointed flaws to this powertrain. One of them is the brakes; they're very grabby compared to the Prius and other new Toyota and Lexus hybrids, and even after a week with them we were still stopping short of the desired spot nearly every time, and lacking smoothness the last couple miles per hour.
Likewise, the steering keeps with that same secure but imprecise attitude of the acceleration and brakes. The responsiveness is there; it's just masked by too much electric assist and a loose on-center feel that requires too many small adjustments. There's no big reward in ride quality either; somehow the cushiness you'd expect, given the Highlander's rather dulled responses, is substituted for a ride that's a bit busy.
Is 23 mpg worth it?
So how good did we do on gas? Over 130 miles of mixed driving—more freeway errands to the suburbs than city stop-and-go—we achieved just 23 mpg (and noticed our highest incremental figures on low-speed urban stretches, not on the highway). That's not at all had for such a large, heavy (4,600 pounds) vehicle, and it's probably several miles per gallon better than what we'd see in a standard V-6 Highlander, but it begs some thought.
Will the $38,715 Hybrid be right for you? We really think that—provided you like the package otherwise—it depends on what kind of driving you'll be doing. If it's lower-speed city driving, the Highlander Hybrid is a good green pick for those who need to ferry up to six others around town. But for highway driving we think the base four-cylinder or V-6 engines—and a number of your other third-row picks, minivans included—will be nearly as economical, if not better.