Test Drive:  2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited toyota car test drives hybrids
Test Drive:  2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited toyota car test drives hybrids
2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jeff Wilson, Second Opinion by Jonathan Yarkony

As I see it, there are three types of test vehicles: those I await for weeks with the expectant enthusiasm of a kid at Christmas; those I anticipate with the eagerness of a root canal and return as soon as I’ve managed enough seat time to make an honest evaluation; and those that simply surprise the heck out of me one way or another.

The 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid falls into that third category since, on paper, it’s a perfect storm of blah for me.  It’s a hybrid (which means it’ll pull like a snail).  It’s got a CVT transmission (which means the sounds of disgruntled livestock).  And it’s a tall, heavy SUV (which means it’ll handle like a hippo on a beach ball).  Like I said, blah.

During a particularly busy and stressful week, however, the Highlander Hybrid endeared itself within the first day for a lot of practical reasons.  First off, its cabin is a pretty nice place to be when you’ve got to put in a lot of miles – especially if those miles are in busy urban centres [it’s pretty inviting on long highway trips as well –Ed.].

The Highlander’s leather-covered seats – though not lavishly styled – are comfortable enough for driver and passengers to spend large chunks of time without fatigue.  They’re supportive where they need to be, but cushy in the right places too (like the head restraints).  It’s the smoothness and solitude of the Highlander’s interior that contributes to lower blood pressure whether traffic is bumper-to-bumper or whizzing along on the freeway.

Test Drive:  2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited toyota car test drives hybrids Test Drive:  2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited toyota car test drives hybrids
2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

In fact, it’s the remarkably subdued engine noise that also makes the CVT perfectly tolerable since the mooing and moaning cannot really be heard anyway.  That and the smooth power delivery of the 280 hp keeps the rotund 2,100-kg SUV moving along comfortably.  Most importantly, the CVT maximizes efficiency, netting the Highlander a claimed 6.9 L/100 km combined consumption rate.  During its stay with me, the tester produced a less impressive 9.7 L/100 km average, owing to snow tires and a large proportion of highway driving where hybrid systems provide little benefit.




About Jeff Wilson

Jeff Wilson is a Hamilton-based automotive journalist and accredited member of AJAC. When not pursuing his automotive passions, he divides his time between being a dad, husband and television producer.