April 8, 2010
Inside Story is a review of interior comfort features, cabin controls, storage options, trunk space and under-hood accessibility based on a seven-day evaluation. For driving impressions, please see our Test Drives section.
Review and photos by Michael Clark
2010 Toyota Highlander
Currently the only mid-size non-luxury hybrid SUV on the market, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a roomy, seven-passenger sport utility vehicle starting at $47,725. This week’s test vehicle is a 2010 Highlander Hybrid 4WDi with Leather Package, with an MSRP of $49,490 as tested. (Prices shown do not include freight, taxes, regional or promotional incentives.)
The four-spoke manual tilt/telescoping wheel carries audio controls, driver’s information display screen toggle, and the Corporate Toyota cruise control stalk, at the 4 pm wheel position. Headlamps are equipped with an Auto detent, while intermittent sweep occurs for both front and rear wiper paths. Gauges glow with Optitron clarity, with an engine coolant temperature read-out, and the expected Kilowatt power meter, for those who enjoy being confused by what their hybrid is actually doing in the power flow department. The control pod to the left of the driver houses the power hatch release, dimmer switch, heated windshield, and the toggle for the exterior heated breakaway-style mirrors, equipped with puddle lamp glow.
2010 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click image to enlarge
The driver’s door pod gets an auto switch for the driver’s pane. Push-button engine start is enabled by the Smart Key fob. The audio head unit increases to six-CD capacity when the Comfort Package is specified, inclusions that are part of the Leather Package bump. While the HVAC is a manual dial-up, there are rear heat controls, with a driver-controlled lock-out. The 3.5-inch display provides the real story for rear camera views. Within the driver’s information screens are fuel economy averages, tire pressure monitoring with spare tire inclusion, as well as real-time power supply animation. The gated CVT floor shifter includes the ‘B’ low range, useful for shaving off speed on steep hill descents. There’s the EV (Electric Vehicle) switch, which cancels out beyond parking lot speeds, and the ECON (Economy) mode, which was used for the duration of the evaluation.
The locking glovebox can’t be overwhelmed, even by wads of owner’s lit and spare lug nuts. The power hatch lock-out is cleverly hidden, to the left of the glovebox door. Front and rear door panels get ample bottle holder voids. Below the rear HVAC dials is a pull-out cupholder of good depth, with rubber cincher tabs. For the front passengers, the centre console houses a flip-top door dual cupholder, with a removable cincher biscuit. The two open cupholders use spring-tab cinchers. A thin flip-up door below the centre stack HVAC dials holds a 12-volt DC powerpoint, an auxiliary audio input, and a portal not quite large enough to swallow a flip phone. The centre console storage box is ample, though additional power and/or USB connectivity is a swing-and-a-miss. Keen eyes will have noticed the drop-down cubby drawer, below the switch bank, to the left of the driver. Small, open cubbies populate the sides of the front centre tunnel. The largest cubby of all is at the rear of the centre console, which can house the cupholder/storage box insert for the second row, or the centre seat insert. Note the handy how-to applique. Third row occupants are provided with a wall-mount cupholder on each side of the vehicle. Front seatbacks are equipped with soft storage pockets.
The sunglasses holder includes a detent for the conversation mirror. The interior rear-view mirror is a manual day/night flip, while the vanity mirrors are lit via roof-mounted lamps. Sunblocker panels occur on each visor. Second and third row positions are equipped with overhead HVAC venting, in addition to floor outlets. You’ll have to spring $54,775 (MSRP) for the Limited model, if you’re thinking moonroof. The racking system uses twist-dials for locking the crossbars into place. Tip for Toyota: it might be time to include rub strips for roof rack equipped models.