2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Grant Yoxon

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2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

If you’re not concerned about the recent rise in fuel prices, you must have money to burn.

I filled up yesterday (first week of May in Ottawa) at $1.34/litre for regular fuel. Our weekly fuel bill for two vehicles has gone from about $85.00 at this time last year to $125.00. It is money that I would prefer not to burn.

Needless to say, I’m a little cautious these days with my right foot. With two perfectly good vehicles, we’re not about to trade in for better fuel efficiency. So we practice more fuel efficient driving (see Paul Williams’ article, Tips on driving “fuel-efficiently” to get the most from a tank of fuel.

But if you are looking for a new vehicle, you have two choices, really – buy smaller, or buy more efficient. The former will always be the better, lowest cost choice, but not everyone has that choice. Families with three or more children may find that a compact car or SUV has just too many compromises to be viable.

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

With its seven passenger seating capability, roomy rear seat and flexible storage, the Toyota Highlander has the right combination of size and seating for the larger family; and with three powertrain options and a variety of equipment levels, it is available in a price to suit most budgets – from $31,500 for the front-wheel drive, four-cylinder Highlander to the $51,650 four-wheel drive, six-cylinder, gas/electric hybrid Highlander Hybrid Limited.

Safety features are the same across the board, with Toyota’s Start Safety System – stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, smart stop technology, dual stage driver and passenger front airbags, front seat side mounted airbags, driver knee airbag, roll-sensing front and rear head and side curtain airbags and driver knee airbag are all standard, as are active headrests with whiplash protection, three point lap and shoulder seat belts in all seating positions, child seat anchors and child protector rear door locks.

Hybrid models – such as our test vehicle – also get Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM), a feature normally found only in more expensive Lexus models. VDIM provides more precise control of the electric power steering, stability control, ABS, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution and engine torque to manage vehicle stability.

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Depending on your need for luxury, you can get a Highlander equipped with cloth or leather seating, manual or automatic climate control, manual or power operated front seats, and metallic look or wood grain trim. Items such as cruise control, power windows and door locks, keyless entry, fog lamps, variable intermittent wipers with windshield wiper de-icer, heated side mirrors, roof rails, automatic headlights and alloy wheels are all standard. Spend the money and you can order such features as steering wheel mounted audio and climate controls, power rear hatch, power sun roof, back-up camera, navigation system, premium audio system, Bluetooth connectivity and larger alloy wheels.

Drivetrain options include the entry-level 2.7-litre, four-cylinder, producing 187 hp and 186 lb.-ft. of torque. Towing capacity is rated at 1,587 kg (3,500 lbs). It is available with front-wheel drive and basic equipment levels only. But with a combined city/highway Energuide fuel consumption rating of 9.0 L/100 km, it is a viable option for the fuel consumption conscious owner.

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