2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click image to enlarge
Manufacturer’s web site
Review and photos by Michael Clark
2009 Toyota Highlander
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.
Your money or your life?
That phrase normally accompanies the image of a Saturday Night Special in a dark alley, not the showrooms of Dealership Row. Or does it? Consider that money is currently in short supply around the globe, for both vehicle expenses and the fuel it consumes. Your life is actually more about your children’s life, or your grandchildren’s, and whether or not recess for them will one day require a portable respirator. The Here and Now dictates that those kids have to get to school, hockey practice, and science fairs, and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited can provide those services with minimal fuel costs, and minimal expulsion of CO2. All it asks of you is a premium of $54,360, instead of the MSRP of $47,885 for a non-hybrid Highlander 4WD V6 Limited. This week, Inside Story digs into the usual marriage of conveniences, as well as the idiosyncrasies of hybrid life that don’t make it into the brochure.
While the Highlander Hybrid is all about saving fuel, there certainly seems to be enough switches intent on sucking power from the batteries. The manual tilt/telescoping column holds the epitome of the multi-function wheel. Audio, Bluetooth phone, temperature, fuel mileage maps, and voice commands can be engaged from the switches, though many hiccups were encountered. The handshake process with Bluetooth-enabled phones was anything but seamless, and continued to present functionality problems while in use, such as providing a Speed-dial screen for outgoing calls when no Speed-dial lists existed. Reading the owner’s manual for proper commands is a must, as the system does not appear to offer an easy-to-find voice-prompt tutorial, nor does it list command options on the eight-inch LCD display. Guessing on prompts will leave you gripping the wheel ever tighter. “New destination” returned “searching for nearest gas station”.
A safety issue presented itself during engagement of reverse, and the rear-view camera function. While the image is crystal-clear, a tap of the phone function key cancels the much-needed image, displaying the Phone function pad on the screen. The Highlander design, be it gas or gas/hybrid, desperately needs the rear camera view to function, due to a high beltline on the rear window, and a limited rear wiper swath.