2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

Review by Justin Pritchard

Vehicle Type: SUV Crossover

History/Description:  Popular with shoppers after top levels of reliability, safety, confidence, residual value and reliability, the Toyota Highlander’s latest generation launched for 2008, and carried through 2013, inclusive.

Competing with machines like the Touareg, Durango, Acadia, Pilot, Explorer, Pathfinder and CX-9, Highlander could be had with six or seven-passenger seating, four or six-cylinder power, two or four-wheel drive and gasoline or electric hybrid propulsion.

For that warm and fuzzy confidence shoppers love, Highlander came fitted with Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TC), Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control technologies. The latter technology aids in confidence while tackling a slippery grade, though all of the electronic safety features listed work to enhance Highlanders bond with the road or trail.

Advanced braking technologies are also standard. These include brake assist (BA) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) to ensure safe handling and predictable stopping performance.

Engines / Trim: Power comes from a proven 3.5L V6 with 270 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque. This engine came paired only with an automatic gearbox which featured a SNOW mode for enhanced traction in slippery weather.

Toyota addressed shoppers concerned with rising fuel prices by offering Highlander with a 2.7L, 189 hp four-cylinder engine as well.

The Highlander Hybrid, which improved power output, performance and fuel economy with a Hybrid Synergy Drive powerplant, teamed up a gasoline V6 engine with an electric motor drive system for shoppers looking to slash fuel bills or do their part for the environment.

Look for features like navigation, heated leather seating, an intelligent key system, automatic climate control, a rear-seat DVD entertainment console and plenty more. Value-added packages include a Sport package, a Leather package and a Comfort package – depending on the model selected. Limited models were top-of-the-line.

2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click image to enlarge

What Owners Like: Size, space, flexibility and an all-around sense of being confidently backed up for various forms of family adventure were key positives reported by Highlander owners. Fuel economy is rated positively, for the most part, with the six-cylinder engine. All season handling and confidence on 4WD models is highly rated, too. Many shoppers sought out the Highlander based on Toyota’s solid reputation. The flat storage area was also rated highly, as was an overall quiet and easy-to-drive character.

What Owners Dislike: Some Highlander owners from this generation wish for more power, better steering feel, more appealing looks, and a more upscale materials palette for the cabin, which is trimmed in lots of hard plastic paneling. Third-row seat space, if equipped, is very limited, too.

Here are some owner reviews on autoTRADER.ca.

The Test Drive: Start with the standard used crossover stuff. Look for a Highlander with full service records if possible, and note that a model familiar to and serviced regularly at your local dealership is ideal from a maintenance standpoint.

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

You’ll also want to ensure all fluid changes are up to date, preemptively changing transmission fluid, differential oil and coolant if you aren’t sure of the service history of the model in question. Highlander’s engines use a timing chain rather than a timing belt – meaning that the part needn’t be replaced periodically, so long as the factory oil-change schedule is adhered to.

A thorough look at the Highlander’s underbelly is a good idea. Bring a flashlight or take your used candidate to a hoist – noting any excessive rust, dents or holes that may have resulted from careless navigation of rough terrain. This is also a good time to check for leaks. Uncomfortable underneath a vehicle? Your favourite mechanic would be happy to have a look.

Check for proper condition of the door-mounted arm-rests and the cover on the centre console, which some owners say are less than durable and may become easily damaged or even split. Here’s some more info, and a good read on how to replace worn-out armrests and console covers.

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