The Highlander Saga: Of Toyota Highlander Hybrid Real-World MPGs

Sections: Fuel Economy

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2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Photo Shoot 031

(Lyndon Johnson photo)

We touched on fuel economy briefly in an earlier piece about our test 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Let’s dig a little deeper. What does it all meeeean, man?

EPA rates the Highlander Hybrid at a somewhat unusual trifecta: 28 MPG city, 28 MPG highway, 28 MPG combined. That’s pretty good for a midsize crossover that will seat seven people– two of them hopefully “little persons” in order to fit comfortably in the way-back– but lags behind some competitors in its size class with traditional powertrains.

Let’s take, for example, Chevy’s Equinox equipped with a four-cylinder engine. It may only seat five, but delivers an EPA rating of 22 MPG city, 32 MPG highway, 26 MPG combined. Consider a fully-loaded example of the four-cylinder ‘Nox isn’t in the same league as the $48,000 Highlander Hybrid, and you can see where I’m going with this, right?

The Highlander’s ability to schlep seven might make the difference for shoppers, but those practicality-minded shoppers are also likely to be concerned on matters of cost. Getting into the 280-horsepower Highlander Hybrid will cost you at least $40,000 if you plan to buy outright. Since I used the Equinox as an example earlier, it bears mentioning here that the fully-loaded Equinox LTZ with the General’s 3.6-liter, 301-horsepower V6 clocked a $37,000 MSRP.

But no matter, the V6 ‘Nox is several MPG off the Highlander Hybrid’s high mark, managing just 17 MPG city, 24 MPG highway, and 20 MPG combined. Is the 8-MPG difference enough to make you spring for a Highlander Hybrid over the Equinox and others in the segment? Your decision, not mine. As little as I drive, I can comfortably say that for my own use, probably not.

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Our test 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid spent much of its week with us in the 25- to 26 MPG range before finally ending the week at an even 27 MPG, according to the onboard information display located centrally atop the dash. (Lyndon Johnson photo.)

Now for the portion of our show where we turn it over to our tame racing driver talk about our own fuel economy results: In a week of mixed driving on the highway and in town, the Highlander Hybrid fell just 1 MPG short of its EPA rating, getting 27 MPG. The on-board fuel economy display spent several days of our test at 25 or 26 MPG, so perhaps with a little more time for the vehicle to adjust to my driving style, it could have squeezed out one more mile from every gallon of gas.

I was impressed by that performance, but not blown away. The Highlander Hybrid’s interior made an even better impression on me. More on that later.

Disclosure: Toyota provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas– only about half of which we managed to burn through for our week-long test. Told you I don’t drive that much.

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