DETROIT – We tested the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and found it improved.
The midsize crossover had a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to two electric motors. The gasoline engine used variable valve timing on the intake camshaft and exhaust camshaft.
Toyota said that a variable cooling system and a fully variable oil pump help improve engine efficiency. The system made 243 horsepower; we had the AWD version, although there is also a front-wheel drive version.
All of this improvement has resulted in the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid having a fuel economy rating of 35 mpg in the city, 34 mpg on the highway and 35 mpg combined.
The transaxle mounted the electric motors (MG1 and MG2) coaxially rather than in-line, and the resulting smaller and lighter package reduced friction losses. The gasoline engine and the MG2 worked together to deliver dynamic performance, while the MG1 and MG2 charged the hybrid battery.
To reduce the size and weight of the transaxle, the reducer was a parallel shaft gear rather than a planetary gear, and a multi-function gear incorporated the power distribution planetary ring gear, parking gear, and gear. of counter-training. Computer integration and a smaller, lighter power stack installed directly above the transaxle reduced power transmission losses.
The battery pack was small enough to fit under the rear seats so that it did not take up space for cargo or passengers. This means Highlander Hybrid drivers get all the benefits of a hybrid powertrain without sacrificing much needed cargo space for day-to-day operations.
Almost, we found that there was little headroom in the third row of our test vehicle. Most of what we just wrote came straight from Toyota press material and it sounded really good and it was true. But the creature comforts and improvements for daily driving were the real story. Toyota transformed the Highlander Hybrid into a premium crossover.
The Highlander Hybrid went old fashioned, but it didn’t look like it. The interior of our test vehicle was leather. There were heated and cooled seats. There was a sunroof. And there was a shelf under the dashboard that she was stepping over.
We noticed that the instruments were analog with the power gauge on the left, the speedometer on the right and a TFT screen in the middle. We were also delighted that the sound system could be adjusted with a volume knob and another knob to change stations.
It was clear to us that the designers of the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid had drivers and passengers in mind. There weren’t a lot of controls you had to pull out the owner’s manual to figure out how to work.
They also got rid of software that would return certain settings to their default values, or, in other words, turn them off when the vehicle was turned off. If the heated seats were on, when we restarted the car they were still on, as was the heated steering wheel.
There were three driving modes: sport, normal and eco. The Highlander could also be put into fully electric vehicle mode for short distances and it could also be put into trail mode.
The infotainment touchscreen could display audio information, navigation details and climate controls. Yes, it could be divided into three information channels.
There were three USB keys under the shelf as well as a 12V socket. The wireless charger was in the center console which was really deep. The second row area had its own climate controls and there were manual privacy screens on the side windows. Two other USB outlets and a 120V grounded outlet were also accessible from the second row.
There were two things we weren’t happy with. They need to do a better job of calming down the continuously variable electronic transmission. The Highlander was pretty quick, but the noise the ECVT made during hard acceleration made it look like the vehicle was going nowhere.
And the third row seat had absolutely no headroom for an adult. It was a space for someone smaller and younger. However, it was relatively easy to get into the third row. The power tailgate and 360 degree panoramic camera were appreciated for getting out of our aisle and loading cargo.
At $ 50,363 in testing, the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited wasn’t a bad buy.
Frank S. Washington is the editor of AboutThatCar.com.