2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review
In 2005, the Toyota Highlander line expanded with a hybrid version. With its upscale cousin, the Lexus RX400h Hybrid, the Highlander Hybrid marked the debut of the hybrid SUV, and widened the market for Toyota’s full-hybrid system. That was another success, as the hybrid crossover SUV combined the advantages of the genre with improved fuel economy and reduced emissions, and the hybrid trendiness factor.
As previously, the Highlander Hybrid uses Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive full hybrid system to operate in full-gasoline, combined gasoline-electric, or electric-only modes. Of any vehicle, hybrid or not.
Non-hybrid 2008 Highlanders are powered by a 3.5-liter, 270 horsepower V6 which drives the front or all wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission, and are offered in base, Sport, and Limited trim levels. The hybrid comes in base and Limited grades, in “four-wheel drive” form only. This variety of the Hybrid Synergy is a development of that used in the first-generation 4WD Highlander, with the gasoline engine – here a 3.3-liter, 209-hp V6 – and/or a motor-generator driving the front wheels through a continuously-variable transmission and a second motor-generator driving the rear wheels when front-wheel slip is detected.
The maximum combined power of the system, with both electric motors and the gas engine running, is 270 horsepower. As has been the case with Toyota hybrids since the first Prius, everyday life with the Highlander Hybrid is remarkably unremarkable. The Hybrid models get unique badging, wheels, and grille and rear bumper trim.
Front seat comfort is very good, and the driver’s seat is power-adjustable. Hybrids forego a tachometer, which is irrelevant, for a Hybrid System Indicator, which allows the driver to monitor energy consumption.
SAFETY: The Hybrid, like all other 2008 Highlanders, comes with dual advanced front airbags, seat-mounted front airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, and a driver’s knee airbag. Ride comfort has precedence over handling, especially in the Hybrid. It also carries over 300 pounds more weight than an equivalent 4WD gasoline model because of the hybrid motors and batteries. Motor-generator, also driving the front wheels, produces 167 hp at 4500 rpm and 247 lb-ft (more than the engine) from 0 through 1500 rpm. Like other full hybrids, the Highlander is at its most economical in low-speed and light-throttle situations.
2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review – What the Auto Press Says
The Highlander Hybrid ranks near the top of its class for offering a spacious interior, smooth ride, and refined hybrid powertrain. The 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, completely redesigned for 2008, is larger than its predecessor and gets an all-new electric-only mode to improve fuel economy. Unfortunately, the hybrid demands quite a premium over its gasoline-powered counterpart — and even over other hybrids, including the Ford Escape Hybrid and Saturn VUE Green Line. Still, the Highlander ranks very well among other hybrid SUVs.