2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review, Ratings, Specs, and Prices

The Toyota Highlander continues to be the vehicle of choice for those seeking to have reliable SUV for a family of eight, thanks to its comfortable yet versatile interior, safety features, and strong V6 engine. And in its hybrid avatar, the 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid becomes more desirable due to its impressive fuel economy figures.

For the buyers of this segment, there are other equally capable options as well – from Toyota’s more luxurious and up-market sibling Lexus RX 450 AWD Hybrid, to another Japanese counterpart- the Acura MDX Hybrid, to the American Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring Plus.

What’s new?

The 2018 Toyota Highlander hybrid remains almost unchanged from last year variant. The good thing here is that Toyota has made Toyota Safety Sense (TSS-P) as standard feature for all variants now. Till last year, buyers were required to pay a premium for it.

What impressed us

  • Strong 3.5L V-6, coupled with good fuel economy owing to frugal hybrid
  • Comfortable interior
  • Strong acceleration
  • Comfortable ride quality

What we don’t like

  • Styling is not for everyone’s taste
  • Poor cargo space
  • No Apple CarPlay or Android Auto

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Pricing and Options

The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes in three trims – LE ($36,670), XLE ($41,730) and Limited ($45,160). All three trims carry the same hybrid engine coupled with all-wheel drive. As one goes higher up the trims, more and more features are added.

Trims Hybrid LE Hybrid XLE Hybrid Limited
MSRP $36,670 $41,730 $45,160
Features LED taillights and stop lights

18-in. split 5-spoke machined alloy wheels

Windshield wiper de-icer

Color-keyed heated power outside mirrors with turn signal

Seating for up to eight

Five total USB ports — 3 front, 2 second row

Second- and third-row 60/40 split, sliding and reclining

Integrated backup camera with projected path

Entune Audio — includes 6.1-in. high-resolution touch-screen

4.2-in. color LCD Multi-Information Display (MID)

Smart Key System20 with Push Button Start

6-way adjustable driver’s seat

4-way adjustable front passenger seat

Power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade and jam protection

Height-adjustable power liftgate with jam protection

Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA)

Entune Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation16 and

App Suite,17 and 8-in. high-resolution touch-screen display

4.2-in. color LCD Multi-Information Display (MID)

Leather-trimmed seats with heated front seats

Second-row retractable window sunshades

Auto-dimming rearview mirror

Second-row 120V auxiliary AC power outlet

Driver Easy Speak — driver voice amplification

19-in. 5-spoke Chromtec alloy wheels

LED Daytime Running Lights (DRL)

Blind Spot Monitor (BSM)2 and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert (RCTA)

Color-keyed heated power outside mirrors with

turn signal indicators and puddle lights

Seating for up to seven

Entune Premium JBL Audio with Integrated Navigation and

App Suite,17 and 8-in. high-resolution touch-screen display

Rear cargo area tonneau cover

4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat

Out of all the trims, our recommendation would be XLE trim, for it provides Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) and Rear-Cross Traffic Assist (RCTA) which makes it easy to maneuver this behemoth in city traffic, in addition to other creature comforts.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Engine and Performance

“The Highlander Hybrid has a competent hybrid powertrain, proficient brakes and intuitive, albeit numb, steering. Additionally, good highway manners, acceptable towing capability and decent off-road credentials make it appealing.” – Edmunds

Engine and Transmission

The Highlander Hybrid uses a 3.5 Liter V-6 engine borrowed from conventional Highlander, mated to 45Kw Nickel Hydride battery and two electric motors. One motor powers the front wheel; while other sends power to rear wheels for extra traction, providing AWD effect without a mechanical driveshaft.

Also, owing to regenerative braking, electricity is captured and stored during deceleration/ braking, so plugging in is not required for charging the batteries. The engine and motors produce a combined 306 hp and 215 lb-ft torque. The engine is mated to a CVT automatic.

Models Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE Acura MDX Hybrid Lexus RX 450 AWD hybrid Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring Plus
MSRP $36,670 $52,100 $45,695 $39,995
Engine 3.5L DOHC 24V V6 3.0L PGM-FI 24V SOHC i-VTEC V6 3.5L V6 DOHC 24-Valve 3.6L V6 Hybrid
Transmission CVT Automatic 7-Speed Automatic CVT Automatic Single Speed Automatic
Power 306 hp 321 hp 308 hp 260 hp
Torque 215 lb-ft 289 lb-ft 247 lb-ft 262 lb-ft

On papers, all the competitors carry similar sizes engine. The Acura MDX Hybrid boasts of the smallest yet strongest engine amongst all competitors (321 hp) but is the most expensive SUV as well. Acura is followed by Lexus RX 450 (308 hp), slightly ahead of Highlander taking the third position (306 hp), and Chrysler Pacifica carrying the least powerful engine (206 hp)

Keeping the prices in perspective, Toyota Highlander is the cheapest of the lot, and still boasts of a powerful and refined yet efficient engine, with all the peace of mind (It’s a Toyota). So for cash-strapped customers who wish to have a powerful hybrid at marginal price, Highlander Hybrid is the pick.

Acceleration

So far as flat-out acceleration is concerned, Highlander Hybrid (6.9 s) stands only behind Acura MDX (5.9 s) in a 0-60 MPH run up, followed by Chrysler Pacifica (7.4 s) and Lexus RX 450 falling taking almost a second more (7.7 s).

Models Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE Acura MDX Hybrid Lexus RX 450 AWD hybrid Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring Plus
0-60 MPH 6.9 sec 5.9 sec 7.7 sec 7.4 sec
Quarter mile 16.2 sec 14.6 sec 13.6 sec 14.9 sec
Engine 3.5L 3.0L 3.5L 3.6L
Emission

(Tons/yr of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year)

6.0 6.5 5.9 N/A

Coupled with a lower number of CO2 emission (6.0), the Highlander Hybrid is also the cleaner vehicle to drive, even when SUV’s carry a notorious reputation of spewing carbon and endangering the environment.

Ride and Handling

The CVT unit of Highlander provides almost instant acceleration, coupled with good steering feedback, making life easier in city traffic. What is also noticeable is that power delivery doesn’t easily fade away, giving the driver a larger band to rev the engine.

The ride is planted, negating any excess body roll for its sheer size. There is some clicking sound in the drive system, coupled with excessive groaning when engine is stressed, but it is not irritating for the driver.

Braking

For starters, the regenerative braking system of a hybrid isn’t particularly smooth. And Highlander Hybrid is no different. It needs some practice to apply the right amount of force on the brake pedal. Highlander Hybrid has average braking distance (133ft for 60-0MPH), with Lexus RX450 taking the lead to stop (123 ft.).

Model Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE Acura MDX Hybrid Lexus RX 450 AWD hybrid Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring Plus
Brake Front(in) 12.9 13.0 12.9 13.0
Brake Rear(in) 12.2 13.0 12.3 13.0
Curb weight(lbs.) 4398 4471 4740 4943
60-0 MPH (ft.) 133 134 123 131

Fuel Economy

“Still thinking you need 4-cylinder fuel economy? Check out the Highlander Hybrid. It’s combined electric/gasoline motor output reaches 306 horsepower, yet it can travel nearly 30 miles in the city on a single gallon of gas.” – Kelley Blue Book

Even though Chrysler Pacifica returns the best figures (33 eMPG for all conditions), one should not forget that it is the only plug-in hybrid in the competition, capable of running for 33 Miles on electricity alone. So at the price point, Highlander Hybrid stands along with Lexus and Acura, it is more value-for-money drive.

Model Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE Acura MDX Hybrid Lexus RX 450 AWD hybrid Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring Plus
eMPG (city) 30 26 31 33
eMPG (highway) 28 27 28 33
eMPG (combined) 29 27 30 33

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Exterior

“Hybrid models sport subtle badging that doesn’t shout to the world that you love the planet, which, depending on whom you ask, is either a good thing or a bad thing.” – Car and Driver

Dimensions and Weight

The Highlander Hybrid is the shortest amongst the competition (192.5 in), with least wheelbase (109.8 in). Also, it isn’t wide enough. Normally, these all translate into lesser leg and shoulder space for rear passengers. However, that’s not the case and Highlander provides ample space for eight passengers.

Model Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE Acura MDX Hybrid Lexus RX 450 AWD hybrid Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring Plus
curb weight(lbs.) 4398 4471 4740 4943
Length(in) 192.5 196.2 192.5 203.8
Width(in) 75.8 77.7 74.6 79.6
Height(in) 68.1 67.4 67.7 69.9
Ground clearance(in) 8.0 5.6 7.0 5.1
Wheelbase(in) 109.8 111.0 109.8 121.6
Track width(in) F/R 64.4/64.2 66.3/66.3 64.4/64.0 68.2/68.2

Highlander Hybrid gets a good ground clearance (8.0 in). This doesn’t particularly mean that Highlander Hybrid is made up for off-road enthusiasts, but this SUV won’t get easily stuck in mud or snow for sure, and can easily surpass obstacles, potholes, and speed-breakers on the road.

Exterior Features

Some of the exterior features across all variants include:

  • LED taillights and stop lights
  • Alloy wheels – 18-in. split 5-spoke machined (LE); 18-in. turbine-look (XLE); 19-in. 5-spoke Chromtec alloy wheels (Limited)
  • Power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade and jam protection (XLE, Limited)
  • Chromtec roof rails (XLE, Limited)
  • Color-keyed heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators and puddle lights (Limited)

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Interior

“The Toyota Highlander is a crossover SUV with a family focus like Hamburger Helper on a weeknight. It has nearly as much interior room as a Sienna, but critically lacks the sliding doors.” – Carconnection

Seating and Comfort

This is where Highlander Hybrid has the upper hand over its competitors, giving eight seats despite boasting of class average dimensions. Both the front and middle row are aptly comfortable with plush seats. Adults might find sitting in third row a bit irksome in long journeys.

Model Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE Acura MDX Hybrid Lexus RX 450 AWD hybrid Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring Plus
Passenger capacity 8 7 5 7
Passenger Volume (ft. cube) 144.9 131.4 121.7 165
Front (Head/Shoulder/Leg)

(In.)

40.7/59.3/38.4 38.1/61.1/41.4 39.4/57.8/44.1 40.1/63.0/39.0
Second (Head/Shoulder/Leg)

(In.)

39.9/59.0/38.4 38.3/59.1/38.5 38.2/57.6/38.0 39.6/63.0/39.0
Third (Head/Shoulder/Leg)

(In.)

35.9/55.0/26.7 35.6/54.7/28.1 N/A 38.7/61.236.5

Infotainment System

While lower variants have a six-speaker, 6.1-inch screen setup, higher variants boast of 12 speaker JBL premium stereo, 8-inch screen setup. Entune app-suite is standard for all, along with integrated navigation system. The big omission though is of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.

Cargo capacity

The Highlander even with rear seats or second row folded, does not fare better in cargo space than its competitors. Only Acura MDX lags behind, but it is the shortest of the lot as well. However, Highlander has an optional powered tailgate, and rear glass window opens independently as well.

Model Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE Acura MDX Hybrid Lexus RX 450 AWD hybrid Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring Plus
Behind 3nd Row(ft. Cube) 13.8 15.8 18.0 32.3
With 3nd row folded (ft. Cube) 42.3 43.4 18.0 87.5
With All Seats folded (ft. Cube) 83.7 90.9 55.9 140.5

The list of interior features is as follows:

  • Leather-trimmed seats with heated front seats (XLE)
  • Second-row retractable window sunshades (XLE)
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror (XLE)
  • HomeLink universal transceiver (XLE)
  • Second-row 120V auxiliary AC power outlet (XLE)
  • Driver Easy Speak — driver voice amplification (XLE)
  • EV43/ECO Modes (XLE)
  • Rear cargo area tonneau cover (Limited)
  • Perforated heated and ventilated leather-trimmed front seats with memory function on driver’s seat (Limited)
  • 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat (Limited)

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Head to Head Competition

Acura MDX Hybrid

It is far more expensive than Toyota Highlander and has one less seating row. So, if your family is small, and budget is on the higher side, opt for Acura MDX. Otherwise, the Highlander is more than competent.

Lexus RX 450 AWD Hybrid

Now, this is a close competition because rivalry is between siblings who are equally competent, having capable engines, rugged chassis and beautiful exteriors and classy interiors. However, Lexus is on expensive side. So if budget isn’t a constraint, opt for Lexus, else Toyota Highlander Hybrid will do all the work as nicely as Lexus RX 450 will do.

Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid Touring Plus

Now both vehicles don’t boast of a classy design, but Highlander fares marginally better than Pacifica in looks department. However, Pacifica is the only one giving plug-in option, as it can go for 33 miles after charging, giving better fuel economy and interior space than Highlander. If look is the deal breaker, opt for Highlander, else Pacifica is a better bet.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Safety and Security

The Highlander doesn’t compromise on any aspect. Various safety features incorporated are:

  • Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) — Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD), Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA), Automatic High Beams (AHB) and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)
  • Traction Control (TRAC)
  • Anti-lock Brake System (ABS)
  • Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD)
  • Driver and front passenger Advanced Airbag System
  • Driver knee airbag
  • Front passenger seat-cushion airbag
  • Driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags
  • All-row Roll-sensing Side Curtain Airbags (RSCA)
  • Driver and front passenger Whiplash-Injury-Lessening (WIL) seats
  • LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) includes lower anchors and tethers on outboard second-row seats and tether anchor on middle of second- and third-row seats
  • Hill Start Assist Control (HAC)
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid secures an average of 5 stars in NHSTA ratings, and overall good IIHS ratings.

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Final Verdict

Without a doubt, the 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a value-for-money proposition. It is fuel-efficient, has an elegant interior, and boast of a strong Hybrid engine. Added to it is the tried and tested Toyota name. So if you are looking for a budget family all-rounder, look no further than Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

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