Toyota Highlander vs. Toyota Highlander Hybrid

By

Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


, Automotive Editor - May 15, 2020

Consistently one of the top-selling crossover SUVs in the country, the Toyota Highlander is a longtime favorite for family duty. Like much of Toyota’s lineup, the Highlander benefits from the brand’s hybrid technology, melding efficiency with practicality.

The 2020 Highlander received a full redesign. The new model is more spacious and better looking than the old, but which powertrain should you choose?

See a side-by-side comparison of the Toyota Highlander & the Toyota Highlander Hybrid »

What the Highlander Gets Right

Opting for a gas-only powertrain may cost more at the pump, but it will save money up front. The cheapest gas-powered Highlander is $3,600 cheaper than the cheapest Highlander Hybrid.

Even in base trim, the traditional Highlander has the advantage on power. The 3.5-liter V6 produces 295 horsepower to the Highlander Hybrid’s 243 hp. The gas-powered version is lighter to boot, which helps the Highlander to quicker acceleration and a 5,000-pound towing capacity (the Highlander Hybrid can manage 3,500).

Although both versions come with all-wheel drive, only the gas-powered Highlander can shuttle torque back and forth between the axles. The Highlander Hybrid uses a second electric motor to power the rear wheels, which may ding its off-road ability slightly.

What the Highlander Hybrid Gets Right

The Highlander Hybrid isn’t available in the cheapest "L" trim, but everywhere else, the price increase is modest. A Highlander Hybrid costs $1,400 more than the traditional Highlander in equivalent trim. That’s less than it costs to add all-wheel drive, and it makes the Highlander Hybrid more accessible than before.

Of course, the Highlander Hybrid’s calling card is its efficiency. The powertrain is impressively thrifty, earning an EPA rating of up to 36 miles per gallon combined (or 35 mpg with all-wheel drive). That’s a shocking 12 mpg better than the standard Highlander.

In all other ways, the Highlander Hybrid keeps up well with its gas-powered sibling, and we mean that as a compliment. The hybrid is down on power, but plentiful electric torque makes it feel just as zippy off the line.

In LE trim and above, the Highlander Hybrid gets the exact same features as the conventional Highlander. Even better, it keeps all the same interior and cargo space, which can’t be said of many hybrid models.

Approaching Normalcy

Hybrid and electric powertrains are slowly but steadily going mainstream, and Toyota is pushing the bubble as much as any brand. The conventional Toyota Highlander stays the course as a reliable family cruiser with plenty of space, power, and customizability. The newest Highlander Hybrid feels like it accomplishes the same mission at a relatively small upcharge – with 150% better efficiency.

Our Verdict: Toyota Highlander Hybrid

In its newest form, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid makes more sense than ever. Budget-minded shoppers may still opt for a base Highlander, which is an excellent car in its own right. But for $1,400 extra and no interior sacrifices, we’ll take the hybrid every time.

Take a closer look at the Toyota Highlander »

Take a closer look at the Toyota Highlander Hybrid »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Willis is a freelance writer based out of Philadelphia. Born and raised in Colorado, he graduated from Williams College. When he's not writing about cars or the outdoors, he spends his time rock climbing or reading with his two cats.


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