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The FREE Complete Bay Area Auto Enthusiast Guide
THOUGH EXPENSIVE, HIGHLANDER HYBRID IS USEFUL

By NITISH S. RELE - motoringtampabay@gmail.com
After debuting nearly a decade ago, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid undergoes its first change, mainly gaining a more potent gasoline engine. The 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine, coupled to three electric motors, now puts out a total of 306 horsepower (up by 26) @ 5800 rpm and 215 pounds-feet (down by 2) of torque @ 4800 rpm. The crossover SUV is fitted with a 288-volt nickel-metal hydride battery, which is recharged by energy captured as the driver applies the brakes or coasts. Also, the Continuous Variable Transmission-equipped car gets a regenerative braking system. When the car is coasting or the brakes are applied, the electric power functions as a generator, capturing kinetic energy that would normally be lost as heat through the brakes. Instead, it converts the energy into useable electricity for recharging the batteries.
Smoked chrome projector-beam headlights flank a two-bar grille hosting the centered Toyota emblem. The SUV offers cavernous cargo and passenger capacity, allowing for 13.6 cubic feet of space behind the 60/40 third row, 42 cubic feet behind the two second-row Captain chairs (which go aft and forth by 3 inches for easy access to third row as well as get a collapsible side tray with cup holders in center) and 83.2 cubes with both seats folded. The in-dash shelf is handy for small personal belongings. Also, the roll-top center console can comfortably swallow big items out of sight. Other amenities include a tri-zone auto climate control, eight-way driver and four-way power heated/cooled front-passenger seats, wood and silver-painted satin and chrome accents, and power lift gate and moon roof.
Standard safety features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, driver knee airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes with electronic brake distribution and brake assist, vehicle stability and traction control systems, front active headrests, front/rear crumple zones, push-button start, rear parking sensor and camera, hill start assist, blind spot, rear-cross traffic and lane-departure alert systems, tire pressure monitoring system and daytime running lights.
During the week we test drove the Highlander Hybrid, we earned the EPA-estimated 28 mpg in combined city/highway driving. The price, of course, is astronomical at $49,579. However, the practical and delightful midsize crossover can accommodate up to eight passengers in comfort. Besides, the vehicle comes with the solid reputation for reliability and durability enjoyed by Toyota.

HIGHLANDER (LIMITED AWD)
Tires: P245/55R19
Wheelbase: 109.8 inches
Length: 192.5 inches
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; double wishbone rear
Steering: electric power
Tow capacity: 3,500 pounds
Weight: 4,965 pounds
Fuel capacity: 17.2 gallons
Web site: www.toyotausa.com

CALLING ALL TOYOTA DEALERS IN THE WEST CENTRAL AREA: if you would like to be listed here as one of the test-drive dealerships, e-mail us at motoringtampabay@gmail.com