2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review
The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid offers what matters most to midsize SUV buyers: an upscale, practical interior and pleasant around-town performance. Its excellent fuel economy is icing on the cake
Is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid a Good SUV?
The 2018 Highlander Hybrid is a great hybrid and a pretty good midsize SUV. Its cargo room and passenger space are about average for the class. Though the Highlander Hybrid boasts plenty of standard features, some can be difficult to learn. The hybrid engine setup delivers good power and comfortable ride quality, but the SUV’s steering is uninspiring and the brakes can be touchy. A premium-quality cabin and high fuel economy numbers for a crossover complete the package.
Should I Buy the Toyota Highlander Hybrid?
You should buy the Toyota Highlander Hybrid if you want 3-row utility and space, an upscale cabin, lots of advanced safety features, and some of the best fuel economy you can get from a midsize SUV. If you were already considering a heavily optioned model of the standard Toyota Highlander, the hybrid is a good – though more expensive – option. However, the hybrid’s fuel savings over five years will make up for its higher initial cost. If you’re on more of a budget, you may want to consider a smaller hybrid SUV like the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. While it has a less appealing interior and only five seats, it’s still a worthy competitor.
We Did the Research for You: 29 Reviews Analyzed
We analyzed 29 Toyota Highlander Hybrid reviews – along with safety scores, reliability ratings, and more – to help you decide if the 2018 Highlander Hybrid is the right SUV for you. The Highlander Hybrid was fully redesigned for the 2014 model year. It has not seen a full redesign since, but it did undergo a significant refresh for 2017. There were no major changes for 2018. Therefore, this overview uses applicable research and reviews from the 2014 through 2018 model years.
How Much Does the Toyota Highlander Hybrid Cost?
The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid starts at $36,670, which is one of the highest prices in the midsize SUV class. Three higher trim levels retail for another couple thousand dollars, and a fully loaded Highlander Hybrid can top $54,000. For more information about the Toyota Highlander Hybrid's standard and optional features, check out the “Which Toyota Highlander Hybrid Model Is Right for Me?” section below.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid Versus the Competition
Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander Hybrid or Toyota Highlander?
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Toyota Highlander are identical in many ways, so your choice between the two will come down to how you value fuel economy savings against the money you’d pay up front for the car. The regular Highlander starts at $31,030 – over $5,000 less than the hybrid’s starting price. The gas-only version gets 20 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. You’d save about $400 per year in fuel costs by driving the Highlander Hybrid instead of the gas-only version, so it would take you about 14 years to make up the MSRP difference. However, the Highlander Hybrid comes with all-wheel drive and a V6 engine. An equally equipped Highlander will cost you at least $34,540. You would only have to drive the all-wheel-drive, V6 Highlander Hybrid a little over five years to make up for the difference in price.
Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander Hybrid or Toyota RAV4 Hybrid?
The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is a compact SUV that gets slightly better gas mileage than its midsize hybrid relative. The RAV4 Hybrid starts at about $9,500 less than the Highlander Hybrid, and you’d save about $150 per year in fuel costs on top of that. However, the RAV4 Hybrid only seats five, and it has less overall cargo room than the Highlander Hybrid. A smattering of hard plastics in the RAV4’s cabin makes it feel less upscale than the larger Toyota SUV as well. If you’re looking for a (relatively) affordable and efficient hybrid SUV, the RAV4 Hybrid is a great choice. If you need more space and are willing to pay more for a nicer interior, go with the Highlander Hybrid instead.
Highlander Hybrid Interior
- How Many People Does the Highlander Hybrid Seat? The 3-row 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid seats eight with a standard second-row bench seat or seven with available captain’s chairs. Cloth seats come standard, while leather upholstery, power front seats, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated captain’s chairs are optional. The first two rows have ample comfort and space for passengers, and the middle row slides for easier access to the back. Adults can fit in the third row for short trips, but they’ll be stuck in an awkward knees-up riding position. Children will be just fine back there.
- Highlander Hybrid and Car Seats; The Highlander has two completesets of LATCH child-seat connectors in the second row. There's a top tether anchor for the middle bench seat (if you have it) and another tether anchor for the third-row middle seat. Overall, the LATCH system is simple to use. The lower anchors are high enough in the seat cushions that they’re easy to find, and the tether anchors are distinct from other hardware on the seatbacks.
- Highlander Hybrid Interior Quality; Plenty of high-quality materials adorn the Highlander Hybrid’s cabin, and everything is wrapped up in a pleasing design. Higher trim levels offer supple leather and soft-touch surfaces that might remind you of a luxury vehicle.
- Highlander Hybrid Cargo Space; With all its seats upright, the 2018 Highlander Hybrid has 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s on the low end for a 3-row midsize SUV and comparable to some sedans. If you don’t regularly use the last row of seats, keep it folded down to enjoy 42.3 cubic feet of space. Folding both rear rows results in a maximum of 83.7 cubic feet, which is good for the class. You can opt for a power tailgate, or you can choose a rear window that opens separately from the hatch itself. The window will allow you to load shopping bags without having to open the whole liftgate, or haul long items by sticking them out of the window.
- Highlander Hybrid Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation; Standard features in the 2018 Highlander Hybrid include proximity key entry, push-button start, five USB ports, Bluetooth, a six-speaker audio system, a 6.1-inch touch-screen infotainment system, and a rearview camera. Optional features include tri-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, a panoramic moonroof, a 120-volt power outlet, Driver Easy Speak, satellite radio, HD Radio, a 12-speaker JBL premium stereo, an 8-inch touch screen, navigation, and the Entune App Suite. It takes some time to familiarize yourself with the Highlander’s features and get past certain quirks – like the absence of a dedicated navigation button to quickly jump back to the navigation screen from other menus.
Highlander Hybrid Performance
- Highlander Hybrid Engine: Smooth and Steady Power; The Toyota Highlander’s hybrid powertrain pairs a 3.5-liter direct-injected V6 engine with three electric motors. All-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission are also standard. The system puts out 231 horsepower. Low-speed acceleration is brisk, and power delivery stays strong as the vehicle continues to speed up. The Highlander Hybrid drives quietly despite its good performance.
- Highlander Hybrid Gas Mileage: Good for Its Size; The 2018 Highlander Hybrid gets EPA-estimated fuel economy of 29 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. As the sole hybrid in the class, it’s no surprise that the Highlander Hybrid leads all midsize SUVs in efficiency. The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid still gets better fuel economy, though, at 34 mpg city and 30 mpg highway.
- Highlander Hybrid Ride and Handling: Middle of the Road; The Highlander Hybrid rides with ease over most surfaces, absorbing bumps in the road to deliver a serene trip. Just don’t expect a very engaging ride – and prepare for the Highlander’s brakes if you’ve never driven a hybrid before. The regenerative braking transition isn’t particularly smooth, so it can be a challenge to apply the right amount of force to the brake pedal until you get used to it.
Highlander Hybrid Reliability
- Is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid Reliable? J.D. Power hasn't yet released reliability data on the 2018 Highlander Hybrid. The nearly identical 2017 model received an above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid Warranty; The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a three-year/36,000-mile warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. Hybrid-related components are covered for eight years or 100,000 miles.
Highlander Hybrid Safety
- Highlander Hybrid Crash Test Results; The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets a five-star overall crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It received five out of five stars in the side crash test and four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests.
- Highlander Hybrid Safety Features; The Highlander Hybrid comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense (TSS-P) pre-collision system of driver assistance technologies. That includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. A rearview camera also comes standard. Optional safety features include front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and a surround-view camera.
Which Toyota Highlander Hybrid Model Is Right for Me?
The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes in four trim levels: LE, XLE, Limited, and Limited Platinum. All models come with the same hybrid powertrain and all-wheel drive. Most additional features are added by moving up the trim ladder, but there are a few stand-alone options (depending on the trim), such as remote start and a rear-seat DVD entertainment system.
The best value trim is the Highlander Hybrid XLE. It builds on the base model’s numerous standard features with extra comforts like leather seats, heated seats, satellite radio, and an upgraded infotainment system. Higher trim levels cost thousands of dollars more and don’t provide a lot of added value beyond ventilated seats, parking sensors, and a surround-view camera.
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE; The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid starts at $36,670. Standard features include cloth seats, proximity key entry, push-button start, five USB ports, Bluetooth, a six-speaker audio system, a 6.1-inch touch-screen infotainment system, a rearview camera, forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control.
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE; The Highlander Hybrid retails for $41,730. It includes leather seats, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a four-way power-adjustable passenger seat, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, tri-zone automatic climate control, a moonroof, a flip-up rear window, a power tailgate, a 120-volt power outlet, Driver Easy Speak, satellite radio, HD Radio, an 8-inch touch screen, navigation, the Entune App Suite, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited; Upgrade to the Highlander Hybrid Limited for $45,160, and you’ll get heated and ventilated front seats, second-row captain’s chairs, a 12-speaker JBL premium stereo, and rear parking sensors.
- Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum; The range-topping Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum costs $48,280 and adds a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, a panoramic moonroof, front parking sensors, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a surround-view camera.