One of the biggest news stories this year has been rising gas prices. It is all part of the unfortunate cycle of inflation this nation is currently experiencing. As a result, commuters and other frequent drivers are trying to find ways to save money by using less gas. If you look for a “Toyota Highlander for sale near me,” you will find that Toyota provides a solution to this problem by offering the 2023 Highlander with a hybrid engine option. This means that you can get the benefit of a midsize SUV with three rows of seats while also using less gas to get to wherever you are going.
In this way, the Toyota Highlander stands apart from most other models from other automakers in its vehicle class by providing this fuel-efficient hybrid engine option. Drivers looking to save money at the pump in their next vehicle may wonder what powers a hybrid model and how it works. They may also be concerned about the roominess of hybrid models since the first commercially successful hybrid models were subcompacts like the Toyota Prius. The 2023 Highlander Hybrid provides many answers to these questions, presented in a fuel-efficient SUV package that those looking to take the leap to a hybrid model are sure to love.
A Look at Toyota’s Lengthy History With Hybrid Vehicles
The Toyota Highlander is not the first hybrid produced by Toyota. That honor goes to the famous Prius. Toyota built the first Prius in 1997 as its first mass-produced hybrid passenger vehicle. Following a successful launch in Japan, the Prius was introduced to America in 2000. The reception was overwhelming, demonstrating that hybrid vehicles could be a successful alternative to gas-powered cars in the United States. The Toyota Prius was also the first commercially successful hybrid vehicle, beating out entries from other automakers.
Since then, Toyota has built on the expertise learned by producing the Prius, giving it a competitive advantage when it comes to hybrid engines. The next step was to adapt it to other models since some drivers wanted the efficiency of a hybrid but didn’t want a subcompact car. Rather than build a new lineup of hybrid models, Toyota began offering a hybrid engine option on other models. The first to get the hybrid engine option was the Highlander in 2006, followed by the Camry Hybrid in 2007 and the Avalon Hybrid in 2012. Today, we see a variety of models joining the hybrid lineup, including the RAV4 and the first-ever Corolla Cross Hybrid that is new for the 2023 model year. Toyota invested wisely in the hybrid market over two decades ago, and its dedication to a more fuel-efficient future continues to pay off.
What Powers the Highlander Hybrid?
Like other hybrid vehicles, the Highlander Hybrid is powered by a combination of an internal combustion gas engine with an electric motor running off of a battery pack. The gas engine is a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle I-4. This dual overhead camshaft configuration has 16 valves feeding the engine’s four cylinders and features variable valve timing for increased engine efficiency. It also has two permanent-magnet synchronous AC electric motors for front-wheel drive models and three for all-wheel drive. The all-wheel drive models of the Highlander Hybrid position the third motor in the rear axle.
The Highlander Hybrid uses a 288V nickel metal hydride battery pack. This is noteworthy since most other hybrids use a lithium-ion battery pack to power the electric motors. This is located below the second row of seats, keeping it safe in the event of a collision. This also frees up space inside the passenger compartment so that you don’t lose cargo space or legroom by choosing a hybrid powertrain on your Highlander. The gas engine produces 186 hp and 175 lb-ft of torque, but when paired with the electric motors, the output increases to 243 hp. The electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) is also designed to produce the most efficient balance between the gas engine and the electric motors.
One thing that sets the Highlander Hybrid apart from other hybrids and battery electric vehicles is that it does not require the battery to be charged from an outside source. Instead, the gas engine powers an electric generator that recharges the battery pack. In addition, when braking, the Highlander Hybrid helps recharge the battery pack by recapturing the kinetic energy released from the front and rear brakes. This saves you the cost and time involved in plugging your vehicle into a public DC supercharging station or a home wall unit.
How Does the Highlander Hybrid Perform?
Performance is always a concern with drivers, especially when they are considering an alternative fuel vehicle like a hybrid. Many have the misconception that a hybrid will be sluggish or that it may have clunky shifting between the two engines. Fortunately, this is not the case with the 2023 Highlander Hybrid, which is surprisingly fast at accelerating from a stop. It can get from 0 to 60 mph in as little as 7.3 seconds. The Highlander Hybrid can also complete a quarter mile in just 16 seconds at 87 mph, with a top speed of 118 mph.
Toyota has a CVT that does a good job shifting between the gas engine and the electric motor. At lower speeds, the Highlander Hybrid relies almost exclusively on the electric motor, with the gas engine focused on charging the generator. When you reach an uphill, the vehicle will use both the gas engine and the electric motor to address the upgrade efficiently. Once you reach a highway, the Highlander’s CVT transmission will ease back on the electric motor, giving more emphasis on the gas engine. This not only provides exceptional performance but also improves fuel efficiency. As a result, the 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid averages 36 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway with front-wheel drive and 35 MPG in the city, and 35 MPG on the highway with all-wheel drive. These are exceptional numbers for a vehicle of this size.
How Does It Compare to the Gas-Powered Highlander?
Folks looking at a Highlander Hybrid will want to know if they are making a major compromise when choosing a more fuel-efficient model of this vehicle. The answer is a resounding “no.” When choosing a Highlander Hybrid, you will get the same roomy interior as the 2023 Highlander with the conventional gas engine. For example, both have a trunk with 16 cu.ft. of space that can expand into 84.3 cu.ft. for cargo simply by folding down the rear two rows of seats.
This also means that you can seat up to 8 passengers in your Highlander Hybrid, depending on which trim level you choose. This is because Toyota modified its original hybrid model designs from two decades ago. Where the initial Toyota hybrids like the Prius had the battery pack placed between the rear seats and the trunk, the Highlander Hybrid stows it underneath the second row of seats. As a result, you will have no loss of legroom or trunk space when you opt for a hybrid powertrain.
The only differences between the Highlanders and the different powertrains are fuel economy, towing capability, and price. As expected, the 2023 Highlander Hybrid gets better fuel economy than the models with a gas engine, which averages 20 MPG in the city and 27 MPG on the highway with all-wheel drive, which is 12 MPG less than the Highlander Hybrid. However, the standard Highlander can tow up to 5,000 lbs compared to 3,500 lbs with the Highlander Hybrid.
One pleasant surprise is that the Highlander Hybrid will not cost you that much more than a standard Highlander. Where the 2023 Highlander with a gas engine has a base MSRP of $36,420, this increases slightly to an MSRP of $40,220 on the Highlander Hybrid. As a result, you don’t have to pay a large premium to get the advantages of driving a hybrid SUV. A hybrid without any compromises.
Power and Fuel-Efficiency in an Affordable Hybrid Package
The 2023 Highlander Hybrid represents a vehicle that will give you the space for up to 8 passengers and the performance you desire in an SUV while also giving you fuel economy rarely seen in a vehicle of this size. This is because Toyota has used over 25 years of experience and innovation in hybrid powertrains to design this model. By giving you these capabilities, Toyota provides you with the opportunity to get the fuel economy you need without compromising on the features you desire. For those looking for a spacious SUV that will save them money at the pump, the 2023 Toyota Highlander may be exactly what they’re looking for in a hybrid model.