Since the Prius + left the range, Toyota only had the Land Cruiser, very heavily damaged, to offer to large families. This hybrid Highlander now completes it by being much less taxed, and can replace the Prius minivan in taxis, at a higher rate, however, since this large SUV of 4.97 m, certainly very well equipped, appears at 62,500 €.

Giant cabin, designed for 7 adults

In return, if its size will not be easier to manage and park in town, its interior is really giant. Thanks to its 2.85m wheelbase, passenger legroom is really good in all three rows, which is scarce. Of course, to be able to accommodate adults or teenagers in the 6th and 7th places – they are supplied as standard – the 2nd row bench must be moved forward (sliding over 17 cm), but in this case there is still plenty of room for them. legs longer than 1.75 m. Moreover, access to these back seats is fairly easy thanks to the tilting / advancing of the second row seats. The grown-ups will just have to bow their heads, because despite a total height of 1.76 m, we obviously cannot stand on board.

Toyota Highlander Hybrid review A real 7 seater SUV LAutomobile - Toyota Highlander Hybrid review: A real 7-seater SUV!  - L'Automobile Magazine
Space, even in the third row of this Toyota Highlander Hybrid© Toyota

A still decent trunk with 7 people on board

Always thanks to its length of almost 5 m, there is still a decent trunk once all the seats are occupied (241 dm3 announced), a volume which climbs to 865 dm3 seats folded in the cargo floor. However, if these 6th and 7th places can accommodate adults, it would be better to reserve them for short journeys, because the seats and backrests are very flat, and above all these seats are almost placed on the ground, implying a curled up position, knees in the ears, quickly tiring except for small children. In the first row, on the other hand, it is opulence, both in terms of space and equipment, with large storage in the center console, heated and ventilated leather seats, a high-end 11 HP JBL sound system, a 7 ‘head-up display. ‘, Without forgetting a very large 12.3-inch touch screen configurable to your liking, and compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A very rich equipment

Enough to replicate your smartphone, benefit from your GPS or Waze to benefit from dynamic guidance depending on traffic jams … and the presence of the constabulary, which on-board navigation does not offer. And then in addition to the touch screen, Toyota has retained physical controls for the heater / air conditioning, which is much more ergonomic while driving. On the other hand, if this dashboard is almost entirely dressed in flexible plastics, we also see some disturbing American accents, like this false wood too shiny, but also some assembly faults in places, and poor stowage creating squeaks in the armrests of the door trims. Usually the brand does better than that for its European models.

The engine of the RAV-4 a little boosted

On the other hand, the Toyota tradition is well respected on the hybrid engine side, which is taken from the RAV4 with all-wheel drive, but just a little boosted compared to the latter to adapt to the increased weight (2,137 kg announced here). With a total of 248 hp thanks to the accumulation of its 2.5 atmospheric gasoline with Atkinson cycle, the front electric motor of 182 hp and the rear of 54 hp providing all-wheel drive when needed, the acceleration and recovery of this Highlander are quite dynamic. But transmission by epicyclic gear train with CVT effect requires, any depression a little important of the right pedal causes a strong revving of the 4 cylinders, with a not really pleasant feeling of skating, both to driving and to the ear, because the noise is then very present.

Driving required casting, and braking with perfectible dosage

Like all Toyota hybrids, the Highlander therefore prefers a smooth driving, register where it excels by starting from a standstill in electric up to about 15 km / h, before its 2.5 wakes up discreetly to ensure acceleration, before cut at steady speed, or when decelerating. With a capacity of 1.9 kWh, the nickel-metal-hydride battery can allow it to run 2 to 3 km in zero emissions at a stabilized and moderate speed if it is sufficiently charged. Mostly, it recovers part of the kinetic energy to recharge itself during deceleration and braking. Which is not always easy to dose in town and in case of surprise braking because of a pedal with a spongy and inconstant consistency.

Low fuel consumption, like all Toyota hybrids

But on the consumption side, the result is there, with an astonishing average for such a large SUV of only 7.7 l / 100 km displayed by the on-board computer after a mixed trip (road, city and motorway).

Finally, if this big and heavy Toyota prefers quiet driving, its chassis shows, despite having been fitted with winter tires during our test, a good level of efficiency and perfect stability, including on wet roads. We just regret that its steering isolates too much from the road to really feel the level of grip, and that its comfort is contrasted, as very often on these large SUVs.

Comfort not always soft

Indeed, if the suspensions favor smoothness on important obstacles, the big wheels go up a lot of trepidation on the small defects of the roadway. While the big anti-roll bars (essential not to turn around in case of emergency, avoidance …) generate lateral and lean movements of the upper body on bumpy roads. But that’s the lot of all tall and heavy models.

Thanks to its penalty limited to € 1,276 due to its CO2 emissions of only 158 g / km, Toyota plans to sell 500 Highlanders in 2021. But with the arrival of the weight penalty above 1,800 kg in 2022, it will of course be more complicated for him… but still less than for the other 7-seater in the range, the Land Cruiser, even heavier and already penalized by € 30,000 because of its CO2 emissions starting at 241 g / km!