After three generations reserved for the US and Japanese markets, the fourth generation benefited from a hybrid version allowing it to arrive in Europe. Can the most luxurious Toyota SUV with its 7 seats make its nest on the Old Continent? Can it compete with the bestsellers like the Peugeot 5008 and the Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace? Direction the Chevreuse valley to check it out.
9:00 am Vaucresson. Discovery of the new Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the premium 7-seater SUV from the Japanese firm. It celebrates its arrival on the French market with a fourth generation based on the TNGA-K platform that it shares with the Camry and the RAV4. Obviously, it was stretched to the maximum for this Highlander with very American dimensions: 4.96 meters long, 1.93 m wide (mirrors folded down) and 1.75 m high. It’s big! The Hyundai Santa Fé, the future Kia Sorento and the Volkswagen Touareg do not do as much, only the Ford Explorer is longer, wider and taller than the Highlander. But the Japanese keep an advantage: it is the only one available with a “Full Hybrid” engine in all-wheel drive version, ie non-rechargeable.
Aesthetically, there is no doubt that this Highlander is indeed a Toyota SUV. The typical stylistic codes of the brand recall at first glance its little brother the RAV4 … but more imposing and more luxurious. And it must be because it is all the same the premium offer of the brand! Thus, in addition to its rich standard equipment with multiple elements of comfort and safety, the Highlander also has a sense of hospitality. There is space on board for everyone, it feels like an American SUV. Besides its truck dimensions, it offers a trunk volume ranging from 332 liters (7-seater configuration) to 1909 liters in 2-seater configuration, with all seats folded down. If you are traveling with five, it will take 865 liters. Not bad for the segment even if the Explorer has 1137 liters of usable volume.
4.96 meters long, 1.93 wide (mirrors folded) and 1.75 high: the Toyota Highlander does not go unnoticed, even next to a BMW X7 or a Mercedes GLS.
Good to know: anticipate the purchase and resale.
It is possible to know the resale or trade-in value of your vehicle thanks to the auto Turbo rating of your Toyota Highlander, the alternative to the Argus rating.
Going behind the hoop, we remember above all that Toyota is a pioneer in pure hybridization (i.e. auto-rechargeable), so we expect a lot from this Highlander Hybrid, both in terms of driving comfort and ‘in terms of consumption. Especially because Toyota claims the Highlander is the smartest option for heavy riders when many opt for the plug-in hybrid. And that is understandable: PHEV engines are only useful when you play the game of recharging.
While our first laps of the wheels are in town and on the (somewhat) congested expressway, we realize that the Highlander frequently drives electric. Toyota announces up to 80% of the time in “zero emission” mode, we are waiting for the end of our test day to validate or invalidate this data. But for the moment, the Japanese SUV seems to keep its promises. It remains to be seen whether he will do the same when we abandon the main roads for the winding and hilly tracks of the Yvelines. But before leaving the expressways, we realize after a few reminders that not only the sound of the 4 cylinders is very rough, but in addition the CVT gearbox grinds before each acceleration. This is symptomatic of the hybrid models of the Toyota-Lexus group, but it is nonetheless a pity that the firm has not corrected this.
Although very imposing, the Highlander has a surprising steering angle which would tend to make you forget the size.
A certain agility
11am, time for us to tackle the part that the Highlander himself must dread: the hilly roads of the Chevreuse valley. Ascent, descent, ascent, descent, false flat, turn … But the Toyota SUV does not let itself be impressed and has even shown itself to be rather agile, even in the coast of the “17 turns”, near Dampierre-en-Yvelines. Relative agility of course, we are still talking about a rolling Norman cabinet of nearly 2.2 tonnes. Let’s say rather that its well-balanced chassis helps us to forget its imposing size. It is not unpleasant. On this point, the Japanese do better than its American competitor, the Ford Explorer PHEV.
Be careful though, there is no question of claiming any sportiness. The Higlander is really not intended to chain small turns in a dynamic way. The ride height and the flexibility of its suspensions imply a fairly substantial body roll and sloshing which can quickly affect overall comfort. Basically, we are far from the ideal of driving pleasure, but that is really not what we are looking for when climbing aboard such an SUV. Rather, we expect a most pleasant welcome from him. Precisely, when the lunch hour strikes, we take the opportunity to take a short break around the Vaux de Cernay abbey and sit in all the seats of the car… including in the trunk.
Sober and classy, the interior of this 7-seater SUV is nothing extraordinary but remains well designed and very ergonomic.
Spacious and comfortable for all
Luckily there is room in the trunk to sit in the sun and have a bite to eat. But there’s also space to accommodate two extra seats that will easily accommodate children, or even adults on short trips. However, access to this third row of seats is relatively easy, thanks in particular to the middle row which can slide 18.5 cm. On the back seat, three adults can easily cohabit and with all the necessary comfort. The larger sizes will benefit from a significant legroom of up to 85 cm.
But it is obviously at the front that the Toyota Highlander appreciates the most, where the seats are the most comfortable, but also heated and ventilated on the Lounge version of our test model. The only downside is that we tend to have the impression of having the engine on your knees: despite a rather successful soundproofing with regard to the filtration of air and rolling noise, the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is a bit too present, even when trying to be gentle on the accelerator pedal. A small false note in a universe that is nevertheless very techno and trendy.
From 332 to 1909 liters, the Highlander’s trunk is generous and can transport a family of 5 and their suitcases without any problem.
Technological and practical
2pm, after focusing on driving, we take the time to discover the on-board technologies and the little gadgets that improve the quality of life on board this Highlander Hybrid. First, we lay our eyes on the center console, and what a pleasure to find physical buttons to manage the tri-zone automatic air conditioning. Aesthetically, it may be a bit busy, but it’s much easier and more intuitive to use than on board models of the PSA group for example.
No huge surprises for the rest of the center console, other than a 12.3-inch touchscreen and responsive infotainment system, worthy of a premium SUV released in 2021. Another small gadget worthy of such a vehicle but disturbing at first glance: the camera interior mirror. Convenient so as not to be disturbed by rear passengers or the length of the vehicle which would affect visibility, but this comes with its share of drawbacks too. For example, as it is a real mirror, the kind of “double reflection” comes to harm the interest of this equipment. Another small detail that seems very bling-bling, but which is ultimately very useful: the jet which comes to wash the lens of the reversing camera. This is useful, especially in winter when the roads are still covered with sleet.
The interior camera rearview mirror is arguably the most gimmicky touch in this cabin, but once adapted it is very practical and much better than the exterior camera mirrors.
Price and consumption measured
But all of this comes at a price. For the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, it will cost the trifle of 56,500 euros for professionals (Design Business), or even 62,500 euros for individuals. If the latter stick to the panoramic sunroof, the check will have to be extended by 1,500 euros. It’s expensive, but correct considering its positioning. An Explorer, who is clearly identified as “the man to be slaughtered” by the Highlander, will require an effort of at least 77,000 euros. But beware, the latter is equipped with a turbo V6 associated with a 100 horsepower electric motor and displays 457 horsepower in cumulative power.
On the consumption side, the Highlander is doing better than its American opponent. Toyota announces 7.0 l / 100 km and driving 80% of the time in 100% electric mode. In reality, we are not that far : without paying particular attention to the way in which the accelerator was applied, the on-board computer averages 7.8 l / 100 km! Not bad, but we managed to do better by playing eco-driving to the maximum: 6.7 liters, less than what the brand announces! Only a more dynamic driving could have got the better of the average consumption, but there again, in a measured way: 8.6 liters. This will certainly appeal to heavy riders.
Technical characteristics Toyota Highlander Hybrid (2021)
|Model tested: Toyota Highlander Hybrid Lounge 248 hp|
|Dimensions L x W x H||4.96 / 1.93 / 1.75 m|
|Trunk volume 7/5/2 places||332 l / 865 l / 1.909 l|
|Unloaded weight||2.177 kg|
|Engine displacement||4-cylinder hybrid 2.5-liter turbo|
|Thermal / electric motor couple||239 Nm / 270 Nm|
|0 to 100 km / h||8.3 s|
|Max speed||180 km / h|
|CO2 rate||158-160 g / km (WLTP)|
|Consumption announced – recorded||7.0 l – 7.8 l / 100 km|
|Malus 2021||between 1276 and 1504 €|
|Prices||from 56.900 €|