Toyota updated its Highlander model for 2008, including the Highlander Hybrid, making it bigger. Although it gained weight, its mileage stays the same as the the previous model.
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Where the previous Highlander had a more carlike character, Toyota gives the new model some truck cues, such as the big, three-tiered cascading grille.
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The power train in the the 2008 model is basically the same as in previous years, and is comprised of a 3.3-liter V-6 and three electric motors. The new Highlander Hybrid only comes in an all-wheel-drive configuration.
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The big, rectangular wheel arches continue the truck styling on the new Highlander. We don't think the extension of the arches into the doors is a very successful design element.
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Toyota sells this car as a base model, or with one of two expensive option packages that include things such as the 19-inch wheels and the spoiler lip over the rear hatch.
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The new design does make the interior very roomy, with big, comfortable seats. The rear hatch is also powered and can be closed by touching a button on its lower edge.
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We found the interior materials a little cheap. The plastic over the dashboard is hard, and the fake wood veneer is thin. The Highlander seems to take cues from American cars of the last decade.
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The Highlander felt top-heavy, but it responded well to steering wheel input.
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Instead of a tachometer, the Highlander Hybrid gets the electricity gauge on the left.
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The shifter works a continuously variable transmission, which doesn't convert the electric motors huge torque into exciting acceleration. Notice the EV mode button down and to the left.
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The standard LCD at the top of the stack shows hybrid operating conditions, such as when the car is driving under electric power only.
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An auxiliary input comes standard, letting you plug in an MP3 player.
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The car's trip computer has a lot of features for tracking mileage, such as this mileage history tool
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We were completely unimpressed with the Highlander Hybrid's standard six-speaker stereo.
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On this screen, you can see that the hybrid system is using regenerative braking to charge the battery.
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