Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The 2016 Highlander is powered by a choice of three different drivetrains. Base models make due with a 2.7L 4-cylinder engine making 180 horsepower. In this guise, the Highlander is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. The mid-level V6 displaces 3.5L and makes 270 horsepower, while the top of the line hybrid uses an electric motor in conjunction with a V6 to make 280 horsepower. The hybrid Highlander returns 27 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway, extremely impressive numbers for a vehicle equipped with third-row seating. The Highlander comes standard in front-wheel drive, though all-wheel drive is an option for those who need it.

There are four trim levels offered on the 2016 Toyota Highlander: LE, LE Plus, XLE and Limited, which offers buyers plenty of options.

LE is the most basic trim, and is the only trim to feature the smaller 4-cylinder engine. However, it still comes loaded with 18-inch wheels, an Entune stereo with a 6.1-inch touchscreen, a backup camera, Bluetooth streaming, heated mirrors, a couple of USB ports and third-row seating.

Stepping up to LE Plus adds a number of desirable items. Highlights include a height-adjustable power rear liftgate, an 8-way power adjustable driver's seat, satellite HD radio, 3-zone automatic climate control, fog lamps and a leather-wrapped steering wheel.

The XLE trim includes a smart key and push-button start, leather seating surfaces, heated front seats, roof rails to help secure extra luggage, rear window shades, an 8-inch touch screen, HomeLink, a navigation system and a moonroof.

The top-spec Limited trim offers 19-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights, various parking aids and a blind-spot monitor, perforated leather seating, heated and cooled front seats, and a powered passenger seat. The Limited Highlanders are also the only trim that can be equipped with the optional hybrid powertrain.

Options include a Technology package with radar-controlled cruise control, a Lane Departure system and automatically dimming high beams; as well as a Platinum package, which includes everything in the technology package along with a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats and a panoramic moonroof. A Rear Seat Entertainment system is also optional.

Safety is aided by anti-lock brakes, stability control and traction control, as well as optional items like a blind-spot monitor. Of course, should an accident occur, the Highlander is equipped with eight airbags in order to minimize any possible damage to its occupants.

Editors' First Take

A couple of Roadshow's California-based staffers are originally from the Midwest, so they know just how miserable the cold and snow can be out here. Roadshow's long-term 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, however, did not -- until now. Yes, the big three-row SUV made the long trek from SoCal to NEO -- that's Northeast Ohio for you non-locals -- a few weeks ago, and the Highlander Hybrid got its first extended taste of a colder sort of life. Welcome to the below-freezing zone.

Snow still blanketed my neck of the woods when the Highlander arrived, and I wheeled the SUV around in the elements to get a sense of how well it performed in the white stuff. The electronic all-wheel-drive system is always more than capable of trekking through mounds of snow, and really, I don't have any issues on that end. But being able to get through snow is only one part of the wintertime equation.

My west coast colleagues praised the Highlander as a comfortable machine on the state's mostly smooth roads. Indeed, I think it's a great partner on the freeway most of the time. But out here in Ohio, ice buckles the pavement on the regular. Chunks of asphalt go missing as plows speed by. Quick patching creates road stretches that turn into what may as well be speed bumps. The Highlander Hybrid handles things mostly well, but man, it transfers some not-so-nice feelings into the cabin. A couple times, I felt like the Highlander saw stars from some bigger bumps, based on what I felt inside. The big ol' 20-inch wheels probably don't help matters, either.

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