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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Highlander felt top-heavy, but it responded well to steering wheel input.
Instead of a tachometer, the Highlander Hybrid gets the electricity gauge on the left.
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.
The standard LCD at the top of the stack shows hybrid operating conditions, such as when the car is driving under electric power only.
An auxiliary input comes standard, letting you plug in an MP3 player.
The car's trip computer has a lot of features for tracking mileage, such as this mileage history tool
We were completely unimpressed with the Highlander Hybrid's standard six-speaker stereo.
On this screen, you can see that the hybrid system is using regenerative braking to charge the battery.