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The hybrid-powered version of
crossover SUV boosts both the vehicle’s performance and its fuel economy. This
is the same
Hybrid Synergy Drive
system that’s also available in the Lexus RX,
with which the Highlander otherwise shares platforms and components. The
Highlander Hybrid combines a 3.3-liter V-6 powerplant with a high-torque
electric drive motor/generator to deliver the acceleration of a V-8 with the
fuel economy of a four-cylinder engine (33 mpg in city driving, 28 mpg on the
highway). A gearless continuously variable transmission (CVT) and an electric
power steering system are included. As in the standard versions, a choice of
front or all-wheel drive is offered; the latter includes two separate electric
motor/generators, one at each axle. Elsewhere in the line a fuel-efficient
160-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic
transmission remains the standard powertrain, while the conventional version of
the aforementioned 3.3-liter 230-horsepower V-6, mated to a five-speed automatic
gearbox, is optional.
’s Vehicle Stability Control system,
anti-lock brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution come
standard. A third-row seat is available to expand the Highlander’s seating
capacity to seven riders. Non-hybrid versions of the Highlander are mostly
carryovers from last year.