It's time for a mid-life makeover, and the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is going in for tweaks under the hood as well as on them.
For the new model year, the Hybrid version of Toyota's big, somewhat bulky crossover wears the new hood and fenders that the gas-only Highlander gains. The new look shares some common themes with the surprise-hit Venza wagon, and it's a step out of the anonymity cloud for the otherwise benign-looking Highlander.
While the gas-powered Highlanders carry over their powertrains intact, the Highlander Hybrid is moving up to a slightly higher station in life. The old 3.3-liter V-6 that had been teamed with its array of batteries and electric motors, is now a 3.5-liter V-6. The increase in displacement boosts its net horsepower to 280 hp, up from 270 hp. Little else has changed with the Hybrid, which still has emotionless steering and a plushly tuned ride that feels more like the base version than you might think, even with the 300 pounds of extra heft attributed to the battery packs.The Highlander Hybrid's all-wheel drive, which replaces mechanical drive with an electric motor to power the rear wheels, isn't suitable for extreme off-road conditions though it should be adequate for slippery driveway duty.
The Hybrid's interior is the same spacious affair as the stock Highlander, but it does lose about 1.5 cubic feet of interior space to those same battery packs.
For more, see our 2011 Toyota Highlander review, where you'll also find more photos plus prices, specs, and related news.