By Mike Torpey on 2022-01-16 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Excel 2.5 Hybrid
THE name Highlander may not be familiar with UK drivers but elsewhere in the world, particularly in the US and Japan, it's been around since the turn of the century.
And having spent many days behind the wheel of the big SUV, completing 355 miles in the process, the puzzle was that of wondering why it had taken Toyota so long.
What's certain is that there has been no let-up in the motoring public's appetite for cars of this size and scope - add hybrid power to the equation and you have a serious player.
That's what the Highlander could turn out to be, even though it has only been on sale here since the spring.
The expansive Toyota has plenty in its favour, not least of which is simplicity. In that regard there are just two variants - Excel and Excel Premium - and a single engine choice, a 2.5-litre petrol engine supported by an electric motor.
So we are talking hybrid, but then every model across the extensive Toyota range now boasts hybrid power.
In the case of the Highlander it means a total system output of 244bhp, enabling 0-62 acceleration in a handy 8.3 seconds and 111mph potential top speed.
But then outright performance was never going to be the priority with a vehicle like this which, despite its substantial 2,720kg weight, can claim an official average fuel consumption of 39.2mpg. Our own return actually exceeded that at 39.8 miles per gallon.
What families will really appreciate though is the amount of space and storage on offer, wrapped up in a premium package and with the versatility of having seven seats.
The cabin has full leather upholstery, a chunky leather steering wheel plus countless cubbies and stowage spots - there are even four cupholders in the third row.
It's all light and airy too thanks to a full length Skyview glass panoramic roof with slider covering.
The dash-mounted dials are all easy to operate and you get a large central colour touchscreen surrounded in piano black panelling and brushed silver alloy, along with a smartphone charging pad in the central container.
With five seats in operation the passenger space is enormous - real stretch your legs out stuff. Use the rear pair, which are large enough for teens, and those second row 60/40 split ones need sliding forward.
No surprise that if all seven seats are in use there's diminished boot space, but drop them down and there's plenty. Flip the second row as well and it's cavernous.
Out on the road the Highlander doesn't just look a premium product but feels it too. Make no mistake it's a long SUV, but very well balanced and smooth to drive when plenty of punch when required.
You can maximise economy by using the EV mode for fully electric driving at low speed around the suburbs, or use the Eco setting as opposed to Normal or Sport from the three drive modes accessed via the push of a switch. There's also a separate Trail setting for more demanding off-road conditions.
Standard kit in the entry grade Highlander Excel is extensive and includes items like heated front seats, a power operated boot, three-zone climate control, a reversing camera, sat nav, an 11-speaker sound system, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and a head-up display.
Toyota Highlander Excel 2.5 Hybrid AWD-i
Mechanical:244bhp, 2,487cc, 4-cyl petrol hybrid engine driving four wheels via CVT auto transmission
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