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2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4WD-i V6

Could this be the rage for you?

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating
User Rating 4 Star Rating (1 Review)

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2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited 4WD-i V6

With truck-like styling in a touchy-feely unibody package, Highlander is a true crossover vehicle.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
Hybrids are all the rage. You can choose from over a dozen different hybrids on the market, and that's a good thing. The 2006 Toyota Highlander Limited Hybrid 4WD-i V6 is Toyota's hybrid crossover SUV, a proven package with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain. The 2006 Toyota Highlander Limited 4WD-i V6 carries a base price of $39,290 ($42,711 as tested), a 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty, a 5 year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and an EPA estimate of 31 mpg city/27 mpg highway.

First Glance

Highlander is a familiar entity, essentially the same since it hit the showrooms in 2001. With truck-like styling in a touchy-feely unibody package, Highlander is a true crossover vehicle, by my definition. The Hybrid Limited is the top of the line trim level for Highlander, and it's still pretty reserved. A few splashes of chrome on the front grille, a little on the tailgate, and two tastefully small "Hybrid Synergy Drive" badges on the outside help distinguish this Highlander Limited from all others.

Highlander is nicely proportioned, with a tall greenhouse and a square-ish body. If you squint you can see the 4Runner and Sequoia hiding in the styling. Highlander manages to look elegant and refined without losing all of its off-road credibility, though few Highlanders will ever actually leave the pavement. The Highlander Hybrid Limited is a nice-looking vehicle that will definitely benefit from its scheduled refreshing for the 2008 model year.

You've got to get into the driver's seat or dive under the hood to see the real differences between the conventional gas-powered Highlander and the Hybrid.

Continued below...

In the Driver's Seat

The instrument panel looks totally ordinary at first glance, until you notice that your tachometer has been replaced with a Watt meter.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
Inside the Highlander, the balance between car and SUV definitely shifts toward car. Highlander's cabin is very sedan-like, with a comfortable driving position and very good sight lines all around. The Limited comes standard with a ton of near-luxury features like power heated seats in the front, leather all around, power windows and door locks, cruise control, tilt wheel and a rear heating system. My test vehicle was equipped with the optional ($2,000) touch-screen DVD Navigation system, which I highly recommend. My next new car will definitely wear one of these.

Highlander doesn't hit you over the head with its Hybrid. The instrument panel looks totally ordinary at first glance, until you notice that your tachometer has been replaced with a Watt meter. You can set up the screen on your nav system to display the status of your hybrid system, from state of charge to fuel consumption -- or you can just drive. The most extraordinary thing about Highlander's hybrid system is that it is totally ordinary and transparent. The vehicle is so quiet and well-insulated when the gas engine is idling that you can barely hear or feel it, so when it cycles off at a stoplight, you hardly notice the difference.

On the Road

Behind the hybrid powerplant, Highlander Hybrid wears a CVT (continuously variable transmission), which really changes the nature of power delivery for the better.

Traditional automotive transmissions use discrete gears to transmit the engine's power to the driveshaft. Most of the time, your transmission is managing a compromise between revolutions per minute (RPM) and power, changing gears to keep RPMs as close to the engine's ideal power range as possible depending on your vehicle's speed. When you drive a manual transmission, you choose the shift points yourself. An automatic transmission does the same thing for you behind the scenes, stepping through the gears one at a time.

A CVT doesn't have traditional gears, it has belts and pulleys, and through the magic of engineering, a CVT can keep the engine at its ideal RPM level without the compromise of stair stepping through gears. The result is smoother power delivery, greater efficiency and a car that's more responsive at any speed. Expect to see CVT technology in more cars and SUVS in the future.

Highlander's CVT works seamlessly and takes the 268 hp and 212 lb-ft of torque that the 3.3 liter V6 engine and electric motor crank out together and puts them to good use.

Journey's End

Highlander lives up to Toyota's reputation for high quality, with excellent fit and finish inside and out, and a generally solid feel top to bottom.

Photo © Jason Fogelson
If you're looking for a hybrid to save money, the Highlander Hybrid Limited might not be for you. You'll pay a substantial premium over the gas-only Highlander Limited (over $7,000 difference in base price), which will take a long time to recoup, even with high gas prices like we've had over the past few years.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for a near-luxury crossover with the latest technology in a handy-dandy package, this Highlander may be for you. It lives up to Toyota's reputation for high quality, with excellent fit and finish inside and out, and a generally solid feel top to bottom. It's more fun to drive than the gas-only Highlander V6, and it gets better mileage to boot. You can haul seven passengers for short distances, assuming that at least two of your passengers are small or very limber -- that third row is a little tight to get to for full-sized adults of a certain age (like me).

You should look beyond Highlander before you settle there -- drive the Ford Escape/Mercury Mariner/Mazda Tribute hybrids, and take a spin in the Saturn Vue Green Line when it is available. Look at the Lexus RX 400h for a more luxurious treatment of the subject.

Who knows -- Highlander Hybrid could be all the rage you need.

User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 4 out of 5
Good balance for a family SUV, Member JoeBoxerVR6

Yes, the styling puts insomniacs to sleep. However, its a great drive, and balances off the fact that its an SUV. Stepping from a BMW 540i to this, I think its a wise move with a family of 4, and visiting relatives, its convienenct 7 seat spacing, and be ability to drive around like its a Honda Accord gas wise. Just remember, 4wd still relies on 4 very small patch of rubber to road. If you live in winter weather, get winter tires. I definately didn't buy this SUV for its look, but for utility, functionallity, and reliability. Given its under Toyota's thight in Japan control, unlike the current issue with the gas pedals made here. Should pan out well. Its no prius, or PHEV by any stretch of the imagination. This HH is definately an equalizer Hybrid that will help make a man move from a Sedan to an SUV without the upcharge in gas. I had the same oppurtunity to pick up a Lexus RX400H Hybrid at a similar price, however, I opted for the Highlander because I like the 7-seat. Again, Function over Fashion. Now, if we can only get a larger li-ion battery, and tune it to use the electric motor more frequently ...

9 out of 9 people found this helpful.

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