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2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: Lots to love, at a price

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Toyota Highlander Hybrid

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The Toyota Highlander seems to have gone through many phases through the years of its existence, from being very car/station wagon-like to being more midsize SUV-like in its current state.

After having driven Highlanders throughout the years, we can opine that the current version is the best yet.

Recently, we spent some time with the Highlander Hybrid.

We were impressed with its looks; it now seems comfortable in its skin as an SUV, rather than a few years ago, when it really just seemed to want to be a station wagon.

We also were impressed with its fuel economy, which is rated at 28 mpg city and highway in the hybrid model, about 28 percent better than the regular model.

We loved the roominess inside. It was comfortable enough for at least four normal-sized humans, and if you wanted to add another slightly undersized human, you could do that as well.

Yet it's still firmly a midsize SUV - you don't have to worry about trying to maneuver a big ol' road hog.

What caught us off guard a bit was the price.

While regular Highlanders can typically be had for somewhere in the low- to mid- $30s, (around $40k if you get the whole enchilada of options), the Highlander Hybrid resides squarely in the $40s neighborhood.

It's not at all unusual to pay a premium for hybrid versions, but the premium attached to this one seems to take the vehicle past the price point of many of its target buyers.

Admittedly, sales figures might prove that notion incorrect, though.

Part of the price bump is no doubt attributable to the list of standard features on the hybrid.

Toyota says a central touch-screen to control the audio system, navigation system, Entune telematics system, backup camera and 40/20/40 folding rear seats are standard on each hybrid.

Our tester, which also included automatic climate control and leather trim, carried a sticker price of around $43,000.
The Highlander Hybrid uses technology that is similar to that of Toyota's famous Prius hybrid car, only scaled up. There's a battery that feeds electric motors, in addition to a 3.5-liter V-6 engine. The combination makes 280 horsepower, making the hybrid the most powerful Highlander.

The Highlander Hybrid garnered a top safety pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

If you want to drive green, but you also have people and stuff you have to haul, the Highlander Hybrid is a terrific choice. Just be prepared to reach pretty deeply into the piggy bank, though.

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