Buyers looking for the greenest seven-passenger vehicle on the market would do well to take notice of the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which has earned a Total Car Score that puts it very near the top of the Large SUV & Crossover segment.
Among the Highlander Hybrid's strengths are a gasoline-electric powertrain that manages to deliver both healthy acceleration and surprisingly good fuel economy. Reviewers also gave it high marks for a handsome, comfortable interior with a second-row seat that can be transformed from a three-person bench to a pair of captain's chairs by means of a removable center section.
The Highlander Hybrid does have its drawbacks, namely an MSRP that can be significantly higher than its conventionally-powered sibling. The third-row seat is also cramped enough that it's unfit for use by anyone over age 12.
With an all-new version expected within the next 12-18 months, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid receives just a couple of new standard features, including that third-row seat and rear climate control.
The 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a seven-passenger crossover that's offered in base and Limited trim levels.
Both are powered by a hybrid system that pairs a 3.5-liter V6 with three electric motors for a total output of 280 horsepower. A continuously-variable automatic transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive are standard.
The entry-level Highlander Hybrid comes well-equipped, with standard features that include 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, fog lights, deep-tinted rear privacy glass, keyless entry, air-conditioning with rear controls, cruise control, a power driver's seat, a 40/20/40-split sliding/reclining second-row seat, 50/50 split-folding third-row seats, a rearview camera, Bluetooth cell phone and streaming audio capability, and a CD stereo with satellite radio and six speakers. Limited models add 19-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors, a sunroof, a power liftgate, keyless entry/ignition, three-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
Many of the Limited's standard features are available as options on the base model. Other major options include a touch-screen navigation system with real-time traffic info, a rear seat video entertainment system and a premium JBL audio system with a six-disc CD changer and nine speakers.
The 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid's EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined.
Properly equipped, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
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