Stick Shift: 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Photo via: Toyota

It would seem that the Toyota Highlander has become the ‘almost minivan’ option of choice here in the valley. For a list of good reasons, there’s no shortage of these midsize SUV’s on the road. They offer a bit more meat and muscle than the often stigmatized minivan. For the majority of families, the Highlander is a just-right size option, with seating for seven, sometimes eight depending on the configuration. Fuel economy is impressive at 28 mpg combined as well. The ride is quiet and comfortable. Maybe most importantly, there’s peace of mind, thanks to plenty of standard accident-avoidance technology on board. 

New for 2019, Toyota has added black side rocker panels. Also, LED fog-lights, trimmed in chrome, come on the Limited and Platinum models. A variety of powertrain options are on the table for buyers. In base trim you’ll get an overworked 4-cylinder that’s likely to fight for its life with every rpm. Do yourself a favor and opt for the much more suitable V6 engine. Better still is a hybrid that pairs an AC 650-volt electric motor with a 3.5L V6 to make a combined 306 hp. Add in all-wheel-drive, and you’ll get a big car that delivers very good acceleration, even if you’re car-pooling the entire soccer team to their next game. V6 variants of the Highlander even have a respectable towing capacity of 5,000 pounds for hailing the toys to the lake or off-road trails.

Photo via: Toyota

The Toyota Highlander focuses on a smooth ride and overall comfortable commute above all else. Seating position is high, making body roll ever present in the twists and turns. Unlike the sportier Mazda CX-9, the Highlander isn’t trying to liven up the commute, only get you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ safely and comfortably. Speaking of safety, each and every Highlander model has Toyota Safety Sense. This system helps you stay in your lane, detect pedestrians, and even automatically applies the brakes to avoid collision. Thankfully, it also comes with the extremely useful adaptive cruise control to help you maintain distances between yourself and the car out front.

The third-row seat isn’t as roomy as what can be found in some of the competitors. If its not being used though, you can at least fold it flat and give yourself plenty of cargo space.

A long panoramic sunroof helps bathe the cabin in natural light. Leather seats and a colorful touchscreen display add polish to the space. Everything is neatly arranged and not overwhelmed with too many buttons and dials. Why it still doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration remains a mystery to me. 

On the outside, the 2019 Toyota Highlander has handsome features, but isn’t trying to make any bold visual statements. Dark 18” wheels in the Premium package help add an extra measure of flair though. Toyota stays true to the intended purpose of the new Highlander in every element of design and detail. It is roomy, easy to drive and even easier to enjoy, with enough versatility and practicality to handle almost any job a large family can throw its way. 

Price as tested: $48,939.00 

By: Brandon Randall 

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