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2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Let's get right to this fuel economy thing. Some hybrid owners are complaining about not being able to replicate the EnerGuide numbers calculated for their respective rigs. Well, after motoring over 5K in our long-term Toyota Highlander Hybrid, we have to agree.

Let's get right to this fuel economy thing. Some hybrid owners are complaining about not being able to replicate the EnerGuide numbers calculated for their respective rigs. Well, after motoring over 5K in our long-term Toyota Highlander Hybrid, we have to agree.

For this vehicle, the EnerGuide book lists a city/highway rating of 7.5/8.1 L/100 km. So far, we're averaging about 9.2 L/100 km. And we put in quite a number of long runs on the highway. Maybe if we did more urban-only driving, the Hybrid's technologies would shine better, as that's where Hybrid's really outperform their gas-only brethren (the regular Highlander, for example, has a city rating of 12.7).

O.K. so it's our fault. Sorry. We'll try harder to get more city miles on this thing in the coming months. And remember, comparatively speaking, 9.2 L/100 km is quite excellent for a large, powerful, 7-passenger 4WD SUV.

Otherwise, it has performed like a Toyota — absolutely nothing has gone wrong, and the fit and finish of the interior still amazes — it's up to most people's luxury car standards. Though that's not to say we wouldn't mind re-arranging the furniture a bit; for one thing, we found that if you placed the seat for optimum pedal position, then the steering wheel was too far away, and vise versa.

Most of our staffers are predisposed to sporty vehicles, so we also had to de-tune ourselves to the Highlander experience, which one scribe characterized as, "for people who don't like driving." He and others have also noticed the rather soft suspension, and numb steering feel.

But, as another tester noted, the Highlander has "great all-around visibility and a well sound-proofed interior…So if you're looking for a nice quiet ride on the highway, it fits the bill perfectly."

We're still getting used to some of the hybrid technology, particularly how the engine doesn't start when you turn the key, and the rather abrupt start-up and shutdown of the engine when demanded by the computer. But as one tester chimed in, "a very small price to pay in return for increased fuel efficiency."

Finally, we must note that the Highlander was backed into a Sebring at a coffee shop parking lot, early one morning in May. This suddenly awakened all parties.


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