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Boring to drive & too expensive for what you get.

Edmunds.com logo Edmunds.com 8/11/2015 Mia

I leased a 2013 Highlander Hybrid ("HH") because I wanted a 7-seater SUV to cart around my growing family (and our stuff), without having to refill the gas tank every few days. But I also wanted a performance vehicle with some creature comforts, which would be fun to drive. While the HH delivered on fuel economy (23-26 mpg overall in "ECON" mode), it fell short in all other respects. First off, the premium that Toyota adds to the price of the Highlander for the hybrid model is not offset by the gas savings due to the HH's slightly better fuel economy. The HH is $10,000-$20,000 more expensive than the non-hybrid Highlander (depending on trim), but I can say from experience that I will not save that much in fuel costs by the end of my 3-year lease. If you're looking to save money, you're better off buying a regular Highlander, which delivers only about 3-7 mpg less overall than the hybrid model. When it comes to creature comforts, the HH also failed to deliver. I didn't expect the HH to come with all of the luxury features standard like the BMW and Lexus that I'd previously owned, but Toyota took the nickel-and-diming to the extreme with the HH, even for a non-luxury vehicle brand. The only amenity that came standard on the HH was the power windows and door locks. I had to pay a ton extra for an add-on "package" in order to have a back-up camera (which comes standard in many luxury SUVs), and power front seats. I also purchased the navigation system package, which, sadly, did NOT include an upgraded audio system. Furthermore, the expensive package I purchased did not include a power lift-gate for the rear trunk door, a SmartKey, or automatic climate control, all of which had come standard with my previous cars. In order to get these features, I would've had to add on one or two more expensive packages, and the price for my HH was already close to $50,000 even without these extras. So I declined to purchase these additional packages and ended up regretting it. As a busy mom whose hands are always full, I underestimated how much I would miss having a power lift-gate and SmartKey features.Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the HH is a really dud to drive. Its performance is uninspired and sluggish, even when it's not being driven in ECON mode. I wasn't expecting sports sedan performance from a 7-seater SUV, but the HH is a snooze to drive, even for a vehicle of its size. It would be one thing if the HH delivered luxury and cushiness in exchange for the loss in performance (as the Lexus RX hybrid SUV does), but unfortunately, Toyota failed to deliver here as well. About the only plus of the HH is that it's a relatively quiet ride due to the hybrid electric engine. Other than that, it feels like just another cheap, mass-produced Toyota car, which is about as exciting as the plain-vanilla Camry. If you're looking for a decent 7-seater SUV that won't break the bank, stick with the regular Highlander. Otherwise, if you can stretch your budget a bit, I'd recommend going for one of the Lexus, Audi, Infiniti or Acura SUV's, which deliver much more bang for your buck in terms of luxury features and/or performance. I can't wait for my lease to be up so I can be rid of my boring Highlander Hybrid!Grade: A solid "C".

Average Rating : 3

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