Toyota Highlander 4 Cylinder and Hybrid Review

A four-cylinder Highlander would have been considered a great leap backwards just a couple of years ago. Now it looks like an inspired move.

187 horsepower turns out to be adequate to move this mid-size SUV, and the resulting gas mileage (20 city/27 highway) is nearly identical to the much smaller 6-cylinder RAV4, which gets 21 city/27 highway.

Not only that, but the 4-cylinder Highlander I drove for a week was optioned sensibly (upgraded audio system, cold weather package, convenience package, manual rear air conditioning, the third row seat package, the towing prep package, cargo and floor mats and a tow hitch with wiring harness added less than $4,000 to the $25,705 base price)...resulting in a bottom line 2 grand lower than the V6 RAV 4.

More SUV...less money...essentially the same gas mileage. In this economy, that sounds like a strong package.

UPDATE: The polar opposite of the brilliance of the 4-cylinder Toyota Highlander is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Seven miles more per gallon in the city, true...but two fewer on the highway (27 city/25 highway)...with a base price $16,000 higher. That's right...the starting price is $41,020. And Toyota loaded our tester with enough options to hit $49,086 (an Extra Value Package discount brought the final number down to $48,386).

That's 20 grand more for the same vehicle with a different powerplant, a higher trim level and more options. As with so many hybrids, the Highlander is fine to drive, makes you feel good about your relationship to the environment and all that....but can't win the value argument.