Six Thousand Dollars For Nine Extra MPG In The City: Is The Toyota Highlander Hybrid Worth It?

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Back in June, Michael wrote a fairly unflattering review of the newly redesigned Toyota Highlander.  I have to agree with most of the points he made apart from the lack of headroom (I'm not as tall as he).  It's not a terribly attractive vehicle, it does not carry quite as much behind the seats as the previous model did, and the instrument panel, while attractive, puts virtually every control that matters---especially the HVAC, audio controls and touchscreen---well out of the reach of most drivers.

But would a big boost in fuel efficiency offset those sins?

Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
The Highlander Hybrid comes in Limited---top-of-the-line---trim only. Your choices are two or all-wheel drive.  Our test vehicle was an AWD model, as was the gasoline version reviewed in June.  Base price is $47,790, $6,200 more than the gasoline-powered Limited AWD.  The EPA fuel economy estimate for the Hybrid is 27 city/28 highway, as opposed to 18 city/24 highway for the gasoline version.

Using the U.S. Department of Energy's Hybrid Calculator, assuming the current national average price of regular gas of $3.06 a gallon and assuming a mix of 65% city driving and 35% highway, it will take 9.6 years for the fuel savings from the Highlander Hybrid to make up the difference in cost over the gasoline-powered version.

It is a Toyota.  It will virtually certainly last longer than that.  But will you want to be driving the same car in 2024?

2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid interior view
2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid interior.
Even with two fairly low cost options---$225 for carpeted floor mats and a cargo mat and $299 for a glass breakage sensor---the as-tested price, with $860 delivery, processing and handling fee, was $51,174. That is a significant amount of money for a vehicle unless you are absolutely in love with it.  We are not.