The Highlander Hybrid handles pretty much the way you'd expect a midsize crossover/SUV to handle, meaning it is tuned more for comfort and utility than performance. The hybrid powertrain is pretty transparent in use - other than the silence that greets you when you press the start button, there are few clues when you're under way that you're driving a hybrid vehicle. Acceleration, while not blazingly fast, is very good for a vehicle of this size and weight, and the power is delivered very smoothly thanks to the CVT transmission.
What to me seems the most prohibitive about the hybrid Highlander is its price premium (about $7000) over the non-hybrid version, which brings it into luxury-brand territory but without the cachet of a luxury brand. Still, while the hybrid may not make a lot of sense economically, there are probably many people for whom the satisfaction of driving an environmentally friendly vehicle is more important than the direct impact on their wallets.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor