It's hard for me to understand why the Highlander Hybrid needs a V-6 engine as part of its gas/electric powertrain. Toyota says two electric motors and the V-6 are good for a combined rating of 270 hp, but the Highlander Hybrid has a tough time convincing you it's fast. So why not cut your losses and stick in a larger four-cylinder (in the arena of 2.4 liters) for a couple more mpg? It also seems like a more efficient, front-wheel-drive model is a no-brainer. At least it would help reduce this "efficient" vehicle's unacceptable 4600-pound weight.
Like Evan, I noted that it's particularly hard to keep the Highlander Hybrid in electric mode, especially compared with the Prius and the Ford Fusion Hybrid. And, frustratingly, I was never able to activate the electric-vehicle mode. Even when I switched off every accessory in the vehicle, hitting the EV button caused the display to show "EV Mode not available at this time." I tried on several different trips; after long and short drives; while rolling, stopped, and parked; and was never successful. I'm sure it has to do with the battery state of charge, but that doesn't explain why the battery was never at the necessary level.
What did I like? The transition when the engine turns on and off is excellent and virtually imperceptible. Some people may also appreciate the Highlander Hybrid's 3500-pound towing capacity (this is the justification for the V-6, I suppose). The yellowy blonde wood in our tester, however, was rather unattractive, reminding me of a decade sometime prior to my birth.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor