Toyota Highlander long-term test: report 1

This all-new 4x4 can seat up to seven and has hybrid power to boost efficiency. We're living with one to see if it's worth a place on your shortlist...

LT Toyota Highlander front

The car Toyota Highlander 2.5 Hybrid AWD-i Excel Run By Max Adams, junior photographer

Why it's here To see if a big, go-anywhere 4x4 can also be an efficient choice

Needs to Be practical, good off road, comfortable for long trips and not break the bank on running costs

Mileage 4000 List price £50,595 Target Price £48,878 Price as tested £50,595 Test economy  37.5mpg Official economy 39.5mpg Options fitted None

28 August – Hello Highlander

Recently, I went out and assisted chief photographer John Bradshaw on one of those exploratory days out that we at What Car? call a triple test photoshoot. The cars we were snapping were all seven-seat, hybrid SUVs, and one of them in particular caught my eye: the Toyota Highlander. In fact, its mix of practicality, ruggedness and efficiency seemed perfect for my needs, so when the time came to replace my Ford Ranger Wildtrak, it didn’t take me long to decide what to go for.

Specifically, my new Highlander is a 2.5 Hybrid AWD-i Excel, which has a list price of £50,595. However, you can save around £1700 by using What Car?’s free New Car Buying service. And while that still makes the Highlander quite a bit pricier than the majority of large SUVs, few of those cheaper cars have its go-anywhere ability; many of them aren’t even four-wheel drive.

LT Toyota Highlander side

You also get a lot of equipment for your money with the Highlander, including adaptive cruise control, a panoramic glass sunroof (or moon roof, as Toyota has humorously named it), built-in sat-nav, wireless phone charging, a punchy 11-speaker JBL stereo and an 8.0in touchscreen with smartphone mirroring. I’m particularly impressed by how simple this screen is to use and how quickly it responds, even if the graphics look a little basic.

Unsurprisingly, given that the Highlander is almost five metres long, the boot can easily swallow all of my camera gear when its two third-row seats are folded flat into the floor. But during my time with the car, I’ll also be making use of those seats; I have a holiday with friends coming up, and it will be interesting to see if they feel they have enough space on a long drive. And, indeed, if we can fit in everyone's luggage when all three rows have people in them.

Toyota Highlander badge

What I can already tell you is that the 2.5-litre petrol engine (the only option available) works smoothly with the car’s electric motor. And this hybrid setup really seems to help fuel economy in the real world; I’m getting close to the official average of 39.5mpg, whereas most SUVs the size of the Highlander struggle to top 30mpg. And at this point I'm still learning how to drive the car as efficiently as possible.

In short, while I fell in love with the Highlander at first sight, the early indications are that there's the potential for a happy long-term relationship, too.

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