Toyota Highlander long-term test: report 3

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...

Toyota Highlander infotainment system

The car Toyota Highlander 2.5 Hybrid AWD-i Excel Run By Max Edleston, 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 8922 List price £50,595 Target Price £48,878 Price as tested £50,595 Test economy  36.7mpg Official economy 39.5mpg

11 October 2021 – The photographer's assistant

I’ve only had my Toyota Highlander for a couple of months, but I’ve already put several thousand miles on the clock. And while the good news is this big, seven-seat SUV is proving every bit as practical as I’d hoped, the better news is it’s making my life easy in other ways, too.

For example, it’s lane-keeping assistance technology positions the car just right, instead of trying to steer me too close to one side of the lane or letting the car pong from side to side, in the way that some rival systems that I’ve tried do.

Toyota Highlander steering wheel

Combined with adaptive cruise control to keep me a safe distance from the car in front, it means long motorway journeys are far less tiring than you might expect.

Then there’s the Highlander’s well thought out interior. No matter how much clutter I’m travelling with – and given my line of work, sometimes the answer is lots – there’s more than enough storage spaces to squeeze it all into. Everything from coffee cups to flash guns are swallowed without fuss.

The infotainment system is another strength, with it’s 8.0in touchscreen the perfect size in my book: big enough to show you everything clearly, but not so big that it’s distracting. The proper physical shortcut buttons make it easy to navigate between the menus and keep submenus to a minimum. Plus, the smartphone mirroring works brilliantly alongside Toyota’s own software, allowing you to quickly switch from Apple Maps to the Highlander's DAB radio selector, and back again.

Initially, I was also impressed by Toyota’s decision to place the wireless phone charger in the cubby beneath the armrest, so that your phone is out of reach and you’re not tempted to use it. However, then I realised that the Highlander doesn’t have wireless smartphone mirroring, so you have to plug your phone in, making the wireless charging pad redundant.

Toyota Highlander phone charging bay

It’s not even as if one of my passengers is likely to use the pad, given how many USB ports there are dotted around the interior. However, this abundance of sockets does help me keep my kit charged up on the go.

My only other gripe is that some of the materials used for the Highlander’s centre console feel a bit cheap. Given how much the car costs, I’d expect to see less shiny plastic and more leather, such as you find in the rival Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento.

These are relatively minor gripes, though, and overall I look forward to spending many more hours on the road with the Highlander, because I know that I’ll arrive at my destination feeling fresh, stress-free and – thanks to its hybrid engine technology – having used a relatively small amount of fuel.

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