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2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Trims

Base

Avg. Price: $33,902

For those considering a hybrid crossover, the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Base offers 7-passenger seating, 94.1 cubic feet of total cargo capacity, spiffy fuel savings, 4-wheel-drive (4WD) traction and a plethora of standard features. As well, look for 17-inch alloy wheels, a roof rack and a rear spoiler to adorn this midsize crossover's profile, while premium cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable power driver's seat, and reclining and sliding second-row seats grace the surprisingly classy interior.

Full power accessories again come standard aboard this entry-level Highlander Hybrid, as do cruise control, telescoping tilt-wheel steering and a rear-view camera. The simulated alloy steering wheel additionally boasts cruise and audio controls, while 3-zone air conditioning includes new rear-seat controls. A dashboard-mounted trip computer is complemented by a hybrid performance display, while Bluetooth hands-free technology is complemented by a single-CD player and 6 speakers, not to mention satellite radio, auxiliary iPod integration and a USB connection.

Options-wise, this gas/electric crossover can be delivered with a Preferred Accessory Package that flaunts carpeted floor and cargo mats, a cargo net and a first aid kit, as well as the Convenience Package, with exhaust tips, mudguards and roof-rack crossbars. The available Leather Package, meantime, adds leather upholstery, an upgraded hybrid performance display, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, upgraded cabin trim and a remote garage door opener to the mix. Standalone options, meantime, include remote engine start, rear-seat DVD entertainment, a 440-watt JBL stereo with 9 speakers, a power liftgate and a tow hitch and wiring.

At the heart of the Highlander Hybrid Base is a 3.5-liter variable-valve-timed (VVT) V6 gasoline engine that mates with 3 electric motors (total 209 kilowatts) for a grand total of 280 hp and 215 lb-ft of torque. All this power is managed by a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to the tune of 28 mpg city/28 highway.

Regenerative braking helps the V6 charge up its nickel-metal hydride battery, while auto engine stop/start technology, as well as driver selectable Eco and EV (electric-only) modes, add to this hybrid's heady fuel-economy numbers. And finally, the standard on-demand 4WD system offers automatic shifting of torque from the wheels that slip to the wheels that grip on slick surfaces, with a driver-selectable mode for shifting into 4WD on a whim.

Toyota's Star Safety System, of course, adorns the 2012 Highlander Hybrid Base and boasts 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control, 3-row head airbags, front side-mounted airbags and front head restraint whiplash protection. Further safety equipment includes front fog/driving lights, daytime running lights and a post-collision safety system, while an emergency assistance kit and/or remote antitheft technology that can be bolstered by a VIP Plus security system and a VIP Plus glass breakage alarm are available as optional add-ons.

Limited

Avg. Price: $38,570

For 2012 Toyota once again offers its green-leaning, gas sipping, Highlander Hybrid Limited midsize crossover. This top-shelf edition of the automaker's popular gas/electric people hauler now carries a standard third-row seat for 7-passenger capability, as well as 94.1 cubic feet of total cargo capacity with the rear seats folded. Again, the Highlander Hybrid Limited also comes with standard 4-wheel drive (4WD) for some added confidence on slick roads.

As well as 19-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler, this hybrid mini-ute also boasts a roof rack, heated power-adjustable mirrors and a power sunroof. Inside, look for leather upholstery, power-adjustable and heated front seats, full power accessories, sliding and reclining second-row seats, a leather and simulated alloy telescoping and tilting steering wheel mounting audio and cruise controls, and leather, simulated wood and simulated alloy dash and door trim. A universal remote garage door opener once again comes standard, as do a rear-view camera and Bluetooth hands-free communications. All of this is embraced, finally, by tri-zone automatic climate control, now with standard rear seat controls, while hybrid powerplant performance is monitored via a dashboard display integrated into the traditional trip computer. Finally, a single-CD player with 6 speakers provides the tunes, helped by satellite radio, an auxiliary iPod interface and a USB connection.

Options in this well-wrought hybrid mini-ute, meantime, include the Preferred Accessory Package, the Convenience Package and the Protection Package, which include extras like carpeted floor and cargo mats, cargo nets, a first aid kit, exhaust tips, mudguards, roof-rack crossbars and added exterior protection coatings. Standalone options include remote engine start, rear-seat DVD entertainment, a tow hitch with wiring harness and a 440-watt JBL premium audio system boasting 9 speakers.

For 2012 the Highlander Hybrid Limited is powered by a variable-valve-timed (VVT) 3.5-liter gasoline engine that mates with 3 electric motors netting 209 kilowatts. The result is 280 total hp and 215 lb-ft of torque, good enough to pull up to 3,500 pounds of trailer when properly equipped. All of this is once again managed by a silky continuously variable transmission (CVT), while regenerative braking allows the V6 to recharge the traditional nickel-metal hydride battery. Finally, driver-selectable modes (Eco and EV) allow more fuel efficient cruising or short stretches of driving on electric power alone.

Finally, the 4WD system, also driver-selectable, will automatically shift torque from the wheels that slip to those that grip in iffy conditions, or it can be engaged by the driver whenever he or she feels the need.

Of course Toyota's Star Safety System is standard aboard the 2012 Highlander Hybrid Limited and flaunts 4-wheel antilock brakes (ABS), traction and stability control, 3-row head airbags, front side-mounted airbags and front head restraint whiplash protection. Daytime running lights also come standard aboard this top-shelf hybrid crossover, as do front fog/driving lights, a post-collision safety system and a remote antitheft alarm. Toyota's touted VIP Plus security system and glass breakage sensor, meanwhile, are optional, as is an emergency assistance kit.