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.