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2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid - images courtesy Toyota Motor Company
Toyota revamps its Highlander Hybrid, carries over the powertrain

Toyota continues its push for hybrid vehicles with the new 2008 Highlander Hybrid. The new Highlander Hybrid and is based on the new Toyota Camry/Avalon chassis and rides on a wheelbase that is 3" longer. The vehicle is also 3" wider and 4" longer than the previous Highlander Hybrid.

Sadly, the powertrain for the 2008 Highlander Hybrid is a carryover from the previous model. In this case, the old 3.3 liter V6 (which itself is an outgrowth of the even older 3.0 liter corporate V6) and continuously variable transmission (CVT) is still being used to carry the majority of the load on the vehicle. There was speculation that the new 3.5 liter V6 would also be paired with the Synergy hybrid system used on the 2008 Highlander hybrid, but keeping the price down on the model was probably the reasoning for the carryover.

That being said, the Highlander retains its EPA rating of 31MPG/27MPG city/highway despite picking up an additional 500 pounds of heft. The 2008 Highlander Hybrid also offers the option to shut off the gasoline engine completely and run solely on battery power according to AutoblogGreen. The only problem is that the Highlander Hybrid’s NiMH batteries mean that you’ll only be able to travel an astonishing one mile on battery power alone.

GM’s 2009 Saturn Vue Green Line promises to deliver as much as 10 miles of battery-only power thanks to its lithium-ion batteries.

Pricing has not yet been announced for the new 2008 Highlander Hybrid, but expect modest price increases over the 2007 model. The 2007 model retails between $32,490 for a FWD Highlander Hybrid Base to $36,550 for an AWD Highlander Hybrid Limited.

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What is the point?
By eppenoire on 2/7/2007 3:35:10 PM , Rating: 2
Does Toyota get environmental bonus points every time they release a hybrid? This car doesn't get any better gas mileage than the non-hybrid, pollutes more than the non-hybrid and makes me more annoyed with the person who drives it than the non-hybrid. If California, where I live, is willing to give special little commuter lane passes to everyone who buys a hybrid, why don't they give out these same passes to people who drive old Honda Civics and any of the other econo boxes from the early eighties that got 40+ miles to the gallon?
What really annoys me about these Hybrid driving nuts, is that the stupid things create more non-degradable waste than a non-hybrid. You cannot get rid of these batteries, yes there are batteries on the market that are safer - but that is not what is going into these idiot mobiles. If auto manufacturers gave a rat's a** about the environment they would use a single stroke diesel generator to charge the batteries, which in turn would power the vehicle. Now that would be something that would be highly efficient and actually generates less pollution.

RE: What is the point?
By Anonymous Freak on 2/7/2007 3:55:58 PM , Rating: 5
Um... What?

The Highlander V6 Hybrid gets 32 MPG city (compared to the 4-cylinder model's 22, and the V6 non-hybrid's 19,) and 27 highway (compared to the 4-cylinder's 28 and the V6 non-hybrid's 25.) So it gets 1 MPG worse on the highway, but you get 270 hp compared to the 4-cylinder's 155 hp. And you get 10 MPG better in the city.

Compare the 4WD models, and the margin widens farther. The hybrid doesn't lose ANY highway mileage with 4WD, while the 4-cylinder drops to 25 MPG. (This is for the 2007 model, they don't have numbers up for the 2008 model yet. But it looks like the 4-cylinder will be going away, and the V6 non-hybrid will be getting a more powerful engine; so the numbers for the 2008 model will likely be even better.)

As for emissions, the hybrid is a SULEV, the non-hybrid isn't. (The hybrid might even qualify as PZEV, I'm not sure.)

Batteries? Recyclable. NiMH are 100% recyclable, and Toyota has committed to recycle every battery that comes back to them for free.

As for single-stroke diesel? WAY more polluting than even this. What WOULD be best is a four-stroke clean-burn diesel to charge the batteries. Single or two-stroke diesels are still very polluting. (Hell, a diesel turbine would be best, but I doubt anyone is going to want what is essentially a jet engine in their car.)

I do agree with the complaint about old Civics and Geos not getting to use the commuter lane alone, though. And not ALL hybrids get to use it. It's only for hybrids that get 45 MPG or more. That means only the Prius, Civic Hybrid, and Insight (the little 2-seater that gets 70 MPG.) ANY vehicle that gets 45 MPG should be able to use the carpool lane alone, or NO vehicle should get to use it alone.

RE: What is the point?
By Andrevas on 2/7/07, Rating: 0
RE: What is the point?
By Brandon Hill on 2/7/2007 6:02:46 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, since the new Highlander Hybrid is a 2008 model, it uses the NEW revised EPA methods detailed here:

So the results should be more accurate.

RE: What is the point?
By Shining Arcanine on 2/7/2007 6:12:40 PM , Rating: 2
I do not know about you, but I have a 1995 Toyota Avalon and my Avalon exceeds the EPA fuel economy numbers. Perhaps it is the way that you drive.

RE: What is the point?
By eppenoire on 2/7/2007 7:34:47 PM , Rating: 1
I would be happy to see the Toyota Highlander get 32MPG, however I have three neighbors on my street who have the 2006-7 model and none of them have gotten even close to that. Their vehicles all told them that they were getting around 30, however when I had them use their odometers and the fuel pump, they found they were getting around 21-22MPG. These should get better MPG than the 2006 variant because of the new EPA ratings, but I am not holding my breath. Obviously my sampling isn't statistically significant, however I skimmed a couple of forums and found numerous people and auto magazines noting the same thing.

It is impressive that the 4WD models don't lose any MPG, but very few buyers who get these things will ever need 4WD.

I am curious how the hybrid is classified as a SULEV, when the non-hybrid isn't. Is this due to the engine having a lower total torque load when moving the vehicle, thus reducing the engine's hydrocarbon output at the same speed? Unless I am missing something both vehicles are using the same engine.

I stand corrected on the batteries issue. I have never heard of NiMH batteries being 100% recyclable, but I am sure they are have made advances in recovering the electrolytes and processing the nickle.

I did post in haste. A single stroke would be a beast, however a 4 stroke generator would be a vast improvement on any petro hybrid... especially if we could get Euro Diesel.

RE: What is the point?
By Kuroyama on 2/7/2007 10:22:29 PM , Rating: 2
My Prius gets about 3 mpg less in real mileage than what the car claims. I am surprised the Highlander would overstate things to such a larger degree as you claim. Interesting anyways.

RE: What is the point?
By somerset on 2/8/2007 11:56:44 AM , Rating: 2
still, not much of an improvement

RE: What is the point?
By hubajube on 2/7/2007 3:59:37 PM , Rating: 2
They don't get bonus points but they don't have to worry about making their other cars super fuel efficient.

RE: What is the point?
By bobdelt on 2/7/2007 4:47:01 PM , Rating: 2
To get the freeway carpool sticker a hybrid needs to get at least a certain mpg - so not all hybrids qualify

RE: What is the point?
By MustaineC on 2/7/2007 7:10:46 PM , Rating: 3
I think you can get 1 mile out of any gasoline car with a good battery by cranking the starter motor alone. :)

RE: What is the point?
By masher2 on 2/8/2007 8:22:05 AM , Rating: 2
> "If California, where I live, is willing to give special little commuter lane passes to everyone who buys a hybrid, why don't they give out these same passes to people who drive old Honda Civics..."

An "old Civic", poorly tuned and maintained might easily get worse mileage than this SUV, especially if driven hard.

I've never understood why a person who uses a Civic to commute 50-100 miles to work each day thinks they're doing "more for the environment" than someone who drives a SUV one fifth the distance. Total mileage is a far more important factor in overall consumption than is the specific vehicle you drive.

RE: What is the point?
By Kuroyama on 2/8/2007 10:46:42 AM , Rating: 2
Maybe because most people chose where to live first, and only later choose their car or SUV. If we suppose this is the case then the person driving a Civic 50 miles each way is certainly doing a lot more for the environment than if they were to have purchased an SUV instead, but you are right that they should not lecture the rare SUV driver who hardly drives at all.

I also doubt the seemingly implicit suggestion that people who buy small cars tend to drive more because their guilt has somehow been assuaged. When I lived in Atlanta (actually Decatur) I saw a lot fewer people with SUVs than when I drove out to the suburbs (say Marietta). Likewise, when I lived in Cambridge (MA) there were Prius' all over the place, but when I moved out to the suburbs there was hardly a Prius in site, despite the fact that people with a long commute would save a lot more driving a Prius than would a person who only drives to the supermarket.

RE: What is the point?
By masher2 on 2/8/2007 1:10:05 PM , Rating: 2
> "I also doubt the seemingly implicit suggestion that people who buy small cars tend to drive more because their guilt has somehow been assuaged"

You have the cart before the horse. People don't usually choose a small car, then decide to drive more. They choose a small car because they drive so much.

> "Maybe because most people chose where to live first, and only later choose their car or SUV..."

That's just the point. A wise choice about where to live is a far more important decision than your choice of vehicle. Those people who choose to live 50+ miles from their workplace are the category you should focus on, not SUV owners.

RE: What is the point?
By Kuroyama on 2/8/2007 5:42:25 PM , Rating: 2
The proverbial "soccer mom" may fit your characterization of driving little in spite of having an SUV, but I suspect that other than that you are generally incorrect. Both my examples of Atlanta and Boston illustrate that I think suburban people who drive a lot are actually more likely to own a large vehicle than are city people who drive little. I am perhaps an exception as I live in the suburbs but am within walking distance of work, so my ownership of a Prius is as silly as a person in Cambridge having a Prius, as both of us drive our cars only to go shopping or on a long road trip.

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