I’ve been feeling superior to just about every car on the road during the Highlander Hybrid (HiHy) driving experiences I’ve had so far. HiHy is bigger, tougher, and faster—7.3 seconds 0 to 60—than every other hybrid on the road today (it ties with the Lexus hybrid that, basically, is an identical twin).
As a HybridCars.com review of HiHy said:
A Prius looks and feels like a hybrid. When you drive one, you scream, “I’m a geeky enviro-weenie” from a mile away…The speed and normal-ness of the Highlander should take its appeal beyond the most ardent supporters of hybrid technology. If you must have a SUV, you must.Absolutely. But large non-hybrid SUVs scream “I’m an oil-waster, greenhouse gas producer, and OPEC supporter” from a mile away. So I also feel superior to the obnoxiously over-sized Excursions, Tahoes, Suburbans, Hummers, and such that pull up next to me with a 120 pound woman and two grocery bags inside.
Thus I rule the road both enviro-ethically and enviro-machoey. In my own mind, at least, where it counts.
I’ll share more impressions of HiHy after I’ve lived with it longer. First impression: great car, though not without some annoying quirks. These annoyances bother us more because we’ve got our almost 100% positive Prius experience for comparison. The Prius cost $23,000 and the leased Highlander Hybrid $37,000 and change. (We paid MSRP at Capitol Toyota in Salem both times through easy-to-work-with Kelly, the Internet sales guy).
Consider HiHy’s clock. It looks like Toyota got these at a Nabisco warehouse sale, when the “clock inside every box” Wheaties promotion was discontinued. The fuzzy green numbers aren’t due to my taking a bad photo. That’s the way they really look. Toyota, for $37,000 can’t we have a clock with a display that looks at least as good as a $15 Timex?
And then there’s the atrocious “Multi-function display” that you get in the HiHy if you don’t opt for a navigation system and a touch-screen. It’s that gray box, which reminds me a lot of the screen on an old Kaypro computer that I owned in the technological dark ages, except the Kaypro had a green screen and appeared more modern than this.
Our Prius gives us precise running feedback about the mileage we’re getting at any moment. Like, 45.6. With HiHy you get a tiny bar graph that tells you very roughly what mileage the car is presently getting, and no info at all about how you’re doing since the last fill up. Reach for a calculator and a piece of paper; that’s how you figure your mpg in the base HiHy. Ridiculous. Especially considering that this is an SUV being marketed for its fuel economy.
I do like some of the retro features of HiHy. The premium sound system has a cassette player for when you want to listen to your old Steppenwolf recordings. I’ve gotten used to automatic climate control systems, but turning those old-fashioned knobs to get less or more heat isn’t bothering me at all.
And I much prefer pushing a preset button to get the station I want over the Prius’ touchscreen display—which washes out in sunlight (not a problem for most of the year in Oregon, admittedly).
Thank you, Toyota. Now that automotively I’m Pure Green, I want as many people as possible to know about it. (Owner ego-loss didn’t come as standard equipment, obviously).