Well, let me qualify that statement: the just-out 2006 Highlander Hybrid SUV is plenty green, for you need an awful lot of the green stuff to buy it. I asked for a price quote from the Internet sales force at our local Toyota dealer and got this reply:
“A 2006 Toyota Gas/Electric Hybrid Highlander V6 4WD Limited with FE (federal emissions), NV (navigation), CF (floor mats/cargo mat set) and all of the great standard features...Your Capitol Auto Group Internet Price $ 44,049! The Limited Hybrid Highlander can also be ordered without Navigation for $2,000 less.”
Stylistically critiquing this message, I would suggest that Capitol Toyota dump the exclamation point after the price. While in a different context it could suggest enthusiasm, here it seems ironic. As in: “You asked for a special Internet price. Well, here it is: we’ll sell you a Highlander Limited without a navigation system for $42,049, a price that includes a couple of thousand dollars of extra dealer profit over the already outrageous MSRP of $39,855!”
Gosh, thanks a lot for the price quote. Laurel and I were early adopters of the revamped Toyota Prius, being sixth in line to buy one from Capitol Toyota in September 2003. We got the Prius for the MSRP, about $23,000. And we’ve been averaging 46 mpg in mixed city/country driving. That’s a no-brainer, to buy the Prius.
But I told the Toyota salesman who gave me a Highlander Hybrid brochure and showed me the silver loaded Limited sitting on their lot, “Buying this car is a real brainer.”
I mean, you’ve got to think a lot to justify paying a premium of $5,000 (according to this review) for the hybrid version of the Highlander compared to a comparably equipped gasoline model. Since the AWD hybrid only has an EPA rating of 31/27 mpg (the higher number being city driving, where hybrids use the electric motor more) it would take forever to save $5,000 in gas.
A New York Times article, “Hybrid cars burning gas in the drive for power,” points out that new hybrid cars are sacrificing mileage for acceleration and power. The electric motor is billed as an add-on to an already large gasoline engine, giving you extra zip with some marginal gas savings—maybe just a few miles per gallon.
Driving back and forth to central Oregon recently we got 24 mpg in our 1999 Volvo XC wagon. Someday we want to replace it with a hybrid SUV. But it doesn’t seem to make sense for us to get a 27 mpg hybrid Highlander that is priced thousands of dollars over what we’d pay for a comparable SUV that gets about the same mileage.
I think Toyota and the other auto manufacturers don’t only have a drive for power in their new hybrids; they also have a drive to line their pockets with the green stuff. That’s not the sort of Green we’re looking for in a car. Our Volvo is looking pretty good to us at the moment.