Choose the Hybrid if you’re buying a 2022 Toyota Highlander

By Jim Prueter

(May 9, 2022) Suburban America has a love affair with the mid-sized Toyota Highlander. It seems to be the sensible choice for those who value practicality, reliability, safety features, attractive styling but nothing that will turn heads or have people stopping to snap a photo of it.

Regardless of trim level Highlander comes standard with an ample number of features, it’s easy to drive, generally quiet, is a good value for the school age family segment, a good value and an excellent resale value. Toyota does offer an XSE trim model Highlander with firmer handling but those value and seek sporty driving and handling dynamics won’t find it in the Highlander.

We last tested and reviewed the 4th generation Highlander when introduced for the 2020 model year. So popular is the Highlander that the year before Toyota racked up nearly a quarter million sales making it the automaker’s second best-selling SUV behind the compact RAV4.

With Highlander’s winning formula in mind, designers and engineers needed to be careful not to tinker too much with success and yet offer a new and improved Highlander. The goal was to keep what’s right and refine or upgrade everything else and more that families are looking for in a vehicle. One that looks better and is better while maintaining the legions of Toyota loyalists loving their Highlander.

At about the same time the Covid pandemic struck followed by a massive chip shortage and auto sales across all brands took a huge hit to sales. While the Covid pandemic continues to wane the chip, shortage remains a major issue.

Still, automakers continue to mostly stay the course introducing new models and iterations of existing trim levels to attract appeal to the largest possible audience. With that in mind Toyota has introduced a new Hybrid Bronze Edition model for 2022 tested here that comes in one well equipped model with no available packages and available in just three exterior colors; Black, Cement — a bluish gray color or, Wind Chill Pearl — a metallic white that costs an extra $424 and on-demand all-wheel drive that adds $1,600.

The Bronze Edition model is exclusively appearance with no mechanical or tech additions. The only exterior appearance item is a set of 18-inch bronze-colored wheels that on our Cement colored Highlander was far from attractive in our opinion. Inside the cabin receives some design elements including an outdated appearing form of diamond-like shaped geometric patterned cloth upholstery the same color as the Cement exterior with some bronze stitching that looked like aftermarket seat covers from a JC Whitney Catalog and illuminated bronze-colored doorsill protectors. The Bronze Edition is priced some $2,000 over the similarly equipped non-Bronze Edition Hybrid XLE.

Other changes for the 2022 Highlander are the addition of a standard height-adjustable power-seat adjustment for the front passenger. Otherwise, it’s a completely carry over vehicle with no other changes.

On the road, this is the first Highlander hybrid we’ve tested and is powered by Toyota’s excellent setup that combines a 2.5-liter gasoline powered four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. An eight-speed automatic powers the V-6 only powered Highlanders while the Hybrid uses a form of a CVT.

Over our weeklong driving on both urban, suburban and interstate highway driving, we averaged an impressive 34.2 mpg combined compared to an EPA rating of 35 mpg combined. The standard 3.5-liter V-6 non-hybrid standard engine that powers all Highlander trim levels only manage an EPA 24 mpg combined meaning the Hybrid gets 50 percent better mileage. Further, we found our hybrid had enough umph and robust acceleration to easily get up to interstate speeds via the on ramps and there was ample acceleration performance for passing slower vehicles on two lane highways.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2022 Toyota Highlander an overall safety rating of five out of five stars, with four stars in frontal crash and rollover tests and five stars in the side crash test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the 2022 Highlander the highest rating of Good in all six crash safety tests.

The IIHS uses a different scale for grading collision avoidance features. The Highlander earned the highest rating of Superior for its vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-pedestrian crash prevention systems.

In every way, the 2022 Toyota Highlander delivers the same driving and handling experience of the 2020 Highlander tested two years ago. It’s a very good mid-sized SUV that will easily satisfy most of the vehicle and driving needs and practicality for those with multi-passenger needs, room for cargo, gear, pets those things purchased at Home Depot. Highlander enjoys an exceptionally strong resale value, and a sterling reputation for reliability.

Vital Stats
Base Price: $45,480
Price as Tested: $47,013
Engine/Transmission: Gasoline-hybrid powered 2.5-Liter four-cylinder with two electric motors paired with a CVT transmission.
Fuel Economy: 35/35/35 – mpg, City/Highway/Combined