Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze — The number is 35

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

(December 25, 2022) If you have decided on the purchase of a new 2022 Toyota Highlander, but are torn between the standard gas-engine model or the hybrid edition — maybe because of the price difference? We have three numbers for you that may sway your decision — 35, 35 and 35.

That's the EPA-rated gas mileage in city, highway and combined  driving on regular gas for the all-wheel drive hybrid. Those numbers are hard to beat in the mid-sized crossover world. At the same time the 2022 gas-engine-only AWD Highlander, which is motivated by a 3.5-liter V-6, has published milage of 20/27/23, 12 mpg less than the hybrid.

Maybe price will help you reach your final decision — the 2022 hybrid starts at $40,770 in LE trim while the V-6 LE begins at $39,270. For 2023, the hybrid jumps to $41,555 while the new gas-only LE is $40,155.

Hopefully not to confuse the issue, gas engine numbers change with the 2023 model because Toyota has eliminated the V-6 in favor of a turbocharged four cylinder engine. You read that right. The Highlander now comes with just four cylinders. Unfortunately, mileage numbers improve by only 1 mpg over the more potent 2022 engine, measured at 21/28/24 in AWD mode. The 2023 hybrid remains unchanged and numbers are the same as 2022.

We wonder why Toyota traded the 295-horsepower V-6 for a 265-horsepower 4-cylinder that gets only one more mile to the gallon — 24 vs 23. For that inconsequential number we would seek out a new 2022 edition over the 2023 to get the 30 hp advantage. Another thing that would influence us is the transmission choice. There's a very efficient 8-speed automatic in the 2022 that was was traded for an unrewarding continuously variable transmission (CVT) for 2023. There are very few other differences between the two. A step backwards? We think so.

But we digress. This review is based on our impressions of a 2022 Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition.

The Highlander has the same hybrid powertrain as the RAV4 Hybrid, though Toyota increased horsepower slightly to handle the added weight. Its published 0-to-60 numbers are around 8 seconds. That's respectable considering some SUVs with V6s take as much time and are far less fuel-efficient.

In the turns, this hybrid is surprisingly composed. The Highlander hybrid isn't as athletic as some competitors, but handling isn't usually a strong selling point for three-row hybrid SUVs. What's more important is ease of driving, and the Highlander Hybrid nails it. Power is readily available and smoothly if  bit noisily delivered, and the brakes are smooth and don't exhibit the grabbiness found in some other hybrids.

The ride is comfortable, but more on the soft side of the equation. The suspension absorbs bumps, ruts and uneven pavement for a smooth driving experience.  Fans of the Highlander will be pleased with the ease of driving and parking.  Sporty handling on twisty roads, however, isn’t part of the package, and at times the Highlander felt a bit clumsy on our usual winding rural road "test track."

Toyota has put a lot of effort into the cabin layout, with an easy-to-use shifter, thoughtful storage cubbies incorporated into the dashboard, and an infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The standard 8.0-inch touchscreen has simple easy-to-understand menus. (We had the optional 12.3- inch screen in on XLE Bronze edition.) And drivers will find the Highlander easy to see out of thanks to the position of the instrument panel and the model's exterior design.

Cargo space behind the third row is a competitive 16 cubic feet and grows to 84.3 cubic feet with both second and third-row seatbacks folded.

Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 that includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking should the driver not react in time in a system-detected emergency situation, and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert are standard features.

The Bronze package, new for the 2022 model year, comes in a choice of two colors — Wind Chill Pearl or Cement, which is exclusive to the Bronze Edition and the color of our test vehicle. The Bronze Edition's interior includes illuminated bronze door sill plates, bronze stitching, mid-century inspired faux-leather seating upholstery with fabric inserts, and special floor and cargo mats, with each featuring an embroidered logo in bronze. Toyota adds other bronze-colored accents, including bronze stitching on the door panels and dashboard, throughout the Bronze Edition's cabin.

Probably the standout feature of the Bonze Edition, which adds $2,025 to the price tag, are the striking bronze-colored 18-inch wheels. They will certainly give your Highlander driveway bragging rights.

Our test vehicle carried a bottom line of $46,695 including a $1,215 destination charge.

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD


Base price: $40,770; as driven, $46,695
Engine: 2.5-liter inline 4, electric motor
Horsepower: 243 combined @ 6,000 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable (CVT)
Drive: all-wheel
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length: 194.4 inches
Curb weight: 4,495 pounds
Turning circle: 37.4 feet
Luggage capacity: 16 cubic feet
Maximum cargo capacity: 84.3 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 17.1 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 35 city, 35 highway, 35 combined
0-60: About 8 seconds
Also consider: Ford Explorer Hybrid, Kia Sorento Hybrid

The Good
• Excellent fuel economy
• Large amount of standard and available safety features
• Comfortable ride

The Bad
• Cramped third row seats

The Ugly
• Unrefined engine sounds with CVT