The Toyota Highlander is so good, that I recommended it for my mother-in-law when she needed a new car. And she went & bought one too! And look – you gotta be pretty calculated & confident when you’re recommending a car for your mother-in-law. Especially when you review cars for a living lol! It’s not just a question of, “Will she like it now?” But you also gotta consider, 1) How will this unfold over years of ownership & mileage? 2) How reliable will the Highlander be for the long haul? And 3) How will the dealership experience be, etc? When it came to choosing a versatile crossover that would work with her life & be comfortable without causing problems… man there was really only a few solid options. And really, I knew from the beginning that cross-shopping other options would just solidify the Toyota Highlander as the natural/obvious choice. 

Toyota Highlander review

Highlander limited interior

My mother-in-law bought a 2022 Highlander XP model…

She bought it at the end of 2022 as a 2022 model, so it has the trusty 6-cylinder & automatic transmission. No hybrid, no turbo, and no CVT trans. We went that route for longevity. It’s just not worth saving a couple MPGs now, to have potentially complex & expensive problems later… that’s our opinion. And I wouldn’t want my mother-in-law coming back to me down the road with expensive hybrid and/or CVT transmission problems (been there done that with the CVTs… never again). Or – needing to replace a turbo.

Highlander review

Highlander limited interior

Turbos are great… on sports cars where they add a true element of performance & engagement.

But turbos on larger, heavier crossovers add a link of maintenance & cost on the type of car where you don’t feel the exhilaration of it being there. Turbos wear out. Plus turbos add heat… and heat kills engines. Especially a smaller engine that’s having to work hard in a big 3-row vehicle. Car makers started putting turbos on crossovers for efficiency, but the efficiency it adds, is usually just not worth the cost that you will incur at some point down the road. 

Highlander limited hybrid

Highlander interior

Manufacturers are stuffing more & more tech into vehicles these days…

Usually in the name of “efficiency”. And sure, it might gain you a few MPGs & some additional performance. But look a little further down the road of ownership, and it’s causing more problems with more difficult & expensive fixes at less mileage. So I guess it all depends on how you define “efficiency”. Simplicity is usually efficient… without muddying the water. Nevertheless – Toyota is one of the most solid & grounded car manufacturers out there, not only in product line, but also in their careful approach & implementation of technology. Toyota does what’s right for their customers… for the long haul.

Highlander hybrid

Highlander hybrid review

This particular model, is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited

A more “forward-thinking” version of the Highlander. It comes with the 2.5 4-cylinder hybrid engine, which makes about 245hp combined. And the engine/s are paired with a CVT transmission. In real-word application, the hybrid yields pretty exceptional gas mileage for a vehicle of its size, somewhere in that lower to mid-30s MPG mark. That makes it a great road-trip choice. Plus – the hybrid paired with the CVT transmission really makes the Highlander feel like it’s riding on a cloud. Meaning, the car glides up to speed from a red-light, and you really don’t feel the vibrations or gear-shifts that would come with a ‘regular car’. When I drove my mother-in-law’s Highlander back-to-back with this hybrid version, that was the first thing I noticed: This Highlander Hybrid is smooth! My mother-in-law’s V6, however, has a lot more oomph when you put the pedal down. When you try to drive a CVT transmission hard & get it up to speed quickly, it really is an unfavorable experience in any car… kind of giving me the same feeling as watching a bunny run from a predator. But hey – most people aren’t buying Highlander to get froggy… so is that really an issue?

Highlander hybrid

Toyota Highlander dash

At the end of the day, the Toyota Highlander…

Is hands-down one of the strongest vehicles in its segment. And it’s been the best car my mother-in-law has ever owned! Aside from the old Trans Am she had back in the 70s… obviously.

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