The Toyota Highlander has had a commonplace among American suburbia and to keep things fresh and interesting the brand brings us a new take on colors and style through a new Highlander Bronze Edition that exclusively comes in hybrid form.
Toyota has been known for bringing us many one-offs or “customized” in the confines of OEM specs in many variations of their vehicles, often being appearance packages that cost a premium. This time, the Highlander Hybrid gets the unique and custom treatment of a Bronze Edition that features bronze accents and a few premium add-ons to make it stand out but don’t break the bank.
Now, if standing out is your thing but you don’t want to bring as much attention as your neighbors Dodge Charger with the loud exhaust, Toyota is clamoring for your consideration in a uniquely styled Highlander. What the Highland Hybrid Bronze Edition brings to the table to help differentiate it from the countless vanilla Highlanders are 18-inch bronze wheels or a choice of two exterior colors of Cement or Wind Chill Pearl. The Bronze Edition is also outfitted with bronze-colored accents throughout the interior including the stitching, illuminated door sills, unique fabric inserts for the SoftTex-trimmed seats, and bronze-logo embroidered floor and cargo mats. The accents come together well and having the smaller 18-inch wheels the bronze isn’t overdone.
Where the rest of the Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition keeps its Toyota-ness is in its drivetrain that touts a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine coupled with two electric motors that work as an alternator/generator and a motor to help propel the 4,465-pound 3-row crossover. Total power output is 243 horsepower and the engine alone makes 175 lb-ft of torque but gets the help of the electric motor’s instant torque. As expected, the hybrid drivetrain works seamlessly with no faults or hiccups in the way it delivers power when you demand it.
While the Highlander Hybrid can feel a little sluggish at times (0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds), it proves to deliver excellent fuel economy hitting and surpassing its EPA estimates of 36 mpg city, 35 mpg highway, and 36 mpg combined. I even noticed times where conscious use of the throttle yielded over 44 mpg in making trips to the local grocery store using back roads without much traffic. For the most part, it comes down to how intuned you are to driving the Highlander Hybrid taking advantage of the stored battery energy and using the analog power gauge to your benefit. The system seems to utilize a lot of the battery power when it can even when you’re cruising at highway speeds. The hybrid system is very intelligent and through its generous use of battery power, it maintains a decent charge of the battery reserved for low-speed electric vehicle-only (EV) driving. However, you should never think that you’ll get many consecutive miles in EV mode as this is nothing close to a plug-in hybrid, and using the gas engine is required to keep things in motion and in check if you want to keep up with traffic.
The CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) works well to allow the 4-cylinder engine to spin up but at the cost of somewhat of an upsetting sound that takes away from the premium qualities of the Highlander and its many Bronze Edition-inspired characteristics. Otherwise, the front-wheel-drive of my test vehicle feels planted without much-unwanted wheel spin out of a turn from a stop. The only issue I find with the new Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the unpredictable brake pedal feel where the regenerative brakes seem to drop off at a point of firmly pressing the brake and then the friction brakes grabbing too hard suddenly.
There’s the same comfy ride quality that I’ve experienced in previous reviews of the Toyota Highlander and a surprising amount of cargo room considering this is a hybrid and it must store the battery pack somewhere. In fact, the cargo room remains the same as the normal gas-powered Highlander.
The other benefits of the new Highlander XLE Bronze Edition is the addition of equipment that you may not otherwise get on the normal XLE trim, such as rain-sensing wipers, puddle lamps with a Highlander logo, in-dash ambient lighting, LED-strip daytime running lights, driver’s seat memory with heating and 10-way power adjustments, a 1500-watt power outlet, and a hands-free power liftgate.
Other highlighted amenities and features include the standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, automatic 3-zone climate control, sunroof, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display, a wireless smartphone charging pad, a camera-based review mirror function, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
There’s the expected group of active safety equipment, such as blind-spot monitors, lane-keeping system, forward collision mitigation and warning, road sign assist, automatic high-beam assist, and adaptive cruise control.
The best part of the new Toyota Highlander Hybrid is that it doesn’t cost you a substantial premium over the gas-powered Highlander in either of the trim levels. My 2022 Toyota Highlander XLE Hybrid Bronze Edition comes to an as-tested price of $45,095 including a $1,215 destination charge.