It is competent, potent and a fabulous sport utility vehicle even in Eco Mode where the fun is a little bit restricted…

The all-new, third generation 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD tips the scale at 2,200 kg (4,850 lbs.)

It’s not a svelte vehicle.

Inside, this Highlander can carry up to seven passengers.

It’s not a cramped vehicle.

And behind the third row of seats, there’s a cargo capacity of 385L.

It’s an accommodating vehicle.

So when I knew that I’d be logging more than 1,000 kilometres in a week, perhaps you’d think I’m a little crazy to want to take this (relatively) heavy and large SUV along for the ride. Normally, I would too. But there’s a word in its name that made me want to take this beauty of a beast for the long haul: Hybrid.

As I entered the Flaxen (aka beige) adorned cabin, I reached for the “Eco Mode” button underneath the redesigned centre stack. I gave that a push.

The Eco mode is a feature that lessens the throttle response in an effort to help save fuel. You can still do all your normal daily driving duties, it just helps you keep money where it should be: in your wallet. And keeps the fuel where it should be: in the tank.

Granted, in Eco Mode, it doesn’t give you the peppy acceleration you might like. Then again, if prompt acceleration is what you’re after, skip the Eco Mode and that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Whether I was driving in the city or on the highway, the Highlander has a smoothness to it that makes me love being behind the wheel. It cruises effortlessly atop the pavement and makes the driver and passengers feel at ease. Especially when you know you’re going the distance.

I even had one passenger say to me, “If we were in here any longer, I could’ve fallen asleep! It’s so comfortable.”

Good thing they weren’t driving.

The suspension is composed of front Macpherson struts and a rear double wishbone type, trailing arms set up. Toyota gets an A+ for ride comfort. And it’s arguably one of the best in its class.

Aiding in establishing a serene setting is a host of creature comforts like heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, second row captain’s chairs, easy access to the third row, keyless entry, navigation, an 8-inch touchscreen and much more.

We’ve already established its size, and while it fits up to seven, it doesn’t feel that big to drive. Sure, you need to make sure you watch its width but manoeuvring it around in parking lots isn’t a chore at all. Thanks to its rack and pinion-type, electric power steering, you can move around graciously.

Though this is not my first hybrid SUV that I’ve tested, I am always excited to see how well these machines perform in regards to fuel economy.

After all, there’s a 3.5L, V6 engine under the hood, which is then matched with an electric motor, a Sealed Nickel-Metal Hydride battery and an Electronically Controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT). The result is a net 280 horsepower. There’s also a 1,587 kg (3,500 lbs.) towing capacity.

Looking at the estimated fuel results, it’s rated at 6.8L/100km in the city and 7.2L/100km on the highway. Keep in mind the aforementioned stats about its size and weight and those numbers are really impressive.

My real world numbers? A combined average of 8.9L/100km. Not bad. Not bad at all. Most of my driving was done on the highway so the hybrid system doesn’t have a chance to run off electricity alone at those speeds.

Oh, and it’s all-wheel drive. Sun or snow, this SUV is ready for it all.

With fuel prices hovering around the $1.50/litre mark, the more kilometres I can get out of a tank, the better. And the Highlander Hybrid made me a very happy gal.

The conclusion: The 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD is competent, potent and a fabulous sport utility vehicle even in Eco Mode where the fun is a little bit restricted.

The MSRP for the 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD is $52,695.

Visit www.toyota.ca for more information.

Contact: alexandra [dot] straub [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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