I've said it before, I'll say it again. You don't really know if you love a car until you've lived with a car for a bit. Hours and miles are the best way to know just how good the machine to which you trust your life and your family's lives really is. Five minutes in a test drive around the block with a salesman at your side doesn't cut it. And even the typical car reviewer week around town isn't the same as getting out on the open road for an extended period of time.
You may have noticed I was gone last week. My wife Rhonda and I take our annual big camping trip in late September every year. This time it was nine days, with the ultimate destination being Telluride, Colorado---and the folks at Toyota Motors North America and their prep and delivery partners at DriveShop were terrific enough to provide a two-week loan of the 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum All Wheel Drive.
The Highlander is a veteran of the Toyota lineup---a very handsome, very capable three-row SUV. And the Hybrid Limited Platinum all-wheel-drive is the top of the line.
The hybrid part is a 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine paired with an electric motor. Onboard computers decide when to use one, when to use the other and when to blend power from both for the most efficient use of fuel. The EPA fuel economy estimate for the 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is 29 city/27 highway. The gasoline version gets 21 city/27 highway, so it's in around-town driving that the hybrid truly pays off.
Durango is more than a thousand miles, depending on which way you go, from Folsom. So there were overnight stops along the way. One of the earliest was Capitol Reef National Park in Utah (above). There were also two nights at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado and three in Ouray, not far from Telluride. That meant our camping gear had to come out of and go into the Highlander a few times. And that's where the Highlander's space utilization really shone. We folded down the third-row seat and kept the tent, camp chairs, air mattress, inverter, air compressor, firewood and backpacks in that area, while the second-row became our pantry, carrying dry goods, a cooler for food and another for water. Things we wanted to keep handy (books, maps, on-the-road snacks, jackets and shoes) went in the floorwells behind the front seats.
That left a spacious, well-equipped interior for us to enjoy as the hours and miles rolled by on the way to our destination.
Ah, Telluride. I'd never been before. If you haven't, treat yourself. I've grown up in and lived my life around a lot of mountain towns. Telluride is something special.
The altitude is no joke. Eight thousand, seven hundred and fifty feet. For comparison, Truckee is 5,817. South Lake Tahoe is 6,237. On the way there, we went over Red Mountain Pass. That's 11,017.
The Highlander handled it all without a stumble. And even given two people, camping gear and some challenging roads and altitudes, we still saw 25.7 miles per gallon for the trip---very close to the EPA estimate of 27, which assumes much less strenuous circumstances.
The 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid starts as low as $37,520 in two-wheel drive form, but our top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive Limited Platinum model starts at $46,830, coming, as it does, with an exhaustive list of standard equipment.
In fact, the only extra-cost option on our tester was a set of carpeted floor mats and a rear cargo mat ($264). So, with $1,045 delivery processing and handling fee, the bottom line wound up at $49,939. And after nine days and close to 3,000 miles on the road, I can say it is absolutely worth every penny. In a lot of vehicles, this would have been an ordeal. The 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum made it a breeze.