Prince Edward Highlander / Days 10 & 11 - Highlander definitley a “passenger first” proposition
August 3 / Taking advantage of some sun and a high of 27 C, we spent the last few days of our Prince Edward Island holiday racking up the klicks in our loaned 2011 Highlander Hybrid. On Monday, we zigzagged from our homestead just east of Cavendish on the north shore, to a 5 km charity run/walk in Seacow Head, near Bedeque on the Northumberland Strait coast. We then returned to an afternoon on Stanhope Beach, on the St. Lawrence Gulf side, finishing up the day up at the Brackley drive-in, taking in a Smurfs/Friends With Benefits evening double-bill (left).
Going into this two-week road test, I had no expectations that our Highlander was going to be a "driver’s car", that is to offer the ride and handling that an enthusiast—who also happens to have a family to lug around—would enjoy. First off, the Highlander (and rivals in its midsize crossover class) has been designed as a passenger-first proposition. On top of that, I’m driving the fuel economy-first Hybrid version. And finally Toyota, seemingly, hasn’t made a fun-to-drive car since the last millennium.
Knowing all that, you more than likely won't be surprised when I say that the Highlander H’s ride quality is relatively smooth and quiet, but definitely mitigates any attempts at spirited driving. The updated-for-2011 version seems much less floatier than the outgoing 2007-2010 models. But you still get too much side-to-side head toss over less-than-perfect pavement. In the FTD Dept., the Mazda CX-9 does a better job overall. Plus the Highlander (like most Toyotas) offers little feedback or off-centre feel when turning its tiller. And it doesn’t help that its cloth driver's seat offer little lateral support.
In regards to handling, you also shouldn't be surprised when I say that the Toyota’s combination of part-time all-wheel-drive, 18-inch all-season rubber, and high-in-the-saddle suspension means permanent understeer at any corners faster than walking speeds. And all the bits that make it sip less fuel than non-hybrid rivals—like the rev-happy CVT and a grabby regenerative braking system—won’t have you looking for your string back gloves when grabbing the keys for this CUV.
Like I said, none of the above should come as surprise.
Total kms: 1,802
Av. L/100 km: 8.2