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2011 Highlander Hybrid Equipped with Larger Engine, Improved Fuel Economy

2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. Click to enlarge.

Toyota has significantly revised its Highlander and Highlander Hybrid crossover sport utility vehicles for 2011. Among the changes, the Highlander Hybrid debuts a new, more powerful 3.5-liter V6 for 2011, replacing the previous 3.3-liter V6, while also improving fuel economy.

The 2011 Highlander Hybrid receives EPA estimated fuel economy ratings of 28 mpg city and 28 mpg highway (8.4 L/100km). The 2010 Highlander Hybrid carries an EPA fuel economy rating of 27 mpg city, 25 mpg highway.

The hybrid system pairs the gasoline V6 engine with a high-torque electric drive motor-generator for total system output of 280 net hp (209 kW). A second rear-mounted motor provides automatic on-demand four-wheel drive traction.

The 4WD Highlander Hybrid uniquely generates rear-wheel power with a separate electric motor (MGR) that provides additional drive torque on demand. Thus, the Highlander Hybrid 4WD-i system does not require power-transfer gearing or a driveshaft from the front. The system electronically varies front and rear torque distribution depending on traction conditions.

Activating an EV mode switch located on the front center console allows the driver to operate strictly in electric-mode under certain conditions for a limited distance at low speeds, or in some stop-and-go driving conditions. A new ECON drive mode switch activates a throttle control program that reduces the throttle response during acceleration, enhancing fuel economy. The Hybrid System Indicator in the instrument gauge panel provides the driver with a guideline to help maximize fuel consumption.

All Highlander Hybrid models are equipped with four-wheel-drive with intelligence and available in Base and Limited grades.

Conventional engine Highlander. The 2011 Highlander is available in Base, SE and Limited grades in both two-wheel (2WD) and full-time four-wheel-drive (4WD). A 270 hp (201 kW) 3.5-liter V6 is standard on the Limited grade and available for the others.

A 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine joined the lineup in 2009, offering an EPA-estimated 25 mpg (9.4 L/100km) rating in highway driving. The 2.7-liter engine produces 187 hp (139 kW) and 186 lb-ft (252 N·m) of peak torque.

The engine is equipped with a variable intake manifold and dual variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which controls phasing on both the intake and exhaust camshafts to optimize torque and fuel efficiency. The four-cylinder engine is teamed exclusively with a standard six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.

The available 3.5-liter V6 (standard on Limited) produces 270 hp (201 kW) at 6,200 RPM and 248 lb-ft (336 N·m) of torque at 4,700 RPM. The V6 also is equipped with dual VVT-i and a variable intake manifold. A five-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission (ECT) offers selectable manual sequential shifting.

Active Safety. Highlander comes standard with Toyota’s Star Safety System, which integrates operation of enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Electric Power Steering (EPS) and the anti-lock brake system (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA).

Enhanced VSC helps the driver maintain control by automatically adjusting engine output and braking force at each wheel under certain conditions while also providing steering assistance in the appropriate direction through Electric Power Steering (EPS). Gasoline Highlander models are also equipped with a straight-line steering feature. When varying traction causes ABS to apply different left/right braking force, the system can apply steering torque to help offset left/right pull.

The Highlander Hybrid employs the advanced Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system. VDIM is designed to enhance handling, traction and braking systems that normally react to vehicle driving conditions by anticipating tire slippage before a skid, slide or wheel spin occurs and helps to make corrections in a smooth, progressive way. In addition to integrating all of the Highlander’s dynamic control systems (VSC, TRAC, BA, EPS, EBD and ABS), the VDIM system also employs powerful proprietary software to integrate the Electronic Throttle Control with intelligence (ETC-i) and Electronically Controlled Brakes (ECB).

All Highlander models incorporate a corner-braking feature. Harnessing the integration of the vehicle’s dynamic control systems, this feature limits brake pressure on inside wheels during cornering to help enhance control through the turn. Standard on all models, Hill-Start Assist Control helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backward from a stop by applying braking pressure for approximately two seconds.

Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is standard equipment on all gas 4WD models. The DAC feature is designed to maintain a constant speed and maintain handling and steering control by reducing wheel lock under braking even at slow speeds on slippery descents.

Production of the conventional engine Highlander, Toyota’s 12th North American-built model, began in October 2009 at the company’s plant in Princeton, Indiana. Moving the Highlander assembly line to this facility represented a $450 million investment.



That is fairly impressive. The Ford Escape Hybrid with 2 wheel drive kicks it to the curb with 34/31 mpg city/hwy, but the 4WD FEH gets just 29/27 mpg vs. the Toyota 4WD getting 28/28. FEH FWD/FEH 4WD/Highlander 4WD are looking at MSRP's of $29.9k(2011)/$31.6k(2011)/$34.9k(2010).
If you can make a FWD work, it looks like the FWD FEH is the better choice but if you really feel like you need 4WD, it is a tough choice, in my mind. I have a FWD RAV4, and I have only needed 4WD once in the past 3 years, and I could have used it 3 or 4 other times but didn't need it that often here in Northern Virginia.


Regenerative braking is not mentioned, may have to do with the Prius braking/ accelerator problems.

that would be a good place to seek efficiency improvements


Obviously all the energy for the motors is coming from regen braking.


'Hybrid Synergy Drive' as per Prius and Camry


This 4WD Highlander Hybrid system seems similar to the Peugeot’s Diesel 3008 Hybrid4, in a way that both use only electric motor to drive rear wheels.
Most likely Toyota uses HSD system (like in Camry Hybrid) to drive front wheels, with probably somewhat stronger generator (MG1) to provide sufficient current for both electric motors (MG2 in front, and the rear wheels e-motor).
This is not a full-time AWD, as the generator (MG1) can only provide limited power for rear e-motor, but rather part-time AWD, where rear wheels are driven only when loss of traction is detected.


Toyota does not appear to be adopting direct injection(GDI). Seems unlikely they'd be behind other OEMs?

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