There’s all the space you’ll need, too, particularly for passengers in the first and second rows, with a moon roof to enhance the cabin’s airy feel. Access to the third row is easier than average but adults still won’t want to spend long periods back there, even with the second row sliding a useful 180mm to give your knees some breathing space. Folding the third row flat unlocks a cavernous boot.
On the move, the interior is quiet bar the odd vibration from an unoccupied second-row seat, but we would have preferred to have felt a little less of the road surface through the test car’s 20in rims. They’ll make it to the UK, but we’d assume without the Goodyear all-season tyres. Expect the suspension to be retuned for European roads, and not just because of the tyre switch – the relaxed body control over larger undulations and body roll on corners was surprising even for a North American vehicle in 2020. The Highlander Hybrid does a good job of absorbing smaller bumps, however.
The steering provides acceptable weight and accuracy for a big SUV, but the feel isn’t as satisfying as in a Camry, nor as good as in a Telluride, which is our pick of the three-row SUVs on sale in North America.
The Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain is well blended as always. Electric-only running mode is available up to about 20mph, but also kicks in automatically when coasting. There’s more than enough power for smart acceleration and smooth overtaking, even if the Highlander’s focus is on economy rather than outright performance.
We recorded 42.1mpg in a week of mostly city driving, which almost exactly matches Toyota’s projected fuel consumption for the European model. The powertrain is expected to lose 2bhp compared with North America when it’s tuned for local regulations. The economy is impressive in a segment where 3.5-litre V6s that return around 25mpg are the norm.