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2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition review: Attainable jewelry

Unique models of a specific vehicle tend to be priced higher than their more common siblings. Toyota is aiming to change that in the mainstream segment by offering cool cosmetic tweaks to its most popular vehicles and the Highlander Hybrid is the latest to get the treatment. Based on the XLE trim, the 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition aims to add pizazz to your family hauler while promising a nice blend of efficiency and practicality. Does it succeed? Let’s find out.

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition exterior

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition front three quarters 01
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

The 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is on the smaller end of the mid-size three-row crossover segment. This latest generation sports a different take on the Toyota corporate look, with a squared-off grille flanked by long, thin headlights. In the back, you get taillights shaped similarly to the headlights and a nearly vertical rear hatch. Like its competitors, the Highlander Hybrid has an upright greenhouse. The most notable cues on the Bronze Edition are the 18-inch bronze alloy wheels. Cement, an exterior color once exclusive to Toyota’s TRD models, is now available on the Highlander Hybrid but it’s exclusive to the Bronze Edition. Toyota badges with blue highlights and a hybrid badge on the liftgate are the only hints at the Highlander Hybrid’s electrified powertrain.

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition interior

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition front seats 01
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

You get a three-row crossover for the practicality and the Highlander Hybrid gives you that. There are plenty of useful storage areas including two on the dash, a deep center console bin, and a large glove box. The optional second-row captain’s chairs are easy to move and they fold flat for added flexibility. Together with a third row that also folds flat, you get plenty of usable cargo space that easily accommodates big bulky items. A bin under the cargo floor gives you a place to hide small items away from prying eyes.

Passenger comfort is critical in a three-row crossover and the Highlander gets a passing grade. The front seats are supportive and comfortable for long drives while the second-row captain’s chairs are equally cushy. Where the Highlander falls short is in third-row accommodations. Yes, there are belts for three but it’s best used as an extension of the cargo area or for short drives because any human occupant will be cramped back there. It’s best to treat the Highlander as a 5+3 or 4+3, keeping the third row only for emergency use.

The Highlander Hybrid offers consistent build quality across the lineup thanks to the extensive use of nice materials. Despite being based on a mid-grade XLE model, the Bronze Edition has lots of soft, squishy surfaces in areas you interact with often. You won’t mistake the build quality for a vehicle a class above though; it lands smack dab in mainstream territory but does its best to provide a nice ambience. Good levels of sound insulation keep the interior free of road and tire noise. However, you get noticeable amounts of wind noise on the highway.

Bronze Edition models spice up the interior with a bit more flair. They get bronze door sills, bronze contrast stitching, and bronze accents on the seats. The two-tone black and gray interior with leatherette seats feature fabric inserts with triangular patterns on the first two rows. Rounding out the interior tweaks are floor mats with bronze logos on them; unfortunately, our test car came with the accessory rubber floor mats.

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition tech features

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition dash 01
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Bronze Edition models get the base version of Toyota’s Entune 3.0 interface with an 8.0-inch touch screen. The system is slow to respond to your inputs and the graphics are dated. At least the controls are easier to learn than the optional unit with the 12.3-inch main display because it has fewer submenus. The standard six-speaker audio system is nothing to write home about; it’s quite basic and isn’t very crisp. Get the Limited or Platinum trim, which has an 11-speaker JBL audio system, if you’re looking for a good listening experience.

Toyota should be applauded for equipping every Highlander Hybrid with a full suite of driver assistance and collision prevention features. Every trim gets Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+), which includes forward collision warning, front automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, steering assist, lane centering, automatic high beams, adaptive cruise control, and road sign detection. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also standard on all Highlander Hybrids.

On the road, TSS 2.5+ operates more subtly than its predecessor. It gently corrects your trajectory and does a great job of helping you navigate easy curves with adaptive cruise control activated. If the upcoming turn is too tight, it’ll slow the vehicle down so that you can take it at a safer speed. The distancing component is also more proactive, constantly monitoring traffic around you, smoothly braking or accelerating to maintain your set level. Even when a vehicle is merging too slowly in front of you or straight up cutting you off, TSS 2.5+ reacts promptly without any sudden brake applications. It also operates seamlessly in low-speed situations and doesn’t get jerky.

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition driving impressions

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition side 01
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Among mid-size three-row crossovers, the Highlander hybrid is among the better driving ones. It offers secure handling and good body control, giving you confidence when executing evasive maneuvers and navigating tight turns. The steering is communicative and accurate, making it easy to place the crossover on the road. Although it’s big, the Highlander Hybrid avoids feeling ponderous. It’s light on its feet, giving you a sense that you’re driving a smaller vehicle.

Ride comfort is a crucial aspect of a family vehicle and the Highlander shines in that regard. The confident road manners don’t come at the cost of cushiness because the suspension does a great job absorbing road imperfections. Your passengers won’t feel harsh impacts, especially in variants like the Bronze Edition, which comes with 18-inch alloy wheels shod in tires with massive sidewalls. The Limited and Platinum models get 20-inch wheels and even those are super comfortable.

Available only as a hybrid, the Bronze Edition offers a nice blend of power and efficiency. Our AWD example uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder coupled to three electric motors, a nickel-metal-hydride battery, and a planetary gear set for a combined output of 243 hp. Thanks to the instant torque from the electric motors, the Highlander Hybrid moves without drama and doesn’t struggle to get up to highway speeds, pass slower traffic, or climb a steep incline. It’s not quick but there’s plenty of usable power, keeping it from feeling lethargic. The engine stays relatively quiet even if you wind it out, adding a sense of refinement to the driving experience.

Like other Toyota hybrid crossovers, the Highlander Hybrid employs an e-AWD system. That means there’s no drive shaft linking the front and rear axles. Instead, an electric motor is mounted in the back to give traction there. As a result, the crossover drives more like an FWD vehicle because the rear electric motor doesn’t react until the front wheels slip. In certain situations, you’ll detect torque steer before the rear wheels get any traction.

When it’s time to stop or slow down, the Highlander Hybrid offers good braking performance with minimal front-end dive. The brake pedal is also linear and you can’t tell when the transition from regenerative to mechanical braking happens. This helps the driver stop smoothly and minimizes the chances of you jolting your precious cargo. AWD models also get energy recuperation from two electric motors, allowing you to regain battery charge quicker when slowing down.

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition pricing

The base Highlander Hybrid LE starts at $40,070. Our Bronze Edition test car with all-weather floor mats and a cargo liner costs $47,013.

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition final verdict

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition front three quarters 02
Photo credit: Stefan Ogbac / EV Pulse

Long a staple in its segment and one of the original electrified offerings, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid remains a strong entrant. With its only two direct competitors being the Kia Sorento Hybrid and Ford Explorer Hybrid, it plays in a small field. Constant refinement has made it a safe bet for consumers searching for an electrified mid-size three-row crossover. This rig offers a compelling blend of efficiency, versatility, and comfort while retaining a respectable amount of power. The Bronze Edition adds a bit of flair while keeping the price tag within the reach of most families. It’s proof that Toyota’s hybrid expertise is unmatched and it’s cashing in by giving consumers attainable unique offerings with distinct styling cues.

At a glance

  • Year: 2022
  • Make: Toyota
  • Model: Highlander Hybrid
  • Trim: Bronze Edition AWD
  • Type: 3-row, 7-passenger mid-size crossover
  • Combined horsepower: 243 hp
  • MPG ratings (city/highway/combined): 35/35/35
  • Pros: Cushy ride, lots of clever storage solutions, drives like a smaller vehicle
  • Cons: Tiny third row, dated infotainment system, wind noise at highway speeds
  • Base price: $40,070
  • Price as tested: $47,013
Written by Stefan Ogbac
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