Middle-market SUVs might not set the heart racing, but just one model within this ubiquitous SUV segment means more—more volume, more customers—than the latest hypercar that 100 people might actually buy. Realize this and you awaken to the far greater statistical relevance of the plain old SUV. SUVs make the automotive world go ’round far more than exotics.
Couple that ubiquity with a hybrid drivetrain and it starts to get interesting. Hybridize a small car and you might increase fuel efficiency from 40 to 50MPG. But many more people drive big 15MPG SUVs than small efficient cars, and a hybrid SUV that delivers 20MPG actually involves a bigger improvement from the starting point. The stakes are higher.
Which brings us to Toyota’s Highlander. A mainstay of that ever-present strain of suburban SUVs, the Highlander offers a luxuriously impressive inside and comes close to elegance on the outside. Where Lexus has adorned all its recent cars and SUVs with the sharp-edged—and polarizing—corporate “spindle” grille and highly angular overall styling, it’s possible that the Highlander gets you most of the way to Lexus luxury but without the fussiness. Actually, it’s more than possible.