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Toyota Highlander Hybrid Driving Tips & Tricks

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  • WWest,

    Watching the on-board MPG number, city driving intermediate MPG is always higher than freeway MPG number. On city streets, I can go for up to 2 miles on electric only. Even when the ICE kicks in, the mileage can still reach above 35-mpg easily.

    If I take the measurements at end of a tank however, then it depends on mileage on streets and freeway. The more freeway miles I have, the more the freeway numbers will skew the average.

    A good test would be for someone to just drive city for 1 full tank and report results.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    With some notable exceptions such as the lady poster above many drivers are reporting 25 to 28 mpg combined depending on weather. This combined FE rating is roughly the EPA Hwy rating. As a point of comparison most Prius owners also are reporting combined FE ratings of 48 to 51 mpg which roughly approximates the EPA Hwy rating.

    Given the very specific conditions under which the EPA does its testing the city values are attainable in the Prius, and I believe in the HH as well but it's more difficult to do it. IMO though the specific conditions for City driving as defined by the EPA are not as completely representitive of City driving as are the specific conditions for Hwy driving defined by the EPA.

    City driving has more variations I believe. It can be:
    - stuck in rush hour in Manhattan; in the Tunnel in Boston crawling; waiting to get onto a freeway in LA; etc. crawling forward at 10-20 mph.
    - rolling through a 2 lane suburban road in heavy, but moving, traffic at 30 mph.
    - stop and go, stop light to stop sign to stop sign to stop sign driving in a local neighborhood.

    In the first two situations a driver might be able to attain the EPA City ratings in either a Prius or HH. However in the third situation it would be difficult to attain the EPA rating because of the constant need to accelerate ( use more fuel ) rather than cruise ( use more EV ).

    The EPA Highway rating is actually more consistent with the way most people do drive on highways IMO; i.e. cruising at 55 mph mostly using the ICE with a little assist from the electric motor.

    ICE HL 18 City / 24 Hwy
    HSD HH 31 City / 27 Hwy

    There is not much of a difference between the ICE HL and the HSD HL in HWY ratings. This is consistent with both the Prius and the HH. What is also consistent is that the combined rating approximates the HWY rating.

    Prius 48-51 mpg combined vs 51 Hwy
    HSD HH 25-28 mpg combined vs 27 Hwy

    To answer your specific question I dont think that the mpg rating are off significantly. I believe it's a matter of perception.

    Highway driving
    In an ICE HL one can expect to get 21-23 mpg on the HWY cruising at 55 mph but there is no display to show what is really happening like there is on the HH. On the HH one can expect to get 24-28 mpg. The ratings are consistent because the conditions of driving and the test condition are consistent.

    City driving
    The driving conditions are not as consistent with the testing condition as they are in the Hwy driving/testing case. Again there is no display on an ICE HL so one might not realize that the City driving can average 14 mpg all the way up to 19 mpg depending on the 'type' of city driving done ( see above ).

    Using the best features of the HSD HH however one can obtain values in the 25-30 mpg range if the conditions were the same as the EPA conditions.

    The increases in FE percentages are:
    City.... HSD HH vs ICE.. 25-30 vs 14-19.. or abt 50% improvement
    HWY.. HSD HH vs ICE.. 24-28 vs 21-23.. or abt 19% improvement
    Combined.. HH vs ICE.. 25-28 vs 19-21.. or abt 30% improvement

    The key difference is that one doesnt realize how low the City driving values really are on the ICE HL. There is no display on the ICE HL to show the driver that the present value is 15 mpg for example.

    Comments?
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Thanks for the detail analysis.

    Our experience matches your analysis. Regardless of where it happens, frequent stop-and-go with cars following will kill the mileage number.

    When school is in session, we drive about 65% city, 25% country roads, 10% freeways and this normally gets us 28 mpg (warm months) at end of each tank. It is quite close to the 31-mpg Street EPA number.

    In the one lonely experiment when we broke the 30-mpg barrier at end of a full tank, we did not drive the freeway at all. We picked all country roads and city streets that have few stops, no highway overpasses and few cars. It allowed us to cruise and coast. Acceleration from a stop was easy too with no cars following. Unfortunately, these routes were not practical for daily use else we would be boasting 30-mpg at end of every tank.

    So my gut-feel, short of driving just city streets for a full tank, is that our HH, driven in our area, is capable of matching the EPA 31-mpg number for street driving. This is the 4WDi Limited version.

    The 4WDi version has combined EPA mpg of 29 and we were getting 28 in the summer so we are quite happy.
  • If I'm not mistaken the way the Prius people who get 100 MPG or better do it is through what they call 'pulse and glide'. I've not heard much about that on this group, I'd be interested in seeing if some people here can learn to do that and try it and see what effect it has on their MPG with the Highlander. There are tons of sites that explain it, so I won't go into it here especially since I wouldn't be talking from experience. Just google "prius pulse and glide" or something like that.

    Oooh - I just tried that and the first hit was from the web site 'About.com' and at the end of the article the person said they got 47.1 mpg in a Highlander.
  • I have an ICE HL and may try pulse and glide just to see if it improves my gas mileage. ;)

    Hey kdhspyder:

    Next year with the launch of a new model Highlander ...

    I've read two accounts -- edmunds says the HL will be redesigned in 2007 while Motor Trend says 2008 ("2008 Toyota Highlander: Redesigned on the Avalon platform, growing larger in size to make room for the RAV4").
  • otis1otis1 Posts: 142
    I'd also be interested in any news about the upcoming HH. Hopefully we'll hear something concrete before June 30 so I can decide whether to bite the bullet with the current 06 HH or forego the tax credit and wait for the 07/08 HH.

    I'm also curious as to what effect, if any, the new tax credit has had on dealer traffic and HH sales. Last month my local small town dealer had 3 HH sitting on the lot. Last night the same 3 were still there (I figured at least 1 would have been sold)
  • So far the tax credit has lesser an impact on the sales of HH than the Prius. I have been following the prices and inventory of a mid-Atlantic "no haggle" Toyota dealer. It still has 40+ HH on its lot, most priced at only $500 above invoice, which is unimaginable just a few weeks ago. This is rather odd.
  • otis1otis1 Posts: 142
    Yeah, I've been folllowing that site from time to time as well along with their kenosha dealer. My dealer had 2 prii on the lot last month and of course those are gone. I don't get what's going on with the HH. 4 months ago if you offered a HH buyer a discount of $2600 (tax credit), I bet a lot would have jumped on it. Now there's price breaks in addition to the credit which effectively gives over a $6k discount. I'd make the 8 hour drive to kenosha this weekend if they had colors other than black or white. At this rate, toyota may offer an incentive *gasp* for the HH's.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    I sell them and other than the initial surge the one thing that 'afflicts' the HH, and the HAH as well, is that they are linked to a V6 engine.

    Think about it. The power is wonderful and a pleasure to drive. But I have an '04 ICE 3.3L. The driving experience is everything a normal driver needs. For the everyday Toyota, and Honda, driver the power of the HH is way too much IMO. To get this power there is a premium that frankly most Toyota buyers dont want to pay. There is certainly the the benefit of the HH being a much cleaner vehicle and an approximate 30% increase in FE.

    But are these three factors enough for the normal Toyota buyer to spring for $4000 to $5000 extra dollars. It appears not.

    OTOH the HSD +V6 is perfect for the Lexus line where the normal buyer is more likely to pay for these extra benefits over a 3.3L ICE x330.

    IMO therefore the HH should be linked to the 2.4L in order to keep the price in the 'Yota buyer's range and offer V6 power, ~200 hp, with significantly improved FE ratings, say in the mid 30's vs high 20'a.

    If you could get a HH with these characteristics for a price of say $28500 or less then the HH's would move faster.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    There could be many reasons and one could be that the early adapters are just about done.

    While researching the HH early 2005, I rememer reading a car magazine theorizing there would be 2 waves of buyers. The first are those who like new "toys" and will buy the HH for reasons other than gas-saving. The second wave are gas-savers who just want gas savings. The HH will be a tough-sell to the second wave.

    I think the first wave is just about done except for the few who are waiting for good deals. With almost 90% of HH-related articles telling readers the gas saving would never offset the price premium, the gas-savers would do the math and not like the 22 mpg reported by Consumer Report.

    For most people, a $26K Prius that easily gets 45-mpg makes a lot more sense than a $35K-$37K larger car that gets CR-reported mileage. That is likely the comparison most second-waver will make.
  • otis1otis1 Posts: 142
    I agree with all your points- especially the lexus/toyota comparison. I guess there's a lot of "I wish toyota did..." kind of thoughts when it comes the HH. While I personally would have liked to have seen a HH that could get 30+ mpg, this one isn't too shabby considering the price discount. is a 50% increase in FE so bad? maybe I'll be a part of that 2nd wave of early adopters looking for a bargain cdtrap mentions.

    This HP game is weird to say the least. the rav4 having the optional 270hp engine seems excessive to me. with this move, I've become very curious to see what direction toyota takes the highlander lineup next year. If the new HH goes more "lexus" and boasts a 300+ HP engine to keep ahead of the rav4, then I'm going to buy the current 06.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    ..curious to see what direction toyota takes the highlander lineup next year.

    My own opinion..

    I think it's pretty certain that the new iteration of the Highlander will be on a larger frame ( Avalon/Sienna? ) in order to compete better with the Pilot on the Odyssey frame. 'Yota is moving to have just one V6 in all it's vehicles. Avalon, RAV, Camry currently followed by the Highlander and Sienna shortly. BTW this is a derivation of the 4.0L V6 in the 4Runner, Tundra, Tacoma and FJ Cruiser.

    So with a larger vehicle ( heavier ) and the V6 already in the RAV I think it's certain that this will be the standard engine in the new Highlander. But it makes sense to me to do away with the V6+HSD in favor of the 2.4L+HSD for V6 power and mid 30's FE.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    My guess is:

    Normal RAV4 continues to get 170-hp.
    Normal Highlander continues to get 220-hp.
    Hi-Perf RAV4 gets optional 3.5L V6 offering 269-hp.
    Hi-Perf Highlander gets optional Gas-Electric HSD System offering 269-271 HP.

    Instead of offering a V8 for the Highlander, the Gas-Electric HSD System is the "option".

    I do not think Toyota will worry too much about Highlander getting significantly more horsepower. The Sequoia and the LandCruiser are good examples. Both use the same V8 with the Sequoia version detuned slightly down to 273-hp versus the Cruiser's 275-hp.

    At least I really hope Toyota is doing this so as to not play the ever-increasing horsepower game.

    Toyota may also offer the HSD system as Gas-Saving option like the 2007 Camry Hybrid. The hybrid Camry gets only 192-hp but also gets 43/37 City/Hwy MPG EPA. The Hi-Perf version of the Camry uses the 3.5L 269-hp V6.

    So for the mid to large family sedan segment, it seems Toyota may offer the HSD as a Gas-Saving option rather than as a Hi-Perf option.

    If Toyota can get the manufacturing process and the cost down, this whole approach makes perfect sense. Instead of the Gas-Electric system as some special offering, it becomes just another "mainstream" engine option that buyers can select.
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    Toyota may also offer the HSD system as Gas-Saving option like the 2007 Camry Hybrid. The hybrid Camry gets only 192-hp but also gets 43/37 City/Hwy MPG EPA. The Hi-Perf version of the Camry uses the 3.5L 269-hp V6.

    So for the mid to large family sedan segment, it seems Toyota may offer the HSD as a Gas-Saving option rather than as a Hi-Perf option.

    If Toyota can get the manufacturing process and the cost down, this whole approach makes perfect sense. Instead of the Gas-Electric system as some special offering, it becomes just another "mainstream" engine option that buyers can select.


    I agree wholeheartedly. First and foremost the Toyota buyer is interested in economy ( which includes reliability or lack of repair costs and downtime ). Giving the buyer another economical option serves everyone well. Also giving buyers options is a good thing. Let the market decide whether the ICE-only is 'old tech'.
  • I haven't posted in a while, but have been following the discussions over the past couple weeks. (Despite being vaccinated, BOTH my kids got chicken pox over the holidays.) I took to heart all the postings about driving techniques to improve the mileage. I looked up the suggested websites and printed information.

    I am happy to report that on my last tank of gas I got 25.22 mpg. I have been trying to implement the "pulse and glide" technique, and using cruise control on my limited highway driving. The tank may have had even better mileage if the last 1/4 tank hadn't been driven by the shop that installed the DVD system. To date, a speaker and the new DVD system were replaced (2300 miles on car).

    May I have a little more help? I can't decide which is better for mileage:

    sticking solely with cruise control on the highway, even when it is only using gas engine
    -or-
    trying to control engine useage myself via pulse and glide technique?

    I can report that I have occasionally used the battery only at 60 mph, and even glided (no gas, no battery) at the same speed.

    The funny/tragic thing is, no one at my dealership (mechanics, salesman, dealership manager, customer relations) has any idea of how to drive a HH (or prius) to maximize gas mileage. Is that not the least a consumer should expect?
  • kdhspyderkdhspyder Posts: 7,160
    sticking solely with cruise control on the highway, even when it is only using gas engine
    -or-
    trying to control engine useage myself via pulse and glide technique?


    Use your own input as much as possible using the 'p & g method' as often as possible. Using cruise feeds a constant flow of fuel to the engine, even in small amounts, and may deteriorate your values somewhat. I notice 1-2 mpg.

    I can report that I have occasionally used the battery only at 60 mph, and even glided (no gas, no battery) at the same speed.

    This is a huge benefit of the technology.

    The funny/tragic thing is, no one at my dealership (mechanics, salesman, dealership manager, customer relations) has any idea of how to drive a HH (or prius) to maximize gas mileage. Is that not the least a consumer should expect?

    This is a sorry situation but most people there seem clueless and dont drive a hybrid often if at all. At our store most other sales people will refer their new buyers to me for a 15-30 min final drive at time of delivery. And anyone can come back at any time to ask for further guidance. A lot becomes intuitive also. In my initial presentation of the vehicle I refer to the instantaneous fuel gauge as a 'biofeedback device'. Using it will allow the driver to use the best features of the technology.

    PS: One other 'trick' ;) . At the end of your trip after the HH has been heated up and the battery is fully charged, try to coast/cruise through your neighborhood into your driveway. For the last 2 miles of my trip home I slow down from 55 on the highway, turn into my neighborhood where the speed limit is 25 and then keep the lightest touch in the pedal ( 'feather it' ) through the neighborhood and drive in 'stealth mode' at 20 mph for the final mile plus. From the time I slow down on the highway to shutoff I burn zero fuel. The FE gauge is pegged to 99.9 mpg. In the overall scheme it's not a big deal but it's 2 miles of 'free driving' if you will.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    CONGRATULATION! Very happy to see the increase in mileage!

    Regarding cruise or not on freeway, take it out on a quiet early weekend morning to see how the mileage responds to CRUISE and manual method. Pick the one that works best. We have heavy feet so we opt for CRUISE.

    On freeways, when in CRUISE, the HH will use the electric motor to supplement the gas engine whenever possible and this really improves mileage. There is a 6-mi stretch of local freeway where we can get 30-45 MPG at 65-mph.

    On freeways, our experience indicate speed and terrain dictate the mileage. Hilly mountainous terrain will kill the mileage. Higher speed eats up gas, there is no way around it. On interstate, we do 60 when safe or 65 when necessary. On country highway, the 55-MPH limit is perfect for cruising at 45, 50, 55.

    When shuttling kids around town, we look for reasonable alternate routes that have few stops, few turns, few cars and no highway overpasses. This lets us cruise, coast and run on electric much more often.

    Have fun experimenting and learning about this car, it can do a lot for you.
  • katzjamrkatzjamr Posts: 146
    congrats on working on your hybrid skills, in my opinion the cruise works best on the free way when traffic isnt too heavy, the car seems to be integrated best in cruise as far as blending electric with ICE, and it will also coast with no ICE.
  • wwestwwest Posts: 10,706
    "efficiency" gain is via inertial energy recovered during coastdown and/or braking, regenerative braking. That's how/why the Prius gets such STELLAR city mileage vs relatively poor highway mileage.

    A hybrid has absolutely no fuel economy advantage at a constant speed in level terrain. In fact hybrids are at a definite disadvantage in traffic in those situations. It uses the batteries for acceleration "surges" to regain road speed after slowing with/for traffic and then must use the (derated) engine to recharge the batteries.

    I have always suspected that if the batteries could be somehow disconnected when highway cruising our Prius would get substantually better highway fuel economy. Provided we could tolerate the subsequently lower acceleration rate.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Theoretically speaking, I would agree completely agree with your assessment when the HH is driven at high speed over perfectly flat surface. Current design means the ICE will run efficiently to maintain momentum with all electric motors off. But I do not believe this fact can be generalized to real world situations.

    In reality, surfaces are never flat, so there are always rises that will cause momentum loss and thus speed decreases. A gas-engine car will need to rev the engine up and down as necessary to counter the momentum loss in order to maintain speed. The higher and the steeper the rise, or the more momentum depleting bumps, rises and humps, the harder the engine must work, the more fuel it consumes.

    On a down slope, the gas-engine can idle if the slope is steep or it must continue to run at lower RPM just to maintain speed when the slope is not steep enough to maintain momentum.

    I cannot say anything about the Prius but the HH has interesting but positive behaviors when it comes to countering momentum loss. Its batteries are not just for acceleration but are capable of providing a constant output of power to support the ICE.

    On bumps, rise and hilly climbs, the electirc motor comes on to counter momentum loss and maintain speed. The gas engine in the HH either does not change its output or react with only a slight increase in RPM. This definitely saves fuel.

    On steep down slopes where the car can either maintain or gain momentum, the ICE shuts off completely, the battery recharges. There is no fuel consumption.

    On shallower slopes, where the car needs some help to maintain momentum, the electric motor kicks in again to provide the added constant power to maintain speed on a downhill. On occassion, I have seen the electric motor doing all the work at 65-MPH with the ICE shut off. This again saves fuel.

    In these cases, the ICE is able to do more or less a constant amount of work (or no work) even when terrain changes result in momentum-loss and -gain. Constant output makes the ICE efficient, so the electric motors are really helping to reduce fuel consumption and increase FE at highway speed.

    The big surprise for me is how far the HH battries can drive this 2-ton car on electric at a constant speed. I believe this is why the batteries are able to help with FE even on freeways. They are not just for acceleration, they are capable of supporting the ICE for quite a long distance at a constant output.
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