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Toyota Highlander Hybrid Driving Tips & Tricks



  • Hello,
    I just bought 2007 HH Ltd with the Nav system and 3rd row for $38,300 (before taxes and license).

    Am really loving the HH (all 200 miles so far) but have a few questions on the Nav system:
    - Is it possible to change the configurations so that my wife can use the Nav system while I'm driving? I find it very annoying that a passenger is restricted from punching in a destination address while I am driving. I understand that the driver shouldn't be using it while moving but the passenger too?
    - Is there a way to turn off the little confirmation beeps everytime I push a button on the screen?

    Thanks! Have really learned a lot going through many of the posts here.
  • wvgasguywvgasguy Posts: 1,405
    I am planning on getting a HH for a company vehicle. While I realize this is not a rugged 4wd like the 4 Runner I do plan to take it on dirt and gravel roads as part of my operational duties. It may at times even be on grass / fields.

    I recently discovered while trying to pull my Camry Hybrid off of the driveway onto slick grass (and a slope) that the traction control system has no override and simply shuts the car down. My Camry would go no where, even with the gas floored. I understand the system and have read about the need to not allow the MG2 to overspeed due to spinning the wheels, so my real concern is:

    Have any of you used the HH in slick sloped conditions successfully? Could you consider this for an operational work vehicle or should I go with a 4Runner. If I start up a slope, even a dry one and the traction goes, will the HH simply shut down?
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Hi wvgasguy,

    Can you guesstimate the slope? It is likely the Camry tires are not designed to bite down and also the Camry is too light?

    Our ranch has grassy steep slopes at 45-deg or worse, I have never taken our HH onto these slopes. I do not believe it can handle it. Our 4x4 Chevy trucks can handle up to about 30 but that is about it. Any steeper, everything just spins.

    We have driven our HH on grassy (3-5 inches tall grass) wet slope with an angle of about 10 degrees or there about, possibly 20 now that I think about it a bit. Not more than 20. It is able to handle it.

    In the above grassy areas, we have expansive soil that turns sticky and slick in the rain. If not for the grass, the tires will really "bulk up" into giant mud balls and we will most likely get stuck. With the grass, as long as we are careful and the tires remain somewhat clear, we can drive on the surface without problems.

    On dry loose gravel (smallish 1" to 3") roads, even up and down slopes of about 45-degrees, there is no problem. We are also able to drive up these roads after a rainstorm or some melting snow. There will be patches of mud but we can negotiate past them or put no more than 1 tire in them at a time. We can really feel the traction control doing its work. We have not taken on a long continuous all-muddy road. I won't try it in the HH. Not even with chains.

    You may laugh :) but we always bring along chains, a large bucket full of baserock, some pieces of wood and shovels. We have not had to rely on them yet.

    On paved but rain-slick surface due to thick rotting leaves and thick pine needles, we can feel the traction control working but it is still able to handle it. Steepest we have is 30-degrees. Any steeper, I am not sure what will happen, even on paved surface.

    We have driven on snow covered paved surface with a slope of about 30 degrees. It is slushy wet snow and the car was able to climb to the car port. This is a rental ski cabin and not our place. The next morning, we had about 4 to 6 inches of fresh semi-powder on top and we were able to exit the place via its uncleared driveway to reach plowed surface and head to the slope OK. The car felt solid and in control the whole time.

    We have also changed our HH tires from the stock Goodyear Integrity to Goodyear SA Fortera. The Integrity will most likely have a hard time taking on unpaved surfaces. We lost one Integrity to a side-wall cut driving on our gravel ranch road so we swap them for something tougher. The Fortera has held up well so far. I wish there is a Wrangler type that fits the HH.

    I am still not 100% confident in the HH's ability to handle all unexpected dirt-road and xtra-mild off-road condition. We are very conservative when using it to check our place. If there is any doubt, we by pass and come back later with our true 4x4.

    It is able to handle close to 80% of our place as long as we use good common sense and take our time. It is also really nice to crawl along on electric with no fumes and no gas being burned.

    If you have experience with the 4Runner, my suggestion will be the same. If you doubt the HH's ability in a particular situation, come back later with the 4x4. NO fun getting stuck on a slope.
  • wvgasguywvgasguy Posts: 1,405
    Thanks for the info. I'm mainly concerned about the traction control. I normally drive a 4wd and I don't have a good feel for the normal difference I should expect with a 2wd and a 4wd. My Camry jsut shut down and would not move up. I am hopeful that the 4wd and possibly more aggressive tires on a HH would allow me to gain some traction and thus be usable on mild off road work. I can typically avoind any heavy mud or ruts but it would have been nice to know that on occasion one could shut off the traction control with one of the Nav warnings that you do it at your own risk and are responsible for any damage.

    I now worry about the Camry in normal snow conditions as I don't change over to snow tires in the winter. I will be extreemly careful about pulling out in front of cars knowing that if it's slick my car won't be moving. I just could imaging getting a HH and the first time I'm off road on some slick grass that it would just sit there. Surely 4wd, 4000+ pounds and a better tire would give it some traction.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Oh I get it! Sorry for the long winded reply!

    I have a 4WD HH, so I was talking from that angle. I have NO CLUE what happens with a FWD-only HH even with Traction Control.

    At 4000+ lbs, 4WD and a good set of tires, our HH has done a lot. It actually has replaced about 80% of the work our Chevy used to do at our place. Why use the 4x4 when a 4WD will do and at lower gas consumption? Crawling along in a Chevy V8 on our ranch roads at today's gas price will burn a hole right through our pockets straight through to China :)!

    One rule of thumb we use here is whenever we drive the HH and see an area that makes us want to lock the axle and shift to 4Lo, we avoid that area. Other than that, the HH has done well.

    In the 4WD HH, on an uphill, the traction control kicks in with a sudden but control "powered" feeling. We would feel a tire slip, normally either with a splash of mud and junk or a groan, the steering then feels strong and tight and the car continues to track straight at where we point. After that, the steering lightens up and we are back to normal driving.

    Downhill, it gets more exciting :). Tires will hit something slippery, they will groan or begin to spin a bit, steering will tighten solid with good feel of control, car continues to track where we steer BUT it seems to slow down automatically. After it gets by, things go back to normal.

    All these were at low speed, no faster than 30-mph. We have not had any situation yet where it refused to move.

    Good luck in your research.
  • wvgasguywvgasguy Posts: 1,405
    Thanks for the detailed report. It seems to me that it may indeed meet my needs for occasional off road use and certail will get better FE than a Trailblazer which is what we normally buy for this use.
  • Very interesting exchange-I'm interested in the 4wd HH and I live in the snowbelt. Keep us posted on your success-or lack there of-with your HH in rugged terrain and/or snow.
  • wvgasguywvgasguy Posts: 1,405
    It will be while before I would have any data so I'm hoping others comment. I'm guessing the weight and tires of the 4wd HH are will significantly affect overall traction positively as compared to my original concern with my TCH fwd only car. I am concerned with not moving when I pull out on a slick road, but with the HH I was concerned about hills and mild off road.

    I do live on a steep hill and many times I've had to "spin" my way to the top. I'm guessing I won't even try that with the TCH. Hopefully the HH won't need to spin to find traction.

    It is a weird feeling though when you're on a slope and the gas is floored and nothing is happening. I guess you may eventually slide backwards until the tires grip and then move forward again.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 4,098
    The HH is not designed for off-road use of any kind. The 4wd is electrically operated on the rear wheels, and will shut off due to overheat if those wheels are spun too much (until the motors cool off).

    The 2004 Prius had the problem of the TC causing the car to shut down in slippery conditions, but I was not aware that the Camry Hybrid had that issue. I think that the Prius got an update to allow the TC to be shut down.

    If you are using the vehicle for business, get a regular 4X4 SUV. The expenses are deductible anyway, and the vehicle will always function off road.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    The HH is not designed for off-road use of any kind.
    It is important to clarify this statement. It all depends on the definition of "Off-road". It could mean a simple unpaved gravel road or the Rubicon. The HH is not meant for the Rubicon, but it can certainly handle a gravel road or a patch of dirt.

    There are backcountry dirt trails in Death Valley that cars and vans can handle and then some that require higher clearance vehicles but not 4x4 and then some that require a true 4x4. The HH can handle everything that cars and vans can handle. The HH has enough clearance to handle the other non-4x4 dirt tracks. When the condition requires locking the axles and 4Lo, then the HH is way out of its league.

    As a specific example, if you have been to Johnson's canyon in Death Valley, you will know of the nasty wash-board that leads to a "wash" via which one can approach the canyon mouth. I have driven a Ford Escort to the mouth of the wash and then backpacked on foot to the mouth of the canyon. Only a true 4x4 can make it through the wash to the mouth of the canyon. If the Escort can handle the wash-board to at least the wash, the HH can. That is about as close to off-road most SUVers will get.

    Another example is that if you are in CA SF Bay Area and you want to drive the Hollister Hills 4x4 course, then the HH is the wrong car.

    When we drive our HH onto trails and dirt tracks, we *never* assume it is a 4x4. Even the 4WD capabilities is limited. We just assume the car is a FWD and drive accordingly. So when we come upon places that looks like real 4x4 "country", we avoid them or turn-around.
  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 4,098
    I stand by my statement, since it is a paraphrase of what I read a Toyota engineer saying.

    The HH AWD is intended for very limited use. A non hybrid AWD will not cease engaging the rear wheels after a short time, because they are mechanical drives, rather than electric motors.

    So yes, if you keep to roads that a FWD can handle, the HH is OK. However, the original post was talking about going into fields and such, where the earth would be wet and the wheels would spin.
  • On ice and snow covered paved roads in Minnesota, the traction control in a 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid front wheel drive only works great. This has only 2 wheel drive.

    Test: My sister's driveway, with an estimated 20 degree slope, was recently completely ice covered. I drove up from the level public road. I then tested the traction control. One front tire would spin; then the traction control would shift the power to the other front tire and back and forth. This continued until I tired of doing this testing after about one minute. I had on the factory supplied M+S tires. If I had on snow only tires, I might had been able to drive up this driveway. These snow tires grip much better.
    When I stopped this testing, as this driveway was so icy then, the HH slowly slid backwards down the driveway.

    I had similar experiences when driving away from ice/snow covered roads at stop signs and stop lights here in Minnesota. I can easily accelerate from ice covered roads at stop lights and signs. This is due to the nice traction control in the Toyota HH FWD.
    When I had a 1998 Chevy Blazer LS, with 4x4, and no limited slip rear differential, in these conditions, a back tire would spin and spin. In the Chevy Blazer, I let off the accelerator, put the Blazer in 4 wheel drive high, and accelerate from the stop sign or stop light.
    When stopping at these stop lights and signs, the ABS would also automatically engage on the Blazer. The ABS also works in a similar way on the Toyota HH at this stop lights and signs.

  • Test date: January 17, 2006
    Location: Parking lot just east of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, USA
    Vehicle: 2006 Toyota Hybrid Highlander with 22, 500 miles, front wheel drive only

    I was able to "test the Toyota Highlander Hybrid vehicle dynamic integrated management (VDIM) on Wednesday evening, January 17 at an ice and snow covered, unused parking lot just east of the Mall of America. There were even the orange cones in the lot. I think these cones are used when parking new cars in these lots.

    VDIM worked fine at 15 to 20 MPH with a few inches of snow on a paved lot. I had the standard Toyota M+S tires with 22,500 miles. When VDIM is working, the traction control light comes on along with a ding ding ding sound. Steering became difficult during one steering maneuver around the orange cones. This is a known feature of VDIM.
    I do not know how VDIM compares to the VSC or the vehicle stability control found in Toyota Highlanders.

    Next step: As the lakes are finally frozen thick enough this winter to support cars and there is only a few inches of snow on the lakes (it has been unusually warm in Minnesota this year), I may try a higher speed test on a nearby shallow lake. I would like to feel how the VDIM works at 50 MPH.

    I accidentally rolled and totaled a 1998 Chevy Blazer on Minnesota state highway 61 near Schroeder, Minnesota on Sunday, November 26, 2006 (at highway 61 mile marker 72 just across from Satellite Inn & Cabins to be exact). I really want to know how this Toyota HH would handle in similar conditions.

  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    PLEASE do tell us when you got on the lake. Be careful though, we want you back in one piece :-). This is exciting! :-)

    The hard steering is normal VDIM behavior. It will try to favor one side over the other by making it hard to steer. This is most obvious on highway when I want to change lane and accelerate at the same time. If I simply turn hard (to LEFT) and press down the accelerator, nothing happens, the VSC (or VDIM) will hold off power until the steering angle is much less. The steering also becomes very heavy to the side that has the potential to cause a roll-over. Steering is easy and power returns quickly when I steer the other way (to the RIGHT) down the lane.

    So, unlike gas-engine car, I have to press down gentler but continuously if I want to switch lane and take off. It is a nice safety feature once I got used to it. The car has so much power, gentler accelerator work still gets it moving real quick.

    Are you bringing along the shed, stove, drill, reel and rod :-) ????
  • pnrjrpnrjr Posts: 2
    Thanks! I just got my 07 HH and was driving the same way I drove my old 04 Highlander. I was getting 19 mpg in the city. I tried the Pulse, Feather, Glide technique as you have excellently described and now I can get 32-34 mpg in the city. This is driving without AC in 70 degree weather on relatively flat roads with light traffic between 0 and 40 mph. :)
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Hi! pnrjr, very glad you found that useful. Gosh, that was a long time ago.

    Proper credit must go to "Gazguzler" who first posted the "needle in the stripes region" technique here. The word "Feather" was coined by Khdspyder who posted the technique here too.

    I simply took all that and put them into an organized note. Should have given them due credit in that note.
  • Hello fellow HH owners:

    We are about to pick up a new Highlander Hybrid LImited 4wd-i vehicle. We've browes the various CarSpace forums for hints on how to drive/maintain the vehicle.

    Does anyone out there have some do's and don'ts for the first few hundred miles? If so, you might want to reply directly to our e-mail address to get info to us ASAP:

    Thanks in advance. We are excited about this car!

    Don and Linda
  • lucy10lucy10 Posts: 7
    We currently have a Subaru Outback and use it for skiing and snow conditions. We are looking at purchasing a toyota highland hybid and need to know if anyone has experienced how the car handles in bad weather, snow and ice conditions. And especially how it compares to the superior handling of the Subaru.
  • stevegoldstevegold Posts: 185
    We just traded a 2002 3.0 LL Bean Outback for a 2007 Hybrid Highlander Ltd. Both are fine. I preferred the Outback, my wife prefers the HH. I'm not sure but I think the Outback got better mileage and I think the HH is too big. My car is a 2004 Prius but when the snow falls, we us one of the 4WDs.
  • cdptrapcdptrap Posts: 485
    Canadian Driver put snow tires on a 2006 Highlander Hybrid and drove it in their Traction Test. The following link leads to article.

    Popular Mechanics did an emergency avoidance test and published the video but I cannot find the link anymore. Anyway, the HH handled amazlingly well in the slalom.

    When we researched a new car in 2005, the final choices were indeed the Outback against the HH. My wife wanted the HH and that was that. So far though, no regrets. On plowed road, on 4-6 inch snow, with real snow tires, the HH has been wonderful. I have not encountered iced-over condition as Canadian Driver did so no experience there.

    Note Toyota says to NOT put chains on the HH. if you look under the rear wheel well, at least in the 2006 version, the coil spring has extremely tight clearance with the tire. So chains will not work in the rear tires. We opted for four snow tires in the winter and that has worked very well. There are chains (Sppike SPyder) that attach only to the outside half of the tires but they cost an arm and a leg. We bought a set just in case. Have not really had to use it yet.

    The HH is also competent on dry dirt road conditions *EXCEPT* when conditions warrant a real-life 4x4. I will not repeat our dirt road experience here.

    If you decide to go for the HH, make sure the tires are truck tires or tougher SUV tires. Our 2006 came with cheap Goodyear minivan tires, horribly squishy and soft and even Goodyear rated it as mediocre in snow condition. Couldn't believe Toyota would go so cheap.

    A four season tire worth considering is the Nokian SUV WR which has the snow-flake designation. I believe it is the only 4-season that has the snow-flake badging.

    Good luck!
  • kullenbergkullenberg Posts: 283
    Could not agree more - I put the Nokians on before delivery, and they have been outstanding. I live in the mtns of western NC, and they have never let me down, plus I've put 20k in less than a year with negligible wear. Good choice!!
  • lintenlinten Posts: 1
    Last December I traded in my '97 Outback with 120,000 miles for a 4WD Toyota HH (I need the extra room to haul stuff). I love both cars but these are the differences: I get better mileage in the HiHy (25 vs 22)although the Subaru was 10 years old. The HiHy has kick-[non-permissible content removed] power. My little 4 cyl Subaru would work really hard when fully loaded to make it quickly to highway speed. The HiHy--no problem.

    BUT, I think the Subaru is better in the snow and ice. There something about having the rear wheels driven by an electric motor that just can't compare to a regular drive train working them. Plus the Toyota has the VSC which prevents the wheels from spinning by shutting the motor off when it detects it. One time last winter during an ice storm I attempted to go up my driveway (it has an incline) and when the wheels started to spin a little, it just shut the motor off and there I was, slowly sliding backwards. I backed up and gunned it and made it into the garage but it did weird me out a little. By the way, I haven't used snow tires, just the Firestones that came with it, you may do better with different tires. But all in all, I thought the HiHy was OK in the snow.
  • sorry to bother. I am new and found this message. However, I don't know where the referenced message #2658 is found. I would greatly appreciate a link or directions to find this and/or other great summaries about driving tips.

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,835
    If you are a long-term hybrid owner, our Senior Editor, John O'Dell, would love to hear from you! A short email with your maintenance experiences and concerns would be great. Please send to John at by close of business Wednesday, August 22, 2007. Be sure and include your Forums username.

    Edmunds Moderator

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  • wvgasguywvgasguy Posts: 1,405
    and did not buy the HH for business in 2007, ended up with a 4Runner. However, I did purchase a HH 4wd last night and after reading the latest comments feel it will serve me perfectly well for my personal use in mild winter weather country.
  • wvgasguywvgasguy Posts: 1,405
    I'm on my third tank with my 09HH. Today within a few miles of the empty light coming on I stopped to fill up. It took 14.7 gallons (US). I know in my TCH there was almost 3 gallons of fuel when the tank gage showed empty. Several drivers tested this driving their vehicles dangerously close to bone dry to verify it. Has anyone tested the HH? It appears that I should easily have another 50 miles even after the light comes on but I want to know if that is normal across the line before I would take a chance of driving that close to empty out on the road.
  • I replied on your other post of nearly the same question.

    I am very comfortable running another 50 miles after the light comes on. Routinely comes on at 14.2 Gals consumed.
  • Toyota says "The Highlander Hybrid is not designed to be driven off-road". What does that really mean? The vehicle has OK ground clearance. How's it on traction? One can go a lot of places with just those two. Do any of you have experience taking 09 (or 08) HH on rocky dirt roads with steep slopes, or soft sand, mud, or snow? Does the electric rear drive actually add anything? Could I perhaps get the same "off road" performance from the 2WD 4 cyl? Any other reviews with this info? Thanks.
  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,835
    I imagine what it really means is just what it says, the Highlander Hybrid is not an off-road vehicle and that if you take a Highlander Hybrid off-road that you'll void any warranty.

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