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UPSCALE CUV: Toyota’s spacious, seven-seater 2016 Highlander Hybrid delivers an enviable blend of near-luxury quarters, economical performance

Big, three-row crossovers tend to weigh a lot. That in turn requires powerful propulsion systems, which means using a lot of fuel.

Toyota has a solution: the Highlander Hybrid.

By combining a gasoline V-6 with a brace of electric motors/generators, the spacious Highlander Hybrid delivers class-leading fuel economy at 28 mpg city-highway combined. (The gasoline-only V-6 version manages 20 mpg combined.)

And with 280 horses, there’s no sacrifice in power: Acceleration is strong and smooth, and long highway ascents are easily dispatched.

Despite the Scottish name, the Highlander is a Japanese product through and through.

Based on the Camry midsize sedan, the CUV carries all the hallmarks of the automaker’s products: tight-as-a-tick assembly and superb fit and finish; excellent reliability ratings; and high value retention.

Our top-line Limited Platinum model’s cabin rivaled some true luxury competitors, with excellent comfort in leather-clad seats and generous overlays of soft-touch materials.

The big CUV’s near-silent road manners add to the upscale perception.

Back in the days of 35-cent-a-gallon gasoline, automakers promoted “road-hu2014_toyota_highlander_hybrid_platinum_002gging weight” as a attribute. These days, carmakers go to extreme means to cut weight in order to meet or exceed federal-mandated miles per gallon targets – while still meeting crash test standards.

At nearly 5,000 pounds, the Highlander Hybrid’s no lightweight, but that helps deliver a very smooth and serene ride on the highway.

Around corners, though, that porky poundage makes itself felt with a fair amount of body lean.

Even though a refreshed version for 2017 is expected later this year, the current one is well on its way to record annual sales.

The 2016 model delivers plentiful qualities of a caliber not typically associated with Toyota products (except in its Lexus lineup).

Even at $50 grand, that makes it a relative bargain.

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