Long-term Toyota Highlander according to Martin Vaculík: I’ll take you to the Alps

His colleague Martin Vaculík tested our long-proven Toyota Highlander by traveling to Schladming, Austria on skis. With a five-meter hybrid SUV, he managed the trip there in 7.2, even falling back in 6.9 l/100 km.

The last time I skied in the Alps, I was still single and childless. It always occurred to me to go there with a child to say where we were that the little one would learn more there than in Benecko. However, this year my daughter is nine years old and she is skiing almost better than me. And when I found out that a friend was renting an apartment in the village of Pruggern, not far from Schladming, I had to figure out what to do. I’m exactly the case of a man who claims all his life how you carry 100 kg with you on an MTB all year round and you don’t have a lot of extra resistance when riding, but he wouldn’t go to the mountain without it. Such rumors that those who know how to use a steering wheel don’t need an ATV might have been valid at a time when the roads weren’t full of motorized non-drivers, who were braking down a slope before a bend in stopping them there. You should also stop and not start with the front wheel loaded. Yes, as long as the Škoda 120 engine was in the rear and Barum OR32 tyres, the ATV wasn’t really necessary. For these reasons, the long-proven Dacia Duster 1.0 TCE GPL dropped out of the candidates for our first Alps family, and the Volkswagen ID.3 for the others. My salvation became the Toyota Highlander – a car I only discovered then and which is being sold in Europe for the first time in this latest fourth generation.

Efficiency 41%!

I quickly find out what it is. The technique is much the same as that of the famous RAV-4 hybrid, where the front is a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter engine connected by a traditional toy planetary gearbox to an electric motor, while the rear wheels are driven by the electric motor itself at a relatively modest 44 kW. I caught up as I watched the display carefully all the way to see if the ATV was doing anything. And even though there really was a blizzard along the way, a few parts showing traction only appeared on the screen when approaching the parking space in front of the apartment. In short, the MTB works here like a push of snow from behind.

The Toyota A25A-FXS engine is very interesting. Its maximum efficiency is 41%, ten more than textbooks for the gasoline engine in my youth. This is due to the Atkinson cycle, extremely high 14:1 compression, a noticeably non-square (87.5 x 103.5mm) bore and stroke configuration, and the very fact that at 2.5 liters, it is still a four-cylinder. Fewer cylinders means a better volume/surface ratio, less thermal and kinematic losses, less friction. Such an engine has already had to sacrifice a large part of its response and is only suitable for hybrid, where it is generally allowed to operate in optimal mode. The highest efficiency here is not near the outer curve, certainly not when you get 140kW out of it. This optimum is slightly above 2000 revolutions at a torque of approximately 170 Nm and a power of between 35 and 45 kW. And since I choose a shorter route to České Budějovice and then along the Austrian highways A1 and A9, where the speed is generally limited to 110 km/h, he passes through this area all the time. I go there with a consumption of 7.2 l/100 km.

Oh the lights!

Colleagues from Auto.cz complain of occasional knocks from the rear axle. This is a logical consequence of soft shock absorbers and heavy wheels. When you load the car, the injuries stop and along the way, I don’t mind that such a big and expensive car has a purely mechanical chassis. There will be no costly problems with this at least once.

On the contrary, what bothers me a lot is the poor performance of the LED lights. It is a simple type with a brightness of up to 2000 Lumens, which does not even have dynamic tilt regulation. The first few miles after dark with a loaded car, I dazzle passers-by before realizing I have to adjust the lean manually – I wouldn’t really expect that in such a machine. Since it alternates between rain and snow, and there are also a lot of tunnels along the way, I also remember the typical algorithm of small car automatic windshield wipers, which change the interval smoothly . So when you enter the tunnel in the rain, they do not stop wiping, but gradually extend the interval and cover the dry glass. I deal with annoying locks, with only the driver’s door unlocked after the performance and the rear handle almost torn off in rage, I solve in the depths of the on-board menu, except on the advice of one of between you. Yes, it can be adjusted!

Does it work?

The power of the 140 kW petrol engine simply cannot be combined with the 88 kW front electric motor and the 44 kW rear motor. Everyone peaks at different speeds, so they meet at the highest 181 kW. Is that enough for a car that already weighs more than two tonnes empty? Yes, but don’t expect a live gas response. You have to stand on it like a shovel, which is not at all close to me. The four-cylinder under the hood starts to purr, you can hear the tram howl of the electric motor and you can rely on the manufacturer’s data on the acceleration from a standstill to 100 km/h in 8.3 s, which is comparable to the best four-cylinder. diesels in the category of large SUVs, said the medium SUV, but for us Europeans it’s a nice car – 165 cm long skis will fit in your trunk, and the rear seats do not even need to advance). However, against diesel, acceleration is more linear, similar to electric cars. It’s funny with an electronically reduced top speed of 180 km / h – even at 160 the car unexpectedly accelerates, but then stops.

There’s nowhere to put energy

The car tested is noisier at the wheels. I blame the Nokian WR SUV4 tires in size 235/55 R20. I think if the piece being tested wore continentals, for example, it would be as quiet as any competition.

On the fourth day of our alpine trip, some of us (neither my daughter nor I) were already very sore. Therefore, instead of skiing, we decide to go on a trip to the Daschstein Glacier with a unique cabin on a sagging rope. A repeated finding is the descent from the lower station of the local cable car – that the 6.5 Ah hybrid battery is terribly small. It’s full right away and then I waste my energy on the brakes. Too bad Toyota doesn’t also offer its Highlander in a rechargeable version like the smaller RAV-4. Plug-in hybrids are often charged in the Alps with long descents, so that in valleys and over tens of kilometers you drive up to the position energy stored in the flashlight. We reject the great offer of google navigation on the way to the return motorways via Munich, which are faster, but longer by almost 200 km, and we do a hundred in the Austrian districts with many brakes at 50 in the villages. It’s a hybrid in its element and we drive home with a famous consumption of 6.9 l/100 km. I have no complaints – it’s a big, comfortable American-style car that’s great for a leisurely drive. Pilots and neurotics will look elsewhere, I’ll take it. But, of course, I consider the frame of the Land Cruiser an even more honest iron – but also with the same higher consumption share.

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