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Toyota Highlander hybrid. Photo: Toyota

This week I'm driving the 2020 Toyota Highlander hybrid, a stylish family hauler that also gets great gas mileage — perfect for a summer road trip.

The big picture: While there are plenty of three-row SUV models on the market, only two — the Highlander and the Ford Explorer — are available with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain.

  • While the Explorer is more powerful and better for towing, the Highlander gets much better fuel economy, notes Car and Driver in a head-to-head comparison.

What's new: The Highlander gets a more efficient hybrid system that relies on a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine (instead of the previous V6) and two electric motors.

  • Horsepower falls 20% from the previous version, but you get a 24% improvement in fuel economy (up to 36 mpg) — good for nearly 600 miles between fill-ups.
  • Toyota's bet is that families will prefer that efficiency, and be more than satisfied with the hybrid's 243 hp.

My thought bubble: They're right. For everyday driving, the Highlander hybrid is responsive with plenty of power when needed.

  • As long as you're not towing a boat or trailer, you don't need the extra horsepower.

Yes, but: The Highlander's 4-cylinder engine is rather noisy on acceleration, unpleasant for a hybrid especially.

  • And the truth is, with a lighter foot, you can keep the engine from working so hard while improving your mileage too.
  • I averaged about 30 mpg, well below the EPA's 36-mpg estimate, but still quite good for a vehicle this size.

As with most Toyotas, important safety features are standard.

  • Toyota's Safety Sense 2.o package includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control and technologies that help you stay in your lane.

The bottom line: The Toyota Highlander hybrid will help you stay safe and save on fuel.

Go deeper

Updated 16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — Fauci says U.S. may not return to normal until 2022
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases — Europe faces "stronger and deadlier" wave France imposes lockdown Germany to close bars and restaurants for a month.
  4. Sports: Boston Marathon delayed MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

Leon Black says he "made a terrible mistake" doing business with Jeffrey Epstein

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Rick Friedman/Corbis/Getty Images

Apollo Global Management CEO Leon Black on Thursday said during an earnings call that he made a "terrible mistake" by employing Jeffrey Epstein to work on personal financial and philanthropic services.

Why it matters: Apollo is one of the world's largest private equity firms, and already has lost at least one major client over Black's involvement with Epstein.

4 hours ago - World

Jeremy Corbyn suspended by U.K. Labour Party over anti-Semitism report

Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The U.K. Labour Party has suspended its former leader, Jeremy Corbyn, after a watchdog report found that the party failed to properly take action against allegations of anti-Semitism during his time in charge.

Why it matters: It represents a strong break by Keir Starmer, Labour's current leader, from the Corbyn era and one of the party's most persistent scandals.