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GOING PLACES WITH THE 2019 TOYOTA HIGHLANDER PLATINUM HYBRID AWD

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Owning a car more than 5 years these days almost seems like a thing of the past. The longest vehicle I have personally ever own was 7 years – granted I never drove my own car and after getting rid of it due to it turning into an animal motel where they checked in, but never checked out; I too felt as if I deserved an upgrade. But what about 10 or 15 years? My grandparents owned a 1989 Ford Tempo for nearly 15 years before it mysteriously found itself parked sideways in a ditch after a 16 year old driver discovered cars can’t fly.

Neither of these were cases for a buddy of mine in New Mexico, Jason Pawela with Pawelas Garage. His grandfather generating a love affair for Mazda, he bought the first-generation Mazda 6 back in 2004, August 3rd to be exact. It was nothing too special, an entry level 6 with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder and manual transmission – without wanting to feel too basic, he sprung for the Luxury Package, Tech Package and Sport Package to bring in the essentials of the more hardy equipped model. After 13 years, Jason decided to take ownership of this beloved 6 – with only 186,000 miles on the odometer, this sports sedan was in pristine condition for being in the high mileage category. Fast forward to today, August 3rd, 2019 – 15 years to the day since purchased – we’re here in Farmington, New Mexico at the original dealership it was purchased to celebrate rolling 200,000 miles.

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Now, 200,000 miles is quite a bit when you’re talking to someone like me who’s never had a car over 50,000 miles. 200k is nothing for some owners to reach, especially if driving is there job – but what if we told you that not only is this car nearly perfect on the outside, on the inside, but under the hood. Running on all original parts including clutch, transmission, engine, to even the brakes.

I’ll be honest, the amount of dedication Jason took to celebrating this milestone is probably a bit much for me – then again, I don’t have an emotional attachment to a car. But as a friend, I’m ever so more than happy to share in his excitement and be there for his big day, riding right alongside cheering on the big 2-0-0-0-0-0-0. However, Farmington is quite a distance away and to get there, I needed something special of my own. Like the loyalty Jason’s grandfather had towards Mazda, Toyota has its fair share of brand loyal customers that are always willing and able to take their cars above and beyond the six-figure milestone.

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Jason’s celebration was just a small percentage of the trip – we had other plans to do some adventuring and I had separate plans of my own to drive into Albuquerque to visit a couple of friends. For this trip, I needed something that I knew could handle a semi-rough dirt road, I wanted something comfortable and roomy to fit additional occupants but also didn’t eat my credit card when it came time to fuel up. I knew exactly what would be perfect for my trip, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

With a whole new generation 2020 Toyota Highlander coming out sometime next year, this is officially the last year for this current guise. Living a rather short time span of only 5 years, I’ve seen just about every version of the Highlander from the XLE, Limited Hybrid, Platinum Hybrid and even the SE when it was refreshed in 2017. For 2019, there is no substantial changes apart from the oddly incorporated LED fog lights – but left the headlights halogen… Weird. The Highlander starts at $31,830 in entry level LE formality and every trim excluding the LE Plus and SE can be equipped with the hybrid powertrain with standard all-wheel drive at a premium, cost varies depending on trim level.

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For this trip, our Highlander being in the top tiered Limited Platinum came with an all-inclusive $49,780 sticker price that featured nearly every single option under the panoramic sun roof. With a stunning brown interior that complimented the Toasted Chestnut bronze exterior paint, the Highlanders cabin is charming and comforting with heated and cooled front seats, heated rear seats, three-zone climate control, heated steering wheel, 2nd row captain’s chairs and all the latest safety hardware featured as part of the Toyota Safety Sense system.

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With sights set for Farmington, NM – my main goal was to exceed the 27-mpg highway rating the hybrid powertrain was assessed for. With 308-combined horsepower, there is plenty of power to be had providing adequate confidence in the Highlanders capabilities. It was a rough start as getting out of Phoenix required strenuous mountain climbing and forestry scenery that changes altitude dramatically – this resulted in 21-mpg. However, resetting the trip computer once I reached the I-40, it was smooth sailing all the way to Farmington where the mpgs reported a more satisfying 28.9-mpg highway fuel economy number.

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After doing interviews and video footage of the 200k mile rollover, our adventure was nearly just beginning as we took off heading south through scenic side of New Mexico’s landscape. Arriving to Bisti Badland’s, this was my main reason for requesting this crossover. With roughly 5-miles of dirt road and uneven terrain, the all-wheel drive system was sure to keep things in check. Unlike traditional all-wheel drive systems, the hybrid system here doesn’t use a driveshaft connecting the front wheels to the rear. Instead, this system using two electric motors – one in the front and one in the back. Think of the rear electric motor as your safety hall monitor. It helps off-the-line acceleration performance for that initial booster and during slipper conditions like rain, ice or snow, or in this case, loose gravel, the electronically managed all-wheel drive deviates its power to the rear wheels for better stability, control and ultimately, traction.

 

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The trip with the guys was short lived. After the Badlands, we pretty much said our goodbyes and went our marry ways. With a long trek back to home base, I decided to keep my route simple by keeping to strictly interstates verses side highways like my travels up. This helped maintain my 28.9 fuel economy number and after recording 1200 miles, in the end, I felt as if this was a sincere way of sending this generation Highlander off with a proper goodbye.


VEHICLE SPECIFICATIONS


Model: 2019 TOYOTA HIGHLANDER HYBRID
Starting Price: $31,830
As Tested: $49,939
Color: TOASTED WALNUT PEARL


PERFORMANCE SPECIFICATIONS


Engine: 3.5-LITER V-6 & HYBRID ELECTRIC MOTOR
Horsepower: 208-COMBINED HORSEPOWER
Transmission: CVT AUTOMATIC
Drivetrain: ELECTRONIC ALL-WHEEL DRIVE
Fuel Economy: EPA RATED: 29-CITY / 27-HWY / 28-COMBINED
(AS TESTED: 28.9 MPG HIGHWAY)
Fuel Range: 345 MILES
0-60 MPH: ±7.0 SECONDS

 

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