In response to a post on Edmunds.com in the Highlander Hybrid forum:
I really don’t think Toyota has any “damage control” to do with respect to the HH’s mileage.
First, the mileage that Toyota advertises is a number generated by the EPA, not by Toyota. *BY LAW*, Toyota and all other car manufacturers are not allowed to advertise anything other than the EPA numbers. (If anyone has an actual ad from Toyota that advertises an actual MPG number with something else on it, I’d love to see it.) Best of luck suing the EPA on that score.
But I think the actual situation is being blown way out of proportion anyway. Looking at the database on GH, people with the 2wd HH are getting an average of 25.8 MPG, where the EPA combined estimate is 30 MPG. That’s 86% of the EPA number. For the 4wd, EPA combined is 29 MPG and people are averaging 25.4, which is 87.6% of the EPA number. Those are NOT BAD at all!
I would guess most people get about 85% of the EPA estimates (maybe even less) in non-hybrid vehicles, too. This is because the EPA test is unrealistic (55 mph on the highway, no air conditioning, etc.). Heck, Consumer Reports just did a big piece a few months ago on how virtually no cars got the EPA numbers in their tests. This affects some cars more than others, and maybe hybrids are more prone to this–but that’s not Toyota’s fault, it’s the EPA’s fault. Now, in absolute terms this might seem a bit disappointing because losing 15% of 30 MPG is obviously more than losing 15% of 20 MPG, but still.
Consider the V6 non-hybrid Highlander. Combined mileage 21 for the 4wd. If real-world performance is 87.6% of that, you should get 18.2 MPG, which is 7.2 MPG less than the HH. That’s not bad, plus you get all the stuff cdptrap mentioned: better safety, better emissions, better performance. People pay thousands of dollars all the time for better safety and performance (e.g. V6 Accord vs. I4 Accord), but then get *worse* mileage and emissions out of the deal. So the $4500 premium for better safety/performance and more “green” doesn’t seem like a bad deal at all. (Unless, of course, you are completely myopic and care ONLY about the mileage part–all I can say to that is “should have done your homework before blowing $35-40K.”)
Will you get the EPA mileage out of your HH? No, probably not–nor are you likely to actually get the EPA mileage out of most other vehicles, either. I see no evidence that the problem is worse in the HH than it is in other vehicles. Is the HH for everybody? No. It is undoubtedly expensive. But the HH is a very solid vehicle which I don’t think is under-delivering at all.