Traded in a 2003 Escape for this 2006 Highlander. Was looking for a little more room plus a more comfortable ride. Very smooth ride and much less road noise than the Escape. This is the first Hybrid I've had and it does have differences, not bad but different. The engine shuts down when stopped, feels like the car has stalled at first. When starting, the gas engine comes on after about 20 seconds but you can start driving before then. I notice the brakes feel and sound different (slight whine) which I assume is the system charging the battery. Highway speeds don't feel as steady as other cars, it may again be the periodic charging of the battery. Mileage so far has been about 27, normal driving, not too aggressive but not in the slow lane.
This is my first Hybrid and it is quite interesting. You can not tell when it's running and it has a smooth ride. It has all the conveniences of a large SUV but not a gas guzzler as most .
In early July 2010, I purchased a Highlander Hybrid 4WD and am happy with it. I had read some on-line reviews of the vehicle and knew what to expect in advance of test driving the vehicle. The Highlander rides well and is very comfortable much like a Camry rather than the stiff ride of a pickup. It has lots of legroom even in the backseat and can easily accommodate 4 six-footers. My primary reason for buying this vehicle was cargo space and gas mileage as I have two boys heading off to college. I am happy with the cargo space as can accommodate 5 large suitcases and 3 overnight bags without resorting to the luggage rack. I also moved to a new house and the vehicle, with the back seat folded down, allowed me to many things in advance of the movers arriving. My only disappointment has been with the gas mileage. My Highlander Hybrid was rated for an estimated 30 mpg for highway and 34 for city. My best combined mileage has been 24.7 thus far and I had been hoping for the 26-27 mpg range. This is common with hybrids in that they deliver well under the EPA estimated mileage which I discovered after buying. To fully optimize your results, you need to avoid jackrabbit starts, use your cruise control whenever possible, drive between 45-60 mph, etc. Overall, I am very happy with the vehicle and would most likely buy it again. I would consider purchasing a 2WD version rather than the 4WD for better gas mileage.