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.
After debating for about, oh, 4 years I finally made the decision to purchase the Highlander. We went with a hybrid as the mpg was similar to our trade-in. There are a few things to get used to (when the gas system "shuts down" at lights for example) but we love it! This was the best car purchase we have made in a long time! Our dog loves the extra space and our friends love the third row for when we go out--instead of 2 cars we take one!
This car is the nicest car I've ever owned, so that may skew my review. It handles so smoothly and gets excellent gas mileage, which is the reason we went with this car. We wanted a larger SUV that would suit our active lifestyles, as well as accompany our 2 dogs. However, we were deterred by many SUVs due to the horrible gas mileage. Honestly, its been 100 years since cars became a household commodity - one would think more advancements had been made in that time. Anyways, the Highlander Hybrid was the only one that had the interior size and gas mileage we wanted at an affordable price point in our budget. All the little luxury features on this non-luxury car make it a joy to drive and to ride in.