October 3, 2005

Toyota hybrids named top ranked mid-sized SUVs

DETROIT (Reuters) - Two new hybrid vehicles, the Toyota
Highlander Hybrid and Lexus RX400h, were named Consumer
Reports' top-rated mid-sized sport utility vehicles in the
November issue, the magazine said on Monday.

The two SUVs, both made by Japan's Toyota Motor Corp.,
received "excellent" overall scores, the only mid-sized SUVs
tested by the magazine to do so. Hybrids twin a gasoline engine
to an electric motor and batteries to boost fuel economy.

Four other SUVs in the monthly test group, the
Mercedes-Benz ML350, Subaru B9 Tribeca, Nissan Pathfinder and
Land Rover LR3 earned "very good" scores, while the Jeep Grand
Cherokee earned a "good" rating, according to the magazine,
which is published by Consumers Union.

Consumer Reports recommends four of the vehicles in the
test group -- the Toyota Highlander, Lexus RX400h, Subaru B9
Tribeca and Nissan Pathfinder. It said it had insufficient
reliability data on the Mercedes ML350, and did not recommend
the Jeep or Land Rover SUVs because of poor reliability.

The magazine recommends vehicles that have performed well
in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based
on the magazine's subscriber surveys and performed at least
adequately if crash tested or included in a government rollover

For drivers considering the hybrids to save money, it is
hard to make a case, Consumer Reports said. Both hybrids in the
test cost thousands of dollars more than conventional models
and it would take 10 years or more to recoup that cost through
savings at the pump.