Monday, March 12, 2007

Toyota Highlander

On Sale: Third Quarter 2007
Expected Pricing: $26,000-$43,000

The 2008 Toyota Highlander, revealed at the Chicago auto show in February 2007, is the second generation of Toyota's car-based mid-size SUV. In response to people who chose not to buy a Highlander, Toyota has made the new Highlander bigger and more powerful. A third-row seat is available, along with a gas-electric hybrid model.

The new Highlander continues to be based on the same platform as the Camry and Avalon, but is a full three inches longer in wheelbase and four inches longer overall. Gone is the base four-cylinder engine. The base model now is powered by a 270-hp 3.5-liter V6 coupled to a five-speed automatic transmission. It is offered in 2WD or 4WD. Despite an increase in size, weight and power Toyota says the overall fuel consumption will be little changed from the current Highlander.

A hybrid version powered by a 3.3-liter V6, that produces the same horsepower, and an electric motor, will hit the market later in the year. It will have the more sophisticated full time 4WD-I system coupled to a CVT automatic as standard.

According to Toyota, another complaint from would-be Highlander owners was that the first-generation model was uninspiring. They told Toyota researchers that they wanted something that would inspire them with more forceful styling.

Certainly the new Highlander has a more striking appearance. Ironically, it was introduced a day before the new mini-utility Scion xB and maybe it's no coincidence but there are distinctly similar looks to the front end in the way the hefty bumpers blend into the fenders at the front. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as both vehicles look set to make their presence known on the highway.

Inside, there is a grand total of an extra 12 cubic feet of interior volume. There are three rows of seats. The second row features captain's chairs that can be converted to a bench seat for three passengers using a center seat cushion, which is hidden under the console between either front seats. This gives the two middle row passengers extra space for storing things and allows access to the rear seats in much the same way as in a minivan. The center seats also slide forward and back up to nearly five inches and can also recline.

Like other Toyota SUVs, the Highlander will feature Toyota's STAR safety system that includes anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, brake assist, vehicle stability control with electronic power steering। A stand-alone backup camera will be fitted on all but the base model।

Pricing will not be announced until close to the on-sale date in the summer

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