What's New for 2001
Based on the same platform as the Lexus RX 300, Toyota's new Highlander SUV represents the best blend of a station wagon, a minivan and a sport utility available on the market today. Available only with a V6 and an automatic transmission driving power to the front or all the wheels, Highlander will be sold in one trim level with a Limited package listed on the option sheet.
Did you know that one out of every 10 cars and trucks sold in the U.S. is a Lexus or a Toyota? With the new Highlander, Toyota will easily cement itself as one of the best-selling brands in North America. How can we be so sure? Because the Highlander represents an optimum blend of three utilitarian types of vehicles: the station wagon, the minivan and the sport-utility vehicle.
Based on the same platform as the Lexus RX 300, which itself is based on modified Toyota Camry mechanicals, Highlander is longer, taller and wider where the wheels meet the pavement than the Lexus. Despite its greater size, the Highlander is lighter than the RX 300, so acceleration should equal or better its upscale cousin. Braking will likely prove impressive, too. Highlander comes standard with four-wheel disc brakes equipped with electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (which maximizes braking power during a panic stop).
Highlander is rated to tow 3,500 pounds, when properly equipped. Helping to meet that specification is the same 3.0-liter V6 that resides under the hood of the RX. Making 220 horsepower at 5,800 rpm and 222 ft-lbs. of torque at 4,400 rpm, the V6 features Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (VVT-i). The standard engine, also using VVT-i to maximize power and efficiency, is a 2.4-liter inline four making 155 ponies and 163 ft-lbs. of twist. The four-speed automatic transmission provides a "snow mode" for easy starts on slippery surfaces.
With 7.3 inches of ground clearance (6.9 on front-wheel drivers) and a fully independent suspension front and rear, Highlander isn't designed to tackle tough terrain. But it'll work great during heavy snowfalls. Toyota's Vehicle Skid Control (VSC) system, which includes traction control, is optional, and is designed to recognize when the Highlander isn't responding to the driver's steering inputs. VSC will then apply selective braking to bring the truck (car?) back under control.
In the event it fails (not likely, but possible), Highlander protects occupants with whiplash injury lessening (WIL) front seats, five three-point seatbelts equipped with automatic and emergency locking retractors (ALR/ELR), front seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters and ISO-FIX child seat anchors. Daytime running lights and side airbags are optional.
Inside, Highlander delivers 38.5 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear 60/40 split folding seat in use, and a whopping 81.4 cubes when it's folded. Air conditioning, CD/cassette combo stereo with six speakers, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, bottle holders, and grocery bag hooks are standard. Opting for Limited trim gives you JBL sound, automatic climate control, remote keyless entry, woodgrain interior trim, alloy wheels with full-size spare, fog lights, privacy glass and other upgraded features. Leather upholstery is available on V6 models.
Toyota is planning to sell 70,000 Highlanders in calendar year 2001. We'll bet demand outstrips supply.