The Highlander (or Kluger) is one of the best-selling SUVs in the US for the Japanese automaker, Toyota. The vehicle, which launched in December 2019 in the States, is now set to make its way to the UK and Western European markets by early 2021.
Unlike in the model in the US, which initially launched as a petrol model, the EU-UK variant will be exclusively offered as a full hybrid. This is down to Toyota wanting to bolster its hybrid SUV line-up in this part of the world. The Highlander SUV will join the RAV4 in the manufacturer’s D-segment, while the C-HR and newly launched Yaris Cross will sit in the C- and B-segments, respectively.
The new Highlander is built on Toyota’s GA-K platform, which aims to bring better comfort and drivability, bettered safety, a more efficient hybrid powertrain, an intelligent all-wheel-drive system and results in the vehicle having a two-tonne towing capacity.
As such, the platform allows for a lightweight and highly rigid body shell, and a low centre of gravity, as the SUV’s batteries are located under the second row of seats. To better the driving experience, Toyota has also taken measures to reduce road noise by including: an acoustic windscreen; silencers in the roof, dashboard and floor; liners in the wheel arches and load space.
In terms of design, the Highlander is 4.95m long, where its 20″ alloy wheels give the vehicle a more dynamic and sophisticated look. Toyota claims the vehicle’s wheels provide “durability and rugged appeal of a versatile AWD vehicle”.
Inside, the SUV offers a practical, durable and comfortable interior, where it sits seven adults. To access the third row of seats, there’s a 180mm sliding second row; here, two adults can fit at the back of the vehicle.
Around the back, a kick-sensor provides easy access to the 658-litre luggage area; there’s underfloor storage space, too. When the second row of seats folded flat, the SUV’s load capacity increases to 1,909 litres.
Throughout the cabin, there is a multitude of storage compartments, and conveniently, USB ports for recharging smartphones or other electric devices. Such ports can be found in the second row of seats and at the front.
If you’re looking to better your experience, Toyota offers the following options:
- Multimedia system
- Satellite navigation
- Head-up display
- Wireless phone charging
- Smartphone connection via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- Ventilated front seats
- Digital rear-view mirror that provides a wide image unobscured by rear passengers
As for the vehicle’s powertrain, the Highlander’s fourth-gen hybrid features a 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine, where the front and rear electric motors enable the vehicle to operate an intelligent all-wheel-drive system (AWD-i).
The result of this combination means that the vehicle has 180 kW (241 hp) of power, where its fuel consumption sits at 42.8mpg and WLTP combined cycle CO2 emissions are at 146g/km. A pretty good balance. To save petrol or indeed, improve the vehicle’s responsiveness, a driver can switch between Eco, Normal, Sport and Trail driving modes via a simple toggle.
As for safety, the new Highlander is equipped with the latest Toyota Safety Sense package of active safety and driver assistance systems. These include a Pre-Collision System with active steer assist, which provides collision avoidance support. The PCS can also detect pedestrians in the vehicle’s path in both broad daylight and at night.
Other features include full-range Adaptive Cruise Control with Road Sign Assist, Lane Departure Alert and Lane Tracing Assist, and Automatic High Beam.
It’s great to see Toyota using its 23 years of experience in developing hybrid technology and putting it to good use in every vehicle segment. Having recently announced that it has sold over 15 million hybrids worldwide, it’s no surprise to see the new Highlander SUV taking a hybrid-only stance in the UK and Western Europe.