The Toyota Highlander, also known as the Toyota Kluger (Japanese: トヨタ・クルーガー, Toyota Kurūgā), is a mid-sizecrossover SUV produced by Toyota. It is built on the same platform as used on the Camry.
Announced in April 2000 at the New York International Auto Show and arriving in late 2000 in Japan and January 2001 in North America, the Highlander became one of the first car-based mid-size SUV or mid-size crossovers. The Highlander is the crossover counterpart to the more rugged, truck-based mid-size 4Runner and became Toyota's best-selling SUV before being surpassed by the smaller RAV4 in 2006. In Japan, the Kluger is exclusive to dealership network called Toyota NETZ as a larger alternative to the RAV4.
Unable to use the Highlander nameplate in Japan and Australia because of a trademarked Hyundai Terracan trim line, Toyota calls the vehicle the Toyota Kluger (pronounced Klu-ger) there. The name is derived from the German word klug, which means smart or clever ("Kluger" meaning "one who is smart").
The Highlander (or Kluger in Japan and Australia) shared a platform with its XU30 series Lexus RX/Toyota Harrier cousin. It came in five (2001–2007) and seven-seat (2004–2007) configurations and became a sales success for Toyota in a number of markets across the world. The Highlander came standard with front wheel drive and offered all wheel drive (50:50 front:rear fixed torque split). Unlike Toyota's own 4Runner and other mid-sized competitors such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, or Chevrolet TrailBlazer, the Highlander aimed for on-road comfort with its unibody construction and independent rear suspension. Although it was longer than the 1996–2002 4Runner available at the time it was launched, the Highlander was surpassed in length by the redesigned 4Runner in 2002.
The Highlander was available in three trim lines in the United States: the base model, the Sport model, and the Limited model. The base and Limited models were present when the Highlander was initially introduced, while the Sport model was introduced in March 2006. In Japan, it is regarded as a luxury vehicle as the Kluger exceeds Japanese Governmentregulations regulating engine displacement and exterior dimensions.
In 2004 the wheels on the Limited trim changed from a six-spoke to a five-spoke alloy. The base-model Highlander wheels also changed from steel-rims to the alloy wheels that were on the 2001–2003 model year Highlander Limited and B-Package. The Sport models had a distinctive grille design, differentiating themselves from the non-Sport models. Wheel styling also serves to differentiate the various models—the hybrid sports a unique twin-spoke design.
The Kluger was introduced to Australia in October 2003. It was available in three guises: CV, CVX, and Grande. A limited edition CV Sport model was also released in 2006. There was no hybrid model available in Australia. The only engine offered was the 3.3-liter 3MZ-FEV6. Typical fuel economy using the Australian standard testing regime is 12.3 L/100 km (23.0 mpg‑imp; 19.1 mpg‑US).
The 3.0-liter engine was able to propel the Kluger from 0–60 mph in approximately 8.8 seconds. In 2004 the Kluger was given a new 3.3-liter V6 engine to compete with the more powerful V6 offerings from its competitors, mainly the Nissan Murano and the Honda Pilot. The larger engine made it possible for the Kluger to reach 0 to 97 km/h (60 mph) in 7.8 seconds.
The Japanese and Australian Kluger was released with a center console integrated with the dashboard, while the North American Highlander initially lacked this integrated center console. The integrated center console was introduced in all US Highlanders and in Canadian Limited Highlanders in 2001, for the 2002 model year, and in all Canadian Highlanders in 2003, for the 2004 model year. However, for these early Highlanders without the integrated center console, a smaller non-integrated stand-alone center console was available as an option, which was installed at the factory or could be installed by the dealer.
2004–2007 MY Highlander Limited (US)
2003–2007 Kluger Grande (Australia)
In 2003, for the 2004 model year, in addition to the 3.3-liter engine, V6-powered models were equipped with a new five-speed automatic transmission, replacing the four-speed automatic transmission, while the inline-four models continued to use the old four-speed. This year also saw the introduction of the optional third row seat allowing for two additional passengers. The center console, which was previously exclusive to the top trim level, is now standard across all trims. The unibody was slightly modified behind the second row seats to include a depression in the trunk floor able to accommodate the optional third row seating. On models without third row seating, this depression was turned into a storage compartment (prior to 2004 the spare tire was accessible from inside the vehicle where the third row seating would subsequently be located; beginning in 2004 the spare tire is accessible from underneath the vehicle). Subtle changes to the front grille, front and rear bumpers, headlights and taillights (LED taillights on later hybrid models) round-out the major changes for the 2003 mid-cycle refresh.
In 2005, for the 2006 model year, Highlanders sold in Canada were offered only in a V6 all-wheel drive configuration. Hybrid models were available with part-time four-wheel drive, which Toyota refers to as 4WD-i whereby the rear wheels are powered by a separate electric motor. This system is intended for use on snow and ice and is prone to overheating the rear electric motor off-road.
In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests the Highlander was rated "Good" overall in the frontal offset crash test. The IIHS reported the Highlander had one of the lowest driver fatality rates among all vehicles, and amongst SUVs, only the Toyota 4Runner had a lower driver fatality rate. This report looked at 2001–2005 model year vehicles in the US.
Hybrid (MHU28, 2005)
Highlander Hybrid Limited
Initially, the Kluger was a regular, non-hybrid SUV driven by an internal combustion engine, but later Toyota introduced a hybrid version, the Kluger Hybrid that utilizes the company's Hybrid Synergy Drive technology combined with the company's 3MZ-FE 3.3-liter V6 engine offered in either FWD or AWD trim. The hybrid drivetrain was unveiled at the 2004 North American International Auto Show, and was offered to the public in July 2005 as a 2006 model. The power steering pump, water pump and AC compressor were changed from belt-drive to electrically powered versions. A modified alternator was incorporated into the hybrid system.
Toyota revealed the second generation Highlander and Highlander Hybrid at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show, with American sales beginning in July and hybrids in late September. But the second generation Highlander and Highlander Hybrid are not sold in Japan. The five-seat Highlander for the United States and Canada was dropped as the Venza replaced it.
Initially the sole powertrain for the 2008 Highlander was a 201 kilowatts (270 hp) 3.5-liter 2GR-FE V6 mated to a five-speed automatic. The four-cylinder model had been discontinued but added again in 2009. While the 3.5-liter engine has 55 more bhp than the previous 3.3-liter V6 and dimensional increases along with increased sound proofing added nearly 500 pounds to the vehicle's curb weight of approximately 4,000 lbs, fuel economy is slightly improved. The EPA estimated fuel economy for front-wheel drive models is at
13 L/100 km; 22 mpg‑imp (18 mpg‑US) city / 9.8 L/100 km; 29 mpg‑imp (24 mpg‑US) highway (last gen: 14 L/100 km; 20 mpg‑imp (17 mpg‑US) city / 10 L/100 km; 28 mpg‑imp (23 mpg‑US) hwy).
For 2009, Toyota again offered a 4-cylinder for 5-passenger front-wheel drive models with the all-new ULEV-II certified 2.7-liter 1AR-FE I4 paired to a six-speed automatic. It generates 139 kW (187 hp) at 5,800 rpm and 252 N⋅m (186 lb⋅ft) of peak torque at 4,100 rpm on regular 87 octane fuel. The four-cylinder delivers an EPA estimated fuel economy of 12 L/100 km; 24 mpg‑imp (20 mpg‑US) city and 8.7 L/100 km; 32 mpg‑imp (27 mpg‑US) highway. This is better than the previous model's four-cylinder with 12 L/100 km; 23 mpg‑imp (19 mpg‑US)/9.4 L/100 km; 30 mpg‑imp (25 mpg‑US).
The same three trim levels were offered (Base, Sport and Limited) until early 2010 when the SE model replaced the Sport model, buyers are still able to choose between front-drive or all-wheel drive on V6 platforms. Also new is an Electric Power Steering (EPS) system. Sport and Limited models get a standard backup camera using a 3.5-inch LCD display. Major options include leather seats, heated seats, a touchscreen DVD based navigation system, a new Smart Key System, an upgraded JBL Synthesis stereo, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with 9-inch screen, and a towing package that increases towing capacity to 5000 pounds.
The XU40 was initially produced exclusively at the Miyata plant in Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan for all global markets beginning in May 2007. Production in China for local sales was started on 25 May 2009 by GAC Toyota in Nansha District, Guangzhou, Guangdong. Toyota had intended on building the Highlander in Blue Springs, Mississippi for the North American market in the 2011 model year. However, the Corolla was built there instead, and the Highlander is being built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana in Princeton, Indiana, from the 2010 model year onward for a majority of North America, replacing Tundra production. TMMI Highlander production began in October 2009 for gasoline engine models only; hybrids continued to be imported from Japan until the release of the third generation XU50, where all production except for China was consolidated at TMMI.
In Australia, the new generation Kluger was launched in August 2007. There are three grades available, KX-R, KX-S and Grande. All grades are available with either 2WD or AWD. The base model KX-R is also available with either five or seven seats, whilst the latter grades are seven seaters only. Specifications are mostly similar to the US Highlander, sharing the same 3.5-litre V62GR-FE engine and five-speed automatic transmission. However, there are no plans at present to introduce a hybrid version of the Kluger into the Australian market.
In 2010, for the 2011 model year, Toyota made some changes to the Highlander and Highlander Hybrid. While the general design remains similar to the 2010 model, the Highlander's front end has been significantly revised, now featuring new headlights, a new black with chrome accent rocker panel, and new front grille. The non-hybrid engines for 2011 remain the same, although now the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine may be had on the SE trim level, previously only available on the base model. More standard features are now equipped on all trim levels, with the base model receiving front and rear air conditioning, power locks/windows, cruise control, and a multi-function keyless entry control.
The IIHS rates the Highlander "Good" overall in their frontal offset crash test, and good in all subcategories except for "Head/neck," which is rated as "Acceptable." And "Good" overall in the side impact crash test, with "Good" rating in all nine measured categories. The Highlander is also rated "Good" in the roof strength test, giving it a "top safety pick" rating.
The safety and effectiveness of the Highlander/Kluger's Vehicle Stability Control system has been questioned by some motoring journalists. During testing forWheels magazine Car of the Year in 2007, the magazine's editor rolled the vehicle during high-speed gravel road testing. Noting that it was the first such event in the magazine's 45-year history, he criticised the vehicle's stability system stating that "Deficiencies in the Kluger's ESP contributed to the crash". Six of the seven other judges also stated that they felt "the vehicle's ESP performance was sub-standard", and remarked that the vehicle was "almost dangerous on dirt [roads]". In a written response, Toyota disputed the circumstances of the accident and criticised the testing procedures as "unscientific".
Pre-facelift Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (US)
Pre-facelift Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (Spain)
Facelift Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (US)
The Hybrid features Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive which continues to allow an electric only powered mode for short distances and speeds. Weight and cost have been improved over the previous hybrid.
The expanded size and new features have led to an increase of 500 pounds to its curb weight. All Highlander Hybrids are all-wheel drive, and the EPA has rated the hybrid at 8.7 L/100 km; 32 mpg‑imp (27 mpg‑US) for the city and 9.4 L/100 km; 30 mpg‑imp (25 mpg‑US) for the highway, same as the previous model. The Highlander's fuel economy, while better than the Lexus RX 400h's, lags behind the compact 4cyl Ford Escape Hybrid, which ceased production in 2012, and the latest RX 450h, but still produces significantly fewer emissions than the non-hybrid version with a CARB SULEV rating.
For the 2011 model year the Highlander Hybrid received styling changes and was upgraded with the 3.5-liter 2GR-FXE V6 (245 hp), increasing net power by 7 kW (10 hp), and a powertrain similar to the RX450h. The vehicle is now rated at 8 L/100 km; 34 mpg‑imp (28 mpg‑US) for the city, highway and combined cycles.
Highlander FCHV (2007)
The Highland FCHV was a test vehicle using compressed hydrogen gas, with average fuel economy of 109.9 km/kg (68.3 miles per kilogram) (approximate mpg equivalent).
On 27 March 2013, Toyota unveiled the third generation XU50 series Highlander at the New York International Auto Show, with plans to have the vehicle reach dealerships in early 2014. Production began on 5 December. This version is longer and wider than the outgoing generation and its design has changed from its boxy look to one that is similar to other mid-size crossover SUVs.
In addition to the changes, this one will feature seating for eight people with a sliding second-row point of entry that gives it 4.3 inches of added width space, soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, lane-departure warning, pre-collision warning and blind spot monitoring systems. HD Radio and Bluetooth will become a standard on all trims for the US version, which will also come equipped with Toyota's Entune multimedia system along with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display audio system. An eight-inch touchscreen system and Toyota's Entune app suite with 12 JBL speakers will be offered as an optional feature. The three powertrain trims that will be offered include a 2.7-liter, six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive base model, a 3.5-liter, six-speed automatic model in both front- or all-wheel drive, and the AWD-only Hybrid trim with a 3.5-liter V6 mated to an eCVT.
A refreshed 2017 model year Highlander appeared at the New York International Auto Show in March 2016 with sales starting in the fourth quarter of 2016. In V6 powered models, an eight-speed automatic replaced the six-speeder and the revised V6 engine (now designated 2GR-FKS) added Toyota's D4-S direct injection fuel system. The new Highlander has a new fascia with restyled headlights and taillights, new SE grade, and XLE and LE Hybrid grades plus new exterior and interior colors.
The fourth generation Highlander was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show on 17 April 2019. It is based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-K) platform. It is offered in five model grades which include the L, LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum. In the United States, the fourth generation Highlander gasoline model went on sale on 18 December 2019 for the 2020 model year. The hybrid model went available in February 2020. The Highlander/Kluger for European/Australian markets will be available in early 2021, a year late from the US models due to the extensive engineering work for right-hand-drive models.