Toyota is to launch a new seven-seat SUV in the UK with the arrival of the Highlander.
The Highlander has been available in Japan, Australia and the US for years but next year will market the first time it has been sold in Europe.
Based on the same G-AK platform as the Camry and Rav-4, the Highlander will come to the UK as a hybrid-only full-size seven-seat SUV. At 4.9m long it’s even bigger than the Land Cruiser and goes toe-to-toe with the Land Rover Discovery, another seven-seat SUV.
So a hybrid?
Yes. In a move that will surprise nobody Toyota, which has more than 20 years’ experience in the field and has a hybrid version of virtually every model in its UK range, has said that the Highlander will only be available with a petrol/electric drivetrain.
A 2.5-litre Atkinson cycle petrol engine is linked to two electric motors - one powering the front wheels, the other providing drive to the rears for “intelligent” all-wheel-drive. Total power output of the system is 241bhp and Toyota says that the Highlander will return 42.8mpg and emiss 146g/km of CO2, claiming this gives a best-in-class blend of power and emissions.
Selectable drive modes will let the driver switch between Eco, Normal, Sport and Trail modes, even when the vehicle is in all-electric mode.
And seven seats?
Yup, larger seven-seat SUVs have gained a foothold in recent years, with established players like the Volvo XC90 and Land Rover Discovery joined by slightly more compact models such as the Skoda Kodiaq, Seat Tarraco and Peugeot 5008.
Toyota already offers a seven-seat version of the Land Cruiser but the Highlander is being added as a less utilitarian option for drivers who want SUV styling but don’t need the Land Cruiser’s go-absolutely-anywhere ruggedness.
Inside the Highlander, the second row slides forwards and back by up to 18cm to offer flexible space for the rearmost two seats. Toyota says even the third row will offer spacious accommodation for two adults. And there will be plenty of storage points and USB sockets spread around the cabin.
The boot’s a useful 658 litres, rising to 1,909 litres with the second and third rows folded flat and it’s accessed via a hands-free automatic tailgate.
What about equipment?
Details of the UK specification are still to be confirmed but Toyota says the Highlander will feature satellite navigation, a head-up display, wireless phone charging, smartphone connection via Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto, ventilated front seats and a digital rear-view mirror like that in the Rav4 (and Range Rover Evoque).
The new Highlander will also include the latest version of the Toyota Safety Sense package of safety and driver assistance systems. These include a pre-collision system with pedestrian and cyclist detection and active steer assist. Other features include adaptive cruise control with road sign assist, lane departure warning and assist, and automatic high beam operation.
Pricing and exact launch dates are still to be confirmed but Toyota expects the Highlander to go on sale in the UK in early 2021.