While ancient immortals may insist that there can only be one, Toyota is clearly asking to differ when it comes to SUVs, given their continued popularity.
The company already offers the C-HR, RAV4 and Land Cruiser in the UK; recently revealed the Yaris Cross; puts the finishing touches on an electric SUV; and even reinvented its Aygo city car as a crossover. But that still leaves room for something bigger, which is why Toyota has finally brought the Highlander to these shores.
Now in its fourth generation, the Highlander has long been a key part of the Toyota lineup in the United States and other countries. For Americans, it’s a mid-size SUV, but here the seven-seater is very wide.
It’s not exactly subtle, but the Highlander hides its size relatively well, perhaps helped by the RAV4-esque styling bringing a sense of familiarity. It manages to strike a difficult balance between the design elements of classic rugged SUVs and the more refined and distinctive styling that has been hallmark of recent Toyota models.
The cavernous interior will also be familiar to Toyota drivers. It’s well appointed, comfortable, and the Excel and Excel Premium trims offer plenty of amenities, although they ultimately lack the premium sheen offered by similarly sized machines from Audi and Volvo, and Toyota is hoping the Highlander may be able to pinch. sales of.
That’s not to say it’s unpleasant, however. In fact, naysayers of the touchscreen will appreciate the fact that the 7.0-inch infotainment screen is integrated into a dashboard filled with assorted gear. All essential controls are within reach of the driver, who also benefits from a good mix of analog and digital displays and, in Excel Premium models, a head-up display.
The panoramic roof adds to the feeling of space – not that the Highlander really needs to feel bigger inside – while comfort features include heated and ventilated leather seats and three-zone air conditioning. Stowage compartments and compartments dot the cabin, alongside a range of USB and other charging ports and a decent JBL audio system. Second row passengers will find plenty of room, while the third row of seats is certainly usable – although with the expected caveats, adults might not enjoy the extended trips there.
With both rear seats folded down, the Highlander offers a cavernous storage volume of 658 liters, rising to 1,177 liters if you also hide the second row. The rear space is also very versatile: the second row of seats slides 180 mm for easy access, and when folded down offers a completely flat floor.
The Highlander comes with multiple powertrains around the world, but for UK buyers there can only be one – a 244bhp gasoline-electric hybrid. It seems odd considering that most of the big premium SUVs the Highlander aims to offer have plug-in hybrid technology and the RAV4 has such a system. But Toyota says a standard hybrid is more suited to the long trips typically made by large SUVs.
Still, with the 2.5-liter engine joined by an electric motor on each axle to deliver all-wheel drive, it delivers plentiful power for a car of this size.