2007 Chicago Auto Show: 2008 Toyota Highlander
Highlander Evolves with More Size and Power
Ahead of sales in July 2007, Toyota used its traditional opening press conference of the 2007 Chicago auto show to launch the 2008 Highlander. Toyota’s new Highlander keeps its personality as a car-based crossover SUV, updated to the latest Camry/Avalon platform. The new Highlander is bigger and heavier, but Toyota gives it more power, with both the Hybrid and new standard 3.5L V6 estimated to deliver 270HP. The Hybrid goes on sale shortly after the standard model.
Highlander already offered a third-row seat, but the extra three inches in wheelbase and four inches in length should make for a more comfortable interior. The new size is a bit bigger than the Honda Pilot and the same length as the Chevrolet Equinox. It is bigger than the Mazda CX-7 and Ford Edge, but smaller than Mazda’s CX-9 or the newly renamed Ford Taurus X (the XSUV formerly known as the Ford Freestyle). Highlander is better sized for those using the third row as occasional-use seating, instead of emergency seats.
So, the question is whether or not the new 2008 out-Pilots the excellent Honda Pilot?
Highlander’s current 3.3L V6 and four cylinder engines are dropped with the change, enabling Toyota to deliver a base Highlander with 55HP more than the outgoing model. The upgraded powertrain and extra space will step the Highlander more clearly up from the latest RAV4, which launched for 2005 with the 3.5L V6 and a third-row seat. The second-generation Highlander looks improved in every way, though it does not push the envelope of car-based SUVs. Toyota pushed the Highlander in the right ways for this segment, one that appeals to families and practical users. Style is good, but functionality is better.
Styling is dynamic and progressive, yet evolutionary. The new face includes a grille that ties back to the Tundra, emphasizing the Highlander’s capability. For Sport and Limited models, standard wheels will be nineteen-inchers, contributing to a tough look. Highlander continues to be offered in three trim levels, with the Hybrid offered in two. There are Base, Sport, and Limited models for the standard V6 and Base and Limited models for the Hybrid.
Among improvements to interior functionality is the ability to convert the second-row captain’s chairs into a bench seat for three. When the seat isn’t needed, it stows into a compartment below the front center console. As with many of the latest second-row seats, Highlander’s second row slides and reclines. The third row, which can be deleted if the buyer chooses, gets foldable headrests enabling a flat cargo area. Ordering anything but the Base model gets a standard rear-view camera system, independent of ordering the optional navigation system. New options for the Highlander include a power liftgate (operable from the key fob) and bundling Bluetooth with the JBL audio system.