Toyota hopes to piggyback on the success of the Lexus RX 300, a car-based sport utility vehicle, by offering its own version that is larger but less expensive. The RX 300 is the best-selling model at Lexus, Toyotas luxury division.
With the addition of both the Highlander, which goes on sale early in 2001, and the full-size Sequoia, Toyota will have five SUVs in its lineup. Though it is larger than the truck-based 4Runner, the Highlander will slot below the 4Runner in price and above the RAV4 a smaller car-based SUV. Toyota expects Highlander to appeal to car owners who want the look and versatility of an SUV while retaining carlike ride and handling.
Highlander is based on the same design as the RX 300 but has a wheelbase of 107 inches and an overall length of 184 4 inches longer in both dimensions. Both SUVs are built on a modified Toyota Camry platform.
The lone body style is a four-door wagon with a rear liftgate. Prominent fender creases and squared-off styling instead of slanted rear roof pillars give the Highlander a different appearance.
Seating for five will include two front buckets and a split rear bench that holds three and folds for additional cargo space. As in the RX 300, the automatic transmission lever mounts at an odd angle below the dashboard but proves to be in a convenient location. Though the control layout is similar to that in the Lexus, the Highlander has different audio and climate controls.
Under the Hood
Like the RX 300, the Highlander will be available with front-wheel drive or permanent all-wheel drive. Unlike the RX 300, which comes only with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine, the Highlander also will come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Both engines are used in the Toyota Camry sedan and team with a four-speed automatic transmission. The V-6 produces 220 horsepower, and the four-cylinder makes 155 hp.