2008 Toyota Highlander, Highlander Hybrid Raise Bar in Mid-Size SUV Segment

June 25, 2007 – Torrance, CA - When the original Toyota Highlander launched in 2001 it joined the RAV4 and Lexus RX 300 in ushering in the car-based sport utility vehicle. Highlander gained immediate success, setting the industry standard for car-based SUVs in innovation, comfort and sales. Toyota broke new ground again in the summer of 2005 with the launch of the Highlander Hybrid, the world's first hybrid gas/electric SUV with available seating for seven. The all-new 2008 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid raise the bar once again in the mid-size SUV segment with a complete redesign that is improved, refined and expanded in nearly every metric of comparison.

Highlander will continue to hold a unique distinction within the Toyota brand and within the automotive industry. It is a vehicle with an extraordinary level of versatility, innovation and technology that enables it to cross demographic boundaries between buyers of SUVs, passenger cars, minivans and environmentally clean and fuel-efficient vehicles. Along with the 4Runner and FJ Cruiser, Highlander anchors Toyota's three-vehicle mid-size SUV lineup. Equally important, along with Prius and Camry Hybrid, it is a key component in the industry's only three-vehicle hybrid strategy.

"The all-new Highlander raises the bar in every metric of comparison, particularly in the areas of safety, quality, and environmental concerns," said Bob Carter, group vice president and general manger, Toyota Division. "In addition to all of the attributes expected in a SUV such as powerful performance, four-wheel-drive capability, utility, and ride height, Highlander will be the most versatile and innovative vehicle in our entire model lineup as it will continue to offer something for everyone."

The 2008 second-generation Highlander is significantly larger, roomier and more powerful than the vehicle it replaces. Even with an increased curb weight, Highlander's fuel efficiency improves. It is noticeably quieter, smarter and more spacious with improved unprecedented versatility and ride comfort. It will be among the leaders in providing standard active and passive safety equipment in a segment where safety is at the top of purchase considerations. And, it's all wrapped in a package designed for buyers who want to stand out and make a statement.

"Customer First" Quality
As vehicles become increasingly complex, Toyota has realized the need to re-vamp the engineering and manufacturing processes. In 2005, President Katsuaki Watanabe took the reigns of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC) and issued a company-wide challenge to re-prioritize product quality.

The initial steps to guide the quality enhancement agenda began with engineering innovation. He tasked each TMC chief engineer to offer new ideas to improve quality. Everything from tools and processes to budget, was open to discussion. The result was a company-wide agenda called "Customer First."

The program re-allocated assets, allowed more development time, increased headcount, and reverted to the use of additional prototypes to gauge quality during development. Raw materials were reconsidered and assembly was extensively analyzed.

The Highlander development program served as the pilot and featured three critical criteria. First, the process of producing the most comprehensive and accurate original drawings possible was given the top priority. The vehicle would only be as good as the quality of the blueprints.

Second, Toyota accelerated prototype production, increased the number of prototypes, and enlarged the number of quality-check personnel four-fold.

Finally, with these changes, Toyota was able to devote an additional month in our schedule, solely devoted to addressing countermeasures.

Thanks to Customer First, the new Highlander is a significantly higher quality vehicle. It was an expensive, time-consuming process that ran counter to an established agenda of cutting costs, manpower and development time. Although it will differ, program to program, addressing the unique priorities of each vehicle, it will be the new guiding force for Toyota's engineering development department.

New Levels of Safety
Highlander will be equipped with one of the highest levels of standard safety features in the small-, mid-, and large-SUV segments. With a segment-leading total of seven airbags Highlander will provide the most inclusive airbag coverage ever equipped in a Toyota vehicle. These include advanced front driver and front passenger, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags and a driver's knee airbag. Roll-sensing curtain airbags help to protect the occupants of all three rows in the event of certain side collisions or vehicle rollovers. They also help reduce the possibility of passengers being ejected from the vehicle during a rollover.

Highlander is equipped with a hood and front fenders that are designed with special crumple zones. Engineers designed the hood with longitudinal reinforcing ribs on its inner structure. The braces for the outer parts of the cowl and the front wall of the cowl are constructed to absorb energy.

Dynamic Driving Control
As with all Toyota SUVs for the last three years, the new Highlander will come standard with Toyota's Star Safety System™, which now includes enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) and Traction Control (TRAC), an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), and Brake Assist (BA).

Enhanced VSC helps ensure stability by automatically adjusting engine output and braking force at each wheel while providing steering assistance in the appropriate direction through Electric Power Steering (EPS). ABS helps to preserve steering control by preventing wheels from locking up during braking in challenging traction conditions. EBD optimizes distribution of braking between front and rear wheels in accordance with driving condition and vehicle load to help maintain vehicle stability and driver control. Unlike conventional ABS, TRAC, VSC and EPS, which operate independently of each other, the enhanced VSC system integrates each of these features to help vehicle maneuverability.

The Highlander Hybrid goes a step further by employing a Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system. The VDIM system is designed to enhance handling, traction and braking systems that normally react to vehicle driving conditions by anticipating tire slippage before a skid, slide or wheel spin occurs and making corrections in a smooth, progressive way. In addition to integrating all of the Highlander's dynamic control systems (VSC, TRAC, BA, EPS, EBD and ABS), the VDIM system also integrates the Highlander Hybrid's Electronic Throttle Control with intelligence (ETC-i) and Electronically Controlled Brakes (ECB). The VDIM system integrates all of these elements with powerful proprietary software to help seamlessly manage the total vehicle dynamic package.

Non-hybrid Highlanders will also be equipped with a straight-line steering feature. It supplements conventional ABS when differences in left/right braking force are encountered by assisting with torque for the Highlander's electronic power steering system to help offset left/right pull.

Finally, all Highlanders also incorporate a corner braking feature. This integrates automated control of engine output and braking force with provision of power steering assist torque through Highlander's EPS system to communicate the performance limits of the driver and help the driver steer in the direction that offers greatest stability.

Highlander also features two additional electronic/hydraulic systems that are not part of enhanced VSC, but which also work to help improve driver confidence and safety.

The first is Hill-Start Assist Control, which is designed to help prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards from a stop when traveling up a steep hill. This system provides braking pressure to all four wheels for approximately two seconds to prevent a backward rolling motion, therefore helping to ensure a smooth start. It is standard equipment on all Highlander and Highlander Hybrid models.

The second system is Highlander's Downhill Assist Control. This system helps control speed downhill when engine braking is not sufficient. It is designed to maintain a constant speed and helps reduce wheel lock even at slow speeds during slippery descents, helping to maintain handling and steering control. It is standard equipment on all non-hybrid 4WD models.

All of this chassis control is enhanced by bigger tires and wheels. They consist of newly designed 17- and 19-inch machined aluminum wheels with 245/65R17 or 245/55R19 tires designed to help provide excellent fundamental handling, control, comfort, NVH and braking performance, and reduced rolling resistance. A direct tire-pressure warning system designed to notify the vehicle's driver in the event that pressure in a tire drops to critical levels.

Quiet Ride
In addition to its improved ride and handling, Toyota engineers were determined to make the Highlander even quieter on the road and under the hood. Several measures were taken to substantially reduce road and engine noise, making the all-new Highlander as much as six decibels, or three times quieter, than its predecessor.

Among the many noise reduction measures taken were the installation of a larger and thicker amount of absorption insulation material around the instrumentation panel. Road noise and vibration reduction was achieved through the use of a new engine mounting system that features five components including a torque rod mount, a front active control mount, and engine mounts on the front left, right and rear. The result is a significant reduction in engine mount stiffness, creating less vibration and noise. A larger engine intake resonator was also installed for further engine noise reduction.

All-New Contemporary Style
Designers of the new Highlander worked off of the phrase "Smart In, Strong Out." The phrase is based on a design philosophy consisting of a strong exterior design expected in a sturdy SUV and mated to a comfortable and intelligently designed interior for passengers demanding car-like comfort with SUV performance.

On the outside, Highlander moves away from traditional SUV styling cues with a statement of strength instead of ruggedness, of intelligence over toughness. Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif. sculpted clean, crisp lines, a wide, stable stance and muscular contours to give Highlander an advanced, contemporary, forceful and dynamic personality.

Highlander rides on a new chassis derived from the current Camry and Avalon. It is nearly four inches longer and three inches wider, with an inch more ground clearance and three inches of additional wheelbase. The suspension was significantly revised to support the 19-inch wheel application. And just as a great deal of attention has been paid to the styling viewers see, attention also has been paid to areas not seen. For example, Highlander's underfloor was designed to reduce drag and enhance driving handling.

Convenient and innovative interior features such as flexible seating arrangements, and ease of entry and exit, were directly related to customer input.
Interior designers took full advantage of Highlander's substantial dimensions. Design intelligence is carried through to the refined interior, where smart and sophisticated blend with practical, flexible and versatile.

Multi-Grade Strategy
The all-new Highlander will be available in Base, Sport and Limited grades in both two-wheel and full-time four-wheel-drive models. All Highlander Hybrid models will be equipped with four-wheel-drive with intelligence and available in Base and Limited grades.

In addition to its wider stance and muscular contours, the exterior of the Base grade Highlander also adds new levels of refinement. Standard exterior features include six-spoke 17-inch machined alloy wheels, fixed rear glass, a newly styled silver-painted front grille, silver-painted rear license plate garnish, a black rear lower bumper cover and black rear step bumper cover.

For a sportier look, the Highlander Sport adds standard exterior features that include 19-inch five-spoke machined alloy wheels with a dark silver-painted insert finish, dark-silver painted roof rails, sport-tuned suspension, rear glass hatch, a newly styled smoked chrome front grille surround and inserts, dark silver-painted rear license plate garnish, a chrome exhaust tip, sport-styled rear spoiler, fog lamps, smoked head lamp and tail lamp lenses, color-keyed rear lower bumper cover and unique sport badging.

The upscale Limited grade's standard features include chrome grille and inserts, chrome door handles, puddle lamps, fog lamps, light silver-painted roof rails, chrome surround and light silver-painted rear license plate garnish, rear glass hatch, heated outside mirrors and a rear spoiler.

Inside, the Highlander features new dual Optitron meters accentuated in red. The Base and Sport grades feature a center console, shift knob with silver-painted accents and front driver and passenger assist grips on the Sport grade also accented in silver-painted trim. The center console, shift knob and assist grip on the Limited grade feature satin-mahogany wood grain-style trim.

On all models except Base, Highlander features a standard stand-alone backup camera with a multi-information display, not tied to a navigation system. The display includes a backup camera monitor, clock, outside temperature, warning messages, and cruise information that includes average fuel economy, average speed, distance to empty, current fuel economy, and trip timer. On models equipped with an optional navigation system, the backup camera's images are viewed on the navigation screen.

The Base grade Highlander Hybrid exterior features a front grille with a chrome surround and silver-painted fins, silver-painted rear license plate garnish, blue-tinted headlight and taillight lenses, fixed rear glass, black fog lamp covers, silver-painted lower bumper cover, 17-inch six-spoke alloy wheels, rear spoiler with LED stop lamp, and Hybrid Synergy Drive badging.

The Highlander Hybrid Limited adds 19-inch 10-spoke alloy wheels, light silver-painted roof rails, rear glass hatch, and a power rear door.

Styling features on the inside of the Highlander Hybrid include a silver and birch-wood grain-style interior trim with chrome door handle accents, Optitron meters with blue graphics and a power meter with a hybrid system indicator.

Versatile and Spacious Interior Design
The completely redesigned and innovative passenger compartment is open and airy. In an environment where every fraction of an inch counts, the Highlander's interior measures more than four inches longer, front-to-back, and it's also wider. This increased space has enabled designers and engineers to provide additional room between each of the three rows of seats.

Engineers and designers carefully analyzed each of the Highlander's passenger positions, paying careful attention, especially, to that of the driver. They provided the driver with a steering column that now offers both tilt and telescope function to help provide the most comfortable driving position possible. They ensured that switches and knobs are large, well-marked, and easy to use.

They provided a driver's seat that is adjustable in eight different ways – again, to provide ultimate driver comfort. The Limited grade takes the driver seat a step further with two additional adjustable positions and a seat cushion extender. The passenger's front seat is adjustable in four different ways for all grades. The headrests are adjustable in two ways on the Base grade and four different ways on Sport and Limited.

Things also are looking up for second- and third-row passengers. In the second row, the seatbacks recline and a new innovative flexible seating function provides either a three-person bench seat or, by removing a new Center Stow™ seat, a pair of captain's chairs complete with armrests, with a convenient walk-through area between the seats for easier access to the third row of seats. Those second-row seats offer 4.7 inches of fore-aft slide capability to allow additional passenger legroom.

Additionally, Highlander offers available rear air conditioning for second- and third-row passengers. Access to the third-row has been improved, not only by adding the Center Stow™ seat, but also by placing the walk-in lever at an easy to reach position at the bottom of the second-row seat.

A second-row Center Stow™ console with two cupholders can be added to the area between the two captain's seats when the Center Stow™ seat has been removed and stowed conveniently under the front center console.

Thanks to abundant space behind the Highlander's driver and front passenger seats, Highlander can accommodate additional passenger cargo. Second-row one-touch levers are standard on Highlander Sport, Limited, Hybrid Limited and available on Hybrid Base. These levers inside the cargo area can be operated with one hand, allowing the second-row seats to fold forward and flat to provide additional utility space.

The third-row seats function in a similar manner, using a lever in the back of the seat. When both rows of seats are stored, the Highlander provides 95.4 cubic feet of storage on the gas model and 94.1 cubic feet on the hybrid.

Notable standard interior features include a third-row fold-in-the-floor bench seat (optional on Hybrid Base grade) with foldable headrests for a flat rear cargo area. The rear door offers a power operation as an option, for quick access to the back (standard on Highlander Hybrid Limited and not available on gas Base grades). Smart Start and Entry is standard on the Highlander Limited and all hybrid models.
For buyers who do not require three-row seating, Highlander 2WD Base and both 2WD and 4WD Sport models are also available with a two-row seat package. This package also includes carpeted under-floor storage in the cargo compartment.

As a result of all this attention to detail, in studies involving consumers and potential customers, the redesigned Highlander received the highest marks for perception of overall exterior appearance and size, and also higher marks than all other clinic vehicles for interior roominess, versatility and comfort.

Improved Performance in All Three Grades
When Highlander arrives in July, all three grades will be powered by a new 3.5-liter V6 with dual independent variable valve timing with intelligence (Dual VVT-i) that delivers an impressive 270 horsepower, a 55 horsepower gain over the previous generation. The upgraded engine will also generate an impressive 248 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 RPM.

The engine will be mated to a five-speed Super ECT (Super Intelligent Electronically Controlled) transmission, which offers fully automatic shifting as well as selectable manumatic sequential shifting. This feature is selectable by moving the shift lever to the left from the "D" position.

The Highlander Hybrid will be offered in electronic on-demand four-wheel drive with intelligence on Base and Limited grades. The Highlander's advanced Hybrid Synergy Drive system's 3.3-liter V6 engine with its high-torque electric drive motor-generator has been extensively upgraded and refined for both power and economy. The new Highlander gained about 300 pounds, growing significantly in every dimension and receiving extensive body and chassis reinforcement, aimed specifically at achieving superior crash ratings. With the added weight, the Highlander Hybrid engineering team was still able to increase output of the Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain to 270 net horsepower, while delivering impressive preliminary fuel economy ratings.

Based on customer feedback, the Highlander Hybrid is now equipped with a unique instrument panel, including an energy monitor that adds new features to assist the driver in maximizing fuel economy. Activating an EV mode switch located on the front center console allows the driver to operate in electric-mode for a limited distance at low speeds, or in stop-and-go driving conditions. The resulting benefit is reduced fuel consumption, emissions and noise.

A new ECON drive mode switch located next to the EV Mode switch activates a throttle control program that smoothes out the throttle response. This action limits excessive acceleration thereby helping to enhance fuel economy.

A third new fuel saving feature is a Hybrid System Indicator located on the left side of the Optitron combination meter. This feature provides the driver with a guideline to reduce fuel consumption.

The Hybrid System Indicator consists of two automatic modes: "normal" and "acceleration." The "normal mode" will reveal three white LED dashes, located on the outer edge of the power meter, when driving at slower speeds. Keeping the power meter needle within the three white dashes allows the driver to maintain a constant speed and acceleration level that helps achieve maximum fuel economy.

When the driver increases acceleration, the Hybrid System Indicator automatically switches to "acceleration mode." The "acceleration mode" encourages the driver to keep the power meter needle within five white dashes to help achieve maximum fuel economy.

Comfort and Convenience
The all-new Highlander will be well-appointed with an array of standard comfort and convenience features.

Among the many key standard features on all Highlander models will include AM/FM/CD with six-speakers (standard on Highlander and Highlander Hybrid Base grades); AM/FM six-disc in-dash CD Changer with six speakers, MP3/WMA playback capability and satellite radio capability (standard on Sport and Limited Highlander and Highlander Hybrid Limited); universal mini-jack; defroster-linked CFC-free front air conditioning; front seats with height-adjustable active head rests and eight-way (10-way on Limited) adjustable driver's seat; color-keyed power remote outside mirrors, and numerous storage compartments throughout the cabin.

All-new for Highlander is a 40/20/40 split fold-down second row, featuring a middle Center Stow™ seat and console with cupholders. The second row also slides fore and aft and reclines.

The long list of standard features also includes power door locks and windows with driver's window jam protection and auto-up/down feature; cruise control; ten cup holders; four bottle holders, two front and one cargo area 12-volt auxiliary power outlets; cargo area tie down hooks; multi-function keyless entry system; UV reduction glass windshield and rear privacy glass; digital clock; dual sun visors with vanity mirrors and sliding extensions; conversation mirror; illuminated entry system; manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel; scheduled maintenance indicator light; full-size spare tire; and much more.

A variety of options and accessories will be offered, such as a power back door that can be opened and closed with a key fob; a voice-activated navigation system with an eight-inch screen, a rear-seat entertainment system with a nine-inch screen; three-zone air conditioning; JBL premium audio with six-disc changer, nine speakers and Bluetooth® technology; leather seat trim and multi-stage heated seats; power tilt/slide moonroof; and a tow package, with a 5,000-pound maximum towing capacity (gas models only), class-leading for car- and van-based mid-SUVs.

Color and Trim
The new Highlander will be available in nine exterior colors including seven new colors: Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Magnetic Gray Metallic, Sandy Beach Metallic, Cypress Pearl, Wave Line Pearl and Blue Streak Metallic. Carryover colors include Black and Salsa Red Pearl. Exterior colors will be mated to fabric and leather trim interior colors that include Ash, and Sand Beige. The interior of the Sport grade will also offer unique Black trim in both fabric and leather.

The Highlander Hybrid will be available in six exterior colors including Blizzard Pearl, Classic Silver Metallic, Black, Cypress Pearl, Wave Line Pearl and, exclusive to the hybrid model, Iced Amethyst Mica. They will also be mated with Ash and Sand Beige upgraded fabric or leather trim interiors.

Toyota's 36-month/36,000-mile basic new-vehicle limited warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60 months/60,000 miles and corrosion perforation for 60 months with no mileage limitation. The Highlander Hybrid's components, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.