Ever since the Toyota Highlander was introduced, it has been a staple of Toyota’s SUV lineup. The Highlander SUV you see on Toyota dealer lots today has evolved with its consumer base over time. In doing so, it has stayed relevant and up-to-date over the last 20 years of sales. But how did this revolutionary SUV get started? What does the future look like for this Toyota crossover? Here’s everything you need to know about the history of the Toyota Highlander SUV.
Twenty years ahead of its time
According to toyota directthe Toyota Highlander first made its debut at the 2000 New York Auto Show. The Highlander immediately caught the attention of attendees, as it was announced that the SUV was built on a modified version of the Camry platform, which promised a smooth ride and car-like handling.
If this sounds familiar, this overall “car-like feel and drivability” look of the Highlander followed the current trend of modern crossovers, which aim to offer SUV capability with familiar driveability behind the wheel. which is closer to a car, and less rigid than traditional truck-based SUVs.
This first-generation Highlander lasted from the 2001 model year through the 2007 model year. Throughout this first generation, the Highlander could be ordered with four-wheel drive or front-wheel drive, as well as a four- or six-engine. cylinders. For 2006, you might even get a Highlander with a hybrid-electric powertrain.
Adding size and refining the ride
As the first generation Highlander was coming to an end, Toyota engineers and designers decided to make the second generation Highlander bigger. For the 2008 model year, all of the hot vehicles for sale were big. Trucks were bigger, the Cadillac Escalade was a huge status symbol, both literally and figuratively, and the Hummer brand was still producing army-sized trucks for civilian use. For the Highlander to follow suit, the car’s chassis was changed from a Camry-based chassis to a Toyota Avalon-based chassis.
This chassis change ended up adding 3.8 inches to the length of the body, 3.3 inches to the overall width of the car, and 3 inches to the wheelbase. At first, only V6 engines were offered, but as the generation continued through 2013, four-cylinder engines and hybrid electric motors were also added to the lineup.
The Highlander gets bigger
The third-generation Toyota Highlander hit dealer lots for the 2014 model year and lasted through the 2019 model year. This Highlander grew 2.7 inches in length and about a half-inch in overall width compared to the previous generation. The third-generation Highlander also began offering space for eight passengers.
The Highlander didn’t offer drastic options during its third generation, however, in 2017, the Highlander was updated with a new style to the front fascia. For this generation, engine options remained largely unchanged, with a front-wheel drive four-cylinder model, an all-wheel drive hybrid model, and front- and all-wheel drive V6 models available.
Expansion to a wider audience
For the current fourth-generation Highlander, which debuted for the 2020 model year, the Highlander began to be marketed to the young crowd, not just families. This doesn’t mean Toyota is skimping on size, with the new Highlander bigger than ever and offering more cargo space than ever before.
The new Highlander also has a stiffer chassis than before, making it one of the most capable Highlanders to date. For now, it looks like the SUV is having a lot of success in its current generation, which should continue production for several more years.
Is it worth buying the Toyota Highlander?
With a vehicle that has been so reliable, trend-setting, and constantly evolving to suit its audience, the Highlander seems like the ideal SUV.