By Bill McCarthy
The Highlander has certainly taken its time to land in this country. The big seven-seater SUV has been on sale in other parts of the world for 21 years, but it has now joined the RAV4, C-HR and the new Yaris Cross to complete the Toyota European SUV line-up. Not forgetting, of course, the full-fat off-road Land Cruiser.
The all wheel drive model now on sale in the UK is the fourth generation and its full hybrid self-charging system provides up to 80 per cent emissions-free driving.
There are just two versions Excel and Excel Premium and both provide triple-zone air conditioning, Skyview panoramic roof, LED headlights, wireless phone charging, heated front seats and 11-speaker JBL sound system. Premium adds hands-free tailgate operation, head-up display and digital rear-view mirror, plus a host of other driver aids, bells and whistles.
The powertrain is mated with CVT transmission and high levels of torque gives a two-tonne towing capacity. The 245bhp/182kW hybrid combination delivers fuel economy of around 40mpg, which is pretty impressive for such a big vehicle.
It is more than capable off-road, but it offers so much more and is more likely to be seen at the school gates than the Amazon rainforest. It offers the longest load space in its class and up to 1,909 litres of boot capacity.
The rear seats slide backwards and forwards and with the rearmost two seats folded into the floor a huge amount of space can be opened up.
With the rearmost pair of seats in situ, it can accommodate adults but is probably more suitable for children. When all seven seats are in place, this provides 332 litres of storage, including 27 litres beneath the floor.
It certainly has striking looks, sitting high off the ground and with wide grille, slim light clusters and flared wheel arches encasing the alloy wheels.
The interior itself has an executive feel with leather seating, satin and woodgrain finish and soft touch materials to the door and dashboard, while instrumentation is logical and sensibly laid out.
The central point is the eight-inch multimedia touchscreen which controls major functions like navigation and infotainment and can mirror your smartphone via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, while the seven inch TFT screen provides instant driver information.
On the road, the powertrain delivers smooth and swift acceleration. It can hit 60mph in just over eight seconds and can cruise on electric power only at speeds approaching 80mph.
There are four drive modes, Eco, Normal, Sport and Trail. The final mode acts like a limited-slip differential but uses braking to help send power from the slipping wheel to the wheel with traction, between the left and right sides of the vehicle.
All four modes can still be used when the vehicle is operating in its separately selectable EV all-electric mode. In addition the intelligent all wheel drive system delivers extra stability in slippery or rough conditions.
The Toyota Safety Sense active safety and driver assistance include a Pre-Collision System that can detect pedestrians by day and night and cyclists during daytime driving, with Emergency Steering Assist and Intersection Turn Assistance.
On-the-road prices are £50,595 for the Highlander Excel and £52,575 for the Excel Premium. Both are protected by Toyota’s five-year/100,000-mile new vehicle warranty.
Toyota Highlander Excel
Mechanical: 245bhp, 2487cc, 4-cylinder, petrol engine and two electric motors driving all wheels via CVT transmission
Max Speed: 112mph
0-62mph: 8.5 seconds
Combined MPG: 282
Insurance Group: 40
C02 emissions: 162g/km
Warranty: 5yrs/100,000 miles