QOTD: Making Considerable Model Improvements?

qotd making considerable model improvements

Some new vehicles remain mired in the muck of mediocrity, never to emerge in an improved form before their inevitable replacement. Others are able to reinvent themselves and become better vehicles than they were previously. They rise like a phoenix, changing from caterpillar to butterfly (or some other trite verbiage).

Today we talk about those vehicle models which raised the bar over their predecessor.

My example today is more of an up-down-up situation. Remember these?

The Highlander started in a good place. A right-sized offering, it was one of the initial crossover crop after the RX 300 invented the segment a couple years prior. It was decent looking enough, and did everything competently. They proved very long-lived and durable, aside from some which had engine sludge issues. Quality, while not 1992 Camry level (but what else is?) was pretty good, and they were all assembled in Japan. Then this happened.

The second-generation Highlander debuted for 2008, and was larger, more blobby looking, and — critically for the US market — had a third-row seat. There was more power, more modernity, and worse quality overall. It didn’t ride as nicely as the first generation, nor was it as quiet. Toyota was testing out low interior materials funding across the board in the late 2000s, and it was very evident here. Still reliable, but this step down isn’t anything I’d recommend.

The upswing happened with the third generation in 2014. Once again, Highlander increased in size and became more modern. While the styling is… eh, the quality difference between generation two and three is noticeable. There’s more sound insulation, an improved ride, and much nicer, near-Lexus materials on higher trims. Surfaces are nicely padded, stitched, perforated, and/or covered in soft touch materials. Color me impressed. I’m sure I’ll see at some point if the 2020 version holds onto the upward trajectory established here.

I’ve perhaps got more experience with Highlanders than some others, making this product swing more noticeable. My immediate family owned a first gen previously, and still own generations two and three. Do you know of any other examples of big time product improvement between generations?

[Images: GM, Toyota]

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  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on May 20, 2020

    9th-Gen Accord (2013-2017) over 8th! Better in every way, especially the first three years! Timeless styling, a V6 that could rip-snort like an F-18 going off a carrier, much improved interior quality (even if the carpeting was chintzy, the bass-boat flecked pattern on a couple of the pieces was out-of-place, and some of the plastic would scratch if the sun hit it just so). The latest Accord bested the 9th inside, but the obvious loss was the weapons-grade TORQUE of the V6! The down-low torque in my 2019 Touring 2.0T, combined with the very well-executed 10-speed slushbox, makes the car feel faster! But the sound is not as guttural as ye olde J35, and it will run out of breath sooner than aforementioned 6, fortunately at a speed which is beyond where one’s license would be in jeopardy should a LEO come upon you whilst at that speed! IIRC, I’ve seen 1/4-mile times which bear this latter point out.

  • Lou_BC Lou_BC on May 20, 2020

    1974 - 1978 Mustang was the low point in that lineage. Everything before it was better and everything after it was better. It is safe to say that the current GT350 is superior to any prior Shelby if one looks at performance. Same can be said for any generation of GT500. I'd even go as far as saying that the new GT500 is better looking than the 60's era cars. The 60's era GT350's are better looking than the current GT350. A Challenger HellCat is better than any prior hemi Challenger other than nostalgia and Barrett Jackson sales pricing (if you can find one with a transmission that matches).

    • Randyinrocklin Randyinrocklin on May 20, 2020

      I just saw a Mecum auction in Kissimee, that had a 69 and 70 Shelby GT500. They went for between 300k and 400k. Wow, they were nice, the commenter made a comment on the design of the hood scoops, it was way kool.

  • ToolGuy If you want a new Toyota, plan to buy it in the next 4 years.
  • ToolGuy The real question is - with all the value they add and all the sacrifices they make - do automotive journalists make too little. 😉
  • SnarkyRichard Jesus I double keyed it and J showed up instead of I . No edit function and this site just disappears randomly off of Firefox taking me back to the previous site I was on . Clearly some bugs need to be worked out in this new format .
  • SnarkyRichard J have no desire to get an EV and will never get one . Just give me a manual transmission , a high redline , grippy 4 wheel disc brakes and a two lane highway to slice and dice my way through traffic . No smart phone connectivity needed , just a powerful stereo with 6x9 speakers in the rear to give the classic rock sound of American freedom on the open road . And that's all I have to say about that .
  • Gregtwelve While Sichuan managed to avoid the nationwide energy rationing witnessed in 2021, attributed to a lack of coalWe have plenty of coal. Let's sell them something for a change. And let us not forget that historically the Chinese hate the Japanese for what they did in WW2, so that might have something to do with it.