Extremes are easy to write about.
Just as sportswriters would prefer to cover either contending teams or basement dwellers instead of those that win about as much as they lose, most auto writers find it easier to describe sexy sports cars or to lampoon rolling failures.
This is why writers who are itching to show you how well they can use a thesaurus are almost as happy to see a Mitsubishi Mirage arrive at their home as they would be a Ferrari. Almost.
Iconic for being Japan’s default taxi or police cruiser for decades, the Toyota Crown has been in production since 1955. Our market even got a taste of the model during its golden years, with the automobile becoming the brand’s first product ever to be exported to North America. While it would eventually be supplanted by the Corona Mark II/Cressida in the 1970s, we’d see parts of the vehicle return to our market through the Toyota Avalon and Lexus GS.
Meanwhile, the Crown executive series of sedans (and occasionally wagons) have been going strong in Japan for nearly 70 years — evolving gradually in the manner that Toyota typically prefers. But there have been stirrings that the company might discontinue the model for Japan, replicating FAW Toyota’s decision to turn the car into a sport-utility vehicle (based on the fourth-generation Highlander) in China. Now we’re getting reports that a similar scenario is being planned for other major markets, including the United States.
Toyota’s all-new Venza fills a two-row, crossover-sized void between the smaller RAV4 and the larger Highlander, and is essentially a return to what the Highlander was originally. To help draw in buyers to its resurrected nameplate, Toyota decided to use a long-standing Subaru ad trope: the family pet.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander is a pretty good improvement over the previous generation, building off an already strong foundation, but unfortunately for Toyota, it comes along just as Kia’s Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade soar towards class dominance.
Ask anyone who made big plans for after March 1, 2020, and they’ll tell you – timing is everything.
In Toyota’s case, a very, very good three-row family hauler is getting lost in all the hype about the two outstanding Korean entries.
Somewhere, a Toyota sales manager sobs in his coffee in between Zooms.
With the next-generation 2020 Toyota Highlander now riding atop a new platform, the manufacturer has decided to grow its sport-adjacent XSE trim level by throwing it into mix for the 2021 model year. The model took a bow at the Chicago Auto Show on Wednesday.
Settling between the XLE and Limited trims, XSE uses the same 3.5-liter V6 (295 horsepower, 263 lb-ft of torque) that’s now found in all non-hybrid Highlanders. The performance boost come by way of suspension upgrades and a few tweaks to the electrically assisted power steering unit. Everything else is cosmetic, but Toyota believes it will all come together to create a sportier driving experience.
The automaker says it’s giving the model the “XSE treatment,” adding it’s aimed at “people who need SUV practicality but really miss driving sport sedans.” While we’re not sure how much overlap exists between Highlander shoppers and sports-sedan enthusiasts, semi-sporting packages and trim lines are standard practice these days. They must hold some level of appeal, or manufacturers wouldn’t insist on dangling them in front of us.
While you were sleeping, Toyota rolled out the fourth generation of its three-row Highlander crossover. It is an all-wheel drive box powered by a V6 engine, packed with gadgets, and offering an optional hybrid powertrain. Given the tastes of car buyers in this segment, none of these things are surprising.
What is surprising is that this nameplate has been around for 20 model years. Perhaps it’s because your author has never been in the market for a rig like the Highlander, or that the model’s ubiquity has caused the thing to fade into the background like proverbial wallflowers. Whatever the case, Highlander is nearly old enough to order its own drinks, and it’s put on a new set of clothes for the occasion.
Not content with releasing a high contrast, nearly blacked-out photo or rendering of its upcoming fourth-generation Highlander, Toyota decided to go all artsy-fartsy. In place of a single image, Toyota commissioned an artist to create a 3D art installation made up of 200 individual panels.
Buyers, however, will be more interested in the actual, physical vehicle, which makes its debut on April 17th at the New York Auto Show. A sales stud, Toyota’s three-row midsizer promises a new platform and slightly sexier flanks.
Toyota is planning a $600 million expansion of its Princeton, Indiana assembly plant to enhance production capacity and modernize the factory for the next-generation Highlander.
The company’s financial commitment underscores Toyota’s new and carefully domesticated image while serving to remind everyone that its cars are built in America for Americans — not unlike the company’s red, white, and blue display cars at this year’s North American International Auto Show.
“This announcement shows Toyota’s commitment to continued U.S. investment,” the company said in its official announcement. “This expansion is part of Toyota’s localization strategy to build vehicles where they are sold.”
Toyota unveiled a refreshed 2017 Highlander in advance of next week’s New York International Auto Show. The only external clues appear to be a wider, deeper grille, hiding a host of mechanical and interior upgrades. A new, direct-injected 3.5 liter V6 is paired to an equally-new eight-speed automatic.
The new V6 also features a fuel-saving start-stop system on all but the “only on the lot to advertise a low lease payment” LE model.
Kia gained a well-deserved reputation in the ’90s for cheap and nasty transportation, but lately they are the greatest social climber since Cinderella. “2016 Kia” and “1996 Kia” are totally different from one another. Even “2006 Kia” seems like a distant memory.
Unusual for a car company, Kia doesn’t shy away from its troubled beginnings in America, which can be seen both in its marketing toward the press and in its product portfolio.
The 2016 Sorento is a perfect example. While the model we were lent for a week is a solid contender to the Ford Edge, Toyota Highlander and even the Acura MDX, Kia also sells a model priced at $24,900, just above the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Ford Escape.
Does this make the Sorento conflicted? Or is the Korean born, German designed and American built crossover the “just right” CUV?
All righty, Mr. Sajeev, I have four vehicles in the driveway: 2014 Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium (wife’s ride), 2006 Toyota Highlander Hybrid (teenage son’s ride), 2004 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD 4X4 (my POV) and 2015 Ford Police Interceptor Utility (my company car). Three weeks ago, I arose at my normal 6 am, let the pups out and started a pot of coffee. Shortly after, the dogs are going nuts, so I open front door to investigate. I’m greeted by my neighbor’s 1000 pound steer literally on the front porch. No big deal. We live in a very rural area and I was raised with big animals. I grab a handy dog leash and smack the big boy across the nose fully expecting him to turn and run so I could herd him the 1/4 mile back to the neighbors.
No such luck.
Greetings to you Sajeev and your evil twin Sanjeev, (yeah he’s dead to me – SM)
First of all thank you very much for answering my other question, just to give you an update on that, I ended up not buying the extended warranty. Now we recently bought a 2012 Toyota Highlander Limited to replace my wife’s old car(V6, 5 Speed automatic with the towing package which adds the trans cooler) it has 34K miles and this one has the extended warranty (100K or 2019). The issue that we have with the car is as follow, after a cold start (in the morning) if I put it in any gear (D or R) something funny happens, the transmission acts funny, it goes in and out of the gear couple of times. For example if I want to back-out of the garage when I put in R and give it a little gas it starts going but for a quick second it seems like that the transmission dis-engages and then re-engages and the tachometer jumps from 1K to 3K. If I wait about 10 sec after I start the car and then put in gear everything is OK.
One day, about a month ago, a vehicle that I had never really given much thought to entered my consciousness quite forcefully. My phone rang, and on the other end was a family member informing me that my sister-in-law had been involved in a serious auto accident. She had been traveling through an intersection when another motorist had run the red light going the opposite direction. It was a hard hit. In fact, the impact was severe enough to flip my sister-in-law’s car was onto its roof. What’s more, her three-year-old son, my nephew, had been in the back seat. They both left the accident totally unharmed.
Her car? A 1st gen Toyota Highlander. So, at least in part, I owe the safety and security of my extended family to the car-based Toyota mid-sized CUV.
Our recent looks at the Ford Edge Ecoboost and GMC Terrain prompted an email from a reader asking us to take a look at the 2013 Toyota Venza with these two American entries in mind. If you have a request or suggestion for a vehicle review, just click the contact link at the top of the page, or find us on Facebook and drop us a note.