For 2005, regular models of the Toyota Highlander receive very minor changes. The big news is the introduction of a hybrid model, using a system similar to that of the Toyota Prius.
The Highlander Hybrid is powered by a 3.3-litre V6 mated to a permanent magnet electric motor and matched to an electronically-controlled, continuously variable transmission (CVT). Producing an estimated maximum 270 horsepower, the Hybrid has better acceleration than the gasoline-powered V6 but with better fuel economy. The system uses a regenerative braking system to boost efficiency. The Hybrid features numerous amenities and will carry up to seven passengers. It goes on sale in the second half of 2005.
Both the Hybrid and the conventional Highlander are based on a platform also used by the Camry, Avalon and Lexus ES330; it reflects in the Highlander’s smooth ride and car-like handling.
There are three models: the five-passenger front-wheel-drive, five-passenger four-wheel-drive V6, and seven-passenger 4WD V6.
Features are the same for all three: air conditioning, CD/cassette player with six speakers, cloth seats, power locks with keyless entry, power windows, tilt wheel, floor mats, tonneau cover, cruise control, 16-inch steel wheels, heated power mirrors, variable intermittent wiper, rear wiper, and automatic headlamps. The seven-passenger version adds a third row of seats.
The five-passenger 4WD can be optioned with a package that includes alloy wheels, leather interior, power driver’s seat and heated seats. The seven-passenger can be ordered with a package including 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lamps, automatic climate control, leather seats, rear auxiliary heater, upgraded stereo, power sunroof and wheel-mounted audio controls.
All models offer a pleasant ride, and the four-cylinder is smoother than most. The seven-passenger version is that in name only; the third row of seats is cramped and suitable mostly for smaller children. Unless you’re hauling seven passengers on a regular basis, the five-passenger offers more cargo space without folding down another row of seats. The Hybrid will be an interesting version for those who want to lower their fuel consumption without leaving SUVs behind, but like all hybrid vehicles, it’ll take a while before the gas savings catch up to the price-tag.
The Highlander is built in Kurate-gun, Japan.
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