The Toyota Highlander is a striking automobile to look at. It’s technically considered a mid-size crossover SUV but when you first lay eyes upon it, you notice how big it really is. Although it might be hard to believe, it’s actually based on the same overall design as the Camry. The slightly larger Toyota Avalon and the Highlander share the very same chassis. If you want to know more about the history and evolution of this vehicle that has been in production since the 2001 model year, keep reading.
2001-2007 Toyota Highlander
The vehicles that were produced during these model years were known as the First Generation models. At first glance, the thing you are likely to notice about these particular automobiles is that when the Highlander was first produced, it was a lot smaller than they current models that are being produced today. Remember, the SUV is actually based on the Toyota Avalon chassis. If you think back to the Avalons that were produced during this same time, they were much smaller than the car of the same name that is being manufactured today.
Overall, vehicles have gotten larger with each passing model year and this one is certainly no exception. That is the reason for both the difference in size and the design differences on the earlier first generation vehicles when compared to the later models. Toyota sold these SUVs in three different trim packages. You could get one that was sold as a base model, one that had a sportier appearance and a bigger engine, or one that was more luxurious, complete with all the amenities that were available at the time.
2008-2013 Toyota Highlander
These vehicles were slightly larger than the ones produced during the first generation. There were a number of changes, including an updated exterior design and some major changes to the interior. For starters, the interior was much nicer. The ore luxurious of the models, known as the Limited model, even came complete with simulated wood trim. There were also a number of different engines that were available, ranging from the smaller 2.7 liter four-cylinder option all the way up to a much larger and more powerful 3.5 liter V6. There were also options when it came to the transmission. Toyota offered either a 5-speed or a 6-speed automatic. Beginning with this second generation of vehicles, there was also a hybrid version that was made available for purchase.
By the end of the 2013 model year, customers could choose from two different hybrids and vehicles that could comfortably seat either five or seven people. In addition, there was a major design change to the exterior of the vehicle that occurred in 2010. This is when the SUV that you are probably used to seeing today really started to take shape. Up until then, it had largely remained unchanged as far as the exterior was concerned. Once it was completed, the vehicle looked nothing like it had since it went into production for the 2001 model year. This was a welcome change, even for those who were already die-hard Highlander fans, as it was well past time for an update to the appearance of the SUV in order to allow it to keep up with the competition from other automakers.
2014-2019 Toyota Highlander
This is the latest generation of the Toyota Highlander line. Virtually everything has been updated. Although there have been some rather small updates to the exterior, the most dramatic changes have involved the interior. The inside of the vehicle looks more like the cockpit of an aircraft than an SUV. In addition, it has all of the latest developments in technology when it comes to things like navigation, communications, and entertainment. Once again, there are several options to choose from concerning the powerplant. The engine sizes are the same as those available in earlier year models but the technology is different, allowing each engine and transmission combination to deliver the greatest amount of power while still maintaining the best possible fuel mileage in every situation.
Some people even think that the changes that have occurred regarding this vehicle are nothing short of staggering. In reality, they were all necessary. It’s virtually impossible to have a vehicle that lasts for so many years without having the critical updates that have occurred with the Highlander. As technology has changed and evolved , so too has the Highlander. The newer models can do all kinds of things that the earlier ones were simply not capable of.
When you look at the Highlander, you notice the changes to the exterior before anything else because that is what you are looking directly at. However, when you get inside and start to drive the vehicle, all of the other changes come into play. The exterior is nothing short of astounding and the vehicle drives like a dream. The latest generation of the Toyota Highlander is capable of accelerating quickly, responding well to driver input and stopping its massive frame in an impressively short distance. Other important changes came regarding the safety of the vehicle. This has always been a safe SUV but the most current models are far safer than the earlier ones, thanks again to updates in technology and crash testing. The idea is to give you an ideal ride and keep you as safe as possible all at the same time.
There is no doubt that over the years, Toyota has made a lot of changes to the Highlander. If you were to park one of the earliest models next to one of the latest examples, you would scarcely even be able to tell that they are indeed the same vehicles. That being said, this vehicle serves as a near perfect example of the types of changes that occur to any vehicle that manages to survive over the course of several years. This is one that has been done right and is still one of the most popular SUVs on the road.
Written by Garrett Parker
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