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Click the image for a gallery of high-res images of the new Highlander

Today at the Chicago Auto Show, Toyota unveiled the all-new 2008 Highlander Hybrid. Toyota has upgraded the control system of the new Highlander Hybrid so that they can increase the net output, which is now up to 270 hp, an increase of 55 over the first generation model. At the same time, the mileage ratings remain the same at 31 city / 27 highway. The big news, if you can call it that, is the new Full EV mode.

That means there is a switch on the dash allowing the driver to disable the internal combustion engine and run on battery only. Unfortunately, that battery is still a nickel metal hydride type, which results in a whopping battery only range of a whole mile! This really comes off as more of an advertising gimmick than anything truly useful. Aside from that, the hybrid drivetrain is largely unchanged, although everything else is. The new Highland is bigger, wider, more luxurious and has airbags everywhere including three rows of curtain airbags. The new Highlander Hybrid will be available in July. The Toyota press release is after the jump with more information.

Toyota Launches 2008 Highlander And Highlander Hybrid At The 2007 Chicago Auto Show
02/07/2007 Chicago

February 7, 2007 – Chicago - Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, Inc., unveiled the all-new next-generation Highlander and Highlander Hybrid mid-size sport utility vehicles (SUV) at a press conference today at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show.

"Highlander holds a unique distinction within the Toyota brand and within the industry," said Don Esmond, TMS senior vice president, automotive operations. "Along with the 4Runner and the FJ Cruiser, it anchors one of the industry's only three-vehicle, mid-size SUV line-ups. Equally important, along with Prius and Camry Hybrid, it is a key component in the industry's only three-vehicle hybrid strategy."

The 2008 Highlander is significantly larger, roomier and more powerful than the vehicle it replaces. Yet its fuel efficiency will be virtually unchanged. It is noticeably quieter, smarter, with improved versatility and ride comfort. It will offer the highest level of standard safety equipment in a segment where safety is at the top of purchase considerations. And, it's all wrapped in a package designed for buyers who want to stand out and make a statement.

Highlander will have no equal to its comprehensive list of standard safety features. It will provide a segment-leading total of seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag and roll-sensing side curtain airbags for all three rows.

As with all Toyota SUVs for the last three years, Highlander will provide Toyota's STAR safety system, featuring:
• anti-lock brakes,
• traction control,
• electronic brake-force distribution,
• brake assist,
• and for the first time, enhanced vehicle stability control,
• with electronic power steering.

On all models except the base models, it will provide a stand-alone backup camera with a multi-information screen, not tied to a navigation system. And, Highlander will have the distinction of being the first Toyota division vehicle to feature both active head restraints and a new hood and fender system designed to crumple on impact with a pedestrian.

On the outside, Highlander moves away from traditional SUV styling cues with a statement of strength instead of ruggedness; of intelligence over toughness. Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif. sculpted clean, crisp lines, a wide, stable stance and muscular contours to give Highlander an advanced, contemporary, forceful and dynamic personality.

Highlander rides on an all-new chassis derived from the current Camry and Avalon. It is nearly four inches longer and three inches wider, with an inch more ground clearance and three inches of additional wheelbase.

Interior designers took full advantage of Highlander's substantial dimensions. Design intelligence is carried through to the refined interior, where smart and sophisticated blend with practical, flexible and versatile.

The passenger compartment is open and airy. Convenient and innovative interior features such as flexible seating arrangements, and ease of entry and exit, were directly related to customer input.

For example, Highlander's second-row features captain's chairs with armrests that, if needed, can be converted to a bench seat for three passengers. A "Center Stow" seat, when not in use, is hidden in a compartment under the front center console. In its place, passengers can easily snap in the provided center stow center console or choose to leave the area open as a walk-through to the third row. The second row also slides forward and back 4.7 inches and reclines.

Clever and convenient standard features include:
• a third-row bench seat with foldable headrests for a flat rear cargo area,
• a rear glass hatch for quick access to the back (optional on base grades),
• and Smart Start and Entry for Limited and all hybrid models.

When Highlander arrives in July, it will be offered in Base, Sport and Limited grades. All three grades will be powered by a new 3.5-liter V6 that delivers an impressive 270 horsepower -- a 55 horsepower gain over the previous generation's 3.3-liter engine.

Two months later, the all-new Highlander Hybrid will arrive at dealerships. Offered in both Base and Limited grades, all Highlander hybrids will feature Toyota's advanced VDIM stability system. The system integrates:
• full-time four-wheel drive with intelligence,
• electronic brake and throttle control,
• with true electronically-controlled active steering.

Highlander's advanced Hybrid Synergy Drive system has been extensively upgraded and refined for 2008 for both power and economy. The new Highlander gained about 500 pounds, growing significantly in every dimension and receiving extensive body and chassis reinforcement, aimed specifically at achieving best-in-class crash ratings. Not only were engineers able to increase output to 270 net horsepower, they were able to maintain Highlander Hybrid's impressive fuel economy at 31 city and 27 highway.

The Highlander will be loaded with standard-equipped comfort and convenience features. Nineteen-inch alloy wheels will be standard on both Sport and Limited gas models and both hybrid models.

An array of options and accessories will be offered, such as a power backdoor that can be opened and closed with a key fob, a navigation system with an eight-inch screen, a rear-seat entertainment system with a nine-inch screen, and three-zone air conditioning.

Other options include:
• JBL audio with six-disc changer and nine speakers with Bluetooth,
• third-row seat delete to create a second-row model,
• leather seat trim and heated seats,
• and a tow package with a 5000-lbs. maximum towing capacity (class-leading for car & van-based mid SUVs).

"The 2008 Highlander takes the car-based SUV concept to a new level," said Esmond. "I say that with conviction, because it's a category we invented."

The Toyota RAV4, now in its third generation, was the world's-first car-based SUV. In 1998, Lexus established a whole new category of car-based luxury SUVs when it launched the RX300. The debut of Highlander in 2001 marked the beginning of a shift in the mid-size SUV segment, from truck platforms to car platforms.

"As you can see, the new Highlander has raised the bar significantly," said Esmond. "Last year we did the same with RAV4. And in about a year, we'll do the same with both Land Cruiser and Sequoia. The Toyota division now markets a six-vehicle SUV lineup that appeals to specific buyer demographics and life-stages. It is a lineup that gives us enormous flexibility in responding to shifts in the marketplace. We are committed to keeping our products fresh and at the front of the pack."


3.5 Liter V6 – 270 hp
249 ft.-lbs. torque
5-speed automatic
4WD or 2WD

3.3 Liter V6 Hybrid – 270 net hp
Torque not available for hybrid powertrain

Overall Length: 188.4
Overall Width: 75.2
Overall Height: 69.3
Wheelbase: 109.8
Ground Clearance: Gas 8.1 / Hybrid 7.3
Seating Capacity: 5 or 7 passengers
Wheels: 17- or 19-inch wheels

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Years Ago
      Dave- Maybe this is one of the reasons why Americans are getting so FAT?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Toyota has "delayed indefinitely" the 2008 Highlander Hybrid, I was told at our meeting last week (I'm a Toyota salesman in MA). I have searched the Web and found nothing about this.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The new 2008 Highlander Hybrid's interior is nicer than that of the 2007 Lexus RX 400h. It'll be interesting to see what the refreshed Lexus has in store.
      • 8 Years Ago
      With the engine size not increasing on the hybrid - will the tow rating still be 3,500 lbs? The non-hybrid Highlander will increase to 5k with the bigger engine.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Any hope that the Highlander will have the color Salsa Red as an exterior option?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Apparently, Toyota has not learned from GMs mistakes. I hope GM has.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Very disappointed with the new look. It just looks like a bigger RAV 4 but more anonymous. I currently drive a 2004 Highlander, and I was holding off my next replacement purchase until I could see the new design. Looks like I'll not be going back to Toyota.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I picked up my new 2008 Highlander Hybrid last Sat. By the next morning I was convinced I had been hoodwinked into buying the proverbial evil "Lucille" automobile and notified the Toyota dealer I was returning it for repairs and resolution of problematic features. An interior part was already broken and so many alarms were going off it sounded like a 4-alarm fire coming down the street. They kept the vehicle four days. Had I been permitted to drive, or even see, the car before they sold me the bill of goods I doubt if I would have gotten it. I was summarily told by the dealership owner, however, that I had bought the car and by law (which he quoted) I would have to keep it, like it or not. Anyone want a new 2008 Silver Toyota Highland Limited with all the options? . . . except the tow package that I really need which they say "isn't available yet?"
      • 7 Years Ago
      Toyota has "delayed indefinitely" the release of the 2008 Highlander Hybrid, I was told at our meeting last week (I'm a Toyota salesman in MA). I have searched the Web and found nothing about this.
      • 8 Years Ago
      I am a little sceptical about the conflicting claims. If the Hybrid Synergy Drive is really a generation newer, how come it only produces 2 additional horsepowers? It looks more like the same old power train treaked slightly and tagged with a new label. Also, if the horsepower is virtually unchanged but the weight goes up 12.5%, does it not mean that the acceleration and performance will suffer noticably? The current Highlander indeed needs to grow bigger to be more useful, but I would have hoped that the hybrid power train would be improved more substantially to keep up.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Why are they advertising an increase in horsepower? My 06 has 270.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Peter: there's more info for you on the web. First, Toyota does not deep discharge its hybrid packs. The state of charge (SOC) varies between 20 and 80%. EV only mode will not disable the SOC limits. The BU article refers to full cycle in consumer electronics. Second, while Toyota's fully electric RAV-4 used different packs, these have been running for more than 100,000 miles in fleet use since the mid-1990s. Battery packs in well designed hybrids like Toyota's last for the life of the vehicle.
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