Toyota Highlander or Toyota Kluger (as called in Japan and Australia) is a mid-sized crossover SUV introduced by Toyota in 2000.
It was first revealed at the New York Auto Show in April 2000, while it was introduced in Japan in latter half of 2000. It reached the North American market in January 2001. It was the first car-based mid-sized SUV or mid-sized crossover. The Highlander is the crossover equivalent to the stronger truck-based mid-sized 4Runner. It was the best-selling SUV before the RAV4 outclassed it in 2006.
Being the trademarked trim line of the Hyundai Terracan SUV, the brand name ‘Highlander’ is not used in Japan and Australia. The term ‘Kluger’ is used in Japan and Australia which is taken from the German word ‘klüger’ means ‘clever’ or ‘very clever’.
First Generation (XU20; 2000–2007)
In 2000, the first generation Highlander was introduced which was based on the Lexus RX (Toyota Harrier) platform. It was available in five- and seven-seat formation. Three different trim levels were offered in United States, the Base model; the Sport model; and the Limited model. Among the three, the Sport model was added in the lineup later in March 2006.
The Limited model version received the six-spoke alloy wheels replacing five-spoke alloy wheels. Steel-rims on the Base model were also replaced by the alloy wheels. The Sport model had a unique grille design and wheel designing that differentiate it with rest of the models.
In 2003, the Kluger was launched in Australia and offered in three different versions: CV, CVX and Grande. However, in 2006, a limited edition CV Sport was also introduced. Australian market didn’t receive the hybrid version. All three versions were powered by 3.3-L 3MZ-FE V6.
The hybrid drivetrain was introduced at the North American International Auto Show in 2004 and was offered for sale in July 2005 as Kluger Hybrid.
Second Generation (XU40; 2007–Present)
The Toyota unveiled the second generation Highlander and Highlander Hybrid at the Chicago Auto Show in 2007. The sales of the regular version began in July 2007 while the hybrid model went on sale in September 2007. Both second generation Highlander and Highlander Hybrid is not offered in Japan.
In the beginning, the model received a 3.5-L 2GR-FE V6 (270 hp; 201 kW) engine paired to a 5-speed automatic transmission. The 4-cylinder model remained ceased until 2009 when it was added in the lineup again.
The 2009 model received an all-new ULEV-II certified 2.7-L 1AR-FE I4, 4-cylinder engine, producing 187 hp (139 kW) at 5800rpm and torque of 186 lb-ft (252 Nm) at 4100 rpm, mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The 2011 model year of Highlander and Highlander Hybrid comes with some modifications. The design however is pretty much alike to the previous model with some restyling on the front end such as new headlights, a new black with chrome accent rocker panel and front grille. Front and rear air-conditioning, power locks/windows, cruise control and a multi-function keyless entry control is now available on all the trim levels.