New Toyota Highlander SUV: hybrid tech and seven seats

  • Promises to be well-equipped, but not inexpensive
  • Claims to seat seven adults in comfort
  • Reaches British showrooms in 2021

In a calculated display of line-up completion, Toyota has announced the first details of yet another hybrid-powered SUV.

While the recently revealed Yaris Cross fulfils that brief at the smaller end of the range, the new Highlander you see in these pictures is at the other end of the scale. Only the non-hybrid Land Cruiser is larger in Toyota’s range.

Strictly speaking, the Highlander is not new. This is actually the fourth generation model – confusingly known as Kluger in some parts of the world – and was first revealed at the New York motor show in April 2019.

Nevertheless, it’s the first time it’s been sold in Western Europe, so it’s a fresh model over here.

What do we know so far?

Given that it’s not going to reach British shores until 2021, details so far released by Toyota are provisional – in other words, they’re subject to change, so don’t get too excited about them just yet.

Building upon the Japanese brand’s expertise in hybrid technology, the Highlander combines electrical power with a 2.5-litre petrol engine, producing 244hp.

2021 Toyota Highlander seven-seater cutaway

That should ensure that the Highlander is fairly swift, yet Toyota’s claiming an average WLTP test cycle fuel economy of 42.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 146g/km.

Employing Toyota’s marketing speak, this is a self-charging hybrid, requiring no plugging in and – although most people will never venture off-road – it has all-wheel drive, with two electric motors, one up front with the engine, the other working alone at the back.

Will the Highlander be good to drive?

It’s far too soon to know for sure, but given that its based on underpinnings we rate highly – the GA-K platform, for technology geeks – the handling should be impressive for this kind of car, even though the focus will be on comfort.

We expect something of a sense of the Camry Saloon in terms of refinement, which means it should be relaxing and quiet for the most part – particularly when driven in electric-only mode for brief spells.

In addition to the ability to switch between hybrid and electric-only driving, there are four other drive modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and Trail. The latter will adjust the parameters to extract the most from the system when traction is limited.

Is the Highlander spacious?

Again, the omens are good here that the Highlander will be roomy – not least because it measures 4,950mm in length.

Toyota states that it will seat seven adults in comfort – not something you can completely manage with rivals such as the Hyundai Santa Fe, Peugeot 5008, SEAT Tarraco or Skoda Kodiaq. We’ll know for sure when we test it.

Aiding access to the rearmost seats, the middle row slides forwards by 180mm, despite the hybrid’s battery packs being mounted underneath.

2021 Toyota Highlander cargo space cutaway

Toyota hasn’t quoted a bootspace capacity when the third row is in use – 658 litres sounds like when it’s in five-seater mode to us – but all five back seats look to fold flat, resulting in a 1,909-litre cargo bay.

High levels of equipment promised

While exact details won’t be known for some time – and it’s likely Toyota will only offer a couple of generously appointed trim levels, anyway – the kit roster mentioned so far goes down well.

There’s a multimedia system with sat-nav, as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay functions, wireless smartphone charging, a head-up display (HUD), ventilated seats in the front, and a rear-view mirror that projects a camera image of what’s going on behind if your vision’s restricted by people in the back.

2021 Toyota Highlander dashboard

Plus, there’s Toyota’s latest ensemble of safety equipment automatic emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control and automatic main beam headlamps among a suite of other features.

What this means for you

Pricing is unlikely to be revealed until very late 2020, if not early 2021, so it’s difficult to determine how good value a proposition it proves to be.

Based on top-of-the-range RAV4s costing £38,000 just now, a ballpark figure of £40-45,000 is likely for the Highlander.

Keep this page bookmarked for further information as we have it.

Further reading:

>> We rate the best hybrid SUVs on sale right now

>> Read our Toyota C-HR review to discover why we rate it so highly

>> Find out how much your car’s worth with a Parkers valuation

2021 Toyota Highlander rear three-quarter