The New York Motor Show did indeed bring many gifts and surprises, but a somewhat unexpected one was the reveal by Toyota of their freshly updated, and rather substantially so, Highlander; what we’d commonly refer to as the Kluger.
The 7-seat SUV has been some much welcome styling tweaks to bring it more into line with the Japanese marque’s most recent corporate visual language and its line-up of powertrains has also received an overhaul. In concept, though, the Kluger/Highlander seems to still be the family workhorse familiar to us all, only more athletic and current.
Underpinning everything is an all-new platform derived from Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) that, apart from contributing 60mm to its overall length, brings with it a raft of real-world improvements such as a much more rigid structure, better ride sophistication, a quieter cabin, and a significant amount of weight savings, but also opens the three-row SUV up to electrification tech and much more advanced driver aid systems.
The Kluger, mirroring the North American Highlander twin, will be powered predominantly by a 3.5-litre V6 outputting 220kW and 357Nm available in either front or all-wheel drive configurations. Initial units of the Kluger bound for Australia will be petrol-powered, but Toyota have expressed interest in introducing a hybrid variant similar to the ones already sold in markets elsewhere.
This new high-efficiency Kluger will mate a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre four-cylinder with two coaxially mounted electric motors for a combined 180kW and an unparalleled level of fuel economy for an SUV of this size, and a much more practical proposition for city dwellers.
Each Kluger will also arrive with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 which includes Pre-Collision (AEB) with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beam, Lane Trace Assist, and Road Sign Recognition.
Inside, first thing that leaps out over the outgoing XU50 model is the level of cabin sophistication, and its dashboard is dominated by the 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen in higher-end variants that also pairs with a 1,200W JBL Premium audio system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto will also be on the cards in its Australian-spec.
Unsurprisingly, North American buyers will have first crack at the Highlander, which should be hitting showrooms there later this year. No word yet on exact timing for a local launch, but odds are that Toyota’s Australian arm will want as few delays as possible.