The Toyota Highlander (Japanese: トヨタ ハイランダー, Toyota Hairandā), also known as the Toyota Kluger (Japanese: トヨタ クルーガー, Toyota Kurūgā), is a mid-size crossover SUV produced by Toyota. It is built on the same platform as used on the Toyota Camry, but based on size of the Toyota Avalon chassis.[1]

Announced in April 2000 at the New York Auto Show and arriving in late 2000 in Japan and January 2001 in North America, the Highlander became one of the first car-based mid-size SUV or mid-size crossovers.[2] The Highlander is the crossover counterpart to the more rugged, truck-based midsize 4Runner and became Toyota's best-selling SUV before being surpassed by the smaller RAV4 in 2006. In Japan, the Kluger is exclusive to dealership network called Toyota NETZ as a larger alternative to the RAV4.

Unable to use the Highlander name in Japan and Australia because of a trademarked Hyundai Terracan trim line, Toyota calls the vehicle the Toyota Kluger (pronounced Klu-ger) there, the name derived from the German word klug, which means clever or wise (klüger being the comparative form).[3]

First generation (XU20; 2000–2007)

First generation
2001-2003 Toyota Highlander Limited -- 10-12-2011.jpg
Production November 2000 – May 2007[4]
Model years 2001–2007
Assembly Japan: Miyawaka, Fukuoka (Miyata plant)[4]
Body and chassis
Platform Toyota K platform
Wheelbase 106.9 in (2,715 mm)
  • 2001: 184.3 in (4,681 mm)
  • 2002–03: 184.4 in (4,684 mm)
  • 2004–07: 184.6 in (4,689 mm)
  • Hybrid: 185.6 in (4,714 mm)
Width 71.9 in (1,826 mm)
  • 2001–05 4WD: 66.5 in (1,689 mm)
  • 2001–05 Limited 4WD: 68.7 in (1,745 mm)
  • 2003–05 FWD: 66.1 in (1,679 mm)
  • 2003–05 Limited FWD: 68.3 in (1,735 mm)
  • 2006–07 FWD: 67.9 in (1,725 mm)
  • 2006–07 4WD & FWD Hybrid: 68.3 in (1,735 mm)
  • 4WD Hybrid: 68.9 in (1,750 mm)
Curb weight 3,784 lb (1,716 kg)
Successor Toyota Vanguard (XA30) (for Kluger, Japan)

The Highlander (or Kluger in Japan and Australia) shared a platform with its Lexus RX/Toyota Harrier cousin. It came in five (2001–2007) and seven-seat (2004–2007) configurations and became a sales success for Toyota in a number of markets across the world. The Highlander came standard with front wheel drive and offered all wheel drive (50:50 front:rear fixed torque split). Unlike Toyota's own 4Runner and other mid-sized competitors such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, or Chevrolet TrailBlazer, the Highlander aimed for on-road comfort with its unibody construction and independent rear suspension. Although it was longer than the 1996–2002 4Runner available at the time it was launched, the Highlander was surpassed in length by the redesigned 4Runner in 2002.

The Highlander was available in three trim lines in the United States: the base model, the Sport model, and the Limited model. The base and Limited models were present when the Highlander was initially introduced, while the Sport model was introduced in March 2006. In Japan, it is regarded as a luxury vehicle as the Kluger exceeds Japanese Government regulations regulating engine displacement and exterior dimensions.

In 2004 the wheels on the Limited trim changed from a six-spoke, to a five-spoke alloy. The base-model Highlander wheels also changed from steel-rims to the alloy wheels that were on the 2001–2003 model year Highlander Limited and B-Package. The Sport models had a distinctive grille design, differentiating themselves from the non-Sport models. Wheel styling also serves to differentiate the various models—the hybrid sports a unique twin-spoke design.

The Kluger was introduced to Australia in October 2003. It was available in three guises: CV, CVX, and Grande. A limited edition CV Sport model was also released in 2006. There was no hybrid model available in Australia. The only engine offered was the 3.3-liter 3MZ-FE V6. Typical fuel economy using the Australian standard testing regime is 12.3 L/100 km (23.0 mpg‑imp; 19.1 mpg‑US).


  • 2001–2007 2.4 L 2AZ-FE I4, 155 hp (119 kW)
  • 2001–2003 3.0 L 1MZ-FE V6, 220 hp (164 kW)
  • 2004–2007 3.3 L 3MZ-FE V6, 225 hp (172 kW)

The 3.0-liter engine was able to propel the Kluger from 0–60 mph in approximately 8.8 seconds. In 2004 the Kluger was given a new 3.3-liter V6 engine to compete with the more powerful V6 offerings from its competitors, mainly the Nissan Murano and the Honda Pilot. The larger engine made it possible for the Kluger to reach 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 7.8 seconds.

2001 update

The Japanese and Australian Kluger was released with a center console integrated with the dashboard, while the North American Highlander initially lacked this integrated center console. The integrated center console was introduced in all U.S. Highlanders and in Canadian Limited Highlanders in 2001, for the 2002 model year, and in all Canadian Highlanders in 2003, for the 2004 model year. However, for these early Highlanders without the integrated center console, a smaller non-integrated stand-alone center console was available as an option, which was installed at the factory or could be installed by the dealer.

2003 update

2004–2007 MY Highlander Limited (US)
2003–2007 Kluger Grande (Australia)

In 2003, for the 2004 model year, in addition to the 3.3-liter engine, V6-powered models were equipped with a new five-speed automatic transmission, replacing the four-speed automatic transmission, while the inline-four models continued to use the old four-speed. This year also saw the introduction of the optional third row seat allowing for two additional passengers. The center console, which was previously exclusive to the top trim level, is now standard across all trims. The unibody was slightly modified behind the second row seats to include a depression in the trunk floor able to accommodate the optional third row seating. On models without third row seating, this depression was turned into a storage compartment (prior to 2004 the spare tire was accessible from inside the vehicle where the third row seating would subsequently be located; beginning in 2004 the spare tire is accessible from underneath the vehicle). Subtle changes to the front grille, front and rear bumpers, headlights and taillights (LED taillights on later hybrid models) round-out the major changes for the 2003 mid-cycle refresh.

2005 update

In 2005, for the 2006 model year, Highlanders sold in Canada are offered only in a V6 all-wheel drive configuration. Hybrid models are available with part-time four-wheel drive which Toyota refers to as 4WD-i where the rear wheels are powered by the separate electric motor. This system is intended for use on snow and ice, and is prone to overheating the rear electric motor off-road.[5]


Anti-lock brakes, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution were standard, Vehicle Stability Control w/traction control optional on 2001–03 models became standard for 2004 models (Hybrids come standard with VDIM). Also standard for 2004 was a tire pressure monitor. Front seat-mounted side torso airbags were optional on 2001–06 models, while front and second row side curtain airbags were optional on 2004–06 models. Side airbags became standard on 2007 models and the curtain airbags gained a rollover sensor that year as well.

NHTSA crash test ratings, no side airbags (2002):[6]
Frontal Driver: 4/5 stars
Frontal Passenger: 4/5 stars
Side Driver: 4/5 stars
Side Rear Passenger: 5/5 stars
Rollover: 3/5 stars
NHTSA crash test ratings, no side airbags (2004):[7]
Frontal Driver: 5/5 stars
Frontal Passenger: 5/5 stars
Side Driver: 5/5 stars
Side Rear Passenger: 5/5 stars
Rollover (2005):[8] 4/5 stars

In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) crash tests the Highlander was rated "Good" overall in the frontal offset crash test.[9] The IIHS reported the Highlander had one of the lowest driver fatality rates among all vehicles, and amongst SUVs, only the Toyota 4Runner had a lower driver fatality rate. This report looked at 2001–2005 model year vehicles in the US.[10]

Hybrid (MHU28, 2005–2007)

Highlander Hybrid Limited
Highlander Hybrid

Initially, the Kluger was a regular, non-hybrid SUV driven by an internal combustion engine, but later Toyota introduced a hybrid version, the Kluger Hybrid that utilizes the company's Hybrid Synergy Drive technology combined with the company's 3MZ-FE 3.3-liter V6 engine offered in either FWD or AWD trim. The hybrid drivetrain was unveiled at the 2004 North American International Auto Show, and was offered to the public in July 2005 as a 2006 model. The power steering pump, water pump and AC compressor were changed from belt-drive to electrically powered versions. A modified alternator was incorporated into the hybrid system.

In North America, the hybrid version was called the Highlander Hybrid. It was also the first seven-seat hybrid vehicle.[11] With the electric motors providing power including lower speeds overall acceleration is improved particularity at passing speeds. Other additions include Toyota's Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) system and Electronically Controlled Brake (ECB). The California Air Resources Board gave it a SULEV emission rating. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (revised standards) rated it at 28 mpg‑US (8.4 L/100 km; 34 mpg‑imp) City/25 mpg‑US (9.4 L/100 km; 30 mpg‑imp) Highway for FWD models and 27 mpg‑US (8.7 L/100 km; 32 mpg‑imp)/25 mpg‑US (9.4 L/100 km; 30 mpg‑imp) for AWD models. This system is near identical to that of the Lexus RX 400h. All-wheel drive models were rated to tow 3,500 lb (1,600 kg).

Second generation (XU40; 2007–2013)

Second generation
2008-2010 Toyota Highlander Limited -- 03-16-2012.JPG
Also called Toyota Kluger (Australia)
Production May 2007–2013
October 2009–November 2013 (US)
Model years 2008–2013
Assembly Japan: Miyawaka, Fukuoka (Miyata plant);[4][12]
China: Guangzhou[13]
United States: Princeton, Indiana (TMMI)
Designer Ian Cartabiano (2005)[14]
Body and chassis
Platform Toyota K platform
Engine 2.7 L 1AR-FE I4
3.5 L 2GR-FE V6
3.3 L 3MZ-FE V6 (hybrid)
3.5 L 2GR-FXE V6 (hybrid)
Transmission 5-speed U151E automatic
6-speed U760E automatic
Wheelbase 109.8 in (2,789 mm)
Length 188.4 in (4,785 mm)
Width 2008-2010: 75.2 in (1,910 mm)
2011-2013: 75.5 in (1,917 mm)
Height 2008-2010: 69.3 in (1,760 mm)
2011-2013: 68.1 in (1,729 mm)
Curb weight 4,045 lb (1,835 kg)

Toyota revealed the second-generation Highlander and Highlander Hybrid at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show, with American sales beginning in July and hybrids in late September.[15][16] But the second-generation Highlander and Highlander Hybrid are not sold in Japan. The five-seat Highlander for the United States and Canada was dropped as the larger Venza replaced it.

Initially the sole powertrain for the 2008 Highlander was a 270 horsepower (201 kW) 3.5-liter 2GR-FE V6 mated to a five-speed automatic. The four-cylinder model had been discontinued but added again in 2009. While the 3.5-liter engine has 55 more bhp than the previous 3.3-liter V6 and dimensional increases along with increased sound proofing added nearly 500 pounds to the vehicle's curb weight of approximately 4,000 lbs, fuel economy is slightly improved. The EPA estimated fuel economy for front-wheel drive models is at 18 mpg‑US (13 L/100 km; 22 mpg‑imp) city / 24 mpg‑US (9.8 L/100 km; 29 mpg‑imp) highway (last gen: 17 mpg‑US (14 L/100 km; 20 mpg‑imp) city / 23 mpg‑US (10 L/100 km; 28 mpg‑imp) hwy).[17]

For 2009, Toyota again offered a 4-cylinder for 5-passenger front-wheel drive models with the all-new ULEV-II certified 2.7-liter 1AR-FE I4 paired to a six-speed automatic. It generates 187 hp (139 kW) at 5,800 rpm and 186 lb⋅ft (252 N⋅m) of peak torque at 4,100 rpm on regular 87 octane fuel. The four-cylinder delivers an EPA estimated fuel economy of 20 mpg‑US (12 L/100 km; 24 mpg‑imp) city and 27 mpg‑US (8.7 L/100 km; 32 mpg‑imp) highway.[18] This is better than the previous model's four-cylinder with 19 mpg‑US (12 L/100 km; 23 mpg‑imp)/25 mpg‑US (9.4 L/100 km; 30 mpg‑imp).

The same three trim levels were offered (Base, Sport, and Limited) until early 2010 when the SE model replaced the Sport model, buyers are still able to choose between front-drive or all-wheel drive on V6 platforms. Also new is an Electric Power Steering (EPS) system. Sport and Limited models get a standard backup camera using a 3.5-inch LCD display. Major options include leather seats, heated seats, a touch-screen DVD based navigation system, a new Smart Key System, an upgraded JBL Synthesis stereo, a rear-seat DVD entertainment system with 9-inch screen, and a towing package that increases towing capacity to 5000 pounds.

The XU40 was initially produced exclusively at the Miyata plant in Miyawaka, Fukuoka, Japan for all global markets beginning in May 2007.[19][4][12][20] Production in China for local sales was started on 25 May 2009 by GAC Toyota in Nansha District, Guangzhou, Guangdong.[21] Toyota had intended on building the Highlander in Blue Springs, Mississippi for the North American market in the 2011 model year.[22] However, the Corolla was built there instead, and the Highlander is being built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana in Princeton, Indiana, from the 2010 model year onward for a majority of North America, replacing Tundra production.[23] TMMI Highlander production began in October 2009 for gasoline engine models only; hybrids continued to be imported from Japan until the release of the third generation XU50, where all production except for China was consolidated at TMMI.

In Australia, the new generation Kluger was launched in August 2007. There are three grades available, KX-R, KX-S and Grande. All grades are available with either 2WD or AWD. The base model KX-R is also available with either five or seven seats, whilst the latter grades are seven seaters only. Specifications are mostly similar to the US Highlander, sharing the same 3.5-litre V6 2GR-FE engine and five-speed automatic transmission. However, there are no plans at present to introduce a hybrid version of the Kluger into the Australian market.

2010 update

In 2010, for the 2011 model year, Toyota made some changes to the Highlander and Highlander Hybrid. While the general design remains similar to the 2010 model, the Highlander's front end has been significantly revised, now featuring new headlights, a new black with chrome accent rocker panel, and new front grille. The non-hybrid engines for 2011 remain the same, although now the 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine may be had on the SE trim level, previously only available on the base model. More standard features are now equipped on all trim levels, with the base model receiving front and rear air conditioning, power locks/windows, cruise control, and a multi-function keyless entry control.[24]

Pre-facelift styling

Post-facelift styling


NHTSA crash test ratings (2008):[25]
Frontal Driver: 5/5 stars
Frontal Passenger: 4/5 stars
Side Driver: 5/5 stars
Side Rear Passenger: 5/5 stars
Rollover: 4/5 stars

All models come standard with enhanced Vehicle Stability Control which immediately alters electric powering steering assist w/traction control (hybrids come standard with VDIM), anti-lock brakes, brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution. Also standard is a tire pressure monitor, a driver's knee airbag, front seat-mounted side torso airbags, side curtain airbags for all three rows which includes a rollover sensor and active front headrests. Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) is also standard which prevents rolling backwards on slopes, and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is standard on AWD trims.

The IIHS rates the Highlander "Good" overall in their frontal offset crash test, and good in all subcategories except for "Head/neck," which is rated as "Acceptable."[26] And "Good" overall in the side impact crash test, with "Good" rating in all nine measured categories.[27] The Highlander is also rated "Good" in the roof strength test, giving it a "top safety pick" rating.[28]

In Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) testing the Kluger is given a 5/5 stars rating but only a 1/4 stars rating for pedestrian protection.[29]

The safety and effectiveness of the Highlander/Kluger's Vehicle Stability Control system has been questioned by some motoring journalists. During testing for Wheels magazine Car of the Year in 2007, the magazine's editor rolled the vehicle during high-speed gravel road testing. Noting that it was the first such event in the magazine's 45-year history, he criticised the vehicle's stability system stating that "Deficiencies in the Kluger's ESP contributed to the crash". Six of the seven other judges also stated that they felt "the vehicle's ESP performance was sub-standard", and remarked that the vehicle was "almost dangerous on dirt [roads]". In a written response, Toyota disputed the circumstances of the accident and criticised the testing procedures as "unscientific".[30][31]


Pre-facelift Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (US)
Pre-facelift Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (Spain)
Facelift Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited (US)

The Kluger Hybrid features Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive which continues to allow an electric only powered mode for short distances and speeds. Weight and cost have been improved over the previous hybrid.[32][33]

The expanded size and new features have led to an increase of 500 pounds to its curb weight. All Highlander Hybrids are all-wheel drive, and the EPA has rated the hybrid at 27 mpg‑US (8.7 L/100 km; 32 mpg‑imp) for the city and 25 mpg‑US (9.4 L/100 km; 30 mpg‑imp) for the highway,[34] same as the previous model. The Highlander's fuel economy, while better than the Lexus RX 400h's, lags behind the compact 4cyl Ford Escape Hybrid, which ceased production in 2012, and the latest RX 450h, but still produces significantly fewer emissions than the non-hybrid version with a CARB SULEV rating.

The Highlander Hybrid continues to use the same 3.3-liter 3MZ-FE V6 (208 hp[clarification needed]) offered in AWD from the prior model, net power is 270 hp (201 kW). VDIM and Electronically Controlled Brake remain new features include a driver selectable electric only EV mode (when possible) and another ECON mode which restricts acceleration and minimizes air conditioning during acceleration.[citation needed] The Highlander Hybrid Hybrid uses a 1.9 kWh sealed nickel-metal hydride traction battery.[35]

For the 2011 model year the Highlander Hybrid received styling changes and was upgraded with the 3.5-liter 2GR-FXE V6 (245 hp), increasing net power by 10 hp (7 kW), and a powertrain similar to the RX450h. The vehicle is now rated at 28 mpg‑US (8 L/100 km; 34 mpg‑imp) for the city, highway and combined cycles.

Highlander FCHV (2007)

It was a test vehicle using compressed hydrogen gas, with average fuel economy of 68.3 miles/kg (approximate mpg equivalent).[36]

The vehicle was unveiled in 2007 LA motor show.[37]

Chinese version

The Chinese version of the Highlander (ASU40/GSU45) was unveiled in 2009 at the 13th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition.[38]


In mid-2012, Union Motors (Toyota's Israeli-Market Import Company) announced that it will begin importing the Highlander in late 2012, however, this was delayed to 2013.

Third generation (XU50; 2013–present)

Third generation (XU50)
Toyota Highlander XU50 01 China 2016-04-01.jpg
Also called Toyota Kluger (Australia)
Production December 2013[39] – present
Model years 2014–present
Assembly China: Guangzhou[13]
United States: Princeton, Indiana (TMMI)
Designer Matt Sperling (2009)[40]
Body and chassis
Platform Toyota K platform
Related Toyota Harrier (XU60)
  • 6-speed U660E/760E automatic
  • 8-speed UA80E/UA80F automatic (2016–present)
Wheelbase 109.8 in (2,789 mm)
Length 191.1 in (4,854 mm)
Width 75.8 in (1,925 mm)
Height 68.1 in (1,730 mm)
Curb weight 4,508 lb (2,045 kg)
Predecessor Toyota Venza

On 27 March 2013, Toyota unveiled the third-generation XU50 series Highlander at the New York International Auto Show, with plans to have the vehicle reach dealerships in early 2014. Production began on 5 December.[39] This version is longer and wider than the outgoing generation and its design has changed from its boxy look to one that is similar to other mid-size crossover SUVs.

In addition to the changes, this one will feature seating for eight people with a sliding second-row point of entry that gives it 4.3 inches of added width space, soft-touch materials on the instrument panel, lane-departure warning, pre-collision warning and blind spot monitoring systems. HD Radio and Bluetooth will become a standard on all trims for the US version, which will also come equipped with Toyota's Entune multimedia system along with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display audio system. An eight-inch touchscreen system and Toyota's Entune app suite with 12 JBL speakers will be offered as an optional feature. The three powertrain trims that will be offered include a 2.7-liter, six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive base model, a 3.5-liter, six-speed automatic model in both front- or all-wheel drive, and the AWD-only Hybrid trim with a 3.5-liter V6 mated to an eCVT.[41][42]

The newest Highlander is also approved for use as a New York City taxicab.[43]

2016 update

A refreshed 2017 model year Highlander appeared at the March 2016 New York Auto Show with sales starting in the fourth quarter of 2016.[44] In V6 powered models, an eight-speed automatic replaced the six-speeder and the revised V6 engine (now designated 2GR-FKS) added Toyota's D4-S direct injection fuel system.[45][46] The new Highlander has a new fascia with restyled headlights and taillights, new SE grade, and XLE and LE Hybrid grades plus new exterior and interior colors.[47]

Pre-facelift styling

Post-facelift styling


2016 Toyota Highlander on NHTSA[48]
Overall: 5/5 stars
Frontal Driver: 4/5 stars
Frontal Passenger: 5/5 stars
Side Driver: 5/5 stars
Side Passenger: 5/5 stars
Side Pole Driver: 5/5 stars
Rollover AWD: 4/5 stars 16.9%
2015 Toyota Highlander on IIHS:[49]
Category Rating
Moderate overlap frontal offset Good
Small overlap frontal offset (2014–2015) Acceptable1
Side impact Good
Roof strength Good2
1 vehicle structure rated "Good"
2 strength-to-weight ratio: 5.40


Toyota set a Highlander sales record in the US in 2017, selling 215,775 Highlanders.

Calendar year US total sales US hybrid sales[50]
2000[51] n/a n/a
2001 86,700 n/a
2002[52] 113,134 n/a
2003 120,174 n/a
2004[53] 133,077 n/a
2005 137,409 17,989
2006[54] 129,794 31,485
2007 127,878 22,052
2008[55] 104,661 19,441
2009 83,118[56] 11,086
2010 92,121 7,456[57]
2011 101,252 4,549[58]
2012 121,055[59] 5,921[60]
2013 127,572[61] 5,070[60]
2014 146,127[62] 3,621[63]
2015 158,915[64] 4,015[65]
2016 191,379[66] 5,976[67]
2017 215,775[68] 16,864[69]


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