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Toyota to launch Highlander

Teaser: The Highlander is Toyota's new car-based off-road pet.

Toyota's second car-derived off-roader will be hatched at the New York motor show

12 Apr 2000

TOYOTA will reveal a new mid-size (read Prado-sized) four-wheel drive wagon at the New York motor show, which opens on April 19.

It will be called Highlander, the name Land Rover originally wanted to bestow on what became known as the Discovery in 1990. Toyota had previously registered the Highlander name in many states and countries but has not wheeled it out in more than a decade's ownership.

The Toyota Highlander is believed to be based on the running gear and chassis of the next generation Camry sedan, due in two years. The Highlander is expected to be the first showing of that platform when it goes on sale in mid to late 2001.

According to spy pictures published in the US recently, the Highlander has smooth sides and a bulky, spacious cabin. It will have a monocoque body with no separate chassis so should offer close to passenger car levels of driving refinement.

The Highlander builds on the success Toyota has had internationally with the RAV4 its first monocoque bodied off-roader.

Like the RAV4, the Highlander is expected to offer a compromise four-wheel drive system that works well on sealed roads and fares less well when the going gets really tough.

Highlander has been designed primarily for sale in the US where the 4WD market for car-derived all-terrain vehicles has been booming.

Toyota recently announced that a Lexus RX300 would be built in its plant in Canada, the first time a Lexus is to be built outside Japan.

Since the RX300 is also Camry-based, it may be that the 2003 RX300 replacement and the Highlander will share significant components and some body panels.

In Japan, Toyota sells a rebadged version of the RX300 as the Harrier, though the longer term fate of this vehicle is not clear since it is expected the Highlander will be sold there.

Since the Highlander will be engineered for right-hand drive it is possible Toyota Australia will consider augmenting its 4WD dominance of the Australian market by adding the Highlander to its line-up.

Also, given the Camry's assembly plant in Altona, Melbourne, is always keen for more volume, manufacturing the Camry-based Highlander in Australia is a possibility, theoretically, though Toyota Australia executives will not be drawn at this stage.

Toyota will also use the New York show to reveal to the public for the first time the second generation RAV4, due on sale in Australia about June.

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