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Toyota Introduces 2008 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid

The 2008 Highlander Hybrid.

Toyota unveiled the all-new next-generation 2008 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid mid-size sport utility vehicles (SUV) at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show.

The 2008 Highlander is significantly larger, heavier, roomier and more powerful than the vehicle it replaces, but with comparable fuel consumption to its predecessor. All three conventional Highlander grades will be powered by a new 3.5-liter V6 that delivers 270 horsepower (201 kW)—a 55 horsepower gain over the previous generation’s 3.3-liter engine—and 249 lb-ft (338 Nm) of torque.

The hybrid retains a 3.3-liter V6 and uses an upgraded Hybrid Synergy Drive that slightly increases the vehicle’s total output to 270 net horsepower (up from 268 hp in the 2007 model) and maintains the hybrid’s fuel economy at 31 city and 27 highway despite the extra 500 pounds of vehicle weight in the 2008 model.

The hybrid also offers a user-selectable full all-electric (EV) mode; albeit with extremely limited range, given the size of the vehicle and the NiMH battery pack.

Offered in two grades, all Highlander Hybrids will feature Toyota’s VDIM stability system that integrates full-time four-wheel drive, electronic brake and throttle control with electronically controlled, active steering.

The Highlander rides on an all-new chassis derived from the current Camry and Avalon. It is nearly four inches longer and three inches wider, with an inch more ground clearance and three inches of additional wheelbase.

In 2006, Toyota sold more than 170,000 units of the Highlander Hybrid, Camry Hybrid and Prius combined. Of that total, the Highlander accounted for more than 31,000 units.

The conventional new Highlander arrives at dealerships in July, with the hybrid model following two months later.


John Galt

Perhaps this is a strategy to coax large assed Americans out of their Suburbans, Tahoes, Expeditions, etc., into a large SUV capable in excess of 27 mpg without pathetic exploitation of E85 loopholes in current CAFE regs. I'm sure this story will motivate extensive debate/criticism of Toyota's choice to increase the size of the Highlander. Unless I'm misinformed, Toyota is offering 100k warranty on the battery packs and EV components on their hybrid vehicles. Cheers.


I thought we were on our way to reducing our need for foreign oil; what the hell is Toyota thinking? If they were on their way to beating GM out for first place in the auto market, they just gave GM catch up time. Dumb move!


Why would this be a dumb move on Toyota's part. Sure, I would be more likely to buy, if it was a plug-in, but if they keep at least the same MPG and increase the interior room, they're probably going to sell more of the vehicles.

I get the impression that some would rail against any SUV, even if it was a pure electric charged on Solar Power.


It looks like Toyota is continuing to prepare for the advent of using a larger lithium-Ion battery in a plug-in configuration. First, Toyota dropped in a 105 KW motor in the 2007 Camry Hybrid, even though it is utilized more like a 50 KW motor. But that part of the package is being proven. Now, in the 2008 Highlander, we see the electronic control system for "electric mode only" being utilized. So these parts of the system will be "field tested" and optimized when in perhaps 2009, Toyota drops in a larger (3 KWH??) lithium battery in the Prius with an AER of 8 miles. And the last step hopefully will be a 2010 PHEV with an AER of greater than 20 miles from Toyota! Ah shucks, my crystal ball has just fogged over. :)


I think the most noticeable remark in this article is indeed the addition of the EV mode button as a factory default. The Prius 2 was first to introduce it (but only in EU & JP markets) - I guess the high number of interest (and adopters) of the modification for the US Prius pushed Toyota to offering it now right away...

I sincerly hope that the current interest in PHEVs is backed by enough economic power (fleet sales) once they become available - Hopefully already with the Prius III.


I just read on another website that this new Highlander has an all-electric range of a whopping 1 MILE!!! Stop the presses---Did you say 1 Mile? Yes, 1 gigantic Mile of non-stop, all-electric bliss!

Why did Toyota even bother if they were going to offer a joke of a function like that? Forgive me for being so Under-whelmed. Shouldn't we be able to expect better from the "Hybrid experts?"


Mr Schmeltz,

I am sorry to burst your bubble but 1 mile of EV mode means you can go zero fuel consumption on stop and go traffic where regular cars gets the worst fuel economy.

Imagine driving 18 MPG in new york city traffic in a compact car compared to infinite MPG in a hybrid highlander on those very slow stretches of roads.

One mile is more than enough to cover those unavoidable traffic jams.

To me the EV mode is the most signicant addition to maximaize fuel economy.

The engine is more efficient at high speed so you don't need EV when the hybrid already moving.


Let's say for arguments sake, a competitor introduced a machine with all-electric range of 20 miles, or 10 miles, or even 5 miles, which vehicle would be the bigger "win" for the green world, the Toyota with 1 mile AER, or the rival with a longer AER? The other rivals are indeed shooting higher than 1 mile AER, as stated in the latest articles, some of which have been posted on this website. Why would Toyota, the hybrid experts, even waste their own time with something that seems more just a marketing gimmick than an actually useful function? For Pete's sakes Toyota...instead of aiming low and hitting, aim high. If you miss, at least you tried.


At least with the EV mode, it will be easier to add more batteries and not void the warantee.


The Highlander was already a nonsensical choice for anyone interested in really good gas mileage. I just hope that when they bring out the new Prius that they don't increase the size and focus solely on better gas mileage.

The highlander hybrid is perfect for someone who would like to appear to care about gas mileage and global warming, without actually doing anything of real value.

The road to hell is paved with roads carrying hybrid SUVs that only deal with co2 emissions around the margins.


The larger 2008 Highlander Hybrid has the same rated mileage as the '07 model, but I'd like to know if they gamed the test. With 500 extra pounds will it REALLY get the same MPG?

I was seriously considering a 2007 Highlander Hybrid to replace my Chevy Trailblazer, which gets a combined 19 MPG. Availability of the hybrid version has gotten a lot better. But I don't really want a larger vehicle (a RAV 4 hybrid would be nice).

But t, some people carry more people and stuff (like kayaks, mountain bikes, camping gear, kids, soccer equip, etc). A Prius doesn't work for that. If we can replace the 14MPG Tahoes with 28 MPG Highlanders we'll save more oil than by converting all the cars in North America to hybrids. Yes, implement higher, E85-loophole free CAFE standards, and, yes, increase fuel taxes. But don't be so judgemental about somebody else's lifestyle. We can't all drive a Prius, at least not as our only vehicle.


I agree with your last statement JamesEE. I live in rural central PA, and Winter gets tough there. I have often been thankful for my Grand Cherokee. A Prius would have at stuck in the snow from January until March. What many people choose to forget is that SUV's and Pick-ups are genuine necessities for some people. It is not that we love polluting, or supporting terrorists, we just have actual applications for the power required, or space for things that these vehicles afford. I would like to see affordable light duty diesels for SUVs and 1/2 ton pickups, and/or PHEV versions available at some point. It is encouraging to see the industry finally moving in that direction. I blasted Toyota in 2 earlier posts, not because I hate Toyota, (I don't), but I think they should be taking the lead on fuel efficiency, and not wasting their breath on a gimmick of 1 mile AER. If they are going to talk the talk, then develop a vehicle with an All Electric Range of far more than a mile.


I'm puzzled by the E85 reference in the forum. Is this model E85 capable?
It may be that Toyota is moving the Highlanded into position so it can phase out the Sequoia (a high quality Expedition) when milage standards are introduced.
With reference to needing an SUV for winter, you might be surprised to find out what people have done and are doing with proper snow tires/snow chains and some skillful driving of conventional cars. Plus they are easier to get back on the road after hitting glare ice which would defeat even an SUV.


I have to agree w/ ESabre. The American public does not want less options in vehicle choices. Often times, not always, people who buy larger vehicles actually need them. What self respecting male or voluptuous female would go out and get a minivan if he didn't need one. Pick-up trucks are the industry standard for construction contractors. SUVs help people who may feel claustrophobic in smaller vehicles.

Ok, the first two make more sense, but the American public are not giving up SUVs so easily. I think people who are currently looking for a larger vehicle w/o excessively short mileage would like the idea.


For everyone who lives in places like rural whereever, there are a dozen who drive suburbans to work as the sole driver. If the people who had SUVs were solely the ones who really needed it, we would not have a problem. I live in the mountains of Colorado and this winter has been brutal. But the county and state does a good job of plowing the roads and people around here, including me drive our Prii, even in winter.

And when things really get bad and too deep for the Prius, we use our old beatup Subaru.

And wtf. Wasn't the Highlander big enough already to carry all the toys?


As if a kayak, mountain bikes, etc could not easily be affixed to a roof rack or rear rack (for the bikes) on any sedan or wagon. You aren't putting that stuff inside the vehicle (though I have put two mountain bikes in my compact 2 door with the seats folded down in the rear...and I drive my fwd sub 2500lb vehicle through the snowy roads with no problem every time in the winter).

A RWD truck will have more trouble navigating snowy conditions than a fwd vehicle unless you add ballast to the rear of the truck. I would have liked to have seen the mpg figures for the highlander sans the additional 500lbs.

Any job you say a SUV is ESSENTIAL for I could easily find a competent replacement vehicle that would do the same job just as well or better.


I say thank goodness for SUV's and Big gives all of us do-gooders something else to hate other than our Political leadership and annual tax payments. Maybe we should all consider for a moment that if the general populous of millions who buy the SUV's and Pick-ups have voted with their wallets, then SUV's and Pick-ups are the popular choice for a myriad of reasons. Some like more room to carry things; they don't like folding bikes into pretzels, and roof trunks are exposed to the elements and are difficult to reach. Some need 4WD due to their location and need clearance to go through snow that a Subaru can't traverse. Some are "Do it Yourselfers" and need a Pick-up to haul plywood, wood, and cement for a weekend project. Some are farmers, do we expect them to haul bales of hay to their cows with their Prius? Like it or not, SUV's and Pick-ups serve many different people and many different tasks well. I propose that instead of pushing a "one car fits all" mentality, Automakers need to explore more ways to make the SUV's and Pick-ups more efficient and green designed. As I said earlier, introduce light duty diesels capable of all grades of Biodiesel, PHEV SUV's, even Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles when the infrastructure is up and running. I've seen some real progress in all of these directions, but things just take time. If we force people to conform to a certain way, they will run in the opposite direction. If you make available good choices that they don't have to sacrifice their conveniences, they will welcome the technology with open arms---and it will be a greener world to boot.


Van great post.. I think you are onto something. Toyota does love doing things bit by bit instead of one big swing of the bat.

Being conservative imagine in 2012 the new cars had a 5 mile all electric range and were plug ins? That would put a serious dent in oil demand as old cars were traded in for new ones. Now imagine 2016 and we see 10 mile all electric range.. that would take another huge chunk out.

Bob Bastard

Full sized SUVs are worthless. Pitiful gas miliage, terrible handling, they ride like a truck, most only have one rear seat and buckets in the front so you can't haul that many people, and are not very capable off road. Sure, they are more capable than the average sedan, but when was the last time you saw someone go off-roading in a full-size SUV? As far as snow goes, I have owned a number of vehicles, and the most capable vehicle I've ever had on snowy and icy roads is my 84 VW Rabbit. I'm also from rural Pennsylvania, and on the few occasions each decade that the snow on the road gets up close to the bumper, I jump into my big old ugly 4WD 10 MPG pickup. I also use the truck when I need to haul really big or really dirty stuff, but most of the time, I just fold the back seat of the rabbit down. I only put a few hundred miles on the truck each year. As far as hauling a family around, on a recent trip to Puerto Rico, I rented a Mazda 3. I hauled my wife, her mother, my 8 month old daughter and car seat, my brother, and all our luggage around. We were all comfortable, and I averaged 33 MPG. Did I mention SUVs are expensive? Just from a practical standpoint, SUVs make no sense. From my observations, most driving done in SUVs is done with no passengers or visible cargo, on clear, paved roads. Really the only practical use I can think of for a big SUV is to haul your family and a large boat to the beach in the comfort of air conditioned leather, but that seems like somewhat of a niche market.


Farmers hauling bales of hay in a SUV? HAHAHA!!! A truck would haul more hay with less worry of damaging the precious leather seats inside.

Unless you have the most gigantic of SUVs you will not fit ANY adult size bicycles inside without some folding down of seats or the bike itself.

7 years ago, as a college student, I worked for a retailer loading TVs into people's vehicles. 9 times out of 10, if it fit in an SUV it would have fit in a hatchback or station wagon. 7 times out of 10 people would drive up in their shiny super sized SUV thinking the supersized TV would fit no problem...only to be disappointed when we would have to make arrangements for them to have it delivered to their house.

Basically, people just want a giant machine to fly down the road in. They want the comforts of home (proliferation of dvd players & monitors, refrigeration units, etc) and the appearance of safety (people are not rational and logical and they will avoid using actual data when determining the statistical safety level of their vehicle choice). The idea of the "American Dream" which means you have to buy bigger & better than your neighbor...this would all be why people buy SUVs. Stating need, "I can't get around 2 inches of snow without an SUV" or claiming utility, "What if I need to haul a couch/TV/kayak?" or safety, "I feel safer when I drive and can see above everyone else, the vehicle is heavy so I know I will survive" are all just convenient excuses they will use to hide their shame caused by the true intent of their purchase: EGO.


I couldn't agree with you more Patrick. Some of these posts remind me of Dick Cheney's comment that "the American way of life is non-negotiable". The reality is that the American suburban way of life is unsustainable and is "a living arrangement that has no future" (James Kunstler). I live in Australia and the same applies here.

When the twin realities of peak oil and climate change begin to really hit home then the rampant consumerism and leisure-oriented lifestyles that appear to be permanent now will seem like a distant dream.

Bob Bastard

Patrick, here where I live, there are lots of truck guys around who seem to make their vehicle purchases with phallic compensation in mind. They are quite easy to spot. The trucks are usually highly modified- chrome rims are a must, and the big craze now is to have big fat 'stacks'- just like the 18 wheelers, and the beds usually have some type of cover on them, almost as if to flaunt the fact that the truck will never be used to haul anything... except ass. The trucks never have dents or scratches, or even a bit of dust for that matter. I see these monstrosities literally racing down the streets here every day. On the other hand, there are plenty of guys who have trucks because they need them. Their easy to spot as well. They are usually bone stock, or with practical mods only(winch etc.)and even if they are relatively new, they are usually dirty and have scratches and dents. Which brings me back to SUVs. If people really bought them because they needed them, just like trucks, it would show. Most SUVs would have lots of battle scars, dents, scratches, and dirt from off road use, and constant loading and unloading of cargo and people. I can't remember the last time I saw an SUV that looked like that.


Toyota is targeting Detroit's only profitable product segment in North America. If they get enough Tahoe owners to switch to the Highlander Hybrid by upsizing it in 2008 they'll make a lot of money AND save a lot of fuel. I'm hoping they will backfill the smaller SUV category with a RAV 4 hybrid. Two choices are better than one. A RAV 4 hybrid might get 35-38 MPG compared to the Highlander's 26-29 MPG (as reported by users).

For those of you who have a religious hatred for SUV's, well, there's no convincing you. Your vitriol is too strong. Yes, too many people drive too often in vehicles that are larger than they need. Higher fuel taxes and CAFE standards would push people towards conservation. But it's silly to say that there is NO legitimate use for an SUV or pickup truck. I won't be driving 600 miles in a Prius with four passengers and four mountain bikes on top plus everyone's gear and luggage. I'll be driving my SUV for that, and I do want a more efficient SUV.



A lot of people hate cars too. And millions and millions hate practically all things modern civilization carry: roads, factories, cattle farms, corporations, international trade and travel, rich people and rich countries, etc. For such people SUV is just iconic, as quintessence of wasteful toys of rich American imperialists. Naturally, Climate Change provides excellent justification for such bursts of hatred. Very pity that noble things like environment protection, energy and fuel efficiency, sustainable development and alike are more and more become high jacked by extremists.


1 mile is what battery of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle is good for (for pure electric propulsion). Anything more substantial, like PHEV, requires totally different battery and a lot of other alterations. That’s why Toyota is saying that functional PHEV is couple of years away.

T, Bob:

Unfortunately, your scheme of occasional use of ‘beat up Subaru” and “old ugly pick-up” is out of question where I live (BC), and many other places too. We have compulsory vehicle insurance, and person who has such vehicle in anticipation of occasional use have to pay 200 bucks a month for it, if he wants one snowy day to get to the work. Naturally, he uses it for everyday commute. Having a car for commute and pay insurance for two vehicles every month does not make sense. Our dumb governments should as fast as possible establish insurance company or policy which allows convenient insurance on per-day-use of such “occasional use vehicles”. I was pleased to find such proposition in current California initiative (earlier GCC post).

PS: the champion of silliness is pick-up with lowered suspension.


Agreed. Many times people were stunned to see what kind of bulky cargo I can fit into my hatch. For 95% of SUV owners Outback would suffice, but most of relaxed SUV drivers do not appreciate how much better the latter handles the road.


In January Toyota sold in US about 100 thousand cars and about 75 thousand trucks and SUVs. This still profitable market for Big Three (due to their head start) very quickly become as competitive as car market. From now on competition is about value and quality (especially long-term reliability); lame excuses of Big Three that they were caught unprepared by high oil prices are, well, lame excuses. I hope they recognize it.

As for hybrid Highlander, I have one reservation. Current Toyota “Hybrid Synergy Drive” is not very good for towing. And high towing capacity is of high importance for big SUV buyers. Coming this spring dual mode hybrid transmission for GM and Dodge trucks will be much more suited for towing and hauling.


Thanks AA2, and perhaps I was a tad optimistic. Things do tend to take longer than we hope for.

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