THE seven-seater Toyota Highlander SUV was only introduced into the UK in early 2021 and it seems a real shame that, after launching its 2023 model, the brand decided to discontinue its sales in the UK.
At 4,966mm long, 1,930mm wide and 1,755mm high, with a 2,850mm wheelbase, the Highlander is definitely a big car. It's also - for a large SUV - quite good-looking and very likeable.
For 2023, Toyota's largest hybrid electric SUV gained technologies for a more connected and personalised user experience, adopting Toyota's Smart Connect+ multimedia system, which introduced a 12.3-inch touchscreen high-definition display and added functionality including cloud-based navigation with real-time information on road events and voice control.
The cloud navigation could be accessed without having to pair a smartphone and with no additional data costs.
The system also enabled useful remote functions, including locking and unlocking of the doors and operation of the hazard lights to help locate the car in a busy car park. There was wireless smartphone connection via Apple CarPlay, plus wired connection to use the Android Auto system. It also came with a wireless charging tray, relocated in the front console for easier use.
The driver's instrument display underwent a full redesign with the introduction of the new 12.3-inch digital combimeter that provided easy-to-read information and intuitive operation. Also new for 2023 were 20-inch gloss black alloy wheels.
It retained its flexible seven seat interior intelligent all-wheel drive (AWD-i).
The interior was designed with all the practicality, durability and flexible space-on-demand expected of a seven-seat family SUV, while offering a comfortable environment for everyone on board.
The switchgear was shaped to flow seamlessly from the panels and for ease of use. Satin and wood grain trim finishes added to its more upmarket ambience, while soft-touch padding used finely textured leather with precise stitchwork.
A 180mm sliding range for the second-row seat meant there was spacious and accessible accommodation in the two third-row seats, making them reasonably comfortable for adults to use on short journeys. There's plenty of legroom in the front and second-row seats.
When all seven seats are in place, 332 litres of storage are provided, including 27 litres beneath the floor. When second and third row seats are folded flat, the space increases to a humungous 1,909 litres.
There are further storage spaces throughout the cabin, together with power, USB and external HDMI sockets and ports in the front and second row seat areas.
There's also triple-zone air conditioning; heated and ventilated front seats; heated steering wheel; power tailgate; panoramic roof, black leather seat upholstery; and an 11-speaker JBL Premium Sound System.
The all-wheel drive 245bhp, 2.5-litre hybrid powertrain is exceptionally quiet and officially offers fuel economy from 39.2mpg so I was very pleased with the 38.1mpg I achieved. Acceleration is smooth and powerful, and Highlander can tow loads of up to two tonnes.
The driver can select their preferred drive mode to suit the occasion or conditions - Eco, Normal, Sport and Trail. To be frank, it's probably best left in Eco or Normal, unless you need a little 4x4 help. It's fairly quiet on major roads despite its bulk and huge mirrors.
The ride comfort is helped by the nifty Ride Control with Torque Demand, which controls drive torque to the front wheels to reduce vehicle pitch caused by fluctuations in the road surface and reduce the bonnet lift that can occur under hard acceleration.
The latest AWD-i set up also uses a new rear transaxle to improve maximum torque at the rear wheels. The rear electric motor system can provide 121Nm of torque and can transmit up to 1,300Nm to the rear wheels, boosting vehicle performance when moving from standstill, under acceleration and in slippery road conditions.
The 2023 Highlander was also equipped with the latest Toyota Safety Sense active safety and driver assistance technologies, designed to help prevent or mitigate collisions in a wide range of traffic scenarios.
These include a Pre-Collision System (PCS) with active steer assist, to provide further collision avoidance support. The PCS set-up can also detect pedestrians in the vehicle's path by both and day and night - and bicycle riders in daylight. Other features include Adaptive Cruise Control with Road Sign Assist, Lane Departure Alert and Lane Tracing Assist.
Practical, easy to drive and economical, it's a great car. However, when it was launched last year, the 2023 model would cost you Â£57,980 on-the-road new, with a five-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
Should you be interested in the earlier models, they can be bought for anywhere between £39,000 and £48,000.
However, should you want a 2023 model - obviously fairly low mileage - you will be paying a Toyota approved dealer between Â£58,000 and Â£60,000 for a used model. That's more than it cost new.