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• The 2008 Toyota Highlander is the second generation. The first generation was introduced in January 2001. It was based on the 1998 Lexus RX 300 platform.
• 2004. There were minor changes. The engine was upped from a 220-hp V6 to a 230-hp V6. The four-speed automatic gave way to a five-speed. Third row seating was added.
• 2005. The Highlander Hybrid was launched as a model year ’06 SUV. This was Toyota’s second hybrid. The first was the Prius.
• ’08 gasoline-powered Highlander is launched in 07/2007. The Highlander Hybrid is launched in 10/2007. Both are built in Fukuoka, Japan, at Toyota Motor Kyushu.
• 2010 is when the gasoline model will go into production at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi, the plant that is being built in Tupelo.
• ’08 Highlander is based on the Avalon and Camry platform.
• Compared with the previous model, the ’08 Highlander is dimensionally bigger:
Wheelbase: 109.8 in. (up 2.9 in.)
Overall length: 188.4 in. (up 3.8 in.)
Overall width: 75.2 in. (up 3.3 in.)
Overall height: 69.3 in. (up 2.8 in.)
• Compared with the previous model, the ’08 Highlander is heavier, with the base two-wheel-drive model at 3,979 lb., up from 3,649, and the base four-wheel-drive model at 4,178 lb., up from 3,935 lb. About the weight increase, chief engineer Yukihiro Okane says, “This reflects not only its substantial increase in roominess, but the amount of reinforcement to the cabin required to achieve new levels of passenger protection.”
• The EPA interior volume of the ’08 is bigger: 156-ft3, compared with 144.4-ft3 for the ’07.
• The interior length is increased by 105 mm.
• Two-wheel-drive and four-wheel drive models are available.
• There are three trim levels for the gasoline powered version (Base, Sport, Limited; of those trims, Toyota group vp and general manager Bob Carter expects sales of 35%, 35%, and 30% respectively. The Sport trim is anticipated to have a 10% increase versus the previous model.)
• There are two trim levels for the hybrid model: base and Limited.
• Full 2008 annual sales plan: 133,000 units, including 28,000 Highlander Hybrids.
• The ’07 model was available with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. The ’08 model is available only with the 3.5-liter six-cylinder. Bob Carter explains that the take rate for the four was less than 20%, and that the RAV 4 has in-creased in size such that people looking for the smaller engine still have one available in a reasonably room package.
• The V6 is designated the 2GR-FE. It is also used for the Avalon, Camry, Sienna, and RAV 4. It is a DOHC, 24-valve 60° V6 that provides 270 hp @ 6,200 rpm and 248 lb-ft. of torque @ 4,700 rpm.
• Using the 2008 EPA fuel economy calculations:
Two-wheel drive: 18/24/20 mpg ?(city/highway/combined)
Four-wheel drive: 17/23/19 mpg ?(city/highway/combined)
Hybrid: 27/25/26 mpg ?(city/highway/combined)
• Among the contributing factors to the fuel efficiency are, according to Okane, are seven underbody aerodynamic covers located at the front, middle, and rear of the vehicle.
• 0.34. The coefficient of drag.
• Meets ULEV-II and Tier 2-Bin 5 emissions regulations.
• Five-speed transmissions are used for both 2WD and 4WD applications. Both use lock-up torque converters.
• The four-wheel-drive system is full-time, constantly distributing torque at a 50:50 ratio front and year. The system uses a four-joint prop shaft assembly. The third joint is a cross-groove constant velocity joint that helps reduce noise and vibration.
• The hybrid system consists of a 3.3-liter, DOHC, 24-valve V6 that produces 208 hp. Combined with the electric motor generators (there are three permanent magnet motors), the total output is 270 hp.
• There is a high-voltage battery pack. The nominal voltage is 288 V. The peak voltage is 45 kW. It consists of 30 nickel-metal hydride modules. Each module is 9.6 V (1.2 V x 8 cells). The pack assembly is divided into three sections: 12 modules on either side and six in the middle. There are 30 in-line bus bar modules connected in series. The total mass of the battery pack (including the battery, ECU, switch-mode rectifiers, and the service plug): 150 lb.
• The hybrid system will permit the vehicle to go almost three miles at ~25 mph in electric mode. (Assuming that the battery charge is full, the hybrid system temperature is in the right band, and the engine coolant is 158°F or more.
• The brakes have been increased front and back, with the front being 12.9-in. ventilated rotor with twin-piston steel calipers and the rear being 12.2-in. solid discs with a single-piston aluminum caliper.
• 38.7 ft.: the curb-to-curb turning circle.
• Nine exterior colors. Three interior colors.
• There is an eight-way power adjustable driver’s seat and a four-way passenger’s seat. The Limited trim offers a 10-way power driver’s seat.
• The second row features the “Center Stow” seat and console. Essentially, the second row is a bench seat. But there is a removable center section that transforms the bench into two captain’s seats and permits children ready access to the third row. The removed section is then fitted into a container beneath the front center console.
• The second row seats have 4.7 in. of fore-aft sliding capability.
• The adjustable steering wheel has a 3°tilt range and a 40-mm telescoping range.
• There is a three-zone climate control system: (1) driver, (2) front passenger, (3) rear.
• The vehicle is available with Toyota’s Gen 5 navigation system. There is a 32,000-color 7-in. LCD display. There is voice recognition; it responds to more than 200 voice commands. There are more than 8,000,000 points of interest.
• There is a 3.5-in. color monitor standard on Sport, Limited, and both hybrid models for vehicles that don’t have a navigation system. It is a multifunctional display that is used as a back-up monitor and to provide information including time, outside temperature, and more.
• A smart key system is standard on the Limited and both hybrid models. Sensors detect the presence of the key fob within 3 feet.
In June 2005, Katsuaki Watanabe was named president of Toyota Motor Corp. Although Yukihiro Okane, chief engineer for the Highlander, and his team were already undertaking the development of the vehicle, Watanabe had a directive to the entire engineering staff of the corporation. Okane says, “He strongly stated to the engineering department his intention to re-prioritize product quality. Vehicles were becoming more complex and we needed to re-vamp the engineering and manufacturing process to address this complexity.
“He stated his case simply. Toyota is the world’s foremost manufacturing company. But quality begins with, and is driven by, smart engineering. He tasked each chief engineer to offer new ideas on how to improve quality. Everything, from tools to process to budget was open to discussion.”
Highlander became the pilot program for Watanabe’s initiative, which he named “Customer First.” Okane admits that he was honored by this—but also made somewhat nervous.
So he and his team identified three critical criteria:
“It was a costly, time-consuming process that ran counter to an established agenda of cutting costs, manpower and development time,” he explains, adding, “It shook up the engineering department, which is exactly what it was intended to do.”