High­lander has high ground in names Rob Maet­zig.

We drive the top ver­sion of the ap­pro­pri­ate­ly­named Toy­ota High­lander. By

The Wellingtonian - - Front Page -

Thank heav­ens we live in New Zealand and not Aus­tralia.

Oth­er­wise we’d have to call that ca­pa­ble Toy­ota large SUV that we know as High­lander, by an­other name: Kluger.

Per­son­ally we chuckle over that name. We know it’s Ger­man for ‘‘Clever’’ or ‘‘Smarter’’, but it in the mo­tor­ing sense it has a cer­tain un­for­tu­nate ring to it that sounds like ‘‘Clunker’’ or ‘‘Clanger’’. Not good for any ve­hi­cle.

We bet if Toy­ota Aus­tralia had had the choice, they would have pre­ferred to call the Kluger by its in­ter­na­tional name of High­lander. But they couldn’t – Hyundai al­ready had dibs in Aussie on that name with a ve­hi­cle called Ter­ra­can, which orig­i­nally had been de­vel­oped off a con­cept called High­land and also had a High­lander trim. So the com­pany chose to call it Kluger in­stead.

Mind you, Toy­ota can’t com­plain. It’s cur­rently pre­vent­ing Ford from in­tro­duc­ing a new SUV with its in­ter­na­tional name of Edge, be­cause it al­ready owns the rights to Edge and cur­rently uses it on spe­cialedi­tion Hilux utes. So Ford has to call it some­thing else when it launches the model in Aus­tralia and New Zealand early next year.

Any­way, in New Zealand the Toy­ota the sub­ject of this re­view is called High­lander. It al­ways has been, ever since it was first launched here in the early 2000s. It quickly es­tab­lished it­self as a favourite, and it has been a strong part of the spec­tac­u­lar growth in the pop­u­lar­ity of SUVS here.

Last year SUV sales ac­counted for about 36 per cent of all new ve­hi­cles sales in New Zealand. This year so far has seen that rise to 39 per cent – and in July the per cen­t­age in­crease even fur­ther, to 40 per cent.

While medium-sized mod­els are the big­gest-sell­ing SUVS, large SUVS are also play­ing a ma­jor role in the con­tin­u­ing surge in sales of these types of ve­hi­cles – and eas­ily the most pop­u­lar model in the large SUV seg­ment is the High­lander.

So far this year it is New Zealand’s 8th most pop­u­lar pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cle, with 1363 sales to the end of July – pretty darned good for a model that doesn’t carry an RRP of less than $53,000. A ma­jor rea­son for this suc­cess is be­cause a third of these sales are to rental car com­pa­nies. It’s the third most pop­u­lar rental ve­hi­cle so far this year, be­hind fel­low Toy­otas, the RAV4 and the Corolla.

Now we don’t know which of the avail­able High­lander mod­els are go­ing to the rental com­pa­nies – and it’s not our busi­ness what they pay for them, and how – but we’re pick­ing they are prob­a­bly a mix­ture of the en­try all-wheel drive ver­sion, the $53,490 GX, and maybe the 2WD model, the $66,490 GXL. We’re also pick­ing that few if any of them will be the top ver­sion that we’ve just been driv­ing, the $81,490Awdlim­ited.

This most lux­u­ri­ous High­lander will be the dar­ling of the cor­po­rate set, par­tic­u­larly the chief ex­ec­u­tives and the gen­eral man­agers, with quite a few pri­vate buy­ers thrown in. And why not? The size­able Us-sourced seven-seater is a beau­ti­fully built SUV, com­fort­able, and pow­ered by what has to rate as one of the smoothest V6 petrol en­gines on the mar­ket.

High­lander was facelifted ear­lier this year, and the big change was in­stal­la­tion of the same 3.5-litre V6 that pow­ers the likes of Lexus RX SUV and GS sedan. Com­pared to the V6 it re­places, the en­gine of­fers 17 kilo­watts more power and 13 New­ton me­tres more torque, to 218kw and 350Nm. The en­gine is also now paired with a di­rect-shift eight-speed au­to­matic, which re­places a for­mer six-speeder.

It’s an ex­cel­lent en­gine­trans­mis­sion com­bi­na­tion. The 2GR-FKS en­gine is the first Toy­ota en­gine to fea­ture both in­tel­li­gent vari­able valve tim­ing and di­rect in­jec­tion, and this al­lows it to en­ter what is known as the Atkin­son Cy­cle un­der light throt­tle loads, which in very sim­ple terms min­imises the use of fuel by de­lay­ing the clos­ing of a pis­ton’s in­take valve dur­ing the com­pres­sion stroke.

Vis­ual changes to the facelifted High­lander in­clude a new-style grille with chrome ac­cents, new lights, and 19-inch al­loys wheels for the Lim­ited model. The rear has new LED tail-lights.

On the inside, the Lim­ited now has a panoramic view mon­i­tor which pro­vides the driver with a live 360-de­gree bird’s-eye view around the ve­hi­cle which al­lows the driver to see po­ten­tial ob­sta­cles from all an­gles, rain­sens­ing wipers, and a sil­ver wood­grain-style fin­ish. The Lim­ited is also the safest High­lander, fea­tur­ing a Safety Sense pack­age that con­sists of a pre-crash sys­tem with au­to­matic brak­ing, high-speed dy­namic radar cruise con­trol, lane de­par­ture alert with steer­ing as­sis­tance, and auto high beam.

Toy­ota New Zealand says it is work­ing to get the Safety Sense pack­age in­stalled in all High­landers, but they are not yet in pro­duc­tion at the assem­bly plant in In­di­ana, USA.

It’ll be good when that does hap­pen, be­cause not only will it add to the se­cu­rity of the many mo­torists who hire this ve­hi­cle as a rental, but it will al­low it to main­tain the high ground as one of the best large SUVS on the mar­ket. Try claim­ing that with the name Kluger in­stead of High­lander!

The Toy­ota High­lander Lim­ited - one smooth oper­a­tor.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.