Consistent Greatness: The Toyota Highlander

Every so often, a vehicle comes along at Scott Will Toyota that manages to include the features that buyers of a certain segment are actually seeking rather than trying to convince buyers that certain features are the ones they want. The Toyota Highlander is just such a vehicle. With the incoming 2020 model offering a striking new design and several more useful and desired features for you to enjoy around Sumter, SC.

The Beginning: Borrowing from a Brother

Toyota and Lexus, two iconic brands owned by the same company, have had a mutually beneficial relationship since the first Lexus was launched in 1989. The ability to borrow platforms across the two different brands and share quality and safety enhancements has improved the quality and success of both makes of vehicles.

The Highlander is one such vehicle that benefited from this close working relationship. First introduced in 2001, the Highlander utilized the platform of the Lexus RX 300, a genre-defining SUV that was first sold in 1998. Building on the success of the Toyota 4Runner, the Highlander notched nicely into the market, fulfilling a need for a larger SUV that had the handling of a car.

Initially, the Highlander offered five seats and lots of cargo room for travels around Dentsville. A seven-seat option didn't come along until 2004. The smart driving characteristics of this new-to-the-market SUV made it a fast seller, though, as in 2001 alone, it sold almost 87,000 units, a gargantuan feat considering the economic conditions of the time.

Becoming Highlander

The next generation of Highlanders began the transformation of this SUV into the vehicle we know today. 2004 saw the first seven-seat Highlander, adding precious seating capacity to the spacious cabin. This, along with transmission improvements and engine updates, led to sales records for the Highlander that remained unbroken for many years.

Another important advancement in this era was in the safety systems that all Toyota vehicles are legendary for today. Referring to vehicle crashworthiness, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety held up the Highlander, a fairly new addition to the American vehicle landscape, as one of the vehicles with the lowest rates of fatalities. Thus, the Highlander became revered as a fun-to-drive family hauler, a designation it still enjoys to this day.

Navigating Changing Tides

Despite previous overhauls in past years, the true second-generation Highlander was introduced in 2007. This new Highlander brought a new, highly-refined design, different engine configurations, and newly-defined trim levels. Throughout this generation, which lasted until 2013, few changes were introduced, other than a two-door, five-passenger option in 2009. Despite no headline-grabbing changes, Toyota continued to perfect the engine and drivetrain of the Highlander to help it remain popular with modern drivers.

During and after the recession, the Highlander, like all larger SUVs, lost some steam in terms of sales. Though it was a safe, capable, and reliable vehicle, the Highlander couldn't match the fuel economy of sedans that were, in some cases, a quarter of its size. This, combined with an overall aversion to large purchases, put downward pressure on the sales figures of the Highlander. However, sales figures never sunk below 83,000 units, even at the height of the recession.

Accelerating Forward

The third-generation Highlander, introduced in 2013, built upon the success of its predecessors by modernizing the design and adding modern amenities to keep it current. The biggest change during this period was the addition of an 8-passenger option, putting the seating capacity of the Highlander in-line with all but the largest vans. Given it's sleeker lines and refined architecture, though, the Highlander could typically beat any van when it came to fuel economy driving around Hartsville.

Building for the Future

2020 brings with it a new decade and a new Highlander. The first thing you'll notice about the all-new Highlander is a redesigned exterior. The Highlander now features more aggressive front-end styling, set off by the enlarged grille and more pronounced fog light cutouts. Complemented by the blacked-out A-pillars, the Highlander takes on a much more luxurious appearance, hearkening back to its Lexus-inspired roots.

The newest Highlander also features a host of new safety features and a re-designed driver interface that makes it easy to access the most commonly-used controls to ensure you're able to stay focused on the road. For further convenience, the second-row seats now tilt and slide forward, allowing easier access for those riding in the last row around Manning, SC. Rounded out by engines that are similar to the previous generation, allowing them to be more refined, and you get an SUV that's just too good to pass up.

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