How safe is Toyota Fortuner

Toyota Highlander: A battleship for the extended family

21 years after its premiere, Toyota is bringing the Highlander to Austria. The stately, almost five meter long SUV offers space for seven people, remains economical thanks to the hybrid drive - and still has buttons and switches.

It was in Australia a few years ago. Among the many sometimes very strange cars that were on the sand tracks Down Under, one caught the eye: a Toyota Fortuner - a large, massive off-road vehicle. Why doesn't it exist in Europe?

A similar experience in the USA: In Alaska you saw a number of Toyota 4Runner, an off-road vehicle the size of a Land Cruiser, completely unknown to us. In cities like Washington and New York, on the other hand, it was a large SUV, the Toyota Highlander. And again the question: Why aren't these cars in Europe?

At least one thing is now making it to the Old World - 21 years after its presentation at the New York International Auto Show: The Toyota Highlander will also be sold in Austria from March (starting price: 57,990 euros). And if the feeling doesn't deceive us after a first brief meeting, then probably quite successfully.

With the Highlander, Toyota closes a supply gap that it has for large SUVs in Europe. The RAV4, which has become more handsome in the youngest generation, is too small for some, while the Land Cruiser is too rustic for many. The Highlander meets the automotive taste of the time quite precisely by combining the need to sit high with space for up to seven people and a modern, tasteful interior.

The SUV is almost five meters long, the dimensions of a BMW X5 or Mercedes GLE. A wheelbase of 2.85 meters guarantees a large interior, the trunk holds between 268 liters (as a seven-seater; 658 liters with two rows of seats) and 1909 liters (with the seats folded down). The rear bench can be moved by 18 centimeters, so you can give the third row more legroom if you really want to ban adults there.

On the road you notice the country of birth - the Highlander is built in the US state of Indiana - the SUV drives like a battleship, but with unexpectedly precise controls. The fact that it is now coming to Europe also has to do with the new drive technology that all manufacturers are pushing. There was never a diesel engine for the Highlander, so it would not have been for sale in this country. That changes with the interest of customers in the new hybrid drives.

Accordingly, the giant SUV is only available with a self-charging full hybrid drive (the V6 is reserved for the USA) with an exclusive electric motor for the rear axle and an electric and gasoline engine for the front axle, which increases the torque between 100: 0 and 20:80 split. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder petrol engine develops 190 hp, combined with the electric motors, this results in a system output of 248 hp. When you take the SUV for the first time, that's by no means too much (empty weight: up to 2130 kilograms).

The spread of the different driving modes (Eco, Normal, Sport) is good. Sport is of course rarely used because of the continuously variable automatic transmission (at least with five simulated gears) with its rubber band effect and - despite acoustic glazing - the easily audible engine when the accelerator is too much. But you don't drive a battleship like a speedboat either. Thanks to the efficient planetary gearbox, consumption is between 6.6 and 7.1 liters per 100 kilometers.

The first thing you notice inside is that there are buttons and switches in addition to the 12.3-inch multimedia display. You only notice when you have it again how much easier it is to operate the air conditioning and seat heating / seat cooling. We owe this to our primary target market, the USA, as well as the large number of storage areas.

In the Highlander, Toyota offers all the assistants that are in the range - from an emergency braking system to adaptive cruise control with steering assistant - the top equipment also includes a head-up display and a rear-view mirror, in which a video image from a second rear-view camera can be viewed if desired can fade in.

Perhaps the 4Runner or the fancy FJ Cruiser will come to Europe at some point. Unfortunately, one that is still being built in South Africa will never make it: the Land Cruiser 76, a model from the legendary J7 series. The bush taxi doesn't even meet EU standards with a hybrid drive. [R4HSL]