THERE’S no doubt Toyota have a reputation for making tough, reliable vehicles – remember Jeremy Clarkson’s attempts to ‘kill’ an old pick-up and news footage from third world conflicts almost always features the company’s aging products traversing rugged terrain.

So their latest large SUV, the Highlander, already ticks those two boxes (and even shares its name with an ‘immortal’ film franchise character) but what is it like to live with away from the battlefield or TV motoring stunt show?

Well we got our hands on the lower-spec Excel Hybrid version for a week and it did not disappoint. Mind you, for over £50,000 you would expect something special.

Now in its fourth generation, the Highlander has long been a key part of Toyota’s line-up world-wide, but not here in the UK until now. The seven-seater is a big vehicle so has lots of road presence with a blend of rugged SUV design and distinctive Toyota styling.

The generous interior is comfortable and both Excel and Excel Premium trim levels have lots of kit with an upmarket feel. There is an eight-inch infotainment screen surrounded by assorted switchgear all close to hand and elsewhere a mixture of analogue and digital displays with the Premium models even getting a head-up display.

The standard panoramic roof adds to the spacious feel while for comfort there are leather heated and ventilated seats, multi-zone air conditioning and a premium sound system. Passengers in the second row have plenty of space while the third row are big enough for adults on shorter journeys and kids all day long.

With the rear two seats folded down the Highlander offers a generous 658 litres of storage, rising to 1,177 litres if you also stow away the second row which fold down flat.

The Highlander Excel (from £50,595) also has a power tailgate, which adds to its practicality, and other standard kit includes black leather upholstery on all seven seats, three-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, puddle lights, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and sat nav.

The plusher Excel Premium (from £52,575) also gets that heads-up display, a top-down parking camera, heated rear seats and ventilated fronts among other additions.

The Highlander is offered with only one powertrain for the UK, a 244bhp 2.5-litre petrol-electric hybrid set up which has an electric motor on each axle to give four-wheel drive and plenty of power (0 to 60 in 8.3 seconds and a top speed of 111mph) while returning an impressive claimed mpg of a shade under 40.

Toyota’s long experience of hybrids means seamless integration of petrol and electric power although the CVT transmission can let revs rise a bit under hard acceleration. The Highlander can also run on electricity alone up to the motorway limit given enough charge is available.

The suspension set up gives a comfortable ride on normal roads yet can cope with the rough stuff if required. The Highlander is, however, more road focussed that its slightly bigger brother, the venerable Land Cruiser.

There aren’t many seven-seater premium hybrid SUVs on offer at this price so the Highlander could find a niche for those looking for a value for money, well-appointed, spacious and practical large SUV backed by the pedigree of the Toyota brand.

More info at

By Motoring Editor Steve Howarth