When Toyota set out to freshen Highlander for the ’04 model year, the company realized that it would need more than new front and rear fascias and new interior colors. Since its launch three years ago, the mid-size car-based SUV segment has seen significant growth. Formidable competitors like Honda Pilot, Chrysler Pacifica and the soon-to-be-launched Chevrolet Equinox, all will offer a third-row seat, an option that has become a standard in the segment. The ’04 Highlander will offer an optional third row seat as well as a bigger V-6 engine and 5-speed automatic transmission.
Third Row Seating
To accommodate the additional seat, engineers tooled up a new stamping for the underload floor pan. The third-row seat folds totally flat, creating a load floor that is the same height as the previous generation. To accommodate the fold down seat, the spare tire was relocated underneath the load floor at the rear of the vehicle. The smaller section of the 60-40 split second row seat folds and tumbles for easy access to the rear.
|Toyota’s new 3.3 L V-6 that powers both the Sienna minivan and Solara coupe, finds it way into the 2004 Highlander.
The V-6 is mounted using a computer-controlled active noise canceling engine mount, picked up from the Toyota Avalon and Lexus ES300. The front mount is liquid-filled and has an air chamber. The ECU pulls air into the air chamber, moving the mount up or down to cancel engine vibration at idle.
The V-6 is mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission shared with Sienna and Solara.
Improved Ride and Handling
Highlander is the first Toyota vehicle to use the new lateral control spring. The offset barrel- shape wound spring changes the load path through the suspension, allowing the spring’s axis to come in line with the kingpin instead of the strut, reducing lateral load on the upper strut bearing.
What We Think
While Highlander may find it difficult to stand out in a segment that seems to be spread out all over the map, improvements for ’04 and a strong brand image should secure it a place on most shopping lists.
|2004 Toyota Highlander
|What Is It:
|A car-based mid-size SUV
|Who’s It For:
|Those wanting the benefits of an SUV with a car-like ride
|Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Trailblazer
|Where’s It Built:
|Toyota Motor Kyushu, Inc. plant in Kyushu, Japan.
|2.4L DOHC 16-valve I-4/ 3.3L DOHC 24-valve V-6
|160 at 5,700 rpm/ 230 at 5,600 rpm
|165 lbs.-ft. at 4,000 rpm/ 242 lbs.-ft. at 3,600 rpm
|Transverse mounted, front engine, 2-wheel-drive or full-time four-wheel-drive
|4-speed ECT automatic/ 5- speed ECT automatic
|Door Trim Panel: