Toyota Highlander Electric three-row SUV to be built in Kentucky: Report

  • Will be positioned above the Toyota bZ4X, which is imported from Japan
  • To feature locally made batteries and likely be eligible for federal tax credits
  • The future Kia EV9, Hyundai Ioniq 7 & Ford's 3-row EV SUV are the potential competitors
  • All-electric family SUV expected to touch U.S. dealers in 2025

As Yoichi Miyazaki, Executive Vice President, Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), announced on April 7, 2023, the first series production EV the company plans to manufacture in the United States will be a three-row SUV.

Widely expected to evolve from the Toyota bZ Large SUV concept, the new Toyota electric SUV was also confirmed to enter production in 2025, and is expected to reach U.S. dealerships the same year. Recently, Carbuzz has learned that the Japanese will market it as the Toyota Highlander Electric.

Here’s everything we know about the future electric SUV.

Design

Toyota bZ Large SUV digital rendering (Toyota Highlander Electric preview)
The three-row electric SUV wearing the Highlander nameplate is expected as the production avatar of the Toyota bZ Large SUV concept (pictured). Image Source: Toyota Motor Corporation

The Highlander EV will likely feature a hammerhead shark-like front, and look similar to the bZ4X when seen head-on. On the sides, it may not feature black wheel arch moldings, which would give it a cleaner look.

An airy greenhouse, flush door handles, sleek glass panels, simplistic door panels, large wheels, and slim tail lamp extensions could be among other visual highlights of the profile. Sitting lower than a comparable gas-powered model, the electric three-row SUV should look more dynamic.

Interior

2024 Toyota Highlander Hybrid driver's seat
In my review of the Highlander Hybrid, I found that the first two rows of seats provide sufficient headroom, knee room, and shoulder room, even for a six-footer. I expect the Highlander EV to offer similar spaciousness.

Inside, I think the three-row Toyota Highlander Electric will offer comfortable seating for 4-5 adults and 2 kids. TMC could provide the option to swap out the middle-row bench with individual seats for customers prioritizing comfort over practicality. Given the premium customers will pay over a standard Toyota, it’s likely that Toyota won’t hold back on features for a potential Lexus equivalent, similar to the Grand Highlander and TX.

Features & Specifications

TMC hasn’t shared the range that it is aiming for in the Highlander EV, but I doubt it’ll do better than the Kia EV9’s 304-mile range for the Long Range RWD. There’s no word on the performance or specifications, but our expectation is that the Highlander EV will come in FWD and AWD versions. The base variant could employ a 75-80 kWh battery, with a ~200 hp motor, aimed at buyers who drive in the city. The top-end Highlander EV could employ a 95-100 kWh battery, and dual-motor setup with 350-400 hp, targeting enthusiasts.

Toyota bZ4X dashboard live image
I expect Toyota interior designers to take a similar approach with the Highlander EV as they did with the bZ4X, while upgrading the materials and enhancing the feel.

Some of the expected features in the Highlander EV include panoramic glass roof, heated seats and steering wheel, a 12-14-inch touchscreen display, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital instrument display, Qi wireless charging, JBL Premium Audio System, ambient lighting, a and 360-degree overview camera.

As far as safety is concerned, I expect TSS 3.0 as standard. The safety suite currently includes Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Tracing Assist, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Road Sign Assist, Proactive Driving Assist and Automatic High Beams.

Production

Toyota e-TNGA Subaru EV platform
The Highlander EV will be based on the e-TNGA platform that already underpins the bZ4X. Image Source: Toyota Motor Corporation

TMC’s first U.S.-assembled EV will be heavily localized, which I hope ensures it qualifies for the Clean Vehicle Credit program and allows buyers to get federal tax credits up to USD 7,500. The company plans to manufacture the new Toyota electric SUV at its factory in Georgetown, Kentucky.

The Highlander Electric will use batteries assembled at its dedicated plant in Liberty, North Carolina, where battery production is scheduled to commence the same year (2025). The battery plant will have two production lines for EV batteries.

Price & Release Date

The all-electric Highlander, designed and engineered primarily for U.S. families, is likely to debut in the first half of 2025, before going on sale later the same year. I’m expecting it to be priced from around USD 55,000. In addition to the Kia EV9, this model will rival the Hyundai Ioniq 7/Ioniq 9, which is now expected in 2025, as well as Ford’s three-row electric SUV that straddles the Explorer and Expedition.

TopElectricSUV says

The Toyota Highlander has seen a significant year-over-year sales decline in 2023 (-23.9%) and in the first quarter of 2024 (-42.1%). With Toyota introducing new crossover models like the Grand Highlander and the Crown Signia, the Highlander faces increased pressure and a higher risk of cannibalization.

I believe the best way to keep this nameplate relevant is to reinvent it as a three-row electric SUV. While sales may be down, the Highlander enjoys an excellent reputation in the U.S., making it a strategic move to leverage the brand equity when entering a new segment.

Featured Image Source: Toyota Motor Corporation/Noriaki Mitsuhashi/N-RAK PHOTO AGENCY