Update: ‘U.S.-developed infotainment system’ section added.
A Toyota Grand Highlander SUV for the U.S. could be in the making, possibly with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Toyota Motor applied to register a Grand Highlander trademark at the USPTO on December 28, 2020. OEMs usually practice protecting names and suffixes even if there is no intent to use them as a vehicle nameplate. However, there’s some evidence to support the speculation in this case.
Toyota Grand Highlander trademark application
In January 2021, TopElectricSUV.com accessed the Toyota Grand Highlander trademark application (app. no. 90420634) and reported that it is meant for the obvious category. The trademark application mentioned ’12’ as the international class, which is for automobiles and structural parts thereof. The intent to commercialize the trademark had also been stated. Interestingly, there was a note of Toyota owning the existing ‘Highlander’ trademark (reg. no. 2249838) to avoid the proposed trademark being viewed as a duplicate by the authorities.
Toyota announces new electrified three-row SUV for the Indiana manufacturing plant
In April 2021, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (TMMI) revealed that it plans to manufacture two all-new, three-row electrified SUVs, one with a Toyota badge and the other with the Lexus emblem, at its Princeton plant in Indiana (USA). The company announced an $803 million investment and 1,400 new jobs at the American car factory to make the two unnamed large SUVs. It has designed the three-row SUVs keeping “the Gen Y American Family” in mind. The Lexus model could be the rumored Lexus TX, a replacement for the Lexus RX L.
“The two new products we’re going to introduce, the one Toyota product and the one Lexus product, will be electrified vehicles,” said Tim Hollander, VP – Manufacturing, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana. This strengthens speculations that a hybrid variant of the rumored Toyota Grand Highlander is planned, and it could be powered by a self-charging hybrid system or a plug-in hybrid system.
Toyota says that the all-new SUVs will accommodate up to eight people and offer hands-free semi-autonomous driving in certain conditions.
When on sale, customers can expect a semi-automated driving system—which will allow for hands-free driving in certain conditions—a remote parking system allowing the driver to park and unpark from outside the vehicle using a smartphone, and a digital key that turns a user’s smartphone into their key and allows them to share it digitally. Both the Lexus and Toyota versions will offer seating for up to eight passengers.Toyota Motor, on April 28, 2021
Toyota Grand Highlander PHEV range
Speaking to Green Car Reports in late 2021, Cooper Ericksen, VP – Product Planning & Strategy, Toyota Motor North America, explained the need to electrify large SUVs like the potential Grand Highlander and hinted at the targeted EV range. Reducing emissions of three-row SUVs and trucks will have a big impact on the environment, Ericksen said. That’s why the company sees a use-case for plug-in hybrid technology on larger vehicles.
Toyota raised the bar for PHEVs in the U.S. with the RAV4 Prime in 2020. Despite doing 0-60 mph in just 5.7 seconds, the SUV offers 42 miles of EPA-est. electric range. The Californian government proposes that PHEVs in the future should travel at least 50 miles in EV mode. Ericksen said customers aren’t demanding that high a range. While Toyota can offer 50 miles on a car or a compact SUV (as the battery cost is manageable within the price of the car), for a heavy SUV, 25-30 miles of electric range is more feasible, he said. That’s the figure we expect for the rumored Toyota Grand Highlander PHEV.
U.S.-developed infotainment system
The Toyota Grand Highlander would get Toyota’s all-new infotainment system developed by its Texas-based Connected Technologies team. It may come in 8-inch and 12.3-inch touchscreen versions like in the Highlander.
Expect features like OTA update capability, dual-Bluetooth connectivity, standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and Connected Service Drive Connect, including a voice assistant that responds to prompts starting with “Hey Toyota.” Available subscription services may include Wi-Fi hotspot running on AT&T’s 4G network, Apple Music and Amazon Music streaming, and SiriusXM satellite radio.
The Toyota Grand Highlander would compete with the Hyundai Palisade, Ford Explorer, and Kia Telluride. Toyota would need to develop the Grand Highlander such that it can one-up the competitors.
Automotive News reported on April 22, 2022, that the Toyota Grand Highlander would make its debut by mid-2023. While Toyota has not given guidance on the release date of its upcoming hybrid SUV, Tim Hollander said last year that the process of getting the new car into production would take a couple of years, which puts the date around April 2023:
It is a very intense challenge, there will be major retooling throughout the entire operation, and we’ll have a close collaboration and partnership with our equipment manufacturers, our regional production engineering team and our team here, our engineering and maintenance team, and production team here to really bring this thing to life. It will take a couple of years to really get everything ready to go for the development of this product. It’s a huge undertaking and we’ll be spending a lot of weekends and shutdown time really getting the plant ready.Tim Hollander, VP – Manufacturing, Toyota Motor Manufacturing, in early 2021
Further information like the specifications and price of the Toyota Grand Highlander is unavailable at this time. We expect to learn more about the model during the second half of the year. The Grand Highlander could become the Toyota Grand Kluger for Australia. In New Zealand, Toyota could launch the large SUV with its original name.
Featured Image Source: Toyota