Toyota is returning to its roots. It has had to scale back on production of large trucks and return to the focus on smaller products. This plan also includes a return of the four-cylinder Highlander for 2009. When the SUV first arrived back in 2001, it has the Camry’s four banger as standard, but that eventually went away. Now that fuel economy is back in fashion, a 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine will be the new base.
Highlander’s new four-cylinder powertrain will produce 187 hp at 5,800 RPM and 186 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,100 RPM. The engine will have an EPA estimated fuel economy of 20 mpg city/27 mpg highway/22 mpg combined. It is mated to a six-speed ECT automatic transmission.
Press release after the jump.
When it arrives at dealerships in mid-to-late January, Toyota’s new 2.7-liter inline four-cylinder engine will help make the Highlander mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV) one of the best in its segment in the areas of fuel economy, low emissions, performance, and value. It is expected to appeal to value-driven, mid-size SUV buyers seeking these characteristics without the price premium of a V6.
The four-cylinder Highlander will be among the leaders in fuel efficiency in the gas mid-size SUV segment with EPA fuel economy estimates of 27 MPG highway, 20 MPG city and 22 MPG combined. In addition, it will be EPA-rated as an Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEVII).
Highlander’s new four-cylinder powertrain will produce impressive power, while greatly reducing noise and vibration to levels normally expected in a V6 or larger engine. It will generate 187 horsepower at 5,800 RPM and 186 lb.-ft. of peak torque at 4,100 RPM on regular 87 octane fuel.
The state-of-the-art powerplant is equipped with a variable intake manifold and dual variable valve timing with intelligence (VVT-i), which controls phasing of both the intake and exhaust camshafts to maximize fuel efficiency and torque. Both of these technologies help give the 2.7-liter engine a broad torque curve providing enhanced fuel efficiency, lower emissions and a strong response at all engine speeds. A dual exhaust manifold will also help achieve exceptional low-end torque and maximize power output.
The new engine will be mated to an all-new six-speed electronically-controlled automatic overdrive transmission with intelligence (ECT-i) that is one of the lightest and most compact in its class. The new transmission delivers a smooth shifting, remarkably quiet ride that is on par with a V6, and acceleration that is surprisingly quick for a four-cylinder. Internal preliminary 0-60 mph testing was timed at 9.7 seconds, nearly one second quicker than the average four-cylinder mid-size SUV. When equipped with a tow package, the new powerplant will achieve a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.
The new engine will come standard on the well-equipped Highlander grade two-wheel-drive model with two rows of seats, contributing to its all-around excellent value. Adding to its appeal is an array of standard convenience features that include air conditioning; an AM/FM/CD audio system with six-speakers; front seats with height-adjustable active head rests and eight-way adjustable driver’s seat; power door locks and windows with driver’s window jam protection and auto-up/down feature; cruise control; a multi-function keyless entry system; UV-reduction windshield and rear privacy glass; a digital clock; dual sun visors with vanity mirrors and sliding extensions; a conversation mirror; an illuminated entry system; manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel; scheduled maintenance indicator light; full-size spare tire; and much more.
Along with its long list of standard features, a third-row seat package will also be available for families requiring additional seating capacity. Other key optional equipment will include an eight-way power driver’s seat, manual rear air conditioning, and an AM/FM/six-disc CD changer with satellite radio capability, MP3/WMA capability and six speakers.
With the new four-cylinder engine, Highlander will be the only mid-size SUV in the current market to offer three powerplant choices. The 3.5-liter Highlander V6, available in two- and full-time four-wheel drive, is among the leaders in fuel efficiency among V6 gas engines in its segment. The full-time 4WD-i Highlander Hybrid, equipped with a V6 powerplant with front and rear electric motors, stands above all others for fuel efficiency among all mid-size SUVs.
Since it first launched in 2001, Highlander continues to be one of Toyota’s most popular vehicles, setting the standard for car-based SUVs in innovation, refinement and comfort. Driver and passenger comfort is accomplished with segment-leading seating flexibility for up to seven people. Comfort is complemented with one of the highest levels of standard safety features in the small- and mid-size SUV market including a segment-leading total of seven airbags.