CHICAGO â€“ The new â€™08 Highlander Hybrid cross/utility vehicle will be able to run solely on its electric battery.
However,Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. doesnâ€™t see the feature as being a sales booster.
â€śI think itâ€™s one of those features that on the showroom floor is interesting to people,â€ť Jim Farley, vice president-marketing, tells reporters following the Highlander press conference at the auto show here.
â€śWill it be a reason for someone to buy this vehicle? I donâ€™t think so. Will it be another reason to feel comfortable with buying a hybrid? Yes.â€ť
Aspokesman says the range in EV mode depends solely on the charge in the battery. A best-case scenario would be almost five miles (8 km), at speeds of about 25 mph (40 km/h).
Don Esmond, senior vice president-automobile operations, says Toyota expects annual Highlander sales to remain in the 120,000-130,000-unit range in the U.S.
Wardâ€™s data shows Toyota sold 129,794 Highlanders last year in the U.S., a 5.5% drop from 2005 sales. Highlander Hybrid sales, however, rose 75.4% to 31,485 units in 2006, its first full year on the market.
The â€™08 Highlander is available with the same 3.5L V-6 engine found in the Camry and Avalon sedans, while the Highlander Hybrid retains its 3.3L V-6 mill.
Farley says Toyota is taking a wait-and-see approach on whether to offer a 4-cyl. engine in the Highlander. The current base model has a 2.4L 4-cyl. engine.
Toyota claims fuel economy for the hybrid-electric vehicle is â€śvirtually unchangedâ€ť despite the increased dimensions of the â€™08 Highlander vs. the outgoing model.
However, the spokesman says the fuel economy figures cited: 31/27 mpg city/highway (7.6-8.7 L/100 km), are according to the â€™07 model year U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines.
Farley doesnâ€™t expect Toyota to do a dedicated advertising campaign for the Highlander Hybrid as its plans to do for the Prius HEV, but says the larger CUV will be â€śthe poster childâ€ť for hybrids within the Toyota lineup.
The new â€™08 Highlander goes on sale in early July in the U.S., with the HEV version to follow two months later.
Esmond promises â€ścompetitive pricingâ€ť on the â€™08 Highlander, refusing to say whether there will be a price increase for the new model.
The â€™07 Highlander ranges from $24,880 for a base model with a 4-cyl. engine to $36,550 for a high-end HEV.