The Toyota Highlander has been rated by many institutions as one of the greatest family SUVs this year and years past. One of the reasons is because it is both simple and sophisticated. Minimal, yet it delivers like no other. While critics don’t really like the Highlander’s third-row seating arrangement, calling it cramped and an afterthought, A new trim called the Grand Highlander is set to debut soon with an all-new 3-row approach.
Toyota’s latest press release shows that the new Highlander will have a lot of features such as a smaller engine with better performance, an upgraded interior, bigger screens for different trims, and an advanced AWD system which Toyota calls “performance-minded” for their XSE models.
These AWD systems come in two variants. The regular AWD system will be available as a trim option for the gas L, LE, and XLE Highlander models. The second AWD option focuses more on the performance and scientific aspects of AWD and will only be available on the XSE, Limited, and Platinum models. This trim of AWD is called the Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD System. What does Dynamic Torque Vectoring mean you ask?
Well according to Toyota, “Dynamic Torque-Vectoring All-Wheel Drive (TV-AWD) is an AWD system that independently distributes 50% of engine torque to the left and right rear wheels based on system-monitored driving conditions.” It basically allocates more torque to evenly distribute a slip or traction loss.
With both AWD systems, you get a dial in the cabin that you can use to select the different driving modes. Modes like Mud and Sand or Rock and Dirt. Toyota says that the driver allocates or monitors torque distribution through the car’s MD (multi-information display). Today, almost every new affordable SUV has some sort of “dirt” or “off-road” mode even though 90% of its drivers are not going to take it anywhere off the pavement. At most your little Mazda SUV is going to go on a gravel road to take your kids to pee-wee soccer practice.
Why does Toyota add unnecessary off-roading capabilities even though the Highlander can’t climb or mud? Nobody really knows. My best guess is they probably want to market the Highlander as the “all in one” SUV. That’s why they add a sport mode on a 4-cylinder engine SUV. Check out our other article that talks about the new Highlander’s downgraded engine.
Now while Toyota’s AWD system in the new 2023 Highlander will most likely be great, it’s not just wheel slippage and traction they are worried about. According to the press release, “Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD doesn’t simply react to wheel slippage. Rather, a sophisticated AWD Integrated Management (AIM) system manages Electric Power Steering (EPS), throttle control, transmission shift control, and drive torque distribution to continuously help optimize handling. ”
Just think of all the computers and tech Toyota is implementing into this new system. While critics say that like the AWD system in the 2022 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is great, do you think they will approve of the new tech-heavy AWD system in the Highlander? I think Toyota needs to find a niche for each of its cars.
Toyota should’ve made a TRD version of Highlander for next year’s model which this AWD system would be in. Personally, I wouldn’t buy a Prius to tow things or a Hummer to save gas. A lot of automakers are mashing up auto genres creating weird combinations like luxury sports or off-road sports. That’s why seats in new luxury cars are seats out of race cars. Remember when you would sink into a nice seat in a Mercedes-Benz? Now it grabs you from all sides because you are in a racecar for some reason.
I hope Toyota won’t reach that level of “all in one” because I don’t want to get into a Supra and see an off-road mode or get into a Corolla base and see a track mode. These are what kill brand recognition and love for a specific model.
What do you think? Should Toyota allocate its AWD technology to a TRD trim level? Do you like it when automakers mash all the modes into one model? Let us know in the comments below.
Harutiun Hareyan is reporting Toyota news at Torque News. His automotive interests and vast experience test-riding new cars give his stories a sense of authenticity and unique insights. Follow Harutiun on Twitter at @HareyanHarutiun for daily Toyota news.
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