Toyota teases Grand Highlander set for Chicago Auto Show debut

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Toyota Motor Corp. released its first teaser images of the upcoming Toyota Grand Highlander crossover and said the larger three-row vehicle will make its official debut on the eve of the Chicago Auto Show during the second week of February.

The teaser image shows a darkened rear view of the three-row crossover and its brightly lit LED lighting, but little more than the rear lid.

In comments to Automotive News on Thursday in Detroit, Toyota sales boss Jack Hollis said the Grand Highlander will fill a remaining hole in the Toyota brand’s lineup.

“That long trip three row [crossover] is segment continues to grow. Our Highlander does such a good job now, and the hybrid does an even better job, but there’s that compromise of that third-row seating,” Hollis said. “The Grand Highlander answers that specifically.” Hollis declined to discuss its pricing or the specifics of its powertrain, and predicted that the larger three-row wouldn’t cannibalize sales of Toyota’s similarly-sized body-on-frame Sequoia SUV.

Much is already known about the Grand Highlander and what will be its eventual three-row linemate, the Lexus TX, after Toyota in 2021 announced an $803 million overhaul of its assembly plant in Princeton, Ind., where they will be built.

The two vehicles, equipped with more spacious third-row seating compared with the current Highlander, will feature a system that 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.”

Toyota said both vehicles will feature seating for up to eight, indicating optional bench seating in the second row. It’s also clear the vehicles will have hybridized powertrains, given Toyota’s electrification strategy, but it’s unclear whether there will be plug-in hybrid versions or whether there will be optional nonhybridized versions.

Heavily cladded and camouflaged Grand Highlanders were spotted testing in Michigan in October showing what appeared to be greater rear overhangs, which would allow for extended third-row seating.