2004 Detroit Auto Show: Toyota Unveils Highlander Hybrid SUV and FTX Full-size Pickup Concept


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
Toyota FTX Concept

January 4, 2004 -- Detroit, MI -- The all-new 2005 Toyota Highlander Hybrid gas-electric mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV) made its world premiere at a press conference today at the 2004 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit. The press conference also featured the unveiling of the FTX full-size pickup concept truck, offering a glimpse into Toyota's future full-size truck strategy.

"The Highlander Hybrid is the world's first seven-passenger hybrid SUV and marks the launch of a second all-new hybrid vehicle from the Toyota Division," said Jim Press, executive vice president and COO, Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), U.S.A., Inc.

"The addition of a hybrid system in our best-selling SUV provides further evidence that Toyota's commitment to hybrid technology will continue to run deep and wide."

Like the popular four-cylinder Prius gas-electric hybrid, the 3.3-liter V6-equipped Highlander Hybrid will be powered by a new version of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain. The system was specifically developed to meet the load-carrying requirements of a mid-size SUV.

The system features a larger-capacity battery that will deliver nearly double the power of the battery in the Prius. An all-new high-speed electric motor will operate at twice the speed and deliver more than twice the power as the motor in the Prius. With combined peak-system power projected at approximately 270 horsepower, the new system will improve upon the V6 Highlander's already impressive less-than-eight-second zero-to-60 acceleration.

In addition to providing the fuel economy of a four-cylinder compact sedan, the Highlander Hybrid will offer the versatility, refinement, and comfort demanded in a mid-size SUV. Highlander Hybrid will come standard-equipped with front-wheel-drive and offer electric four-wheel-drive with intelligence (4WD-i). Models with 4WD-i are equipped with front and rear electric motors that will deliver balanced power to all four wheels, providing instantaneous acceleration.

To enhance safety and all-weather capability, the Highlander Hybrid will feature a Vehicle Dynamic Management (VDM) system. Monitoring a variety of sensors, the system is capable of anticipating pending vehicle stability problems and then correcting the situation with a combination of braking and throttle control. The new VDM system is less obtrusive than conventional VSC but acts quicker and more effectively. Additional safety features include a tire pressure warning system, and optional front seat-mounted side airbags and front- and second-row curtain side airbags.

The Highlander Hybrid will feature three rows of seats that will include rear privacy glass, a rear heater system, and rear seat cupholders. "Walk-in" steps and a second-row sliding seat make it easy to enter and exit the third row. The third-row seat also folds completely flat into the floor to create added cargo space. The second-row 60/40 split-fold seat also reclines and folds forward flat for added comfort and utility.

The exterior styling will be freshened with the addition of a new front grille and bumper, and rear LED tail lamps. The Highlander Hybrid will also ride on 17-inch alloy wheels.

The Highlander Hybrid will feature an array of amenities owners have come to expect in their mid-size SUV, including standard air conditioning, power windows, mirrors, and door locks, cruise control, tilt steering wheel, and a deluxe 3-in-1 AM/FM/ETR cassette/CD sound system with six speakers. A multi-function display is conveniently located just beneath the speedometer that calculates and displays various mechanical and performance information including instant and average fuel economy, outside temperature, low tire pressure, and a Hybrid Synergy Drive energy monitor. A navigation system will be available on the Limited grade. Like the Prius, it will also monitor the electric-gas power distribution of the Hybrid Synergy Drive on a seven-inch touch-panel display monitor. All options currently found in the 2004 Highlander will also be available in the 2005 Highlander Hybrid.

"The Highlander Hybrid will join the Prius in early 2005, with the Lexus RX hybrid arriving toward the end of this year," said Press. "The trio will not only give consumers a broadband of hybrid-powered choices, it will firmly establish this important new technology in the hearts and minds of mainstream consumers."

FTX Concept

The FTX concept pickup truck was designed to provide a hint to the direction in size, and styling of Toyota's next big-truck platform.

"The FTX concept was developed to make a bold statement about Toyota's future full-size pickup truck plans," said Press. "It is a statement that promises the brute-power to match its bold styling and its simple proportions. And it's a statement we mean to back up."

The FTX concept was developed by the TMS Advanced Product Strategy Group and Calty, Toyota's North American-based, research and design center located in Newport Beach, Calif. The team was assigned to explore future possibilities of Toyota truck DNA by developing a truck concept with a double-duty personality and a trace of Land Cruiser heritage that advances the mainstream American truck to the next level.

"Toyota has a strong heritage of building trucks that are rugged, yet playful," said Kevin Hunter, Calty vice president. "This image is especially strong in the U.S., thanks to the FJ Land Cruiser in the 60's and 70's and the phenomenally successful Toyota compact pickup in the 80's and 90's. Our goal with the FTX was to capture the spirit and soul of this legacy and reassert Toyota's truck brand image with a full-size pickup aimed at the very core of the segment." At nearly 19-feet in length, nearly seven feet in width, and six-and-one-half feet in height, the FTX offers ample proportions. The FTX is a full-fledged body-on-frame, "Super-C-Cab" 4x4 pickup truck. It has the interior room of a double cab, yet opens 90 degrees with suicide doors. The FTX features a huge sculptural power-ball that emanates from the rear wheels and visually pushes the truck forward. The massive front end is proud and serious and integrates into the body-side, creating a unified statement of power. The generous use of sculpture in the body gives a rich high-quality feel that elevates the FTX beyond a mere work truck. Massive metal extruded bumpers and rocker panels add an element of toughness and durability.

The FTX was developed to raise the idea of functionality to a new level by integrating a surprising array of sensible features aimed at both work and play. Exterior features include bumpers with integrated tow hooks and special hideaway universal carabiner-type tie-down hooks in the truck bed. Underneath the rear skid-plate is a multi-functional unit that houses an electric generator, an air compressor and other outlets. Inside the bed is a solid metal collapsible hidden job box that can be erected for safe storage of tools and supplies. Finally, hidden away in the rear tailgate is a smooth operating hideaway ramp that extends to the ground when the gate is open, allowing heavy items to be rolled into the bed, instead of being lifted.

"The FTX interior is a work station, a sports locker, or just a luxurious sanctuary from the elements," said Craig Kember, Calty senior designer. "Most of all it's an interior that prioritizes the needs, and wants of full-size truck buyers." The interior displays a pure fusion of brawny structure, luxurious materials, and new technology specific to a big truck. The instrument panel and center console arch bend outward, wrapping around each occupant, forming two protective cells.

A wide center console separates at a large center display panel. The console contains an armrest-mounted control-arm that includes all instrumentation and an operational lever that is angled toward the driver, in effect, creating an operator station.

The seat height and steering wheel angle of the FTX are positioned extremely high, giving the driver a feeling of total command and conveying the feel of operating a big rig. Suspension seats isolate the driver and passenger from rough terrain and include deep center pads styled after a horseman's saddle for comfort. Low effort control switches and minimal operational levers are the key to operational simplicity. All vital information is accessed through a central display three-dimensional screen.

Floating, fold-away rear seats are styled after recreational boats. The rear seat base is affixed to a center beam, suspending the seats off the floor for under-seat storage. Over-sized door and pillar pull handles and seat mounted grips assist in ingress and egress. A large overhead track lamp can be pulled down and slid side-to-side across the cabin.

The brawniness of the FTX is complemented with a powerplant that is more than capable of hauling a heavy-duty pickup. Under the hood, the FTX is powered by a large-displacement V8 hybrid gas-electric engine that pumps out loads of torque while delivering V6 fuel efficiency.

The unveiling of the FTX truck concept comes on the heels of the recent launch of the Tundra Double Cab. The Double Cab is the latest addition of the American-built Tundra full-size pickup. Taller and wider than both Tundra Regular- and Access Cab models, the new Double Cab combines the interior roominess and appointments of the Toyota Sequoia full-size sport utility vehicle. And, the cargo bed is longer, and has more capacity, than the Ford F150 and Nissan Titan.

Tundra is currently built at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana (TMMI). Production of the Tundra will expand in mid-2006 with the opening of a new pickup plant in the heart of truck country, San Antonio, Texas.

"The recent launch of the Tundra Double Cab and the new FTX concept offers a good indication to how Toyota's large truck evolution is progressing," said Press. "And make no mistake about it. With our expansion in San Antonio, we are on a serious mission to build big truck market share."

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