This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 07, 2004

Toyota and Lexus Unveil New Hybrid SUVs at Detroit Auto Show

Toyota Motor Sales unveiled the 2005 Toyota Highlander Hybrid SUV (sport utility vehicle) on Sunday at the 2004 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS), now underway in Detroit. Toyota's first hybrid electric SUV will feature a 3.3-liter V6 engine coupled with a motor, offering a combined peak power of about 270 horsepower. The Highlander Hybrid will use a new version of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system that powers the Toyota Prius, with nearly double the battery power and more than twice the motor power. Although a front-wheel-drive version is standard, an optional four-wheel-drive package will use front and rear motors to deliver balanced power to all four wheels. According to Toyota, the Highlander Hybrid will achieve "the fuel economy of a four-cylinder compact sedan" and will be available in early 2005. See the Toyota press release and the Toyota "Future Vehicles" Web page.

Lexus, Toyota's luxury division, introduced its own hybrid electric SUV on Tuesday. The RX 400h appears to feature the same drivetrain as the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, but in a luxury package. Both vehicles are expected to achieve SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle) emissions ratings. The 2005 RX 400h is expected to go on sale this fall. See the Lexus press release and the Lexus Hybrid Web page.

While Toyota and its luxury Lexus division are rolling out new hybrid models, the current Toyota Prius continues to earn accolades, as the car was named the 2004 North American Car of the Year at the NAIAS. But Toyota is not the lone hybrid vehicle exhibitor at the NAIAS: Mercedes-Benz is displaying a concept version of its Vision Grand Sports Tourer powered by a diesel-electric hybrid system. The system uses a V8 diesel engine and a 67-horsepower motor to achieve a total power of 314 horsepower. See the North American Car and Truck of the Year press release and the Mercedes-Benz press release.