The all-new, fourth-generation Toyota Harrier will be launched in Malaysia very, very soon. Seeing as this is one SUV that is bound to get a lot of attention from Malaysians, let’s take a closer look at what makes the Harrier such a popular car here in Malaysia, shall we?

It all started with the first-generation model over 20 years ago. Back then, it was a shared model with the Lexus RX, so it was designed from the ground up to be a premium SUV. Fun fact – the original Harrier and RX came about even before the likes of the BMW X5, Mercedes ML and Volvo XC90, so it really was ahead of its time.

The second-generation Harrier and RX appeared in 2003, and it continued the premium SUV formula of the original, but with a more matured and classy appearance inside and out. By the way, the Harrier name is taken from a bird local to Japan’s Hokkaido island, which explains the bird logos you see around the car.

By the time the third-generation model came out in 2013, the Toyota Harrier and Lexus RX models were split up. While the RX continued on, the Harrier was effectively downgraded into a less premium SUV, slotting in just above the RAV4 model. Also gone are the V6 engine options, replaced by 2.0 litre four-cylinder units. Still, it remained a good-looking large SUV with some premium touches to elevate it above the mainstream SUVs, such as the Honda CR-V and the like.

Now on to the all-new, fourth-generation Harrier. It’s a huge leap forward for the model – it rides on the latest Toyota TNGA-K platform for a more sophisticated and dynamic ride and handling package, and it’s dressed up in a very sleek and modern exterior. It’s longer, yet lower than the third-gen model, giving it a sportier, more coupe-like profile. Nice.

Up front, the slim LED headlights and closed-off upper grille are unique, while the rear gets distinctive full-width LED taillights. It looks significantly more expensive than the RAV4 and CR-V, especially so from the back (where it can pass off as a Lexus!). It’s also now sold in the US, badged as the Venza.

Under the hood is where it starts to disappoint. In Japan, the Harrier is available with either a 2.0 litre petrol or a 2.5 litre hybrid engine. Here in Malaysia, since we no longer have any special tax breaks for CBU hybrids, we’re only getting the base 2.0 litre mill. That puts it in a unique, or rather weird situation where it has a smaller, less powerful engine than the cheaper RAV4, which gets a 2.5 litre engine.

Adding salt to wound is that, unlike the third-gen Harrier, the 2.0 litre engine is now naturally aspirated instead of turbocharged. Yes, it’s Toyota’s latest Dynamic Force engine with direct injection, but 173 PS and 203 Nm of torque is still a major downgrade compared to the older Harrier Turbo‘s 231 PS and 350 Nm. The transmission has also changed from a six-speed auto to a Direct-Shift CVT, which drives the front wheels.

Fuel economy is clearly the focus this time around. Toyota claims a combined figure of 15.3 km per litre (or 6.5 litres per 100 km) for an SUV of this size, and an engine thermal efficiency of 40%. It’s said that a typical petrol engine is closer to only 20%.

Beyond what’s under the bonnet, the new Harrier features quite a few highlights, including a plush leather-covered interior, a digital rear view mirror that uses a camera feed for a clearer view out, and a fancy electrochromic panoramic moonroof that can be dimmed on demand. That’s something usually reserved for high-end Mercedes-Benz models only.

On the safety front, the Harrier gets the full Toyota Safety Sense active safety suite, which includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), dynamic cruise control (able to go to a complete stop), lane tracing assist, adaptive high beam assist and even rear cross-traffic alert with braking assist. The first three features enable what is known as Level 2 semi-autonomous driving.

Price-wise, the new Harrier is expected to be priced around the RM250k mark, similar to the third-gen model. That’s about 20% more than the RAV4, which is priced from RM197k to RM216k. However, the Harrier doesn’t really have any direct competitors here in Malaysia, unless you consider more expensive premium models like the Mercedes-Benz GLC and BMW X3.

More details on the Toyota Harrier will be revealed very soon, so remember to watch this space for full details as soon as the car is launched. Now, what do you think of the new Toyota Harrier? Sound off, below.

GALLERY: First-generation XU10 Lexus RX/Toyota Harrier


GALLERY: Second-generation XU30 Lexus RX/Toyota Harrier

GALLERY: Third-generation XU60 Toyota Harrier

GALLERY: Fourth-generation XU80 Toyota Harrier