With the 2013 Tokyo Motor Show less than one week away, Japan’s biggest automakers are all making their final scrambles for media attention. While we’ve thoroughly discussed all the brand-new, Tokyo-bound Toyota, Nissan and Honda concepts and cars that we have any information on, we haven’t discussed any of the not-so-new vehicles that might still be worth learning about.
For example, we’ve only briefly discussed Infiniti’s launch in the Japanese market with the Q50/Skyline. And, until today, we haven’t talked at all about the new Toyota Harrier. Even though it’s technically not going to be a Tokyo Motor Show debut since it was officially unveiled a couple days ago, it’ll sill be showcased at Toyota’s Tokyo booth.
So, are you curious? We were too – here’s Toyota’s official image of their JDM-only Harrier CUV:
For those of you thinking that the Toyota Harrier looks familiar, that’s because it is… It’s actually just Lexus RX outside of Japan, along with some minor aesthetic changes.
Also, just to be clear, this is not the first iteration of the Toyota Harrier – it’s always been the Japanese version of the Lexus RX. Actually, technically speaking, the Lexus RX is a rebadged Toyota Harrier; the Harrier was released in Japan during 1997, then it was exported as the Lexus RX in 1998. The Harrier remained as the Japan-only version of the Lexus RX until the third generation of the premium CUV, by which time Lexus was well-entrenched in Japan as a separate brand from Toyota. Thus, the Harrier name was no longer needed, and was subsequently phased out circa 2006.
However, for some reason, Toyota has decided that the Harrier is needed again in 2014. Why? You’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Why Bring Back the Toyota Harrier?
Since Toyota has already established Lexus as a recognized brand in Japan, there are two possible reasons that they’ve chosen to bring back the Harrier for the 2014 model year.
First possible reason: Toyota wishes to attract a younger set of buyers than Lexus typically caters to. The updated design and improved fuel economy featured in the new Toyota Harrier may be the key to accessing that more youthful market.
Second possible reason: Toyota doesn’t care at all about the Harrier, and they’re actually just using it as an excuse to prelude the next-gen Lexus RX.
Third possible reason: Japanese car maker branding decisions don’t often make a lot of sense. Take the Voxy / Alphard, or Vellfire / Noah for example. Same vehicles sold in the same country, but under different model names.
Whatever the logic behind it, as we said, the Toyota Harrier does in fact feature several improvements over the current Lexus RX. From the outside, noteworthy differences include the non-Lexus grille, the new logo, the elongated front clip, and a more angular rear end. The Toyota Harrier also appears to depart from Lexus’ normal slanted headlights in favor of more typically-shaped ones.
The Toyota Harrier also gets noteworthy mechanical updates. When it launches in Japan on December 2, it will be available with either a 2.5L hybrid powertrain with AWD, or a 2.0L gas powertrain with either 2WD or AWD. The hybrid model is estimated to achieve somewhere around 51 mpg, while the gas-only powertrain yields about 37 mpg.
As you can see in the image below, Toyota certainly hasn’t sacrificed any interior quality in transforming from RX to Harrier. The Harrier features an extremely modern interior design, complete with a digital display, leather upholstery, excellent interior trim-work and an all-around pleasurable driving environment.
Of course, if you want to buy previous variants of the Toyota Harrier, or the Lexus RX, the Japan car auctions are a great place to find them. Sign up for a guest log in and see what you think.