By the time model year 2000 rolled around, the SUV-mania afflicting American car buyers had surpassed epidemic proportions. Marketers, looking for ever more imaginative ways to put additional butts in their particular seats were coming to realize a vast number of people who would never be caught dead in a station wagon (unless of course it actually was a hearse) would probably be seduced if they made station wagons look like SUVs.
After all, most people liked the way cars drove more than they liked the way the truck-based SUVs drove. Cars were lighter, more agile, more fuel efficient, and just generally more comfortable all around. With that in mind, product planners were assigned to roll all of those attributes into something with the profile of a SUV. The thought being if they could do so successfully, the company would probably have a huge hit. And best of all, those gullible consumers would never realize they were buying into station wagons!
And that’s where we say hello to the 2001 Toyota Camry station wagon — also known as the 2001 Toyota Highlander “crossover utility vehicle”. Nothing less (or more than, for that matter) a tall Camry, the Highlander also shared its platform with the contemporary Lexus RX and ES of the time. Which, when you think about it, was absolute genius. After all the Camry was then (and still is) perennially one of the best selling cars in America. If you were trying to create the best selling SUV in America, it would make perfect sense to clone a Camry — right?
Toyota’s Highlander was first offered for sale in North America in 2001. There have been two generations of the midsize crossover utility vehicle since it was launched.