A Review of the Toyota Harrier – A Crossover SUV with Class

Before the crossover SUV (Sport Utility Vehicle), there was really nothing in between the full-size SUV and the sedan. People liked the flexibility of the SUV, but not necessarily the hugeness and the clunkiness associated with full-size SUVs that were on the market at the time. After all, SUVs were built to tackle forests and streams, and they would certainly be overkill for the average urban pothole. Something in between would certainly be a great model, with the convenience of a sedan and the sure-footed stance of an SUV, the crossover SUV was born. Of course, just as there are different levels of the sedan, like the difference between a Toyota Camry and a Mercedes Benz C-Class, there are different levels of a crossover SUV, like the Toyota RAV4 and the Lexus RX, also known as the Toyota Harrier (in Japan).


Like their larger cousins, crossover SUVs were a little bit noisy and clunky, which wouldn’t do for someone looking to get out of a BMW 3-Series sedan into something bigger. In the beginning, only Land Rover had SUVs that were small enough to qualify as a crossover SUV, while at the same time, offering the refinements that you’d find in a luxury sedan. In 1997, came the crossover SUV class for the luxury car buyer, the Toyota Harrier. One year later, the Lexus RX300 (known outside of Japan) became an instant success in North America.

Toyota Harrier Early Years

Unlike many other vehicles, which are designed from the ground up, the Toyota Harrier made use of a lot of technologies that were already tried and true. At least in the beginning, the i4 and V6 engine and transmission options were the same as found in the Toyota Camry and RAV4, meaning Toyota engineers could focus on the other facets of Toyota Harrier’s winning design.

One big thing that sets the Toyota Harrier apart from other luxury crossover SUVs in its class is the attention to NVH, that is, Noise, Vibration, and Harshness. On driving the Toyota Harrier, most come to the conclusion that NVH means “No Vibration or Harshness,” Toyota engineers must have done a pretty good job. The design of the Toyota Harrier makes more use of insulation and vibration dampers than the typical SUV, or even the typical crossover SUV, which makes them some of the quietest vehicles on the road.

Toyota engineers went on to fine-tune the Toyota Harrier’s engine, transmission, and drivetrain to eliminate vibrations and noises coming from these sources. Interestingly, instead of following other SUV body-on-frame designs, the Toyota Harrier actually has a more car-like body design, which makes for a stable off-road ride, at a more car-like comfort level.

SUV Capability with Luxury Sedan Class

Inside the Toyota Harrier are all the things you’ve come to expect in a luxury automobile, such as comfortable leather seats, power-adjustable seats, power windows, locks, and sunroof. Safety and convenience features abound, including multiple airbags, anti-lock brakes, vehicle skid control, multi-information display, GPS navigation, rear seat entertainment system, rear view camera.

Today’s Toyota Harrier comes with a choice of four- and six-cylinder engines, paired with, depending on model year, a five- or six-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid Harrier comes with a V6 engine paired with a CVT (constant velocity transmission). The drivetrain comes in both front-wheel and all-wheel drive (AWD) configurations. The four-cylinder engine options, of course, don’t provide the power of the six-cylinder options, but are also more economical.

Interestingly, the AWD versions of the Toyota Harrier, later renamed Lexus RX, even in Japan, was never touted as an off-road performer. Instead, Toyota marketed the Harrier’s AWD system as a safety feature. Drivers of the Toyota Harrier AWD could expect to lose a little on fuel economy, but the sure-footed AWD system would keep them safe on rough roads and loose road surfaces, such as mud or gravel.

Best New, Best Used

If you’re considering a used crossover SUV, especially a classy one, you would do well to look at a used Toyota Harrier. The best-rated new vehicles typically make the best-used vehicles, and this crossover SUV by Toyota is no different. The Toyota Harrier, even a used one, is sure to deliver years of reliable service. With proper maintenance, Toyota vehicles are some of the longest-lived vehicles on the planet.

Be sure to check for a complete maintenance history and low mileage, if possible. When considering AWD versions, be sure the AWD system has been maintained, including center and rear differentials. Oil changes in the 3.0ℓ V6 and some of the later 3.3ℓ were especially critical. Burning oil is a sure sign of abuse, and an oil burner should be avoided at all costs. Still, even if you have to replace an abused engine, the rest of the powertrain and drivetrain is top-notch, so a new engine is a good investment.

Check out the latest Toyota Harrier in stock from BE FORWARD.