The Harrier is finally available in Singapore as an official Toyota import. What does this mean for you?
SINGAPORE — Why write about the Toyota Harrier when it’s been on sale in Singapore for years now? Because until now, the Harrier didn’t officially exist. I mean, it existed in the physical sense, so the thousands of people who bought one haven’t actually been floating along the roads, buoyed by the power of belief. But until now, you haven’t been able to buy one from Toyota’s authorised distributor Borneo Motors.
Does that make any difference? That’s the real question, now that the Harrier has taken off. There’s greater aftersales commitment, needless to say. Like any authorised distributor, Borneo is obliged to carry parts for the Harrier and train its staff to work on the car.
There’s a radar sensor behind this, we reckon. It gives the Harrier eyes
There seems to be some built-in confidence about the Harrier’s reliability, though. The warranty is for five years, but it’s upgradeable (for $1,000) to seven. The amount is waived if you buy the top of the line Luxury model (priced at $159,988 with COE when we went to print), which brings us to another thing worth mentioning: Borneo has three grades of the car on offer.
Said Luxury model comes with Nappa leather seats (instead of a sporty suede-like material), eight-way power adjustable seats for the driver (four for the passenger) with memory, ventilated seats, and no-cost upgrades to two colours that are cost options on the lower-spec models.
Delete all that and you’re left with the Premium model tested here, but there’ll be seven grand more in your pocket since it retails for $152,988.
The cheapest of the Harriers, the Elegance model, costs $146,988, but doesn’t come with stuff that you’d expect to see in something billed as an exec car: no power tailgate, no auto wipers, no panoramic glass roof, and so on.
Interestingly, all three models come with Safety Sense P, a four-in-one suite of active safety equipment that are making their Southeast Asia debut in the Harrier.
Mind you, the Harrier’s very presence here is something of a coup, as well. Until now this had been a car the Japanese kept to themselves, and it’s only after years of lobbying (and what must have been a significant volume commitment) that Borneo managed to get one, and in time for its 50th anniversary of being a Toyota importer. You might say this deal was half a century in the making, really.
What it means for you is a Harrier you can operate properly, since all the control menus and the owner’s manual are in English.
It also means that the latest version of the car is here, with certain facelift elements in place that make the Borneo Harrier a bit easier to identify for the now. The front signal lights are of the winky (instead of blinky) variety, the front grille is slightly different from that on Harriers from the parallel universe, and the car’s taillights are linked by a slender strip of red.
But the most important difference for now is that the official Harrier has a 2.0-litre turbo under the bonnet, one good for 231 horsepower. It’s a version of what powers the Lexus NX 200t, since both cars are siblings.
Indeed, there’s more than a hint of Lexus when you drive the Harrier. It’s silent and well-mannered, in a way that Lexuses used to be before their maker decided to embrace sportiness, and the turbo engine is about as unobtrusive as can be. There’s plenty of ready power, which lets the Harrier accelerate pretty authoritatively, but the creamy way the engine delivers the goods means the turbo engine is there to convey a sense of effortlessness instead of excitement.
There’s quite a plush ride over poor surfaces, too. The suspension never feels soft and wallowy around corners, but if you roll along a badly-repaired road it doesn’t feel uncomfortable. There are different driving modes, but even in the gentlest “Eco” setting the Toyota has well-weighted steering and an engine ready to help you pounce into traffic gasp, so we were fairly content to leave it there.
Overall, driving the Harrier sort of feels like sitting atop a thin phone book in a Camry, with slightly tauter suspension.
Where it feels less Lexus-like is in the cabin presentation. The Harrier is pretty solidly screwed together, but there are some relatively hard plastics if you look for them. No faulting the controls, though, which feature a capacitive touch panel for the air-con that both looks smart and responds well.
And while the Harrier is pretty feature-packed, it’s all easy to operate in that Toyota sort of way — all except for the entertainment/navigation system, that is. It’s less laggy than earlier generations of the Toyota telematics sets that we get here, but its menu system is no less befuddling.
If it’s easy to feel at home in front, that’s pretty much the case in the back of the Harrier, too. The car isn’t a wide one, so three adults will have to be on easy terms with one another if placed in the rear, but there’s plenty of legroom back there, and the seats recline. The enormous glass roof does plenty for cabin ambience, too, turning the place into a pleasantly bright area.
Our test car’s contrast stitching and suede-like seats added an unexpected touch of sportiness, and there are various details to keep an eye out for, such as the embossed harrier birds on the doors.
That actually provides clues about the market for the car. That starting point is someone who is familiar with what Toyota as a brand offers, but wealthy enough to move beyond ownership of a Corolla or Prius. The Camry is an obvious step up, but the Harrier offers a slightly more playful alternative, with an equal amount of refinement, but with a more interesting shape, a more sporty interior, plus a bit of height and the associated ruggedness it brings. There’s a more versatility, too, given how the Harrier’s boot is well-shaped and expandable even if it isn’t enormous.
As for buying the official model, you could have had a Harrier from a parallel importer years ago, of course, but given the support and spec that this one comes with, it would have been worthwhile being patient. Early birds get worms, but sometimes the patient ones do better.
NEED TO KNOW Toyota Harrier 2.0 Premium
Engine 1,998cc, 16V, inline 4 turbo
Power 231hp at 5,200-5,600rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1,650rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top speed 180km/h
0-100km/h 7.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.6L/100km
Price S$152,988 (with COE)
Agent Borneo Motors