Singapore – In the past, the Toyota Harrier was synonymous with the Lexus RX. The first and second-generation models were indistinguishable from each over, save for different badges. It wasn’t until 2013 that their paths diverged into their respective RX and Harrier namesakes.
This is the fourth-generation Harrier, and it is incredibly sharp looking. It has poise. It has presence. It’s like Toyota gave its designers free rein to crank it up to eleven.
The bodywork is tastefully crafted, appearing more like sculpted steel than stamped panels. You get the sense that the body was never designed for lower drag coefficients. And I like it for that.
In many respects, the Harrier takes the cake and the cherry topping in terms of styling. The front has been styled to resemble a hawk’s beak.
Even the rear hatch appears to have been cinched up at the waist for even more road presence, although this makes opening the tailgate a bit of a hassle if you’ve got your hands full – it is something I’ll gladly live with though.
Underneath the curvaceous bodywork, the Harrier is sits on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-K) platform shared with the RAV4, and is powered by a 2.5-litre four-pot from Toyota’s Dynamic Force engine family. In our hybrid test car, that inline-4 is mated to an electric motor.
We’ve seen many revisions of hybridised powertrains from many manufacturers, but Toyota has been consistently refining this system since the late nineties when it released the very first Prius.
You see, the system in the Harrier Hybrid combines the best qualities of an ICE motor with an electric one, so you enjoy maximum torque at low speeds, great fuel economy at higher speeds.
While I wouldn’t say the Harrier Hybrid has huge depths of power, it has loads of torque at the ready down in the low rev range.
Prod the throttle a little harder than necessary on a wet day (as I did), and the front wheels will spin merrily as the electric motor delivers all its 202Nm of torque to the road.
Mind you, all this happens even before the engine even steps in to handle driving duties at higher speeds.
Depending on driving conditions and style, the car’s power constantly toggles between the engine and electric motor.
There are discreet conveniences to Harrier ownership: Slide into the driver’s seat and start the car up, and the seat will inch forward as the steering wheel repositions itself to your driving position.
The cabin insulation blocks out most of the harsh realities of the road outside and allows the occupants to enjoy a relaxing cruise. Every reachable surface of this top trim model has been swathed in leather and soft-touch materials.
The Harrier Hybrid 2.5 Luxury model we had was decked out in all manner of premium features, like a massive dimmable panoramic moonroof, a digital rear-view mirror, eight-way adjustable and ventilated seats (to stay cool in our blistering summer heat).
All that, and the car’s claimed fuel economy of 4.7l/100km should probably seal the deal for most consumers.
No doubt, the Harrier is a large car – it is a midsize SUV after all, but it never feels encumbered by narrow twisting streets or cramped car parks such as we encountered when we were plying Singapore for our cafe stops.
It’s large but doesn’t feel far short of being a family hatchback. That, and the car’s various drive modes give you a perfect mashup of a highway basher and a fully silent EV cruiser.
On the day we had the car, I was tasked with tracking down some cool spots for coffee, and the Harrier was an agreeable companion to serve transport duties for the day from Points A-B-C-D- – something it'll become very familiar with at the hands of most owners.
The ed figured I would be the best person for this feature, seeing as I'm not one to frequent cafes regularly, so am relatively unencumbered by hype and prejudice.
Over the 280km or so I clocked over the course of my time with the car, I averaged about 4.9l/100km – no mean feat for someone who isn't light-footed on the throttle.
#01-13 Dempsey Rd, Blk 8
Now there are a great many restaurants and cafes around Dempsey. Most mornings, especially weekends, you’d find yourself starved of a parking lot.
I spent a good part of the morning coasting (silently) amongst the colonial setting of Dempsey Hill, before settling into a cosy spot right by Da Paolo for a spot of breakfast.
I opted out of their extensive pizza selection and delectable gelato for a flat white, just to get some caffeine in me before I continue onwards with my journey (cupholders fit a small cup perfectly).
Should you develop a sweet tooth while in the vicinity of the CBD, you could head on over to Plain Vanilla's latest location at Neil Road. This quaint bakery serves up great pastries and some of the best…… well, vanilla icing cupcakes, among other flavours too.
Of course, the bakery doubles up as a café so you could have an early lunch. The few parking spaces upfront makes things a lot more convenient too (If you manage to bag a spot, that is). Or you could park along the line of shophouses along Blair Road or Everton Road and make the short walk over.
But if you're like me, and you made it too late for lunch hour, fret not. Kith Café Spottiswoode is just right across the street, perfect for a quick pick me up. And if the weather doesn’t work toward your advantage, the automatic tailgate of the Harrier even serves as a good shelter for you to sip your third coffee of the day.
Nestled within a quiet residential estate just north of Clementi is Faber Drive, home to a smattering of private homes, several small eateries, and a great coffeehouse. Baker & Cook serves up pastries and an assortment of baked goods, perfect for a grab n go or a leisurely bite.
Once done, you could pop on next door at Glass Roasters for a coffee to end off your lunch. The best bit, you can park right outside and gaze at your car through the glass windows while sipping on a frothy cappuccino.
4 Jalan Kuras
And finally, the last stop for the trip. This cafe serves up great coffee and brunch meals. Unlike many cafes, it stays open all the way until 9 pm daily. This was where I had my final cup of caffeinated sustenance. A nice iced mocha for the road...
PHOTOS Jay Tee
TOYOTA HARRIER HYBRID LUXURY
Engine 2,487cc, inline 4
Top Speed 180km/h
Fuel Consumption 4.7l/100km