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ser3nitynow11

2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE, AWD

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I just discovered overlanding not long ago.... I'm very experienced in travel logistics and camping, so this is right up my alley!

The 1st problem I have though, is that I don't know much about vehicle mechanics/performance upgrade modifications yet, but I really want to begin the journey towards building my own overland vehicle.

My 2nd problem is that the only vehicle option I have to work with is a 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE with V6 engine and AWD.

I don't plan on doing anything extreme like rock climbing or mudding, but I would like to be able to drive it up and down moderately steep and rocky trails.

I've driven it through the Santa Cruz mountains quite a few times, and it handles surprisingly well on steep inclines with deep ruts and lots of rocks, but it's most definitely going to need some upgrades if I ever plan to drive it like that while loaded with a bunch of camping equipment and possibly even towing a really light weight trailer as well.

Does anyone have any advice or information that can help me figure out what upgrades I need to make in order to enhance it's off-road capabilities?

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Welcome to the Offroad Passport family @ser3nitynow11

 

I'm not personally very knowledgeable about Toyotas (or overlanding), but there are many members here who have a ton of knowledge and experience in both of those areas.

 

I'd say a solid first upgrade suggestion would be a set of durable all-terrain tires. I'm a big fan of BF Goodrich's KO2 All Terrain. They're extremely durable, are snow rated, and have done right by me for over 70,000 combined miles (on 2 separate vehicles).

 

If available for your model, skid plates and some sliders will also help up the overall durability of your Highlander, protecting your under-belly.

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Your 2018 Highlander is a reliable station wagon. That said, either you have an 18"  or 19" wheel size. Please consider your All Terrain tire size and brands. For your 19" there will be only 1. For your 18" wheel choice, there are 5. 

 

I would recommend a couple of deflators and a portable compressor for your light trails (graded gravel). That said, please be very careful how much you "air down".

 

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Is it possible to modify the Highlander's suspension system as well as lift it a bit without putting too much stress on the engine/drivetrain?

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21 minutes ago, ser3nitynow11 said:

Is it possible to modify the Highlander's suspension system as well as lift it a bit without putting too much stress on the engine/drivetrain?

 

Looks like there are a few manufacturers that are making 2" spacer lifts for your ride, such as:

https://www.readylift.com/2-0-sst-lift-kit-2014-19-toyota-highlander-1.html

 

highlander_2_1100.jpg

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And follow up please. Curious.

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Thanks everyone for the advice so far! I appreciate all the info and tips I can get, especially since Highlander hybrids are not a common overland vehicle. I've been busy reading the operation manual and scouring the internet trying to learn as much as I can about the Highlander's systems so that I can safely drive it to its' best abilities. My current curiosity is the "sport mode" drive function, which is basically an automatic car's answer to stick shift... Even though I know how to drive stick, I haven't found much to convince me if using it in off-road situations with the Highlander would be a good thing or not. Sport mode aside, my past experiences driving through Santa Cruz have been great, and what I've been currently learning about the Highlander, I'm now confident that it can take me to many awesome places as long as I drive carefully. I don't plan on doing anything extreme with it anyways, and I don't want to risk reducing gas mileage too much, so I've come to the conclusion that keeping the vehicle's stock parts will be best.

I ran my own camp at Burning Man for over 5 years, and I think that overlanding seems to be very similar to Burning Man in many aspects... The most important lessons I've learned for myself from "burning", and keep coming across while researching overlanding are to plan ahead, be prepared for problems that may occur, choose gear/supplies wisely, create a good organization/storage system, and to take care of the vehicle, especially in terms of tires, fluids, weight distribution, and following the maximum payload specifications. Burning Man and overlanding makes it waaaay too easy and exciting to get sucked into extravagant camp/transportation set-ups, and the possibilities are endless! I've gone the extravagant route before, but I've also done the minimalistic approach, and taking those past experiences plus everything I've recently learned about overlanding into account, I'm thinking a happy medium is perfect for me! I plan to focus on and have fun creating a good storage, kitchen, and tent build instead of spending time and resources on the Highlander's mechanics like I was originally thinking about. I want to camp semi-luxuriously while being able to comfortably fit myself, my husband, and our two Dogo Argentinos (big lazy dogs!) in the vehicle during travel. I may eventually add some extra undercarriage protection and all terrain tires once I start trying out more difficult terrain, but I would rather get out there to explore sooner than later!

 

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I'm just trying to figure out how overlanding is even remotely similar to Burning Man.

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