The Toyota Highlander is a fully redesigning mid-size three-row SUV for the 2020 year model. It comes with over four different trims with different price tags. The 2020 Highlander comes with another style and beautiful packagings. The dashboard and center console has also been modernized.
The Highlander offers eight seats as standard in the lower trim levels . Second-row captain’s chairs are the norm in the XLE trim and up, with a bench still available. The new Highlander is an additional 2.36 inches longer overall, which all goes to the cargo area. There is now 16.0 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, up from the last generation’s 13.8 cubic feet. With the third row stowed, it offers 48.4 cubic feet of cargo volume, or a maximum of 84.3 cubes the second row down too (up from 42.3 and 83.7, respectively, in the outgoing Highlander). Essentially, these gains make the Highlander more competitive and less of an outlier – it’s still less spacious than many three-row crossovers, though, even if the gap has shrunk.
L, LE, and XLE grades feature a black front grille with silver trim while Limited and Platinum trims stand out with chrome trim, projector headlights, and 20-inch wheels (for the first time ever on Highlander). Three colors carry over from last year – Blizzard Pearl, Celestial Silver Metallic, and Midnight Black Metallic – while five new colors have been added for 2020. These include Magnetic Gray Metallic, Moon Dust (the blue pictured below), Ruby Flare Pearl (also pictured below), Blueprint, and Opulent Amber.
There are LED headlights and soft curves which give the Highlander a more dynamic and upscale appearance. Speaking of the latter, plastic body cladding is kept to a minimum and designers installed blacked out A-pillar to create the appearance of a floating roof. In keeping with the upscale design, 20-inch wheels are an all-new option for the crossover.
The Highlander’s tech quotient is bolstered by a standard 4.2-inch digital display between the analog gauges that can be upgraded to a 7.0-inch unit, as well as a standard 8.0-inch central touchscreen or an optional 12.3-incher. Current Highlander owners will be delighted with how crisply and relatively logically all of the new readouts render information, as well as with the numerous redundant hard buttons on the center stack and console. Along with the aforementioned active-safety features, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Wi-Fi connectivity all are standard fare. Additional welcome gizmos include an optional digital rearview interior mirror, wireless device charging, a 360-degree surround-view camera system, and a configurable 10.0-inch head-up display.
The standard 3.5-liter V-6 is unchanged from last year and still develops 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. (The previous standard 2.7-liter inline-four has been discontinued.) Married to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the V-6 thrums in the background but delivers ample thrust with only moderate fuss when poked hard. For a quick merge onto the highway, we did find it necessary to poke it to find its high 4700-rpm torque peak. The eight-speed often quickly upshifts to top gear to aid efficiency yet is tuned smartly and operates unobtrusively, making it a close ally to the V-6. Additional assistance comes from a claimed weight reduction of around 250 pounds for the V-6 model and slightly more for hybrid versions, but we’ll confirm that once we get one on our scales.
Front-wheel-drive comes standard but two different versions of AWD are also available, as well as a third AWD system for the Hybrid model. Speaking of the Highlander Hybrid, it ditches last year’s V6 drivetrain in favor of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that combines with two electric motors to produce 243 total system horsepower. The hybrid sends its power out through an eCVT to FWD or optional AWD. Gas models can tow up to 5,000 pounds while the hybrid is limited to 3,500 pounds.
Fuel economy for the gas model is rated at 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined with FWD or 20/27/23 mpg with AWD, making the Highlander one of the better vehicles in the mid-size class. But if you want the most efficient SUV in this segment, you have to get the Highlander Hybrid. It achieves a staggeringly good 36/35/36 mpg city/high/combined with FWD or 35 mpg across the board with AWD. Of the similarly-sized SUVs, only the Ford Explorer Hybrid comes close to these numbers.
The base L grade comes well-equipped but is more expensive than its rivals at $34,600 for FWD or $36,200 for AWD. Pricing for the LE grade starts at $36,800 for FWD or $38,400 for AWD while the hybrid variants start at $38,200 for FWD or $39,800 for AWD. Upgrading to the LE adds a power tailgate, blind-spot monitoring, LED fog lights, and a leather steering wheel and shift knob.
The XLE grade starts at $39,600 for FWD, $41,200 for AWD and $41,000 or $42,600 for the FWD and AWD hybrid respectively. This is the grade where the Highlander starts to feel luxurious with heated SofTex power front seats, second-row sunshades, seven-inch multi-information display, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, second-row captain’s chairs, and power moon roof.
For even more of a luxury feel, the Limited grade starts at $43,650 for FWD, $45,600 for AWD, $45,050 for the FWD hybrid, and $47,000 for the AWD hybrid. This grade adds heated and ventilated front seats, 20-inch wheels, a hands-free power liftgate, JBL Audio, navigation, and wood interior trim.
The Platinum grade is where Toyota may have reached a bit too high with Highlander pricing. It starts at $46,850 for FWD and $48,800 for AWD and the hybrid models cost $48,250 and $50,200. Toyota has priced itself well above its competition and even without an available hybrid version, those SUVs are by far the better value.