Auto enthusiasts, get ready! Today, we are taking a close look at the all-new Toyota Highlander 2020. With its fourth-generation release, this revamped three-row SUV faces tough competition in a crowded market. Rivals such as the Honda Pilot, Volkswagen Atlas, and Mazda CX-9 have been dominating the scene. More recently, the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Subaru Ascent have joined the ranks. Needless to say, the competition is fierce in this segment.
Let’s dive into the details and see how the 2020 Toyota Highlander measures up.
What’s New for 2020
Toyota has always had success with the Highlander, known for its reliability and value. However, it was time for a major makeover. Toyota took calculated risks and transformed the Highlander into something truly unique. The new model is longer, wider, and more curvaceous than its predecessor. Some may find its resemblance to a blown-up RAV4 amusing, while others might have a different opinion.
Step inside, and you’ll be greeted by a continuation of the rounded design theme. The driver’s seat offers exceptional comfort, with a small steering wheel that feels just right, not oversized. Notably, the steering wheel boasts a whopping 19 buttons to control the radio, phone, cruise control, and lane-keeping system.
The interior of the Highlander is well-designed and impressively finished, providing multiple storage spaces for occupants in every row. Toyota, who had previously shunned Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, has made them available in the 2020 Highlander from the base model onwards. Kudos to that! Additionally, numerous USB ports are strategically placed throughout the vehicle, ensuring that everyone can conveniently charge their devices.
While the second-row seats are spacious and comfortable, the third-row seats are primarily designed for children. Unfortunately, even average-sized adults will feel cramped for legroom and headspace. This might disappoint some, but it comes as no surprise.
All models offer seating for eight, except for the Premium version, which provides seven seats, including second-row captain’s chairs.
Pricing and Features
Let’s talk prices. Starting at $42,329, the base L model comes with front-wheel drive and features a 60/40 split-folding second and third-row bench seats. Notable highlights include an eight-inch touchscreen, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with heating, and a six-speaker audio system. In terms of safety, the Highlander is equipped with the Safety Sense 2.0 suite and a blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert.
For an additional $3,500, bringing the total to $45,829, you can upgrade to the LE AWD model, which offers Toyota Audio Plus, Sirius satellite radio, and the Safety Connect system.
The XLE model stands out as the most appealing choice. Priced at $48,329, it comes equipped with an array of features, including power-adjustable passenger seat, three-zone automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, and a hands-free power liftgate.
Moving up the ladder, our Limited test model boasts ventilated leather seats, an 11-speaker JBL audio system, wireless charging, a panoramic roof, 20-inch chrome wheels, and integrated navigation with real-time traffic and weather updates. However, it’s worth noting that automatic wipers are surprisingly absent from this version, which has a hefty price tag of $54,029.
To experience the pinnacle of luxury, one must reach for the Platinum version, available for an additional $2,300. The Platinum trim includes a head-up display, a colossal 12.3-inch touchscreen, and heated second-row captain’s chairs. With a price of $56,329, some may find it a bit steep, especially considering the fierce competition within this class of vehicles.
Impressive Fuel Efficiency with the Hybrid Option
Toyota has made a resounding statement with the introduction of the hybrid configuration for the 2020 Highlander. Not only is it a brilliant move in itself, but Toyota has gone above and beyond by making the hybrid option available for a mere $2,000 extra, regardless of the chosen model. This pricing strategy may prompt more consumers to choose the hybrid variant over the conventional gasoline engine. During our initial test drive last December, the hybrid version left the most lasting impression.
The gasoline-powered versions of the Highlander are all equipped with a direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 engine, generating 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque, paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. On the other hand, the hybrid model features a dynamic hybrid system with a net power output of 243 horsepower, complemented by a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
During our recent test drive, which only included the V6 engine model, we were pleasantly surprised by the smoothness of the ride. The gear shifts were seamless, and even when pushing the engine a bit, it never felt strained. The engine’s sound was surprisingly pleasant, and overall, the vehicle provided an incredibly smooth driving experience. Frankly, it felt more like driving a Lexus than a Toyota.
Toyota deserves applause for this achievement. While the previous model felt emotionless behind the wheel, the new Highlander invites you to embark on endless journeys. The credit largely goes to the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform, which enhances the Highlander’s agility, tight turning radius, and unparalleled smoothness and quietness.
In terms of fuel efficiency, we recorded an average of 11.2 liters per 100 kilometers during shorter trips. On longer highway drives with two adults on board, we achieved a median consumption rate of 7.8 liters. Surprisingly, we remained well below the manufacturer’s estimated fuel consumption figures. That’s quite an achievement!
The new Toyota Highlander 2020 is a must-consider option in the mid-size SUV segment. Firstly, it boasts a rich history, credibility, and respect among three-row SUVs. Secondly, Toyota has nailed the update with only minor exceptions. Recommending the Highlander is a no-brainer; its reliability and impressive resale value are enough to make Korean automakers envious.
However, if you require a vehicle with genuine seating for seven or eight passengers, you might be disappointed, as the third-row seating in the Highlander is quite narrow. In such cases, Hyundai, Honda, or Kia might offer better value with models starting at $38,699 for the Palisade, $43,220 for the Pilot, and $47,000 for the Telluride. Where the Highlander truly stands apart is in its hybrid offering, which no other competitor can match. With this in mind, Toyota is poised for soaring sales with the 2020 Highlander.
- Smooth and enjoyable driving experience
- Impressive fuel efficiency
- Comfortable interior
- Intriguing hybrid option
- Limited space in the third-row seats
- Lack of automatic wipers before the Platinum version
- Limited cargo volume with the third-row seats in place
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