2020 Toyota Highlander Review – The Toyota Highlander is brand new for 2020, running on the same new platform that supports other newly redesigned Toyotas. It is only slightly larger than before, and largely represents evolutionary changes intended to enhance its sophistication and sharpen its driving experience. The former Highlander V6 engine is now standard (the weaker four-cylinder has been dropped), while the Highlander hybrid model is more powerful, more efficient and now available with front-wheel drive. The advanced all-wheel torque vectoring system from the RAV4 adventure is now an option at some V6 trim levels. Finally, styling inside and out is significantly different and infotainment features have been enhanced with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A Jumbo 12.3-inch touchscreen is now also available.
2020 Toyota Highlander Review
The 2020 Highlander interior largely retains the functionality of its predecessor, but makes it more visually distinctive. The quality of the materials has also been improved with more sewn simulated leather surfaces, but to be fair we have only seen the range-topping Platinum trim at this point.
Indoor storage remains a priority for the Highlander. It retains the middle Dash shelf of its predecessor, but it is now divided into two (one below the center stack control, the other in front of the passenger), and there is a squishier, sun-side surface inside to keep items secure. Below is a larger area specifically devoted to even the largest smartphones. It is where all three front USB ports are located, while the back ones are on the back of the center console (there are none in the third row). The center console’s location is once again very deep and covered with a sliding cover – but there is only one cover now instead of the old model’s strange clamshell design, and it’s more tightly padded to better serve as armrests.
In terms of technology, every 2020 Highlander comes standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa integration, Waze app control, satellite radio and In-Car WiFi. All trim levels, but the upper Platinum also comes standard with an eight-inch touchscreen, which is currently the optional screen size on most Toyotas. It is also mounted quite high on the dash, making it easy to see (and effectively bigger, like sitting closer to your TV). Platinum has a 12.3-inch screen, which is a Toyota first. Like other extra wide screens, such as the one in the Kia Telluride, it allows for a 60/40 information split. You can also look at hybrid information and the Apple CarPlay interface, for example, which eliminates the need to constantly move between screens.
The arms race in the three-row crossover segment shows no signs of cooling, with redesigned vehicles on the way from established players like Ford as well as new entrances from Hyundai and Kia. But if the idea of a rear-drive-based platform is of concern to you, or you prefer a vehicle from an established supplier of large, High-Riding family haulers, the 2020 Toyota Highlander is here.
Debuting at the 2019 New York International Auto Show, the fourth-generation Toyota Highlander is like an amalgamation of everything we’ve seen from the Japanese giant over the past few years.
The platform supports it’s another member of Toyota’s new global Architecture (TNGA) family called TNGA-K. The Highlander shares the basics of this modular platform with everything from the Baby Corolla Compact sedan to the newly redesigned RAV4, Camry and Avalon. Toyota designed the platform to accommodate both the same Twin Powertrain Control setup as the current car, meaning that this latest Highlander will continue to offer drivers the choice of a naturally aspirated V6 or a gas-electric hybrid. That said, Highlander is not making the leap to plug-in electrification yet.
The standard 3.5-liter V6 produces 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. Nothing too surprising about the available 5,000-pound tow rating or all the numbers matching the 2019 Highlander.
Going for the Highlander hybrid results in a familiar pairing … for a Camry or Avalon. While the outgoing Highlander hybrid has a 3.5-liter V6 and a pair of electric motors, the 2020 model drops to a 2.5-liter, naturally aspirated four-cylinder, reducing overall system output from 306 HP to just 240hp . The upside is improved efficiency, although the 2020 model’s 17 percent increase in fuel economy (from 28 miles per gallon combined to 34 combined) may not offset the 22 percent decrease in horsepower. That said, Toyota has figured out how to offer the Highlander hybrid with either front or all-wheel drive, rather than just all-wheel drive. It should at least drive the price of the electrified CUV down a smidge.
What is Highlander’s performance and Fuel Economy?
There are two Powertrain Control available for the 2020 Toyota Highlander. The standard, gas-only Engine is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. It is one of the largest standard outputs in the segment that has only been improved by the 2020 Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse. Full EPA fuel economy estimates have not been announced, but Toyota says it expects an estimate of 22 mpg combined for front-wheel-drive models.
An eight-speed automatic is standard, but like the new RAV4, there are two available all-wheel drive systems. The base available on the L, LE and XLE is a typical reactive system operating in the front wheel drive until slippage is detected, in which case the power is sent to the rear axle. The Limited and Platinum get the new Dynamic torque vectoring all-wheel drive. It is a predictive system that pulls data from multiple vehicle controls to determine if power is needed at the rear. It can also send different amounts of power between the left and right rear wheels, thus torque vectoring bit in its name, supporting dry road handling as well as wet breathing power. There is also its rear driveline disconnection system that disconnects the prop shaft in certain cruising situations to save fuel. It is also achieved with a new standard automatic stop / start system mounted on all 2020 Highlanders.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander hybrid features a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that holds a pair of electric motors to generate electricity and power the front wheels. All-wheel-drive Highlander hybrids get a third engine on the rear axle. Total system output is 240 horsepower (same as Avalon and more than RAV4), while Toyota estimates it will achieve 33-34 mpg combined. That’s up from 28 mpg combined earlier, and by far and away the best fuel economy in the segment. You could save hundreds of dollars each year on gas by going hybrid, but you would naturally be sacrificing a great deal of power in the process.