The third-generation adaptation of the Toyota Highlander stills sells in the hundreds of bags annually, which makes the cautious, affected admission that Toyota took in actually redesigning its mid-size three-row SUV for the 2020 archetypal year rather unsurprising. Still, a core of beginning competitors from Ford, Kia, Hyundai, and Subaru, amid others, agency Toyota had to conspicuously up its bold in this axis of a marketspace. Through a aggregate of a new platform, added accepted and alternative equipment, and a greater faculty of all-embracing refinement, the fourth-gen Highlander manages to do aloof that.
HIGHS: Bluff administration axial and out, added able amalgam powertrain, endless of accepted and alternative tech, stronger bulk proposition.
Regular C/D readers actually will ask: Do the new Highlander’s updates accomplish it bigger than the Kia Telluride, which actually nails its mission in this articulation and has becoming appealing abundant every approval we can accord it, including a comparison-test achievement and a 2020 10Best award? We’ll lock the two in a cage bout as anon as we get a able Highlander analysis vehicle. But our antecedent acknowledgment to this Toyota in Texas did acknowledge it to accept bigger looks and added crisply apprenticed sheetmetal. It’s now congenital on Toyota’s solid TNGA-K platform, which additionally underpins the latest Avalon, Camry, and RAV-4 models. Next to the old model, the Highlander is a atom added and a bashful 2.4 inches best in wheelbase and all-embracing length, with all of that amplitude activity to added burden capacity. Both V-6 and amalgam powertrains, article few of its aeon offer, abide available, and there’s now an armory of accepted disciplinarian assists in Toyota’s Safety Faculty 2.0 array that will anticipate you from accomplishing all address of impaired things.
The meandering country anchorage of our drive avenue offered few opportunities to delving the Highlander’s administration banned after tripling the acquaint dispatch limits. And, if we’re honest, that’s of little aftereffect in what amounts to a bodies mover that’s aloof a brace sliding doors removed from a Sienna minivan. But this Toyota’s electrically assisted council does circle precisely, alike if it is a bit apathetic to acknowledge to antecedent inputs. There is a auspiciously abutting anchor pedal, decidedly the hybrid’s, and it’s accessible to modulate. The rather cautiously acquainted strut avant-garde and multilink rear abeyance has affable anatomy movements and delivers a abundantly costly ride over abject pavement, alike on the alternative 20-inch auto (18s are standard).
The Highlander advance beeline and accurate at artery speeds, and intrusions of road, wind, and agent babble are affably subdued. Opt for either the top Limited or Platinum trim levels and a laminated, sound-attenuating windshield and avant-garde ancillary bottle acutely charge bottomward babble levels further—the bigger to adore the absorbing 1200-watt JBL audio arrangement upgrade. Competent and predictable, if a bit bland, are authentication Toyota alley manners, and they administer to the Highlander in spades.
LOWS: Snooze-worthy active experience, careful autogenous detailing, third row is still bound for adults.
The accepted 3.5-liter V-6 is banausic from aftermost year and still develops 295 application and 263 lb-ft of torque. (The antecedent accepted 2.7-liter inline-four has been discontinued.) Married to an eight-speed automated transmission, the V-6 thrums in the accomplishments but delivers abounding advance with alone abstinent fuss back poked hard. For a quick absorb assimilate the highway, we did acquisition it all-important to blow it to acquisition its aerial 4700-rpm torque peak. The eight-speed generally bound upshifts to top accessory to aid ability yet is acquainted smartly and operates unobtrusively, authoritative it a abutting accessory to the V-6. Added abetment comes from a claimed weight abridgement of about 250 pounds for the V-6 archetypal and hardly added for amalgam versions, but we’ll affirm that already we get one on our scales. All V-6–powered 2020 Highlanders appear accepted with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive costs $1600 to $1950, depending on the trim level, with Limited and Platinum versions featuring the added avant-garde of the two automated setups with a torque-vectoring rear cogwheel that can both administer torque to either rear caster and abstract the rear driveshaft for added able cruising.
Spring for the Highlander hybrid, which costs an added $1400 and is offered in all but the abject L trim level, and you’ll get a 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four forth with two electric motor-generators that are accumulated through a all-embracing gearset to actualize a continuously capricious automated manual (CVT); the nickel-metal-hydride array resides beneath the second-row seats. Accumulated achievement is 243 horsepower, which is a ample footfall bottomward from the previous, 306-hp V-6–powered Highlander hybrid. Yet, the new bureaucracy offers added than abundant dispatch to exhausted best traffic, with its electric motors accouterment a baby yet acceptable ample of low-rpm torque. Front-wheel drive is accepted for the aboriginal time on the Highlander hybrid. All-wheel drive, which consists of a third electric motor on the rear arbor that bliss in back the arrangement detects caster slippage, warrants the above upcharge as on V-6 models. Toyota has yet to absolution abounding specs of the Highlander’s amalgam apparatus but says that the aggregate of the arrangement is agnate to the antecedent model’s, admitting both hardly added able and efficient.
The 20 percent or so of Highlander buyers that Toyota expects to opt for the amalgam are apparently activity to like it. The on-road behavior is agnate to the V-6’s, and the CVT is abundantly acknowledging and acquainted to accumulate the inline-four from dawdling badly beneath adamantine acceleration. As with the approved version, there’s little apparent aberration amid the hybrid’s drive modes (Normal, Eco, Sport, and hybrid-only EV), save for the Sport setting’s hardly bluff burke acknowledgment and addiction to authority agent revs higher. All-wheel-drive Highlanders additionally affection a driver-adjustable terrain-select arrangement for optimizing the drivetrain for mud/sand, rock/dirt, and albino surfaces. Maximum towing accommodation is 3500 pounds for the amalgam and 5000 with the V-6.
Compared to the antecedent Highlander hybrid, which agitated an EPA accumulated appraisal of 28 to 29 mpg, depending on the model, the new adaptation sees a ample bang in ammunition abridgement to a accumulated 36 mpg for front-drive models and 35 mpg with all-wheel drive. Toyota says to apprehend about 600 afar of ambit from the hybrid’s 17.1-gallon ammunition tank. V-6–powered versions are rated analogously as before, earning a 24-mpg accumulated appraisal with front-wheel drive and a one-mpg amends with all-wheel drive.
The packaging of the new seven- or eight-passenger Highlander places it in the average of its aggressive space—larger than the driver-focused Mazda CX-9 yet not as alveolate as the Chevrolet Traverse or Volkswagen Atlas. Its avant-garde seats are accurately sculpted for acceptable ancillary and lumbar support, as are the ample additional row’s, which additionally accept a advantageous bulk of slide-and-recline adjustability; a three-across middle-row bank bench or captain’s chairs are available, depending on the trim level. The third row, however, is no beyond than before, is as collapsed as a board, and, while tolerable for abbreviate jaunts, is a too baby for adults to admission and be adequate in. Added important, at atomic to Toyota’s focus groups, is that the access in the Highlander’s breadth has yielded a appropriate 16 cubic anxiety of burden amplitude with the third row raised—2 cubic anxiety added than before. Stow the third row, and it grows to 48 cubic anxiety and 84 cubes with the additional row bankrupt flat. Ikea, actuality we come.
Given that the antecedent Highlander debuted for the 2014 archetypal year, the new model’s greatest strides accept been fabricated in attention to technology and design. The dashboard and centermost animate has been avant-garde and there’s an uptick in actual quality. Toyota may accept approved a bit too adamantine against the top end of the archetypal lineup. The arduous cardinal of altered abstracts and intersecting forms in the top Platinum models we collection makes it a bit careful and overdone. Things are bigger in the aggregate XLE archetypal area you get a added adamant and beneath adorned presentation of colors and textures. Still, none of the accessible trims can blow the packaging, usability, and flush accomplishment of the best in the class, the Kia Telluride and its Hyundai Palisade platform-mate, both of which additionally action some luxuries not accessible on the Toyota, such as a microsuede amateur and aerial second-row seats.
The Highlander’s tech caliber is bolstered by a accepted 4.2-inch agenda affectation amid the analog gauges that can be upgraded to a 7.0-inch unit, as able-bodied as a accepted 8.0-inch axial touchscreen or an alternative 12.3-incher. Current Highlander owners will be captivated with how crisply and almost logically all of the new readouts cede information, as able-bodied as with the abundant bombastic adamantine buttons on the centermost assemblage and console. Forth with the above active-safety features, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Wi-Fi connectivity all are accepted fare. Added acceptable gizmos accommodate an alternative agenda rearview autogenous mirror, wireless accessory charging, a 360-degree surround-view camera system, and a configurable 10.0-inch head-up display.
That all of the 2020 Highlander’s improvements appear with alone a baby access in amount over the approachable version—at atomic back comparing V-6 to V-6 models—make Toyota’s latest three-row ute attending like a winner. While the trim calendar is simplified (L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum), you get added appearance for alone a bit added outlay, although the $35,720 starting point for the L trim is bags college than abounding competitors. The value-packed XLE begins at $40,720, and Platinum versions nudge the amiss ancillary of $50K back loaded with options.
The fourth-gen Highlander is not radical, sexy, nor exciting, nor is it acceptable to alter the three-row class. But it is, at atomic from our antecedent experience, awful able and bigger than its predecessor. It ability not be our choice, but it has the reputation, practicality, and avant-garde appearance that buyers apprehend in a actual aggressive segment.
2020 Toyota Highlander
front-engine, front- or all-wheel-drive, 7- or 8-passenger, 4-door wagon
L, $35,720; LE, $37,920; LE Hybrid, $39,320; XLE, $40,720; XLE Hybrid, $42,120, Limited, $44,770; Limited Hybrid, $46,170; Platinum, $47,970; Platinum Hybrid, $49,370