2020 Toyota Highlander: get it, or skip it?
Since the introduction of the Highlander lineup in 2001, it’s been one of the most popular SUVs worldwide, hands down. We admire Toyota for many of their models, but when we received the new 2020 Highlander for review, we had to answer one main question: “What’s actually new about it?” In this review, we’ll answer all the questions you might have about this year’s model, including its safety features, available luxury packages (and whether they’re worth the money), and, of course, if there’s anything new about this 2020 Toyota Highlander.
Under the hood
With the 2020 Toyota Highlander, you’ve got a 3.5L V6 engine paired with 8-speed automatic transmission. This engine offers you 295HP and 263 lb-ft of torque. It can tow up to 5,000 pounds. Plenty of power! Pretty quick when it comes to motivating this big 4400-pound body. You can get the hybrid version, and, in my opinion, you should look into the Hybrid model only. Especially when you consider that this fully loaded Limited AWD costs over $51,000, and you can get a hybrid for about $10,000 less without losing much in terms of features. This V6 engine is supposed to offer you up to 23 MPG combined, but after driving it for a week and 344 miles, out tests showed 20 MPG on average.
Inside and out
One of the first things you spot inside is the giant 12.3-inch screen. Toyota has been known for ignoring Android Auto for quite some time in a number of models, but in this 2020 Toyota Highlander you do get both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
You can fit a lot on this screen! It’s packed with features and settings. But this is still “a work in progress” because you will see some themes that are not correctly “aligned” with the rest of the design (check out our video for more details).
Functionality and storage was always something that I liked about Highlanders. There are storage spots under the main screen, a ton of room in the armrest where you can also find the wireless charger for your smartphone. The only downside is the actual build quality. Yes, you get good leather here and there, but you also see some misaligned “clicking plastic” or flimsy armrest, or door that has a few inches of “free play.” These are not major things, but I would prefer to avoid them altogether in the vehicle with a $51,112 price tag.
When it comes to space inside, you can fit up to eight people. However, the third row of seats in the new Highlander is not as comfortable as we saw in its competitor Kia Telluride. Hard to get to the third row but would be perfect for three-four people and for someone who’s not planning to move more passengers inside daily.
One of the new features that Toyota added this year is the digital rearview mirror, which we typically see mostly in high-end vehicles. Very functional and convenient for the driver.
On all new Toyota vehicles, you get Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. Some of the features include pre-collision detection with emergency braking, dynamic radar cruise control, and lane departure alert with steering assist. The latter didn’t impress us during our test runs. This feature is supposed to keep you in the center of the lane, but most of the time, it was only “bouncing” left and right without trying to keep the vehicle centered. So if your main priority is active safety, it may be best to look elsewhere.
The new Highlander AWD models come with a multi-terrain selector, which is a rather exciting detail reminding you that Toyota wants you to take this Highlander to go places. However, in my opinion, the suspension feels too soft for public roads. Watch our video for more impressions and insight for the Highlander’s driving dynamics.
Do’s and don’ts
Do buy the new Highlander if you want the least expensive LE Hybrid with a price tag below $40,000. It will give you the best in class gas mileage, and we all know Toyota does excellent Hybrid powertrains.
Don’t pay for options. Even when you spend over $50,000, you won’t get true luxury features and feel, because it’s simply not here. Toyota can do excellent vehicles, which are often the best in class. We loved the new RAV4 and Corolla, but the 2020 Highlander didn’t leave us in awe. Perhaps, we should wait for the next generation?
Photo credit: Dennis Bindarau, LiveFEED