2020 Toyota Highlander Preview
- Updated exterior design with chiseled sides
- Employs Toyota New Global Architecture
- Standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.0
- More efficient hybrid powertrain
- New “L” base trim level
- Longer cargo area
- Available 20-in. wheels
- Five new exterior paint colors
- On sale December 2019
- Hybrid version available February 2020
The 2019 New York International Auto Show was the scene of the debut of the all-new 2020 Toyota Highlander, the brand’s iconic 3-row SUV that blends style, fuel efficiency, convenience, and technology into its comprehensive lineup. Now in its 20th model year, the Highlander continues to be one of the most family-friendly midsize SUVs on the market, along with other 3-row stand-outs like the Chevrolet Traverse and Ford Explorer.
The Highlander, now in its fourth generation, will be on sale in the United States in December 2019, followed by a hybrid version beginning in February 2020.
The Toyota Highlander undergoes a significant exterior design refresh for 2020, looking more angular with chiseled sculpting on its sides and sleek, narrow windows. Overall, the SUV looks much more rugged than before, although Toyota notes that the design also assists its aerodynamics for improved fuel efficiency and reduced noise. The rear overhang is extended just over 2 inches compared with the previous version, with the extra space going solely to its cargo area.
A more subtle difference between the 2020 Highlander and its predecessors is the switch to a new vehicle platform, known as the Toyota New Global Architecture. The modular underbody uses a high-strength steel construction that’s quieter, smoother, and stronger than before, according to Toyota.
Toyota carries over only three exterior colors from the previous-generation Highlander’s paint palette but adds five new ones to the mix, including Opulent Amber and Moon Dust.
Although the interior of the 2020 Highlander won’t look much different from the previou model, passengers will get 2.3 inches more cargo space behind the third row, thanks to the extended body. With the second- and third-row seats folded down, the cargo area expands to an impressive 73.3 cu. ft. With all seats in their upright position, the SUV still offers an ample 16.1 cu. ft. of cargo space.
The 2020 Highlander comes standard with 3 rows of seating for up to 8 people with versatile options from second- and third-row split-folding benches. Upper trim levels come standard with second-row captain’s chairs, reducing overall passenger capacity to 7. All 2020 Highlander SUVs include large rear doors for convenient passenger access to either the second or third row.
An entry-level “L” version joins the Highlander lineup for 2020, offering a healthy dose of standard features at an affordable price point. The new Highlander L includes items such as tri-zone automatic climate control, rear privacy glass, an 8-in. touch-screen display, and Smart Key entry for the front doors and tailgate.
Four other trim levels give drivers plenty of options with regard to convenience, comfort, and technology. The LE includes all of the L’s features plus LED fog lights, leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob, and blind-spot monitoring, while roof rails, a moon roof, heated front seats, dynamic navigation, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror come standard on the XLE.
Limited trim adds a JBL audio system, driver’s seat memory functions, ambient interior lighting, and wood interior trim. The range-topping Platinum trim is the only one to include a 12.3-in. multi-media screen, rain-sensing windshield wipers, head-up display, and a Bird’s Eye camera as standard features.
With such feature-packed trim levels, the Highlander’s additional options are limited to items like the hybrid powertrain, all-wheel drive (AWD), and exterior paint colors.
Under the Hood
One of the more exciting upgrades to the 2020 Highlander is its more efficient hybrid powertrain. The new Highlander Hybrid gets an estimated 34 mpg combined, which is a significant boost over the outgoing model’s 28 mpg in combined driving. The hybrid’s 4-cylinder engine isn’t lacking in power, boasting 240 horsepower. With the hybrid powertrain comes a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
The non-hybrid Highlander’s gas engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. of torque and features dual variable valve timing with intelligence. The gas powertrain comes mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.
Front-wheel drive is standard for all 2020 Highlanders, but buyers can opt for one of three AWD configurations.
Although official EPA fuel-economy estimates have yet to be released for the 2020 Highlander, Toyota estimates the Highlander Hybrid to be about 17% more efficient than its predecessor, offering approximately 34 miles per gallon in combined city/highway driving.
The 2020 Highlander will come packed with safety features drivers have come to expect from a Toyota family SUV. Included as standard equipment on all trim levels is a rearview camera with projected-path guidelines, 8 air bags including side bags for each rear row, traction control, smart stop technology, and brake assist.
Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is also standard and includes essential driver-assistance technologies such as Road Sign Assist, pre-collision warnings with pedestrian detection, automatic high beams, and lane-departure alerts. A Bird’s Eye camera and rear cross-traffic alert are some of the available safety features on the 2020 Highlander.
Toyota offers three distinct AWD systems for the 2020 Highlander, including the high-tech Dynamic Torque Vectoring system that delivers torque evenly between all four wheels for optimal grip on the road. The Rear Driveline Disconnect feature further improves the efficiency and power of the SUV by disengaging the use of the rear wheels when it’s not necessary, saving torque for when it’s needed most.
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