Say hello to the all-new fourth-generation 2020 Toyota Highlander -- a vehicle that at its heart is a family SUV. The Highlander is completely redesigned for 2020, with big changes to the exterior, interior and powertrain.
My review vehicle is the Highlander Hybrid with available all-wheel drive. For you history buffs out there the first highlander hybrid came out in 2006 and it’s one of the few three-row hybrids offered out there.
One of the most notable things about the fourth-gen model is that it is 24% more fuel efficient than the outgoing model due to a completely different hybrid powertrain that now offers 36 miles per gallon for the new for 2020 front-wheel drive model (35 mpg for the all-wheel drive version.)
Trims and Seating
The hybrid version comes in four trims: the LE, XLE, Limited and this top of the line Platinum comes loaded with technology. It seats either 7 or 8-passengers depending on the trim. The Platinum is a 7-seater since it is equipped with captain’s row chairs in the second row.
Toyota designers delivered on a new, more modern, stylish exterior. The Platinum’s black grille features chrome trim and a silver painted bumper. A blue Toyota emblem signifies its hybrid status. The Platinum rides on the Highlander’s first-ever 20-inch alloy wheels and comes with Adaptive LED headlights with auto levelling and LED fog lights In the back you get redesigned LED tail lights, a rear spoiler with LEDs too. Other features include roof rails, heated power mirrors, front and rear mudguards and scuff plates and a one-touch panoramic moonroof.
The Highlander hybrid ditches the V-6 from the last generation and replaces it with Toyota’s next-gen hybrid powertrain that is more fuel efficient, hence the 35 mpg combined fuel economy for this AWD model. The powertrain utilizes a 2.5L 4-cylinder with two electric motors. It’s mated to an Electronic Continuous Variable Transmission. The engine and electric motors deliver a combined 243 horsepower. The battery pack is stored underneath the rear seats and does not take up cargo space. This model is all-wheel drive but the Highlander Hybrid is also offered a front-wheel drive for the first time ever.
Ride and Drive
The Highlander rides on Toyota’s newest platform and it delivers a smooth ride. It’s more truck-like than car-like to me so it provides a different feel than say the Lexus RX350. Acceleration and braking are both great and confident in both city and highway driving situations. While the engine was a little noisier than I expected at initial acceleration, the overall cabin ride was quiet and pleasant.
The Highlander Platinum’s soft-touch leather-trimmed Glazed Caramel interior looks and feels great and also features faux wood trim. The very comfortable, cushy front seats are heated and ventilated. The driver’s seat is 10-way power with power lumbar and memory, the passenger must make do with only 4-way power. You’ll find a glossy black accent on the bottom of the Platinum’s tilt and telescopic, heated steering wheel.
Everything in the cabin is well laid out and user friendly and there are split-level dash trays to place your things. The 7-inch digital driver’s display is bright and easy to read. The center console sports a leather-trimmed gear shift knob and controls for the Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes, as well as a separate control for EV mode. You’ll also find an electric parking brake and auto brake hold, as well as controls for the trail mode. The console bin has a roller top and you’ll find a deep storage cavern and on this model it houses an available wireless smartphone charger.
A completely redesigned center stack gets your attention right away. The centerpiece is an available 12.3-inch touchscreen with exceptional quality graphics and color. It’s split into either two- or three- screens depending on what you’re doing. Functions include accessing apps, the radio and controlling the A/C. Interestingly, it doesn’t not appear to offer the ability to make the map full screen. The Platinum’s dynamic navigation and voice recognition are impressive. The multimedia touchscreen also houses an integrated backup camera with dynamic gridlines.
The available premium top level 11-speaker surround sound JBL audio system sounds terrific. Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa and 4 USBs are all standard.
The Highlander is very roomy in terms of leg-room for the first- and second-rows, but the third-row would be cramped for adults. The second-row in the Platinum trim comes with sunshades and heated second-row seats. The Highlander Platinum comes with 8 cup holders and four bottle holders.
With a touch of a button, the Highlander’s 2nd row seats tilt and slide to provide access to the third row seats which offer a 60/40 fold-down split. The third row seats recline but don’t offer a power folding feature.
The Highlander Platinum features a hands-free liftgate with a nice open and close rate. One big change to note is that the rear glass area no longer opens separately from the hatch. The new model is 2.3-inches longer, all in the cargo area. There is extra storage space underneath the cargo mat. You’ll find a 120V outlet in the cargo area and 6 tie-downs.
Family friendly features on the Highlander include Driver Easy Speak, which uses an overhead microphone to amplify sound from the front to the rear speakers. Also rear seat reminder and rear seat seatbelt reminder are great safety features for families.
2020 Highlander Hybrids come equipped with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 which includes Pre-Collision with Low-Light Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Road Sign Assist.
The Platinum is equipped with available Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic alert along with Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking. A bird’s eye 360 degree camera with perimeter scan and curb view is also standard on this trim.
Standard Equipment and Options
The Highlander Hybrid lineup comes with smart key and push button start. Standard features on the Platinum model include Toyota’s available 10-inch color head up display and Digital Rearview Mirror.
Options include the special color ($425), carpet floor mats and cargo mat ($318), cargo cross bars ($350) and universal tablet holder ($99).
The all-new Highlander Hybrid is an excellent redesign from Toyota. It’s also one of the few three-row hybrid SUVs on the market. Coming in at just over $52,000, the loaded Premium model is a great value for all it offers: impressive fuel economy, a quality interior, cabin comfort and roominess, along with Toyota’s great safety, driver assist and technology features. If you don’t need a huge third-row, it should be on your shopping list.
2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD
- What I liked most: Interior, JBL System, impressive fuel economy.
- What I would change: Add power third-row seat and kick-sensor liftgate options.
- MSRP: $50,200. As equipped $52,512.
- Official color: Ruby Flare Pearl ($425)
- Fuel economy: 35 city/34 highway/35 combined.
- Odometer reading when tested: XXXX
- Spare tire: Temporary Spare.
- Weight: 4,595.
- Length-width-height: 194.9” long/ 76” wide/ 68.1” high.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 17.1 gallons with the filler on the driver’s side.
- Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds.
- 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: The best Toyota Highlander Hybrid ever that more than lives up to its family friendly name.
- Warranty: 36-month//36,000 mile Comprehensive; 60 months/60,000 miles Powertrain, 96 months/100,000 Hybrid System, 120 months/150,000 miles Battery Warranty.
- Final assembly location: Princeton, Indiana
- Manufacturer’s website: Toyota