Toting the family and cargo around these days almost requires a mid-size SUV and the 2020 Highlander is a handsome option that comes with Toyota’s rock-solid reputation. With three rows of seating and plenty of cargo space, it’s a practical choice—but rivals such as the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade offer slightly more value. Toyota’s mid-size SUV is all new for 2020 and offers many useful improvements and extra features not found in the outgoing 2019 Highlander. Both a gasoline V-6 powertrain and a hybrid four-cylinder version are available, and the Highlander delivers a smooth ride and a quiet cabin. Driver-assistance features are standard across the range, including automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control.
What’s New for 2020?
The Highlander is all new for 2020 and is vastly improved compared with the 2019 model it replaces.
Pricing and Which One to Buy
- L: $35,720
- LE: $37,920
- LE hybrid: $39,320
- XLE: $40,720
- XLE hybrid: $42,120
- Limited: $44,770
- Limited hybrid: $46,170
In our view, the mid-range XLE is the pick of the litter. It adds heated front seats, a wireless smartphone-charging pad, and a power sunroof, among other niceties. We’d also spring for the Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation package, which adds in-dash navigation and an upgraded audio system. All-wheel drive is optional but adds $1600 to the bottom line; opting for the hybrid powertrain over the standard V-6 would cost an extra $1400.
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The standard engine is a 295-hp 3.5-liter V-6, which pairs up with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. During a brief test drive, we found the V-6 to be gutsy enough for short highway on-ramps. The Highlander also can be had with a hybrid powertrain, which consists of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and two electric motors that team up for a combined 243 horsepower. Hybrid models come with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and can be had with either front- or all-wheel drive. We haven’t had the chance to take the new Highlander to our test track, but we’ll update this story with results once we get them. Handling is unexciting but stable, and the ride is perfectly suitable for family chauffer duty; more driving enjoyment can be found in the Mazda CX-9.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
The EPA estimates that the 2020 Highlander V-6 will deliver up to 29 mpg on the highway when equipped with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive reduces that estimate by 2 mpg. Hybrid models will likely receive much higher estimates, but that information hasn’t been reported. When the 2020 Highlander visits our office, we’ll be putting its fuel efficiency to the test on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy route.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
For 2020, the Highlander gets an interior makeover to match its updated exterior styling. Base L and mid-range LE Highlander models can seat eight passengers using bench seats in both the second and third rows, but a seven-seat arrangement with second-row captain’s chairs is available on higher trims. Passenger space is more generous here than in the CX-9, but not as spacious as the larger Chevrolet Traverse, especially in the third row. Materials throughout the cabin are much improved versus the last-generation Highlander. Upscale Limited and Platinum models offer the most creature comforts but compared with the Palisade or Telluride, they both fall short. Luckily, the cargo area behind the third row is two cubic feet larger than the 2019 Highlander, which fit a meager four carry-on suitcases.
Infotainment and Connectivity
An 8.0-inch infotainment system with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability is standard, but the Highlander Limited and Platinum both get a larger 12.3-inch display; onboard Wi-Fi and an 11-speaker JBL audio system are both available. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Amazon Alexa integration are all standard features; a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot will keep the family connected and is provided on all Highlander models.
Safety and Driver-Assistance Features
As with much of the rest of the Toyota lineup, the 2020 Highlander also will offer a standard suite of driver-assistance features; the package includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and automatic high-beam headlamps. Key safety features include:
- Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection
- Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist
- Standard adaptive cruise control with traffic sign recognition
Warranty and Maintenance Coverage
Toyota’s warranty coverage adheres to the norm of the segment; however, buyers get two years of complimentary scheduled maintenance, which is a nice perk that most rivals don’t offer.
- Limited warranty covers 3 years or 36,000 miles
- Powertrain warranty covers 5 years or 60,000 miles
- Complimentary scheduled maintenance is covered for 2 years or 25,000 miles