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2019 vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Eric Brandt January 2020
  • The Toyota Highlander is all-new for 2020.
  • A V6 engine is now standard for the Highlander.
  • New technology and an all-new look make the Highlander a competitive 3-row crossover.

The Toyota Highlander was one of the first vehicles to popularize the midsize 3-row crossover SUV and now it's better than ever thanks to its 2020 redesign. The all-new Highlander has a new look inside and out, a new standard engine and tons of newly available technology and safety features.

Let's take a closer look at the differences and similarities between the 2019 and 2020 models of the Toyota Highlander.

2019 vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander exterior

Exterior

Sometimes when a new generation of a car comes out, it's barely noticeable that it's been updated. This is not the case with the new Highlander, which is pretty drastically different in appearance from its predecessor. The new model has some muscular curves and a modern look while the 2019 model employed more sharp lines in its design. They're both nice-looking SUVs, but we think the new 2020 model looks more interesting. See the 2020 Toyota Highlander models for sale near you

As for sizing, the 2019 and 2020 models are identical in height and width, but the new model is two inches longer. The Highlander is still on the smaller side of this segment with the competing Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse and Nissan Pathfinder all being a little bigger. See the 2019 Toyota Highlander models for sale near you

2019 vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander interior

Interior

The slightly bigger size of the new Highlander over its predecessor brings with it more interior space. It still has three rows of seats with up to eight seats or seven seats if you opt for second-row captain's chairs. Seating space is still generous in the first two rows and the third row gets a little more legroom than before but is still a little cramped for this class. Cargo space is generous, especially when you fold down the back seats.

When it comes to interior design and comfort, the 2020 Highlander isn't a groundbreaking advancement over the 2019 model, but that's because the outgoing Highlander was already a very comfortable and family-friendly SUV. The 2020 model just takes that family-friendliness a little farther making it an even better minivan alternative than it's ever been before.

2019 vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander mechanicals

Mechanicals

One of the biggest drawbacks of the 2019 Highlander has been remedied -- a 4-cylinder base engine that is underpowered and not even very good on gas. With the previous generation of the Highlander, we always had to specify that you should really go with the optional V6 engine if you're going to get a Highlander at all, and we don't need to make that distinction anymore because the V6 is now standard for 2020.

2019 Toyota Highlander Engines

  • 2.7-liter inline-4; 185 horsepower, 184 lb-ft of torque; up to 20 miles per gallon in the city/24 mpg on the highway/22 mpg in combined driving
  • 3.5-liter V6; 295 hp, 263 lb-ft of torque; up to 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy/23 mpg combined
  • Hybrid 3.5-liter V6; 306 net hp, 30 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/29 mpg combined

2020 Toyota Highlander Engines

  • 3.5-liter V6; 295 hp, 263 lb-ft of torque; up to 21 mpg city/29 mpg hwy/24 mpg combined
  • 2.5-liter hybrid inline-4; 240 net hp, 34 mpg combined

The trusty V6 that is now standard is carried over from the previous generation with improved fuel economy. It delivers an impressive blend of power and efficiency and we're very happy to finally see it as the standard engine.

As of this writing, we don't have specific city and highway fuel economy ratings for the 2020 Highlander Hybrid, but if Toyota's anticipated 34 mpg combined is accurate, that is an outstanding fuel economy rating for a 3-row midsize SUV.

Like most of its competitors, front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard and all-wheel drive (AWD) is optional for the Highlander.

2019 vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander technology

Technology

Infotainment and safety technology are both upgraded in the Highlander for 2020. The 2019 model comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) suite of driver assistance technology, which comes with collision mitigation braking, road-departure mitigation, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and automatic high beams. The 2020 model comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes all of the features of TSS-P plus lane-tracing assist and road sign assist.

The 2019 Highlander comes standard with a 6.1-in Entune audio system and it's upgradable to an 8-in unit with SiriusXM. Neither Android Auto nor Apple CarPlay are available on any trim of the 2019 Highlander, but both come standard on the 8-in display in the 2020 Highlander, plus you get Amazon Alexa, too. In the 2020 model, you can upgrade to a 12.3-in display with more features.

2019 vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander pricing

Pricing

The Highlander gets a noticeable price bump for 2020 over the 2019 model, but remember, the V6 engine is now standard. The 2019 Highlander has a starting MSRP of $31,330 and the 2020 model starts at $34,600. For reference, the most affordable V6-powered 2019 Highlander starts at $33,380. As for the hybrid variants, the 2019 Highlander Hybrid starts at $36,970 and the 2020 hybrid model starts at $38,200. Both model years can get into the high $40k range when you get into the higher trims.

2019 vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander conclusion

Conclusion

With more modern technology, a much-improved base engine and more interior space, the all-new 2020 Toyota Highlander is a nice upgrade over the 2019 model. Some might scoff at the higher price tag of the new model, but when you consider the standard V6 (with improved fuel economy) and the generous features list of the 2020 Highlander compared to its predecessor, we think it's still a strong value in 3-row family crossovers. Find a 2019 Toyota Highlander for sale or Find a 2020 Toyota Highlander for sale

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2019 vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander: What's the Difference? - Autotrader
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