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2020 Toyota Highlander: First Look

  • The Toyota Highlander is all-new for 2020.

  • The new Highlander Hybrid is less powerful but more efficient, promising up to 34 mpg combined.

  • A V6 engine is now standard rather than the weak inline-four in the previous model.

With three rows of seats, a reasonable price tag and some nice standard safety tech, it’s not hard to see why the Toyota Highlander has been a popular midsize SUV choice for families. However, the current generation of the Highlander is getting a little long in the tooth, which Toyota is remedying with an all-new Highlander for the 2020 model year that just debuted at the New York Auto Show.

Better Engines

An Achilles heel of the current Highlander is its subpar standard 4-cylinder engine. Granted, almost every Highlander is built with a V6 under the hood, but why did Toyota even bother putting a naturally aspirated, non-hybrid inline-four in the Highlander? We don’t have to wonder anymore because Toyota took the logical step of making a V6 the standard engine in the Highlander, specifically a 3.5-liter V6 making 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. Toyota won’t say specific numbers for city and highway fuel economy, but they’re promising 22 miles per gallon combined from the V6.

The Highlander Hybrid is getting less powerful, but more efficient with a new inline-four hybrid engine debuting rather than the hybrid V6 of the Highlander Hybrid it’s replacing. The new Highlander Hybrid promises a very impressive 34 mpg combined rating, which is a 17% improvement over its predecessor. It will have less power than the current Highlander Hybrid, but that won’t matter much to families who aren’t planning on doing any towing. You’ll also be able to get a front-wheel-drive Highlander Hybrid instead of all hybrid models coming standard with all-wheel drive, which hopefully means a lower base price for the hybrid.

The Good Gets Better

A lot of the updates to the new Highlander are simply taking what everyone already likes about the current model and making it better. It’s slightly bigger than the outgoing model and we like the new look, which is decidedly more sleek and modern and the same can be said about the new interior. It still seats up to eight or seven people if you opt for second-row captain’s chairs.

A big selling point of the current Highlander is standard Toyota Safety Sense P, but now the 2020 Highlander is offering the upgraded Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which gives you automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with steering assist, lance tracing assist, road sign assist and automatic high beams.

The standard infotainment system on the 2020 Highlander is an 8-in touchscreen, but if you go all the way up to the top-of-the-line Platinum trim, you’ll be treated to a huge 12.3-in unit that is tastefully integrated into the center stack. Toyota’s new infotainment systems in the Highlander support Apple CarPlay and — finally — Android Auto plus Amazon Alexa.

Unfortunately, we don’t know any specifics of pricing and availability of the Highlander as of this writing. We’re hoping to see it in showrooms by the end of 2019 and we can reasonably expect a starting MSRP in the low-$30k range, hopefully with the hybrid model not being much higher than that. Find a Toyota Highlander for sale

Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt
Eric Brandt is an author specializing in Oversteer content, new car reviews, and finding the best car, truck, and SUV deals each month. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Eric can often be found exploring the north woods on his 1983 Honda Gold Wing when the weather allows it. Father of four, husband of one, and unapologetic minivan enthusiast. Eric mastered driving stick by having a 3-cylinder Chevy... Read More about Eric Brandt

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  1. I wish Toyota had kept the old body size, with 2 rows of seats, not three. Not everyone needs 3 rows. And the vehicle is too big. The 2001-2013 models were just the right size. 

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