The Toyota Highlander has been completely revamped for the 2020 model year, which marks the introduction of the fourth-generation of Toyota’s popular three-row crossover. Since its last redo, the Highlander has received some stiff new competition, like the new class favorite, the Kia Telluride. To help fight off its increasing number of rivals, the Toyota has given the Highlander a major redesign, but does it have what it needs to stay on top?
The 2020 Toyota Highlander now rides on Toyota’s TNGA platform, just like the RAV4. The big news is that the new Highlander now has a bolder exterior than before with more sculpted lines, which gives the 2020 Highlander more style than its predecessors. In addition to the more stylish exterior, the fourth generation Highlander is also a bit bigger, since it’s now 2.36-inches longer.
That extra length gives the new Highlander a bit more interior space. There’s room for up to eight passengers and behind the third row there’s 16.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which expands to 40.6 cubic feet with the third row folded. If you need even more space, you can fold the second and third rows to give you 73.3 cubic feet of cargo space. How does that compare to the Kia Telluride? The Telluride has more cargo space with 21 cubic feet behind the third row and up to 87 cubic feet with the two rows folded down.
What about space for the family? There are up to eight seats, but the third row is best for the kids with only 27.7 inches of legroom. The Telluride has 31.4 inches of legroom for the third row and the Honda Pilot has 31.9 inches of leg space. Headroom also isn’t as good as the Telluride with 36.1 inches of headspace way in the back of the Highlander, compared to 38.1 inches in the Telluride.
Interior space aside, the new Highlander’s upgraded interior feels and looks more luxurious than its predecessor. The standard eight-inch touchscreen is easy to use and comes with the latest features, like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. If you go for the Platinum trim level you get a 12.3-inch touchscreen.
We’re happy that the Highlander comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, since Toyota’s Entune infotainment system isn’t our favorite. The system is a bit clunky and not entirely intuitive.
The 2020 Highlander is packed with the latest driver assistance safety features that are bundled together in the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite. This includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, and lane-departure mitigation. A blind spot monitor and surround-view camera system are standard on higher trim levels.
The 2020 Highlander has received the second highest safety rating from The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), Top Safety Pick.
Under the hood there’s one big change. The base four-cylinder engine has been deleted and now the Highlander is only available with either a 3.5-liter V6 or a 2.5-liter hybrid powertrain. The V6 carries over from the last generation and generates 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft. of torque. The V6 is mated to an eight speed automatic transmission and can tow up to 5,000 pounds with the towing package.
The greener choice is the hybrid powertrain that generates a combined 240 horsepower. Both the V6 and hybrid powertrain are available with all-wheel drive.
The V6 is rated at 21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined with front-wheel drive and 20/27/23 mpg with all-wheel drive. The Highlander Hybrid is rated at 36/35/36 mpg with front wheel drive and up to 35/35/35 mpg with all-wheel drive.
On the road the 2020 Highlander feels more stable than its predecessor with a nice comfy quiet driving experience. The V6 packs enough power to get the family around town, but we wouldn’t call it sporty. The V6 gets the Highlander up to speed with out too much drama, but there isn’t a lot of low-end torque and the eight speed transmission sometimes has difficulty finding the right gear. If you want something sportier, you’ll want to check out the Ford Explorer or Mazda CX-9.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander starts at $34,600 and is available in five trim levels: L, LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum. The volume seller will likely be the XLE trim level, which starts at $39,600, while the top of the line Highlander Platinum starts at $46,850.
To compare, the Kia Telluride starts at $31,890 and the Honda Pilot starts at $31,650.
The 2020 Highlander is a nice improvement over the last generation with its more stylish exterior and Lexus-like interior. While we do wish there was a bit more space in the back for our friends, the Highlander’s interior feels luxurious and more modern with its standard tech features. For buyers in the market for a three-row crossover, the new Highlander definitely has to be on your shopping list.