Written by Marco Carvajal
The new 2020 Toyota Highlander is the Fourth Generation Highlander. It has been completely redesigned. This new Highlander is built on top of a new platform shared with the Toyota Camry and RAV4. The new vehicle platform is called Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-K).
2020 Toyota Highlander 4th Generation $48K Top of the Line Platinum AWD
This robust new platform foundation, enables even greater capability, comfort, and safety than before. This all-terrain SUV powerful for those wanting to find a powerful all-wheel-drive, with tons of standard features, then the Toyota Highlander can be your new dream SUV.
This new version looks stronger and sharper taking some elements from Toyota’s same-platform brothers, RAV4 and Camry.
One of the main differences about this new generation is the increase of a few inches longer for better cargo capacity, something that most of us have been waiting for.
The fourth-generation Highlander offers the choice between a powerful V6 or new-generation hybrid powertrain, with the gas version offering up to a manufacturer-estimated 24 MPG combined fuel economy and the Hybrid offering up to a manufacturer-estimated 36 combined MPG.
Test Driving the Platinum Trim AWD Highlander
As I drive the highest trim on the lineup, the Platinum grade makes you feel you own the road on top of the Highlander, full of additional features, a better screen, premium audio, and the usual off-road great performance of this Japanese gladiator.
This 4th version Platinum comes standard with a Captain’s Chair in the second row and with seating for seven passengers. The new large rear doors provide easy access and practical seat folding allows for easy access when entering the third row.
Driving the Highlander one can enjoy the great combination of a powerful engine, good brakes, intuitive and precise steering, good handling, and strong towing power on all-terrain conditions, making the Highlander one of the best mid-size SUVs in its class. It is also one of the best available versatile three-row crossover SUV. The Toyota Highlander is a pioneer in the midsize crossover segment that continues its success thanks to its power for all-terrain, great safety features and performance.
A wonderful standard three-zone climate control produces great flow of air through the 3 different rows inside the new 2020 Highlander. Another great bonus from Toyota! Standard premium A/C with separate controls for each of the three passenger zones, more value for your money!
JBL Premium Audio Standard on the Highlander Platinum
The JBL Premium Audio System is standard for Limited and Platinum grades with 1,200 watts of power playing through 11 speakers in nine different positions of the mid-size SUV. Clari-Fi technology produces great audio quality to relax and enjoy your favorite song when riding the new 2020 Highlander. I love this premium audio standard free of additional charge to enjoy the road with luxury sounds on board this SUV.
2020 Toyota Highlander Highlights
- FWD Standard / AWD Optional for an Approximate $2K Additional Charge
- 12.3” Multimedia Display Standard on the Platinum Trim
- Starting MSRP $34,600
- Increased Cargo Space 16.0 cubic feet behind the third row
- New TNGA-K Toyota Platform
- 21 / 29 Estimated MPG for all Non-Hybrid Models
- Standard Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM, Waze and Amazon Alexa Compatibility
- Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 Standard (TSS 2.0) Standard in all Highlander Trim Models
- Available with 7 or 8-Passenger Seating
- Choice of V6 or New-Generation Hybrid Powertrain
- New Available Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Driveline Disconnect and Multi-Terrain Select
Toyota automotive architects, designers, and engineers have created an amazing SUV, but there is always room for improvement. On my personal wish list, I could add the following features for the new 2021 version:
AWD should be standard on the Platinum trim model. Currently, with the 2020 Highlander Platinum model, FWD is Standard, buyers need to pay an additional 2K to receive AWD. I think that customers who pay for the most expensive trim should receive even more, including AWD.
The third row can be bigger. I can only imagine how hard is to manage all the space and design to have a perfect balance and this is not an easy task for Toyota or any car-manufacturer, but I am sure that buyers will love a bigger 3rd row. It is on my wish list for the new year model.
More standard features. New competitors like the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride compete hard with the Highlander, offering lots of standard features and large interior for the same price of the Highlander. I would like to see the Highlander matching its competitors, offering more standard features, and a little bit more of interior space.
Lower the Base Price, currently at $34,600. The 2019 Highlander model had a lower base price and competitors like Nissan offer cheaper base models. I think that car buyers need a good wide range of pricing so those with a more limited budget still can buy the highlander for less, even though getting fewer features when buying the base model.
Besides pros and cons, the Highlander is a great family SUV, with great history and the Toyota name on its side. The Highlander seems to be the first choice on the mid-size segment SUV when buying a reliable car with very good resale value.
History of the Highlander
The Toyota Highlander is also known as the Toyota Kluger in other markets. Unable to use the Highlander name in Japan and Australia, Toyota calls it in those markets Toyota Kluger.
The first Highlander arrived in 2001 in North America, redefining the midsize family SUV segment. The Highlander became one of the first mid-size crossover off-road vehicles.
This crossover still keeps most of its original classic look and features since it was launched back in 2001. The Highlander’s unibody structure with four-wheel independent suspension quickly became the standard format for a new generation of more comfortable and family-friendly SUVs. Other automakers have followed Toyota’s Highlander format producing a large competition for the mid-size SUV segment, always for the benefit of consumers, getting more value and more features for the money.
After adding a third row, the Highlander not only grew in size, but is also now the best-selling retail model in the midsize SUV segment since 2016, but the competition is working hard and new 3-row SUVs are emerging fast. Today in 2020, Toyota has created 4 different generations of Highlander models and the new 4th generation is larger and more stylish than before, ready to compete and sell.
Increased Cargo Space 16.0 cubic feet behind the third row
In most 3-row SUVs cargo space is limited and sometimes this can be the deal-breaker for car buyers. Yes, we love the three rows and the nice larger interior space on most large SUVs, but a long trip or travel with suitcases can be a problem as there is not enough space for all the baggage for all the passengers on board when keeping the three tows open.
If you don’t use the 3rd row then folding seats can save the trip, but what if you want the best of both worlds? Good cargo space and three rows? With most 3-row SUVs you won’t be able to have both, good cargo space and three active rows.
Some car buyers will prefer to switch to a minivan where you can have 3-rows and also large cargo space. But perhaps the highlander can save the segment, while all seat-rows in use, the new 4th generation Highlander offers 16.0 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row.
The fourth-generation Highlander is 2.36 inches (60mm) longer, adding even greater cargo volume than before. The second row slides an extra 1.2 inches further up to increase legroom distance between the second and third rows. Cargo space is also enhanced by side pockets shaped for maximum space usage.
If you don’t need all the seas but need more space, folding the 60/40 split fold-flat third-row increases cargo space to 48.4 cubic feet, and then folding the second row raises cargo even more up to 84.3 cubic feet.
Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 Standard in all 2020 Highlander Trims
The Highlander is very safe! It comes standard with traction and stability control, antilock disc brakes, front-seat side airbags, a driver’s knee airbag, a front seat cushion passenger airbag. A rearview camera is also standard.
This comprehensive active safety system Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 includes:
- Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD)
- Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA)
- Automatic High Beam (AHB)
- (New) Lane Tracing Assist (LTA)
- (New) Road Sign Assist (RSA)
Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection offers automatic braking capability under certain circumstances should the driver not react in time in a system-detected emergency situation. Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Parking Support Braking and Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) are available depending on the model grade.
Engine and Performance
The 2020 Highlander offers two advanced powertrains, a gas V6 or a new enhanced Toyota Hybrid System, FWD, and AWD. I am test driving the gas V6 AWD engine what is very reliable and efficient.
Performance on the 2020 Highlander feels precise and advanced as body roll is controlled as you turn, and the AWD torque vectoring system can help by applying engine power to individual rear wheels to subtly improve the SUV’s handling balance. It has an intuitive response and reassuring feedback when cornering, isolated straight-line stability on the road to produce great precision.
Its interior stays quiet and comfortable on bumpy roads and high speed due to its good suspension. A quiet and comfortable suspension, plenty of standard features and a perfect mid-size make the Highlander a great off-road mid-size SUV.
The 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is the epitome of smoothness. Its Toyota-innovated D-4S Injection system combines direct fuel injection with port fuel injectors to optimize efficiency, power and emissions in all conditions. Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (Dual VVT-i) likewise ensures ideal response and efficiency at all engine speeds. That translates into 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. of torque, which further translates into exemplary everyday performance and generous towing capability. The Direct Shift 8-speed automatic transmission maximizes Highlander’s acceleration and highway merging capability while operating seamlessly and transparently.
Highlander models include the following features for optimal on-road and off-road performance and safety:
- Hill Start Assist Control (HAC)
- Trailer Sway Control (TSC)
- Downhill Assist Control (DAC)
Save gas with the Highlander’s standard Stop and Start Engine System that allows the engine to shut off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop, and then instantly restarts when the driver’s foot lifts from the brake pedal. This technology reduces fuel consumption and cuts emissions.
All gas engine models have a fuel economy of 21/29 MPG estimated. Best in Class Hybrid MPG with up to a manufacturer-estimated 36 combined MPG
2020 Highlander Trim Models and Pricing
The 2020 Highlander is available in a choice of five grades, L grade, LE, XLE, Limited and the top-of line Platinum trim.
For all technology and connectivity lovers, all grades come standard with Apple Car Play, Android Auto, Alexa In-Car compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM, and Wi-Fi connectivity, and all trim models include Toyota Safety Connect with a one-year free trial subscription. LE and above grades offer Service and Remote Connectivity. The Limited version features 20-inch wheels, integrated navigation, leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, and a premium JBL audio system, among other features.
The top of the line Platinum grade I am test driving offers standard Dynamic Navigation and an advanced 12.3-inch screen. The Platinum includes a panoramic sunroof, a surround-view camera system, a digital rearview mirror, and a driver’s front-view display.
Eight seating is standard on the base LE trim and optional on all other trim levels except Platinum. Other trim models come standard with second-row captain’s chairs, reducing the total seating capacity to seven.
In terms of exterior design, the L, LE and XLE grades feature a black front grille with silver trim, while the Limited and Platinum grades are distinguished by a black grille with chrome trim and chrome-plated lower rear fascia, premium projector headlamps and the Highlander’s first-ever 20-inch alloy wheels. The Platinum grade stands apart with silver-painted front bumper and rear fascia and a unique 20-inch wheel.
Greater aerodynamic efficiency reduces wind noise while enhancing vehicle stability
As I mentioned in my wishlist here, I would suggest lowering the base price for the Highlander L to provide a higher pricing range for Highlander buyers, I know this is not an easy task, as car buyers ask for more standard features and a lower competitive price.
- Highlander L FWD, Starting at $34,600
- Highlander LE FWD, Starting at $36,800
- Highlander XLE FWD, Starting at $39,600
- Highlander Limited FWD, Starting at $43,650
- Highlander Platinum FWD, Starting at $46,850
- The Highlander Platinum AWD, Starting at $48,800
Pricing above doesn’t include the additional $1,120 DPH charge, delivery, processing and handling.
One of the elements that car buyers consider when buying a car is confidence and trust in the brand. Toyota offers a very good warranty that helps buyers to continue trusting this solid brand.
Toyota’s 36-month/36,000 mile basic new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and against perforation from corrosion for 60 months with no mileage limitation. Hybrid-related components that require repairs needed to correct defects in materials or workmanship are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles, whichever comes first from the original date of first use when sold as new. The HV battery is covered for 10 years/150,000 miles, whichever comes first, and is transferrable across different owners.
The 2020 Highlander also comes standard with ToyotaCare, a complimentary plan covering normal factory-scheduled maintenance, for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, and 2 years of Roadside Assistance, regardless of mileage.