2020 Toyota Highlander
No matter the situation in our world, families still want a vehicle that will bring them all together. This is why the mid-size, three-row SUV segment has been on fire with every new entry giving us a different reason in buying one.
The latest model to be introduced in this segment is the 2020 Toyota Highlander. One of the more popular entries in this segment, the Highlander was developed from the ground up with the aim of giving families more for their money.
We wanted proof of this. When a Hybrid Platinum tester arrived, it was time to see whether the Highlander can retain its popularity in the face of some very good rivals that have been recently introduced.
Some may call this an evolutionary design, but it is not. The Highlander is now built on a version of the new Toyota New Generation Architecture (TGNA). Compared to the last generation model, the Highlander grew by 2.5 inches to accommodate extra third-row space. The slide mechanism for the second row has an increase of 1.2 inches of travel than the previous model.
The big grille is flanked by two LED headlight units and a substantial – if not, flatter – nose. The roofline may appear to be sleeker, but there is plenty of glass space all around. The rear doors open wide for greater access to both the second and third row, as well as the wider liftgate making loading and uploading in the rear much easier. The overall result is a distinctive, bold, and sporty design that stands out in a crowd.
Once you step inside, be prepared to be amazed. The quality has increased with lots of touch/feel points that are excellent. The wireless charging in the Platinum model we drove is the QI type, located in the middle of the center armrest. You can slide the cover over it to hide your phone and still get a comfortable space for your elbows.
While it appears that the infotainment screen may overpower the center stack. In our tester, we liked the 12.3-inch screen with a Dynamic Navigation system where updates are done wirelessly. The instrument cluster has a large 7-inch information screen offering a lot of data for the driver. This was augmented by a wide 10-inch head-up display keeping our eyes on the road.
Seating is comfortable across the first two rows. Very comfortable. With big seats up front, I felt at ease behind the wheel. The wheel is the right size and thickness, as was the gear lever. Second-row space and comfort with just the two captain’s chairs were equally superb for us. The third row is easily accessible with the sliding mechanism on the side of the cushion.
The extra size translates to a cargo volume of 48.4 cubic feet of space behind the second row. Keeping the third row up, you only get 16.1 cubic feet of space. If you drop the second and third rows of seats, you can stow a maximum of 84.3 cubic feet.
Our tester came with the new Hybrid driveline for the Highlander. Toyota replaced the V6 with the more efficient 2.5-liter engine combining it with three electric motors connected to an all-wheel-drive system and a continuously variable transmission. With 243 combined horsepower, we were able to average 33.0 MPG in terms of fuel economy.
The ride quality was great, absorbing everything in its wake. This is truly designed to keep families happy on the road. Handling is on the soft side, but controllable in evasive maneuvers. Our Highlander Hybrid Platinum tester came with all of Toyota’s driver assistance features keeping it safe and away from harm.
The steering system is solid, offering a good turning radius for a vehicle of its size. On-center feel tended to be on the soft side, yet it can be fixed by putting the Highlander in Sport mode. Because it is a Hybrid, we had an issue with the brakes. Pedal feel is fine, but it does take longer than usual for the Highlander to stop – even in normal situations.
Pricing for the Highlander lineup starts at $34,600 for a front-drive L model with the V6. Hybrid models start at $38,200 with the LE trim level. Our Hybrid Platinum AWD tester came with a sticker price of $52,512.
The Toyota Highlander is just the latest in a wave of mid-sized, three-row SUVs that families are clamoring over. Customers are also looking at the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Volkswagen Atlas, Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Explorer, Dodge Durango, Subaru Ascent, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, and Mitsubishi Outlander. Out of these vehicles, only Ford and Mitsubishi offer an electrified version of their SUV.
Which mid-size, three-row SUV would you choose? If you choose this family favorite, you most certainly will not go wrong with the Toyota Highlander – even the Hybrid version!
Story Credits: CarSoup Editors