A fourth generation for Toyota’s three-row mid-sizer

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The previous third-generation Toyota Highlander debuted back in 2013, with a facelift performed in 2016 that added an eight-speed automatic transmission, an updated spec for the V-6 engine, and a few aesthetic upgrades as well. Since then, the Highlander has proven to be one of the brand’s most-popular nameplates, selling some 245,000 units in 2018. That means it’s time for Toyota to give the Highlander a full-fledged generation update for 2020. Making its big debut at the 2019 New York Auto Show, the latest fourth-generation Toyota Highlander brings new styling inside and out, a raft of fresh technology for infotainment and safety, and a number of powertrain updates as well. However, can it still stay at the top of the segment?

2020 Toyota Highlander Exterior Styling

  • Brand-new look is simpler, more aggressive
  • Beefier proportions
  • Standard 18-inch wheels, 20-inch wheels higher in the line
LED lighting standard across the line
  • 2.4 inches longer
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To help it stand out from the previous generation, the 2020 Toyota Highlander comes with a brand-new look.

Up front, the fascia is clear break from the 2019 model year, and includes new headlight housings, a new intake, and a new bumper. Rather than the broad grille slats seen on the previous model, the fourth-generation comes with a singular upper intake section and slim lower intake section. The headlights are also slim, pulling back into the fenders at a sharper angle, while the fog lights in the bumper are moved higher and more towards the center of the bumper. Black plastic undercladding rings the lower chin section.

The roofline and window line are both more aggressive as well, while the side character lines are much more pronounced, flaring out towards the rear, adding additional visual width.

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In back, the tailgate looks broader and more square, with slimmer taillights and a large lower bumper section. Up top is a rear deck spoiler, while additional black plastic cladding bookends the front and rear.

Toyota says the new look is for more than just aesthetics - it also makes the SUV more aerodynamic,

all the way down to details like the taillight and side-mirror design, which helps to decrease wind noise and provide greater stability at speed.

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A set of 18-inch wheels come as standard lower in the lineup, as do LED headlights and taillights. The L, LE, and XLE grade levels come with a black grille and silver trim, while the Limited and Platinum grade levels get a black grille and chrome trim, plus a chrome lower rear fascia and projector headlights. The higher trims also get standard 20-inch alloy wheels, which is a first for the nameplate. The top Platinum trim gets a silver front bumper and rear fascia, plus a unique 20-inch wheel design.

2020 Toyota Highlander Exterior
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Exterior body colors include:

  • Blizzard Pearl
  • Celestial Silver Metallic
  • Midnight Black Metallic
  • Magnetic Gray Metallic
  • Moon Dust
  • Ruby Flare Pearl
  • Blueprint
  • Opulent Amber.

Dimensionally speaking, the Highlander is now 2.36 inches longer than the outgoing model, which enhances the available interior space by allowing the second row seating to slide an extra 1.2 inches forward and back.

For reference, we’ve listed the 2020 Toyota Highlander’s exterior dimensions below:

2020 Toyota Highlander exterior dimensions
Overall Length 194.9 inches (+ 2.4 inches)
Overall Height 68.1 inches (est.)
Overall Width 75.8 inches (est.)
Wheelbase 112.2 inches (+ 2.4 inches)

2020 Toyota Highlander Interior Design

  • New cabin and dash design
  • Cloth upholstery lower in the line, leather higher in the line
  • Standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • New 12.3-inch touchscreen
  • Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 safety suite standard
  • Either seven- or eight-passenger seating configuration
  • More space behind third row, less space behind second and first row
2020 Toyota Highlander Interior
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To complement the new look outside, the 2020 Toyota Highlander also comes with an all-new cabin.

The dash now mounts the central touchscreen high on the center console, with an asymmetric design that looks more stylized and exaggerated than that of the outgoing model. The control scheme is simplified as well, with several of the hard-button functions moved onto the screen, while the lower buttons are now offered with a more-premium piano-black finish.

Indeed, the rest of the 2020 Highlander’s look and layout continues this theme of enhanced luxury, which is complemented by a quieter overall ride.

2020 Toyota Highlander Interior
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The base model L and lower mid-range LE come with standard cloth upholstery, which is finished in either Graphite or Black. The XLE model steps it up to Softex leatherette finished in Graphite, Black, or Harvest Beige, while the Limited gets leather upholstery, once again in either Graphite, Black, or Harvest Beige. Finally, the Platinum steps it up to embossed and perforated leather, with the optional Glazed Caramel color added alongside the three standard colors listed above.

The base model gets an eight-way power driver’s seat as standard, while a 10-way power driver’s seat can be found higher in the range, as can heated and ventilated front seats. A standard three-row climate control keeps it comfy no matter where you’re seated.

2020 Toyota Highlander Interior
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On the infotainment front, the 2020 Toyota Highlander is a step above the previous generation.

It all starts with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - a first for the Highlander While at first that might not seem like that big of a deal, it kinda is - Toyota has been reluctant to adopt these popular smartphone support systems for years now, so it’s nice to see the automaker finally getting on board with the rest of the industry.

The rest of the infotainment spec includes SiriusXM, Amazon Alexa, and Waze. There’s also available Wi-Fi through AT&T. USB charge ports can be found throughout, while Qi wireless charging is optional. The higher-up Limited and Platinum trim levels get new LED ambient lighting.

Running it all is a new 12.3-inch multimedia display, which Toyota claims as the “largest in the segment.” The 12.3-incher is equipped as standard on the Platinum trim level. Meanwhile, an 8.0-inch screen is standard on the lower trims and arrives as an upgrade over the standard 6.1-inch screen on the outgoing model. The 2020 model year also comes with a 4.2-inch Multi-information Display in the gauge cluster. Options include a heads-up display higher in the range, plus an upgraded JBL Premium Sound System with 11 speakers and 1,200 watts of power.

2020 Toyota Highlander Interior
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Per tradition, the Highlander comes with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 (TSS 2.0) safety suite as standard. Toyota has been on a roll with this tech over the last few years, and it’s good to see it add to that momentum with the Highlander. Standout features for TSS 2.0 include:

  • Automatic High Beam Headlights
  • Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
  • Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection
  • Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control

There’s also a few new features for 2020, such as Road Sign Assist and Lane Tracing Assist. Additional features can be found higher in the range, and include:

  • Parking Support Braking
  • Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Intelligent Clearance Sonar

Toyota Safety Connect with a one-year trial subscription is standard across the line, while Service and Remote Connectivity and Dynamic Navigation are equipped higher in the range.

2020 Toyota Highlander Interior
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Of course, one of the biggest reasons anyone gets an SUV is extra space for people and things, and the Toyota Highlander provides for both. Passengers will find three rows of seating available, including both seven- and eight-passenger configurations. The lower L and LE trim levels come standard with an eight-passenger configuration, while the XLE, Limited, and Platinum replace the second row with a pair of Captain’s Chairs for a seven-seater layout. Of course, you can replace the Captain’s Chairs with a traditional third row, if desired.

Either way, the second row can fold down to maximize rear cargo room. There’s up to 16.1 cubic-feet found behind the third row, which is on par with rivals like the Honda Pilot, but less than the Subaru Ascent (17.6 cubic-feet) and Ford Explorer (18.2 cubic-feet).

2020 Toyota Highlander Interior
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Making the most of what’s there is a 60/40 split for the third row. Fold it flat, and you’ll open up 40.6 cubic-feet of cargo room. Fold down the second row as well and you get 73.3 cubic feet total.

Comparatively speaking, the 2020 Toyota Highlander gets an additional 2.3 cubic feet of cargo room behind the third row against to the 13.8 cubic-feet offered by the 2019 model year, but 1.7 cubic-feet less behind second compared to the 42.3 cubic-feet of the 2019 model year. There’s also 10.4 cubic-feet less cargo room with all rows folded compared to the 83.7 cubic-feet of the 2019 model year.

No word on passenger room, but the outgoing model offered 61.7 cubic-feet, 52.8 cubic-feet, and 30.4 cubic-feet of passenger room for the first-, second-, and third-rows.

2020 Toyota Highlander versus competition
Model Passenger Room Cargo Room
2020 Toyota Highlander 142.2 cubic-feet 73.3 cubic-feet
Honda Pilot 151.7 cubic-feet 83.8 cubic feet
Chevrolet Traverse 157.3 cubic-feet 98.2 cubic-feet
Buick Enclave N/A 97.6 cubic-feet
Ford Explorer 151.7 cubic-feet 80.7 cubic-feet
Subaru Ascent N/A 86 cubic-feet

2020 Toyota Highlander Drivetrain And Performance

  • Two powertrain options: V-6 and hybrid
  • No more four-cylinder ICE-only
  • Eight-speed automatic transmission
  • Towing Package with 5,000-pound tow capacity
  • 34 mpg for hybrid, 22 mpg for gas-only
  • Multiple systems for off-road handling
  • Both two-wheel and all-wheel drive on offer
  • New TNGA-K platform
2020 Toyota Highlander Exterior
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The 2020 Toyota Highlander is offered with two powertrain options: a gas-only V-6, and a new-gen hybrid.

The outgoing model’s entry-level four-cylinder is no longer part of the lineup.

Let’s start with the V-6, which is the same naturally aspirated 3.5-liter unit as before. Output remains static at 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque, all of which is directed through a Direct Shift eight-speed automatic transmission. The eight-speed is the only transmission option, as the outgoing model’s six-speed is now in the dustbin.

Go for the V-6, and you can opt into the available towing package.

This blesses the Highlander with a 5,000-pound towing capacity, matching that of the outgoing model. The towing package includes a heavy-duty radiator, an engine oil cooler, and electronic aides like Trailer Sway Control and enhanced Vehicle Stability Control.

2020 Toyota Highlander Exterior
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Moving on, the Highlander also comes with a hybrid option, which incorporates a 2.5-liter four-cylinder internal-combustion gas engine and two electric motors. Combined total output comes to 240 horsepower. The hybrid’s battery is mounted under the rear seats, and does not impact cargo room or passenger room.

Both models get multiple drive modes, but the hybrid includes a unique EV mode for all-electric operation to cover short distances at low speeds. The hybrid also comes with a driving “coach” which can help you get the biggest bang for your buck at the pump thanks to guided accelerator function inputs.

Finally, the Predictive Efficient Drive system works in the background by analyzing your driving habits, as well as the current road conditions and traffic conditions, then deploys the hybrid power as needed.

All these tweaks give the Highlander hybrid best-in-class fuel returns, with a combined 34 mpg. That’s an improvement of 17 percent compared to the outgoing Highlander’s 28 mpg.

2020 Toyota Highlander Exterior
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Meanwhile, the gas-only model returns a combined 22 mpg, a figure padded by the standard engine stop/start system. That’s still far above the 18 mpg combined offered by the Ford Explorer, and about on par with the 21 mpg combined offered by the Chevrolet Traverse and 23 mpg combined offered by the Subaru Ascent.

Both the hybrid and gas engine options come with the option for all-wheel drive. Toyota offers a unique all-wheel drive system depending on your powertrain of choice, including two separate systems for gas-powered models, and a unique system for the hybrid that places an electric motor in the rear for independent drive of the rear wheels.

Highlander models with a V-6 and all-wheel drive also come with a Driveline Disconnect feature for even more efficiency, turning the all-wheel drive system into front-wheel drive when the extra traction isn’t needed, contributing to that 22 mpg noted above. The system will then automatically reengage the all-wheel drive system when it’s needed. Further options include the available Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive system, which is offered on the Limited and Platinum trim levels.

2020 Toyota Highlander Exterior
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When the going gets dirty, there’s also a Multi Terrain Select system for better grip off road, including modes like Mud & Sand, plus Rock & Dirt. Further rough-stuff prowess comes with high-tech features like Hill Start Assist Control and Downhill Assist Control.

Under the skin is a new TNGA-K platform, which is stiffer than that of the outgoing model, providing a ride that’s quieter and smoother than before. The suspension setup includes struts up front and a multi-link in the rear.

2020 Toyota Highlander specifications
Engine 3.5-Liter V6 Dual Overhead Cam (DOHC) 2.5-Liter L4HV Double Overhead Cam (DOHC)
Horsepower 295 HP @ 6,600 RPM 240 HP @ 6,000 RPM
Torque 263 LB-FT @ 4,700 RPM 175 LB-FT @ 4,400 RPM
Transmission 8-speed auto 8-speed auto
Towing 5,000 lbs 3,500 lbs

2020 Toyota Highlander Prices

2020 Toyota Highlander Exterior
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After a long wait, the 2020 Toyota Highlander is finally on sale and it kicks of at $34,600 for the entry-level L trim with front-wheel drive. If you opt for AWD, you’ll be asked to pony up an extra $1,600 for a total MSRP of $36,200. Pricing moves up incrementally through the trim levels, which now include the LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. Each of the four upper trim levels can be had with either FWD or AWD, and are also available as a hybrid in a FWD or AWD configuration.

What is the Cheapest Toyota Highlander?

If you opt for the Toyota Highlander L trim in FWD, you’ll get the lowest MSRP possible. Even if you equip the L with AWD and pay $36,200, you’ll still be $600 shy of the FWD LE trim, which starts at $36,800.

What is the Most Expensive Toyota Highlander

If you’re looking for the absolute best, you need to go for the Toyota Highlander Platinum. It starts out at $46,850 in FWD form (this is actually $150 less than Limited Hybrid AWD) but the Platinum Hybrid AWD will set you back a cool $50,200 before options, taxes, and destination charges.

2020 Toyota Highlander prices
Gas FWD Gas AWD Hybrid FWD Hybrid AWD
L $34,600 $36,200 - -
LE $36,800 $38,400 $38,200 $39,800
XLE $39,600 $41,200 $41,000 $42,600
Limited $43,650 $45,600 $45,050 $47,000
Platinum $46,850 $48,800 $48,250 $50,200

2020 Toyota Highlander Competition

Ford Explorer

2020 Ford Explorer
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The Explorer is one of the biggest names in the SUV segment, and that extends to the latest 2020 model year. Offered as an all-new sixth generation, the Explorer looks the part thanks to a tall, off-road-inspired stance and wheel sizing up to 21 inches in diameter. The interior comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster, plus the very latest driver assist tech, while an Active Noise Cancellation system makes it all feel high-end and premium. Engine options include a 2.3-liter four-cylinder and 3.0-liter V-6, with rear-wheel drive as standard and four-wheel drive as an available option.

Read our full review on the 2020 Ford Explorer.

Subaru Ascent

2019 Subaru Ascent
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Subaru is getting in on the three-row SUV craze with the new Ascent, following up on the not-so-popular Tribeca with a clean-slate approach and fresh nameplate. Outside, the Ascent certainly looks better than the model it replaced, with wheel sizing up to 20-inches in diameter and an impressive 8.7 inches of ground clearance.The interior swallows tons of stuff as well, with as much as 153.5 cubic-feet of cargo room behind the front row. A 6.5-inch touchscreen is standard, while an 8.0-inch screen is optional. Motivation is sourced from a turbocharged 2.5-liter four-cylinder producing 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque, which hits the pavement through a standard all-wheel drive system.

Read our full review on the 2019 Subaru Ascent.

Final Thoughts

2020 Toyota Highlander Exterior
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With so much competition flowing in from everywhere in the segment, the 2020 Toyota Highlander obviously needs to bring the heat to continue on as a best-selling nameplate. However, generally speaking, we think Toyota is on the right track.

For starters, the 2020 model year looks quite a bit better than the outgoing model. We like the 2020’s simplified front fascia a lot more than the over-designed fascia on the 2019 model year, and the new model’s interior layout feels equally sleek and streamlined.

Critically, the Highlander’s fresh tech is on the money, providing solid infotainment and safety features across the line. Updates like standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto also help bring the Highlander in line with the competition.

The hybrid definitely makes the Highlander standout, offering impressive mpg you won’t find anywhere else.

However, nothing is perfect, and neither is the 2020 Toyota Highlander. For example, the cargo space is a bit lackluster, even losing a few cubic-feet compared to the outgoing model.

That said, the Highlander is still a solid offering in the segment, and you can’t fault Toyota for staying true to the formula.

  • Leave it
    • Down on cargo space
    • Plenty of competition from everywhere
Jonathan Lopez
Jonathan Lopez
About the author

Toyota’s Fourth Generation SUV Redesigned from the Ground Up;
Offers Best-in-Class MPG for Hybrid

17 Percent Fuel Economy Improvement Over Current Gen Hybrid with Estimated 34 MPG Combined
Bold, Chiseled New Design
New TNGA-K Platform Enhances Driving Refinement
Standard Android Auto™, Apple CarPlay®, SiriusXM®, Waze and Amazon Alexa Compatibility
Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 Standard (TSS 2.0)
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
Largest in segment 12.3” multimedia display
April 17, 2019
NEW YORK (April 17, 2019) – Toyota is on a major roll with new SUVs, especially the next-generation three-row 2020 Highlander debuting at the New York International Auto Show. Arriving in Toyota dealerships in winter, the Highlander Gas model will arrive in December 2019 and the Highlander Hybrid will make its way to customers in February 2020.

Just as the first RAV4 launched the compact crossover SUV segment 22 years ago, the original Highlander redefined the midsize family SUV when it arrived in 2001. At a time when most midsize SUVs were truck-based, the Highlander’s unibody structure with four-wheel independent suspension quickly became the template for a new segment of more comfortable and family-friendly SUVs. After adding a third row, the Highlander not only grew in size, but is also now the best-selling retail model in the segment since 2016.

Now, the fourth-generation of this benchmark SUV brings a new level of bold, distinctive design to a foundation built on safety, comfort, quality, durability and reliability set by predecessors. The 2020 Highlander amplifies all qualities while taking on a dramatic new design direction that combines a powerful SUV presence with sophisticated detailing.

The 2020 Highlander’s new sophisticated look, covers a new vehicle platform called Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-K). This robust new foundation, shared with other Toyota models, enables even greater capability, comfort and safety than before.

The fourth-generation Highlander offers the choice between a powerful V6 or new-generation hybrid powertrain, with the gas version offering a manufacturer-estimated 22 MPG combined fuel economy and the Hybrid offering an manufacturer-estimated 34 MPG combined fuel economy.

Whether they’re young families or empty nesters exploring a new chapter in life, safety remains the top priority for Highlander customers. Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 comes standard in all models in the 2020 Highlander. This comprehensive active safety system 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.

The 2020 Highlander delivers renowned Toyota value in a choice of five grades, starting with a new L grade, then layering amenities and technology in LE, XLE, Limited and the top-of line Platinum. (The Hybrid is offered on all but the L grade.)

The 2020 Highlander offers cutting-edge entertainment and connectivity for all ages through its intuitive and versatile multimedia system, including a new 12.3-inch touchscreen display on the Platinum grade and 8-inch on the other models. The available new JBL Premium Sound System delivers a whopping 1,200 watts of power to turn any music source into a mobile concert.

The midsize SUV segment has become fiercely competitive, and the 2020 Toyota Highlander is ready to take on all.

The Strong, Athletic Type
A sculpted new shape with chiseled lines gives the 2020 Highlander a more powerful stance, yet with a modern, sophisticated attitude. The 2020 Highlander remains a family-friendly SUV, now with capability for bigger family adventures.

Setting off the new 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 stands apart with silver painted front bumper and rear fascia and a unique 20-inch wheel.

Accentuating the 2020 Highlander’s bold lines, the exterior color palette carries over three colors from 2019 (Blizzard Pearl ($395 option), Celestial Silver Metallic and Midnight Black Metallic) while adding five new ones: Magnetic Gray Metallic, Moon Dust (a striking blue premium paint), Ruby Flare Pearl (a daring red premium paint), Blueprint and Opulent Amber (a deep, luxurious brown).

While Highlander’s new design will turn heads everywhere it goes, it’s also highly functional. Greater aerodynamic efficiency reduces wind noise while enhancing vehicle stability, and even the taillights and side mirror designs lend a hand.

The fourth-generation Highlander is 2.36 inches (60mm) longer than before, all in the cargo area to add even greater cargo volume than before. The second row can be slid an extra 1.2-in. further up to increase distance between the second and third rows.

The TNGA-K platform, which makes extensive use of high-strength steel, gives the Highlander a stiffer unibody structure than the previous model. Its inherent strength allows tuning for the front strut and rear multi-link suspension that enhances agility and a smaller turning circle while also providing a smoother and quieter ride than before.

The presence of takumi is evident whenever the driver experiences the Highlander’s premium touch and feel in everyday driving. Throughout vehicle development, these highly trained master craftsmen focused on the finest technical details to ensure a higher level of operating smoothness in all driving conditions - especially at everyday speeds.

Take It All with You
Looking sporty does not come at the expense of practicality in the 2020 Highlander. The L and LE grades come standard with a second-row bench for seating for eight, while the XLE and Limited grades come standard with a Captain’s Chair second row with seating for seven and the option of a second-row bench for seating for eight. Finally, the Platinum grade will come standard with a Captain’s Chair second row with seating for seven. Either way, the large rear doors provide easy access, while versatile seat folding features make it easy to enter the third row. And, passengers in the third row stay comfortable thanks to standard three-zone climate control that ensures ample flow of warmed or cooled air.

With all seat rows in use, Highlander offers 16.1 cu. ft. of carrying space behind the third row. Folding the 60/40 split fold-flat third-row seatbacks opens the space to 40.6 cu. ft., and then folding the second row increases that to 73.3 cu. ft. The versatile cargo area makes the most of its additional length with side surfaces and pockets shaped for maximum space usage.

Power, Performance and Panache … with Efficiency
Power and efficiency are a whole lot sexier when wrapped in Highlander’s striking design. The 2020 Highlander offers a choice between two advanced powertrains, a gas V6 or a new version of the Toyota Hybrid System.

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.

On V6 models, the available towing package enables a 5,000-pound towing capacity. The package includes a heavy-duty radiator with engine oil cooler and improved fan performance. Trailer Sway Control (TSC) uses the Vehicle Stability Control to help control unwanted trailer movement.

Why use fuel when you don’t need to? The Highlander’s standard Stop and Start Engine System 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.

Hybrid Aims Even Higher
Toyota made “hybrid” synonymous with high fuel efficiency more than 20 years ago. Later, Toyota introduced the first hybrid SUV in its class, the 2006 Highlander. Leave it to Toyota to again raise the bar for hybrid SUV functionality by making the 2020 model the most fuel-efficient Highlander Hybrid ever.

The new-generation Toyota Hybrid System in the 2020 Highlander Hybrid combines a high-efficiency 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine with two electric motors in a system that’s more compact, and more efficient than before. The gas engine employs Variable Valve Timing-intelligent system by Electric motor (VVT-iE) on the intake camshaft, and VVT-i on the exhaust camshaft. A variable cooling system (electric water pump, electric thermostat) and a fully variable oil pump further improve engine efficiency.

The bottom line is an eye opener for the efficiency-minded: 240 total system horsepower and an EPA-estimated 34 combined MPG. The latter is a 17-percent improvement over the previous-generation Highlander Hybrid’s 28 combined MPG. Yet, Highlander Hybrid still delivers the everyday acceleration, power and responsiveness that family buyers expect. In another Highlander first, the hybrid is now available in either 2WD or AWD, further expanding hybrid technology to a new group of buyers.

The transaxle mounts the electric motors (MG1 and MG2) coaxially rather than in-line, and the resulting smaller and lighter package reduces frictional losses. The gas engine and MG2 work in concert to deliver dynamic performance, while both MG1 and MG2 charge the hybrid battery.

To reduce the transaxle’s size and weight, the reduction gear is now a parallel shaft gear, rather than a planetary, and a new multi-function gear integrates the power-split planetary ring gear, parking gear, and counter-drive gear. New computer integration and a smaller, lighter power stack installed directly above the transaxle reduce energy transmission losses.

The battery pack is small enough to be installed under the rear seats, so it does not take up any cargo or passenger space.

Seamless Everyday Performance
The Highlander Hybrid delivers its exemplary fuel economy and performance without calling attention to its high-tech powertrain operation. Quite the contrary, like all Toyota Hybrid vehicles, it simply goes about its business in a transparent way. For example, the new system optimizes the level of electric motor assistance and gas engine speed without the engine running at high revs. Engine speed is synchronized with vehicle speed, yielding effortless and quiet acceleration.

As on many modern vehicles, the Highlander Hybrid offers selectable NORMAL, ECO and SPORT driving modes that let the driver choose the vehicle’s performance personality. The bonus is the EV mode, which allows electric-only driving at low speeds for short distances.

SPORT mode unlocks boost from the hybrid system for improved acceleration response. ECO mode gets maximum efficiency from the fuel and battery, while NORMAL mode is ideal for everyday driving.

Special, easy-to-use hybrid tech adds an element of control and fun. Using a sequential shifting feature, the driver can “downshift” to increase the regenerative braking in steps, which fosters greater control when driving in hilly areas, for example.

The 2020 Highlander Hybrid can also coach the driver to drive as economically as possible. For example, an accelerator guide function suggests an acceleration level to the driver according to the driving conditions, and a scoring function adds a measure of fun to eco driving.

Features for More Efficiency
Highlander Hybrid’s Predictive Efficient Drive (PED) analyzes the driver’s daily driving habits and upcoming road and traffic conditions to more efficiently charge and discharge the hybrid battery accordingly alongside actual driving.

The more the vehicle is driven, the more data is accumulated, contributing to practical fuel efficiency. Many actual roads chosen to represent common usage scenarios, such as in urban congestion or on mountain roads, were driven on and analyzed to create control that feels natural to the driver when operating to enable more efficient driving.

All-Wheel Drive Gets Smarter
The 2020 Highlander gets a grip on any road with a choice of front-wheel drive or three different available all-wheel drive systems — two for the V6 models and a unique AWD system for the Highlander Hybrid. For the Highlander Gas L, LE and XLE models, the optional AWD system can send up to 50 percent of available torque to the rear wheels to counter wheel slip when necessary.

Sounding like something from a high-end sports car, Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD with Drive Mode Select and Driveline Disconnect is available for the Highlander Limited and Platinum for even greater agility and capability. In addition to governing torque distribution between the front and rear wheels, this advanced system uses special couplings to actively manage torque distribution between the left and right rear wheels.

Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD doesn’t need wheel slippage before springing into action. Rather, a sophisticated AWD Integrated Management (AIM) manages Electric Power Steering (EPS), throttle control, transmission shift control and drive torque distribution to continually optimize handling.

Using the Multi-Terrain Select control dial on the console, the driver can maximize traction when driving through inclement weather or road conditions. Mud & Sand mode works well for beach driving, while Rock & Dirt mode optimizes AWD traction for trails. The driver can monitor, in real time, torque allocation and slip control on the Multi-Information Display (MID).

In addition, 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)

All-wheel drive is a great traction partner, but it’s not needed all the time, such as during steady highway cruising. In such situations, Rear Driveline Disconnect automatically disengages drive to the rear wheels and stops the propeller shaft’s rotation. As one might guess, that reduces the energy needed to propel the vehicle and therefore reduces fuel consumption. When AWD is needed, the system instantly re-engages, without the driver even noticing.

Hybrid AWD
As with the AWD system in the previous Highlander Hybrid, the 2020 model’s AWD employs a separate rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels when needed. Like the hybrid powertrain itself, the AWD works seamlessly and transparently.

The rear electric motor operates independently, with no mechanical connection between the transmission and the rear wheels. Preemptively distributing more driving force to the rear wheels, such as when accelerating, helps suppress front wheel slip during off-the-line starts. The system also enhances cornering agility by helping to reduce understeer. And, when venturing onto a trail, the increased rear-wheel torque helps move the Highlander Hybrid confidently over rough or slippery surfaces.

A New Level of Comfort
From the L grade to the top-of-line Platinum, the 2020 Highlander offers its plushest accommodations ever. Designers took inspiration from luxury crafted interiors to create a more premium ambience. Details include softer padded surfaces and a more tailored look with stitching that continues from the door trim to the instrument panel. The dash integrates the multimedia and HVAC controls in an elegant and functional way.

The 2020 Highlander cabin offers improved functionality throughout, from a center console that offers available Qi wireless charging to plenty of storage spaces and USB charging ports. On Limited and Platinum grades, new ambient LED lighting sets a relaxing mood. Inset steering wheel controls are a modern luxury touch on all grades.

Highlanders have long been renowned for a quiet ride, and with the high-strength TNGA platform, Toyota pushes the bar even higher. Sound-damping and soundproofing materials have been optimized throughout the vehicle, with the takumi approach focusing particularly on minimizing noise in the frequencies that interfere with conversation.

The seating color palette enhances the sense of luxury permeating the 2020 Highlander. The L and LE grades offer comfortable woven cloth in Graphite or Black; the XLE offers embossed Softex® artificial leather trim in Harvest Beige, Graphite or Black, while the Limited offers those colors in perforated leather trim. The top-of-line Platinum grade, the most luxurious Highlander ever offered, exclusively features embossed, perforated leather trim in those three colors plus Glazed Caramel, a luxuriously delicious new brown.

Multitalented Multimedia
However passengers listen to music and connect with their worlds, the 2020 Highlander is ready with the latest multimedia systems. All grades come standard with Apple Car Play®, Android Auto™, Alexa In-Car compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM®, and Wi-Fi connectivity through AT&T.

All Highlander models come equipped with Toyota Safety Connect with a one-year trial subscription.

LE and above grades offer Service and Remote Connectivity. A move up to XLE or Limited grade offers available Dynamic Navigation. A move up to Platinum grade offers standard Dynamic Navigation and the 12.3-inch screen.

The JBL® Premium Audio System is standard for Limited and Platinum grades and rocks music of all genres with 1,200 watts of power playing through 11 speakers in nine locations. Clari-Fi® technology breathes new life into compressed digital music formats, with the result like a mobile concert. The system will not, however, settle arguments over which music to play.

Exceptional Toyota Value, Naturally
Toyota’s typical outstanding value is clearly evident in the Highlander L grade, where the standard equipment list includes features that one might expect in an upgraded model:

Toyota Safety Sense 2.0
18-in. alloy wheels
3-zone automatic climate control
4.2-in. Multi-information Display (MID) in instrument panel
8-way power driver’s seat
Auto up/down for all power windows
Multimedia with 8-inch touchscreen display
Front seat reading lights and cargo area light.
LED headlamps and taillamps
Privacy glass on rear side, quarter and liftgate windows
Smart Key entry on front doors and back door

LE adds over L:
Power liftgate
Blind Spot Monitor
Additional multimedia capability
LED fog lamps
Leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob

XLE adds over LE:
10-way power driver’s seat
2nd-row sun shades
4-way power front passenger seat
7-in. Multi-information display
Auto dimming rear-view mirror with garage door opener
Auto LED headlamps with Auto High Beam
Plated interior door handle
Heated front seats
LED fog lamps
Machined-face alloy wheels
Captain’s Chairs second row (standard)
Power tilt and slide moon roof
Roof rails
SofTex®-trimmed seats and door trim

Limited adds over XLE:
120V 2nd-row power outlet
20-in. Limited style alloy wheels
Ambient interior lighting
Cargo area cover
Driver’s seat memory
Hands-free power liftgate
Heated and ventilated front seats
“Highlander” puddle lamp
Perforated leather trimmed seats in Beige, Gray or Black
Metal door scuff plates
Projector beam headlamp with chrome bezels and separate, stylized DRLs
Wood interior trim
JBL® Audio System as standard
Embedded navigation system

Platinum adds over Limited:
12.3-in. Multimedia head unit
20-in Platinum style wheels
Adaptive, self-leveling headlamps
Additional leather seating color choice: Glazed Caramel
Digital display rear view mirror
Embossed, perforated leather trimmed seats
Head-up display
Heated 2nd-row seats
Illuminated door scuff plates
Panoramic moonroof
Rain-sensing windshield wipers
Birds eye camera

Safety at Its Core
The new TNGA-K platform forms the foundation for exemplary collision protection in the 2020 Toyota Highlander, while a suite of standard driver-assist technologies is designed to help prevent collisions, or to mitigate their impacts.

The 2020 Highlander is equipped with the second-generation of Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0). Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) are standard on LE grade and above. Rear Cross Traffic Braking (RCTB) is available with clearance sonar on Limited and above.

The standard backup camera features projected path. A Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, available on Limited and standard on Platinum, provides a live rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle.

The 2020 Highlander is equipped with eight airbags, including side-curtain airbags for all three rows. Toyota’s Star Safety System includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).

Limited Warranty
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, including the HV battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles, whichever comes first from original date of first use when sold as new.

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.

Android Auto is a trademark of Google LLC.
About Toyota
Toyota (NYSE:TM) has been a part of the cultural fabric in the U.S. and North America for more than 60 years, and is committed to advancing sustainable, next-generation mobility through our Toyota and Lexus brands. During that time, Toyota has created a tremendous value chain as our teams have contributed to world-class design, engineering, and assembly of more than 38 million cars and trucks in North America, where we operate 14 manufacturing plants (10 in the U.S.) and directly employ more than 47,000 people (over 36,000 in the U.S.). Our 1,800 North American dealerships (nearly 1,500 in the U.S.) sold 2.8 million cars and trucks (2.4 million in the U.S.) in 2018 – and about 87 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 16 years are still on the road today.

Through the Start Your Impossible campaign, Toyota highlights the way it partners with community, civic, academic and governmental organizations to address our society’s most pressing mobility challenges. We believe that when people are free to move, anything is possible. For more information about Toyota, visit www.toyotanewsroom.com.

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