The styling changes are minimal, but the 2020 Toyota Highlander is new from road to roof.
The 2020 Highlander is based on the Toyota’s broad-based ‘New Global Architecture’, which also serves beneath the Camry, Avalon and RAV4. This new and more rigid platform brings with it much more refined road manners and a newfound level of peace and quiet.
The third-generation Highlander came to market in 2013. The changes for this fourth generation make it more family- and road-friendly – and competitive.
It still boasts the added height and all-wheel-drive ability of the outgoing model, but in a much more refined package. The 2019 Highlander still enjoyed success on the sales front, but the competition in this mid-size three-row segment has become more intense.
2020 Toyota Highlander is up to the fierce competition in the mid-size crossover vehicle segment
There is a 2020 Highlander for every interest and budget. A new entry-level L trim with a four-cylinder engine and front-wheel-drive is the price-leader at $39,990, but hardly any of these will be purchased. They allow ads to boast of ‘less than $40,000’.
From that point, every step on the nine-trim ladder brings a V6 engine, all-wheel-drive and three rows of seats. There is a new $53,990 Platinum trim at the top.
I spent a week with a Limited model. At nearly $53,000 including freight, it was extremely well-equipped. If that price causes you to pause, you haven’t been in the market lately. It is more than competitive. Looking back to when I attended the introduction of the last generation Highlander, the price for a Limited model with V6 engine and AWD was $46,870 with freight. That $6,000 increase over seven model years would barely cover inflation.
That 2013 to 2020 comparison shows the same engine has gained 25 horsepower and 15 lb.-ft. of torque. Despite the additional power and the 40 kilograms of extra weight, the new Highlander goes 8% further on a litre of fuel.
That $6,000 becomes inconsequential when you consider the additional and/or new features and equipment of the 2020 model. Topping the list are safety features that were unheard of back then – from LED headlights and blind spot monitoring to rear cross traffic alert and pre-collision warning with pedestrian and bicycle detection.
2020 Toyota Highlander offers a premium, comfortable and spacious interior with plenty of storage and leg room
The new Highlander Limited also comes with power heated and ventilated front seats, a premium JBL audio system and wireless charging. The AWD system is much more sophisticated, including a torque vectoring system that aids in handling in all conditions by apportioning additional power to the outside rear wheel in the corners.
The new Highlander is 60-mm longer than the outgoing version. Most of that space finds its way into additional second row leg room. The Highlander does a nice job of ensuring maximum use of available space. There are numerous little storage spaces scattered throughout, and both second and third row seats fold flat, for uninterrupted storage (no bulge in the middle) from tailgate to the back of the front seats.
The interior is also noteworthy for the level of fit, finish and material quality. The design is a little busy for my tastes, but everything is where it should be, readily seen and operating with a smoothness that reeks of quality and longevity. I especially appreciated the large, colour heads-up display. The tester also boasted a very pleasant two-tone interior colour combination of caramel and grey.
I didn’t get or attempt to sample the abilities of the AWD system beyond noting a newfound alacrity at speed on twisty back roads. Suffice it to say, winter conditions will not be a problem.
The 3.5-litre V6 is the same silky smooth and quiet source of motivation used in dozens of Toyota and Lexus products. It provides more than ample oomph, but you are aware of the weight of this vehicle when accelerating at highway speeds. It is mated to an eight-speed automatic and the AWD system multiple modes to choose from.
This is Toyota, and as you would expect, there are plenty of hybrid models, four of them.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander brings significant improvements and additions, ensuring continued consumer interest and success.
FACTS & FIGURES – 2020 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD
As tested: $52,915 including freight
Blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert and brake, back-up camera, lane departure alert with steering assist, road edge detection, automatic high beams, pre-collision system with pedestrian and bicycle detection, dynamic radar cruise control, smart stop technology
20-cm touchscreen, 11-speaker JBL audio system, Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto, SIRI eyes-free, satellite radio, embedded nvigatio9nn with traffic and weather, three years of free map updates,
STANDARD EQUIPMENT INCLUDES
Power windows and locks, push-button start, remote keyless entry, power rear hatch, 12-volt outlet, wireless charging tray, panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, power mirrors with memory, 20-in alloy wheels, windshield wiper de-icer,
3.5-litre V6, 295 horsepower, 263 lb.-ft. of torque, regular fuel. Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel-drive. NRCan rating (litres/100km city/highway): 11.7 / 8.6
Length, 4,950 mm; width, 1,930 mm; wheelbase, 2,850 mm; weight, 2000 kg.
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