2020 Toyota Highlander

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2020 Toyota Highlander Test Drive Review: The Every-Family's SUV

The Toyota Highlander is a best-seller and has been with us for nearly two decades. When it was first launched, it bucked the body-on-frame trend and has since gone from strength to strength, and the annual sales numbers don't lie: the USA loves the Highlander. The 2020 model is fully redesigned and features a significant number of exterior, interior, and tech updates that truly sets it apart from the previous year model. Toyota knows well that the midsize crossover SUV market is a tough space to compete in, especially when going up against Korean rivals such as the Kia Telluride and the Japanese Honda Pilot. But with a fresh face, and a capable 3.5-liter V6 developing 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque, the Highlander has a point to prove. The big question is whether these new changes will be enough to get it to the top of the midsize crossover SUV class.

Read in this review:

8.6
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2020 Toyota Highlander Changes: 🚙What’s the difference vs 2019 Highlander?

The new Toyota Highlander has been redesigned from the ground up and features a bold and chiseled new exterior, and a load of new tech. Since its inception back in 2001, the Toyota Highlander has proven to be one of the most popular cars in its class, and with the new redesign, Toyota hopes to keep sales numbers high. The fourth-generation Highlander has been stretched by 2.36 inches, and the second-row seats now slide out 1.2 inches further. Power is provided by a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Platinum trim cars get a new 12.3-inch touchscreen display, while the rest of the range gets an eight-inch system, and all trims come with standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Alexa In-Car compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Five new colors join the party too: Magnetic Gray Metallic, Moon Dust, Ruby Flare Pearl, Blueprint, and Opulent Amber.

Pros and Cons

  • Configurable seating arrangement
  • Good standard features
  • Comprehensive safety features
  • Quiet ride
  • Tight third-row seating
  • Doesn't feel like a complete redesign
  • It's a dull drive
  • Cluttered dashboard

Best Deals on 2020 Toyota Highlander

2020 Toyota Highlander Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
L
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$34,600
LE
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$36,800
Hybrid LE
2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$38,200
XLE
3.5L V6 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$39,600
Hybrid XLE
2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
$41,000
See All 2020 Toyota Highlander Trims and Specs

2020 Highlander Exterior

2020 Toyota Highlander Front View CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Highlander Rear View CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Highlander Front Angle View CarBuzz
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Dimensions

  • Length 194.9 in
  • Wheelbase 112.2 in
  • Height 68.1 in
  • Max Width 76.0 in
  • Front Width 65.3 in
  • Rear Width 65.4 in
  • Curb Weight 4,145.0 lbs

Exterior Colors

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

2020 Highlander Performance

2020 Toyota Highlander Aft View CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Highlander Gear Shifter CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Highlander Engine CarBuzz

Engine and Transmission

  • Engines
    2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid, 3.5L V6 Gas
  • Transmissions
    8-Speed Automatic, Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
  • Drivetrains
    AWD, FWD

Handling and Driving Impressions

The 2020 Toyota Highlander was explicitly designed to carry a family of eight to school, work, family holidays, and the very occasional dirt trail camping trip. Nowhere in the design brief did it stipulate that the Highlander should excite or entertain the driver. It does all of that perfectly adequately, and even comfortably. It's comfortable enough at low speeds and handles rough road surfaces well. Out on the highway, there is nothing to complain about. The Toyota Highlander can go left, right, and straight without breaking a sweat.

However, there's a surprise for those that enjoy going left and right off the regularly congested roads. It's not quite a Mazda level of chassis performance, but the Highlander is surprisingly competent if you're in a hurry. There is a Sport mode that tightens up the throttle response, and the chassis remains flatter and more agile than you would expect from a three-row crossover. We expect most people will appreciate the added slice of handling when avoiding an incident on the road, but it is there.

We took our AWD test vehicle for a 50 mile run on some bumpy dirt forestry roads, and found the suspension took the edge off well. Particularly a corrugated section of track that usually only slows you down because it makes everything rattle in the vehicle, including teeth. Limited ground clearance means the Highlander couldn't tackle much more than a small stream, but slippery wet dirt roads shouldn't be a problem for avid hikers and campers.

2020 Highlander Interior

2020 Toyota Highlander Steering Wheel Design CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Highlander Dashboard CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Highlander Infotainment System CarBuzz
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Seating and Interior Space

  • Seating capacity
    8-seater
  • Front Leg Room 40.4 in
  • Front Head Room 39.9 in
  • Rear Leg Room 41.0 in
  • Rear Head Room 39.4 in

2020 Highlander Trunk and Cargo Space

2020 Toyota Highlander Third Row Seats Folded CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Highlander Cargo Room CarBuzz
2020 Toyota Highlander Trunk Space with Third Row Folded CarBuzz

2020 Highlander Safety and Reliability

Warranty

  • Basic:
    3 Years \ 36,000 Miles
  • Drivetrain:
    5 Years \ 60,000 Miles
  • Corrosion:
    5 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Roadside Assistance:
    2 Years \ Unlimited Miles
  • Maintenance:
    2 Years \ 25,000 Miles

US NHTSA Crash Test Result

  • Overall Rating
  • Frontal Barrier Crash Rating
  • Side Crash Rating
  • Rollover Rating

Verdict: 🏁Is the 2020 Toyota Highlander a good car?

The 2020 Toyota Highlander isn't a technologically advanced sports car or an all-electric eco crusader. What it is is a simple midsize SUV powered by a basic naturally aspirated V6 that can carry eight people and keep them relatively safe. So if you're judging this car based on its modernity and tech advancements, then it's going to perform quite badly. On the other hand, judging this car on its practicality and ability to get the basics right will net better results. We appreciate the fact that Toyota offers such a decent amount of standard features, especially in Limited and Platinum trims, and we also commend it for the number of active driver assistance systems on board every Highlander. There's enough power for most, and the ride is compliant and relaxed, perfect for suburban cruising. On the other hand, we wish the Highlander offered more space in the third row, but you can't expect much more from its midsize design.

We appreciated how the Highlander handled itself in the bends, but the overall driving experience is numb, bordering on boring. If you're looking for a dependable SUV to transport the family, then the Highlander is a safe bet. But when it comes to an all-round driving experience, Mazda does it better. However, for a relentlessly reliable engine and an all-around family vehicle, the Highlander is well worth cross-shopping.

Check out other Toyota Highlander Styles

2020 Toyota Highlander Comparisons

Honda Pilot Honda
Ford Explorer Ford
CompetitorHorsepowerMPGPrice (MSRP)
Toyota Highlander265 hp22/29 mpg$36,420
Honda Pilot 280 hp20/27 mpg$38,080
Ford Explorer 300 hp21/28 mpg$36,760

2020 Toyota Highlander vs Honda Pilot

The Honda Pilot has been cruising along without any major changes, but that doesn't mean that it's falling behind the competition. In fact, the Honda Pilot is so good, that it still sits close to the top of the affordable midsize SUV pack. Power comes in the form of a naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 280 hp. The Honda Pilot doesn't look any better than the Highlander from the outside, and we think looks will play a negligible role in the purchasing decision. Out on the road, the 2020 Honda Pilot is the better driving car, both in terms of comfort and dynamic ability. Towing capacity is competitive, as is fuel economy. The interior is functional instead of stylish, as in the Highlander, but Honda has made sure that the 2020 Pilot gets a solid amount of features. The upper trims can get expensive, and the overall package is starting to show its age, but we'd still go with the Honda in this comparison.

See Honda Pilot Review

2020 Toyota Highlander vs Ford Explorer

The Ford Explorer has the enviable title of being America's best-selling SUV. This means that Ford is constantly improving its offering to stay ahead of the curve. For 2020 Ford has released an all-new Explorer, which ups the ante even further. Engine options range from a 2.3-liter EcoBoost producing 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, while the ST and Platinum models get a 3.0-liter V6 EcoBoost with 400 hp/415 lb-ft and 365 hp/380 lb-ft respectively. As the class leader, the Ford performs well across all categories: The driving experience is relaxed and composed at the same time, and we think it looks miles better than the Highlander. Inside, the Explorer offers impressive levels of standard comfort and driver assistance features. With the seats folded, the Explorer also offers miles of cargo space. We did find that the options can get expensive, and the dull interior doesn't inspire. We'd still go with the Ford.

See Ford Explorer Review

2020 Toyota Highlander Popular Comparisons

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2020 Toyota Highlander Video Review

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