Driven

Revitalized: 2020 Toyota Highlander

Unveiled just over a year ago at the 2019 New York International Auto Show (hey, remember auto shows?) the 4th generation Highlander promised improved capability and more technology. We’ve driven several last-gen Highlanders, the last being a 2017 Highlander Platinum Hybrid. But with this all-new model, Toyota has upped their style and luxury game and introduced a revitalized Highlander. The 2020 model arrives with a fresh new face and a new interior to put its best foot forward in the hotly competitive three-row SUV segment.

2020 Toyota Highlander 5

Unlike Toyota’s 4Runner and Sequoia, which we spent some time with recently, the Highlander has been granted a new lease on life with fresh sheet metal that is more angular, and reminiscent of the RAV4’s front end styling. Our tester’s Platinum trim is differentiated visually by the silver front splitter and unique 20″ wheels. Inside, the new interior features the segments largest 12.3″ infotainment screen, which we found exceptionally intuitive with a very small learning curve. The Platinum also adds a head-up display, digital rear view mirror, 360 degree camera, panoramic moonroof and a 1,200 watt JBL audio system.

This Platinum model stickers for right around $50,000 and it feels every bit as premium as that pricetag suggests. The interior is Lexus-like in its appointments with soft touch materials throughout and minimal use of piano black trim or any other thin plastics. We’re seriously impressed with Toyota’s interior here. We spent a week in a Lexus RX350 just a week prior, and this Highlander left us wondering if the L-badge premium is worth it. The JBL audio system was excellent and the road noise from the Highlander is minimal. The extra two inches in length adds more volume to the rear seat area and, when equipped with the captains chairs, the comfort level is just as good as the front seats.

2020 Toyota Highlander 3

The chassis is now based on the TNGA-K platform which allows the new Highlander to have a stiffer construction, which is noticeable in the way that this crossover handles and rides. The Highlander is composed and much more engaging than the previous generation. It obviously isn’t a sportscar, but you can be confident in how connected it now feels. Toyota carried over the 3.5L V6 from the previous Highlander with 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque, but they reprogrammed the 8-speed auto and the shifts were smooth and acceleration was adequate for any highway on ramp.

2020 Toyota Highlander 8

We were thoroughly impressed with the new Highlander. The Hybrid model may be the one to have though, with its estimated 34mpg combined, since we averaged 23mpg on our week with the conventional gasoline Highlander Platinum. The Highlander name is now revitalized and allows Toyota to bring its A game to the three-row SUV battlefield.

-Scott Villeneuve

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum V6
$48,800
Special Paint $425
Carpeted Floor Mats & Cargo Mat $318
Destination Charges $1,120
As Tested MSRP $50,863

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