AutoMatters & More: All-new, family-sized 2020 Toyota Highlander SUV

Flowing curves of the 2020 Toyota Highlander
Flowing curves of the 2020 Toyota Highlander
(Jan Wagner)

Toyota previewed the all-new 2020 Highlander SUV in San Antonio, Texas, revealing across-the-board, major improvements to this already very popular mid-size SUV, now in its fourth generation.

Toyota introduced the Highlander in 2001. At a time when most mid-size SUVs were truck-based, families appreciated Highlander’s car-like ride – enabled by its unibody structure and four-wheel independent suspension. By its third generation Highlander had grown, adding a third row of seats.

The exterior design of the fourth generation Highlander is bold and distinctive, accentuated by gracefully flowing curves. Its increased aerodynamic efficiency provides reduced wind noise and greater vehicle stability.

All of the increased length of the 2020 Highlander has extended its versatile cargo area. There is a minimum of 16.0 cu. ft. of cargo capacity behind the third row of seats, expandable to as much as 84.3 cu. ft., depending upon how the seatbacks are folded and positioned.

Comprehensive Highlander instrumentation
Comprehensive Highlander instrumentation
(Jan Wagner)

The Toyota New Global Architecture platform of the Highlander enables a stiffer unibody structure than before, yielding increased agility, a smaller turning circle and an even-more comfortable ride.

There are two powertrain choices – a V6 and a Hybrid, with three All-Wheel-Drive systems.

The smooth, refined, powerful 3.5-Liter V6 is mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. It produces 295 hp and 263 lb.-ft. of torque, which provides plenty of power for merging onto freeways and passing traffic. The standard Stop-and-Start-Engine System and other advanced drivetrain technologies combine to yield up to an impressive, manufacturer-estimated, 24 MPG combined, with reduced emissions.

Available with the V6 is a 5,000-pound capacity towing package. Trailer Sway Control uses the Vehicle Stability Control to help control unwanted trailer movement.

Cavernous cargo capacity
Cavernous cargo capacity
(Jan Wagner)

The other powertrain will be in the soon-to-be available 2020 Highlander Hybrid. It is a new version of the Toyota Hybrid System.

Toyota has pioneered hybrid technology for more than 20 years. Having personally owned two Toyota hybrids – most recently a 2012 Prius Plug-in Hybrid, now with over 110,000 miles, I can attest to their incredible fuel economy. Each generation has consistently achieved better fuel economy than the previous one. Next summer I intend to replace my 2012 Prius with the upcoming 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid compact SUV (see AutoMatters & More #618).

The mid-size Highlander Hybrid’s powertrain combines electric motor propulsion with a high-efficiency, 2.5-liter Atkinson Cycle-capable gas engine. The battery pack is under the seats, so it does not take up any cargo or passenger space.

With its driver-selectable NORMAL, ECO, SPORT and EV modes, regenerative braking and Predictive Efficient Drive, the 2020 Highlander Hybrid is the most fuel-efficient Highlander ever, returning up to a manufacturer-estimated 36 MPG combined – a 24 percent improvement over the previous generation. Available in either Two-Wheel-Drive or All-Wheel-Drive, this powertrain is also powerful and responsive, providing a combined 243 net hp. However, it is somewhat less powerful and less quiet than the V6, in exchange for its significantly better fuel economy.

2020 Toyota Highlander
2020 Toyota Highlander
(Jan Wagner)

Depending upon powertrain choice, the 2020 Highlander is available in L, LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum grades. Highly advanced Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel-Drive with Drive Mode Select and Driveline Disconnect is available on the Limited and Platinum.

Enter the cabin and you will discover a comprehensive variety of amenities and cutting-edge technology, effective soundproofing and luxurious accommodations for up to eight people – with the second-row bench seat, or seven people with two second-row Captain’s Chairs.

The seats in that second row slide further forward, to increase the distance between the second and third row seats.

2020 Toyota Highlander
2020 Toyota Highlander
(Jan Wagner)

Apple Car Play, Android Auto and an 8-inch touchscreen display are standard, with a new 12.3-inch display on the Platinum grade. Also available is a new, powerful, 1,200-watt JBL Premium Sound System.

Standard in all models is Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. This comprehensive safety suite includes Toyota’s Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection. In certain situations this provides automatic braking capability, in case the driver does not react quickly enough in a system-detected emergency.

Safety Sense 2.0 also includes Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beam, Lane Tracing Assist and Road Sign Assist.

Additionally, available safety features include Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Parking Support Braking, Intelligent Clearance Sonar and a Bird’s Eye View Camera.

Learn more about the all-new 2020 Highlander and the upcoming Highlander Hybrid at Toyota.com.

To see additional photos, visit www.drivetribe.com, click on the magnifying glass, select “POSTS” and enter “AutoMatters & More #623 in their search bar. Please send your comments to AutoMatters@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2019 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #623


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