The recipe for the perfect family-friendly SUV includes starting off with an excellent base platform, delivering a carlike ride, and offering a roomy interior that can hold plenty of people and cargo. Oh, and it must have plenty of convenient features, be attractively styled and get good gas mileage. In other words, the all-new 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
The Highlander is all-new for 2020. It now rides on Toyota’s TNGA platform which is the same one used on the RAV4. The new Highlander now has a bolder exterior than before with more sculpted lines, which gives it more style than its predecessors. In addition to the more stylish exterior, the fourth generation Highlander is also slightly bigger, since it’s now 2.36-inches longer.
From the outside, the Highlander Hybrid looks nearly identical to its gasoline-only sibling, with the exception of a few badges.
Where the Highlander scores big is on the inside, where it features one of the most attractive cabins in its class. Fit and finish is top notch and the design is clean and tastefully simplistic. Storage areas are everywhere including the built-in shelf on the dashboard.
A 12.3 inch display (standard on the Premium, optional on the Limited) dominates the dash, with easy to use controls under it. The center console houses the shifter, some cupholders as well as some other switch gear. The instrument cluster is a little busy, but the optional heads-up display projects vital information on the windshield in front of you.
With three rows of seating, the Highlander Hybrid has the credentials to be a minivan substitute. I still wouldn’t want to be the one to sit in the third row, but kids shouldn’t mind. Don’t need that third-row? Simply fold it flat into the floor. Although the large battery pack cuts into storage space, the Highlander Hybrid can still accommodate 84 cubic feet of stuff.
Under the hood, things are quite different with the new Highlander Hybrid. In an effort to save money and get better fuel economy, the Highlander Hybrid has cut its cylinder count from six to four which results in about a 63 hp loss from the 2019 model. This brings the total horsepower count down to 243 hp on the new hybrid, compared to 306 hp from the 2019 model.
Why go this route? First, fuel economy goes up. Last year, the EPA rated the Highlander Hybrid at 29 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. This year, those numbers go up to 35 mpg and 34 mpg respectively. Those numbers get even better on the front-wheel drive models.
Another advantage of using the smaller engine is cost. While all hybrids carry a hefty premium over their gas counterparts, the 2020 Highlander Hybrid will be only $1400 more – and that goes across the entire lineup.
About that lineup – there are four trim levels: the base LE, XLE, Limited and the top-of-the-line Platinum. Seating for eight is standard on the base LE model, and optional on all other trim levels except for the Platinum. The other models come standard with second-row captain’s chairs, which reduce total seating to seven. Each trim level is available in FWD and AWD.
The test vehicle I was recently in was a Platinum AWD model. Dressed in a beautiful Ruby Flare Pearl exterior and a two-tone tan and black interior, it easily qualified as Lexus-Luxury. Some amenities that the Platinum includes are heated and vented front seats, heated second-row seats, panoramic moonroof, 12.3″ touch screen, JBL audio system with 11 speakers, 4 USB ports and Andriod Auto and Apple CarPlay capabilities. Another feature that I am thrilled to see in the Highlander is a rearview camera mirror. Previously only seen in GM vehicles, this feature gives you the option of changing your rearview mirror into a camera for much better viewing of what’s behind you. This fully loaded Highlander Hybrid carries with it an MSRP of $52,512.00
On the road, the 63 horses are missed and with the harder working four-cylinder, the Highlander Hybrid is a tad bit nosier than the model it replaces. Still, the step-up in interior quality and materials more than makes up for it. And plus, families that are in the market for a three-row hybrid crossovers won’t care about being slightly down on power.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid continues to be the have-it-all SUV for mainstream America. Folks gotta have their SUVs. They want lots of room. They want luxury and fancy features. They want good gas-mileage. This version of the Highlander has all those wants – and then some.
— Christopher A. Randazzo
By The Numbers:
2020 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum AWD
Base Price: $50,200.00
Price as Tested: $52,512.00
Layout: front-engine / all-wheel drive
Engine: 2.5 liter four-cylinder with electric motor
Horsepower: 243 hp
Torque: 175 ft/lbs
EPA Fuel Economy: 35 city / 34 highway mpg
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