The 2020 Toyota Highlander Is On Top Of Its Game

published on July 20, 2020

This is the new 2020 Toyota Highlander and it's the latest version of one of the most popular family vehicles on the market the Highlander has been out for 20 years now and it's been fully redesigned for the 2020 model year and today I'm going to review the new

Highlander I've borrowed this 2020 Highlander from Toyota of El Cajon which is my local Toyota dealership here in San Diego Toyota of El Cajon has all of the new Toyota models including the new 2020 Highlander which has just started

To go on sale so let's talk Highlander the Highlander is Toyota's midsize SUV fitting in the lineup between the smaller rav4 and the larger Sequoia the new Highlander comes standard with a 35 liter v6 that makes about 300 horsepower

Although a hybrid version is coming soon with about 240 horsepower an estimated fuel economy of about 35 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving which is excellent for a midsize family SUV the Highlander comes standard

With 3 row seating and pricing starts around thirty five thousand five hundred dollars although that's for the base level l model this is a top-of-the-line Highlander platinum with a sticker price of just under $54,000 that's big money

For a midsize SUV that doesn't come from a premium brand like Lexus or Audi but the new Highlander has a lot to offer and today I'm going to show you exactly what it has first I'm gonna take you on a tour of the new Highlander and I'm

Going to show you all of its interesting quirks and features then I'm gonna get it out on the road and drive it and then I'm going to give it a dug score alright I'm gonna start the quirks and features of the new highlander with a

Quick discussion of its styling which is important because we're going to be seeing these things everywhere now i really liked the look of the outgoing highlander when it first came out although I kind of think they screwed it

Up when they facelifted it in 2017 but I really think this new model looks good far better than the facelifted version of the outgoing highlander and it's fairly distinctive in an age when it's hard to make a distinctive looking

Crossover since there are so many on the market I'm gonna draw your attention to two notable items one is this character line down the side of the new highlander which is very pronounced and it looks almost like what they have in the new

Toyota supra which is pretty impressive it's rare you see such a sculpted line on sort of a boring mid-sized family crossover and it's nice to see that they cared enough to add it and it helps give the new highlander a more distinctive

Look another notable item on the outside is the taillights which are really reminiscent of Lexus here are the taillights on the new Highlander you can see them and here is the Lexus lx570 taillights they are quite similar so in

My mind the new Highlander has gotten quite a bit more luxurious at least in terms of its look and next we move on to third row seat access which of course is really important for families who get a 3-row crossover how easily can you climb

Back there and the Highlander nails it and I'm gonna draw your attention to three controls that explain why first is this latch on the side of the seat you pull that and the seat backrest falls forward and the seat slides forward in

One motion clearing an easy path to the third row that latch on the side of the seat is perfect it's positioned low easily reachable for children and it does exactly what it should and you have another latch on the top of the backrest

That does the same thing you pull that and again the backrest folds forward and the seat slides forward that last is positioned there so that passengers in the third row can easily get out without having to ask permission from someone

Else outside the Highlander now these latches are good because they integrate both functions into one holding the backrest forward and sliding the seat bottom forward with the pull of just one latch the best crossovers do it like

That some make it into to step process which you never really want when you have kids and you're carrying stuff but there's one other really important latch on the side of the second row seat in the Highlander

This one in front will slide the seat forward without folding the backrest forward this is crucial if you have a car seat in place and you don't want to take it out just to give access to the third row you can move the seat forward

And keep the seat in its position and then you don't have to remove your car seat now obviously with the backrest not folding forward you don't quite have as much access to the third row as you would if you folded the backrest but

It'll work in a pinch and you don't always want to take the car seat out every time you try to load someone in the third row but anyway before I climb into the third row let's talk about the second row seat that's where I'm sitting

Right here in back you can see there are two captains chairs in here two individual seats instead of a bench you can actually get it either way but most parents these days are tending to prefer second row captains chairs like this so

That's how most Highlanders will be ordered at dealerships now as far as family transportation goes there's a lot of good stuff back here right in the middle you have two different USB ports you flip up these little covers and you

Can plug in devices and charge them next to that you also have a household style power outlet which again functions as another charge point for devices which is obviously really good for kids sitting in the back another nice feature

Back here is that you have Sun blinds integrated into the rear doors to shade the windows if you have an infant back here you don't want them to get too much sun exposure just put up these Sun blinds I'm sure these aren't on all the

Highlander trims but it's nice to have so you don't have to like tack on one of those suction cups Sun blinds and in this version of the highlander you also have a separate climate zone for the rear seats so rear seat passengers can

Configure their climate temperature and fan speed however they want separate from the front seats which is also nice to have one drawback though you don't have climate vents in the middle on the back of this front center console no

Vents there instead the only vents you can really see are on the ceiling and they're not all that big so you might have some trouble getting air to the rear seat passenger so if rear climate control is a priority you'll probably

Want to test that before buying Highland and next up let's talk third row now to get back here I pull on one of these latches I showed you earlier the seat folds forward and I climb in back and once you get back here you discover a

Couple of items worth noting good and bad one of the high points is it's easy to get back here like I showed you before one latch the seat moves forward out of the way enough to create a pretty big path for even an adult to climb in

The back and it's surprisingly easy to access the third row a couple of other good things back here you have four cupholders two on each side which is also beneficial for third row passengers kids who have all sorts of different

Drinks it's nice to have a place for them to put them and I also like the fact that you have separate third row climate control vents you don't have another climate control system back here of course but you do have vents just for

The third row passengers which brings even more air to the back and a Highlander but there are also some downsides in this third row one is the fact that there aren't any charge points back here I'm seeing more and more 3-row

Crossover is adding charge points so rear third row passengers can charge their devices the Highlander doesn't have any which is too bad and the other drawback of the third row is simply space like all mid-sized family

Crossovers there's just not all that much room back here you don't really want to put adults in this third row unless you absolutely have to for a short trip pretty much this third row is for kids only if you want a larger third

Row you're gonna have to look at a minivan or a full-size SUV like a Toyota Sequoia Ford Expedition Chevy Suburban that kind of thing and next up we move on to the cargo area of the new Highlander to access it you open up your

Power liftgate and then you can get back here as you can see there's actually quite a bit of room back here behind the third row this is unusual for a midsize crossover usually the third row seat is right up

Against the tailgate but here there's more space than you might think and you might not find yourself having to put down the third row all that often in order to get all of your stuff in the back of the Highlander with that said if

You do find yourself needing more space back here it's incredibly easy to put down the third row seats there's just this little latch in the back you pull it and then the seat folds down it is that sim

You do the same thing over on the other side pull this latch the seat goes down and you have a much larger cargo area back here getting the seats back up is also really simple you just pull on this strap the seat goes up and then you can

Use this little latch to kind of adjust the exact positioning of the seat to get it where you want it to go no this doesn't have power folding third row seats like some luxury family crossovers especially at the $55,000 price point

Where this Highlander platinum is located but this is a really simple way to do it and it's less prone to breaking than power folding seats and next up we move on to the front of the new Highlander there are quite a few

Interesting quirks and features I am always amazed at how each new family crossover distinguishes itself from all the others but the Highlander has some excellent party tricks up its sleeve and I'm going to start with the camera

System which is probably the best in any midsize SUV you have to trick camera angles one shows the view from outside the Highlander almost like there's a drone hovering around the Highlander when you're trying to park which is

Really useful I've seen this feature on some of the highest end vehicles the top Lexus models rolls-royce BMW but now it's in the Highlander another interesting camera angle that I've never seen before is this one which just sort

Of shows a perimeter it's always going in a circle around where you are which I guess can be kind of useful you can also pause it if you want to stop on a very specific place and that's kind of a nice feature and next up here's another cool

Trick the center console storage area doesn't open with a hinge like most instead the top slides back and off of it and when it slides back you can see it reveals the wireless charger that the Highlander has so you put your phone in

There and it's charging while you drive now if you actually want to access your center storage area you lift up on this wireless charging pad and there's storage underneath you might think this is kind of annoying because then your

Phone will fall out every time you want to get to your storage but check this out it doesn't your phone stays put pretty much as high as you want to lift the wireless charger which is a nice feature you can have it charging and get

Into your Center area at once and speaking of phone placement here's another interesting one let's say the wireless charger is occupied you want a place to put your phone right in the center control stack

Underneath the climate vents you have this little tray which is a nice spot to stick phones and speaking of cubbies like that you also have another one over on the passenger side of the dashboard you can put a phone in there or other

Items a pen and next I'm moving on to some of the tech items in this interior I want to move back to the screen which as you saw is absolutely huge the big focal point of this interior is this infotainment screen and it works quite

Well very responsive to the touch very easy to see you can see on the map I move it around pinch to zoom it's all pretty quick pretty usable does exactly what you'd expect far better than the Remote Touch system with the weird

Controller in most Lexus models just in case you're shopping the Highlander against midea Lexus RX or GX but it is worth noting that this infotainment system has an unusual operation namely you can move stuff so check this out I'm

On the map and I have the climate controls over on the passenger side let's say I want the climate controls a little closer I can just press this and move them over to the driver side and now they're right within my reach and

You can move them back also that's kind of a strange operation and I wonder if some people might find it confusing because things that you expect to be in one place can be literally moved to another part of the infotainment screen

And some items can go fullscreen you can see that this settings menu is sort of a third of the screen right now but if you tap this you can make it completely the full screen or you can tap it again and make it smaller it kind of just depends

On what you want to see with that said if you do find the infotainment system that's starting to get kind of confusing Toyota has provided a way to simplify it you have four buttons along the bottom home menu audio and map those are fixed

In place and you can press them at any time to go to any one of those screens in case you're starting to get lost and next up another nice touch in the highlander when you climb in and start it and before you drive off the gauge

Cluster screen shows which seats are belted in which is nice to see then you don't have to kind of look back and see if your third row passengers have belted your kids are putting their seat belts on you can just check right here in the

Gauge cluster screen which smart and speaking of safety features in that gauge cluster screen you also have your rear seat reminder there if you open the rear door before you drive off then you go somewhere and park the gauge

Cluster screen will remind you that there might be something in the rear seat so you should check it before you walk away the theory here is it might prevent parents from forgetting a child or a pet in the car and then they get

Hot and potentially die you know one problem that I have with the technology in this car the gauge cluster screen and the infotainment screen is that none of the car settings are in the infotainment screen which is an easy to use touch

Screen instead Toyota has crammed all of that stuff into the gauge cluster screen so it's difficult to find various different settings you might want to change for instance if you go into the settings menu you can see that all your

Settings options are in these little boxes that have pictures or acronyms on them and nobody really knows what any of that stuff means it can be hard to find the setting that you're looking for but anyway speaking of screens another

Interesting one is that the rearview mirror is also a screen this is not a rearview mirror camera like some cars have but you can see if you press home link to open your garage door open or the bottom part is like a screen and you

Can also adjust the brightness of the mirror right here using these little buttons and you can see the display on the mirror screen and speaking of mirrors here's a good one in this car you push on this little panel on the

Ceiling for your sunglasses hold they're pretty standard but if you put the panel kind of halfway up you can see it is a wide angle mirror that shows what's going on in your back seat so that way you don't have to turn around to see if

Your kids are hitting each other you can just look at your mirror and get a pretty good idea of what's going on and next I'm speaking of that ceiling area another thing I love up here is the SOS button which is hidden under this

Cover you have to open the cover to access the SOS button you have to be really sure you want that SOS help and speaking of unusual buttons to the left of the steering wheel you have this button would like a windshield and a

Wiper on it that is the wiper de-icer you push that and it turns on a heating element underneath the windshield wiper so if you're in a snowy icy climate your windshield wipers have stuck to the windshield after snow or ice you press

That and it will melt away the snow and ice which will free your wipers that's a pretty good idea and I wish I saw it in more cars and speaking of snowy climates this Highlander has more drive modes than any other midsize crossover

Designed to take children to school in the middle you have a button marked snow you press that when you're in snow who knows if it actually has any real effect next to that you have a little dial you turn it to the left for mud and sand

Mode and to the right for rock and dirt mode for all the off-roading you're going to be doing in your Highlander you press the middle of that dial for just normal mode now above that you have a switch that gives you even more drive

Modes you can use it to switch between sport normal and eco so you have like seven different drive modes sport normal eco mud sand rock dirt normal snow no Highlander owner will ever use but at least they're there and next up we move

Under the hood and there is really nothing interesting here you have a 35 liter v6 that makes about 300 horsepower some midsize crossovers have more some have less this is right in the middle not really special at all the

Interesting thing will be the new Highlander Hybrid it's not out yet but Toyota says it will be in just a few months it's gonna have a four-cylinder and power and performance won't be on the level of the v6 but Toyota says

They're targeting something like 35 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving which is a massive number for a family crossover with three row seating so it'll be interesting to check that out and so those are the

Quirks and features of the new 2020 Toyota Highlander now it's time to get it out on the road and see how it drives all right drive the new Highlander now I recognize a lot of car people aren't necessarily going

To care about this review but this is a really popular vehicle um and so I want to be helpful and also I always find it so interesting to see how all of these new family crossovers make themselves just a little better or different or

Distinct from all the other ones now right now my pick in this segment is definitely the Kia telluride the hyundai palisade I like the new Ford Explorer great vehicles the Honda Pilot is starting to age out the technology is

Just not there and the highlander has been feeling that way too however the new model is definitely changing that there's a lot of great new tech a lot of stuff to like in here one thing I want to start with quickly is interior

Materials I didn't really mention it but the interior is very nice in here on the level of Lexus models from only a few years ago it's a really really high-end interior nice stitching nice leather everywhere this is like I mentioned the

Platinum version so that's the highest and trim level of the Highlander you're paying almost fifty five thousand dollars so you better get a pretty nice interior but you do on the road feels good the driving position is nice and

Tall which is good so many crossovers are starting to kind of feel not tall as many more crossovers or on the road this one still feels fairly commanding if a little bit more tire noise than I was expecting not usually the case in

Toyotas certainly wouldn't have been the case in a Lexus but there's a little more but road noise is muted not hearing any wind come through the windows which is better than I can say about the new Explorer ride quality is good if you're

Used to being in a Highlander or frankly any other good midsize crossover you're gonna feel right at home in this ride quality is good visibility is nice they engineer they've had 20 years to refine this formula and they engineer these

Things to really be as good as convenient the technology in this vehicle is quite impressive you have every modern safety feature you have forward collision warning blind spot monitoring lane keep assist bla I mean

On on adaptive cruise it's it's really quite impressive although that has now become the norm you can get that in a rav4 all right acceleration it's fine about like the old one it

Might be the same engine as the old one I think it is not that anybody who gets one of these is really gonna care about that but it feels pretty good probably if I put it in sport mode would feel better in terms of styling I really did

Like the outgoing Highlander the pre-facelift version most people probably don't have a favorite Highlander but I'm car geeky like that this one's nice though I think it looks really good however it is not as

Distinctive as the Kia telluride which has this macho you know brawny look to it and I think that really stands out in this world ultimately the Highlander is a Highlander and it simply improved on the fantastic formula they've had

Forever it's a great vehicle it's a more competitive world mount though and so in the past I think it was just a default you wanted a new mid-sized SUV you bought a pilot or a Highlander you just did when the Highlander came out the

Explorer was crap there was no Hyundai or Kia there was no Subaru this size etc etc you can go through this was one of the few and the competition has increased over the years now to the point where this is no longer simply the

Default I will say it's excellent it's a great vehicle it's just as great as it ever was but it wouldn't necessarily be the only thing I look at and so that's the 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum the Highlander was the family SUV gold

Standard for years but now there are many excellent new rivals like the Kia Telluride and the Hyundai palisade and the Subaru ascent and the new Ford Explorer the mid-size family SUV world is more competitive than ever but the

New Highlander certainly brings its a game and now it's time to give it a dug score starting with the weekend categories in styling the Highlander looks nice but it's not unusually attractive and it gets a 5 out of 10

Acceleration is normal for this segment but slow compared to sports cars it gets a 1 out of 10 handling is average for a car like this and it gets a 3 out of 10 fun factor is very minimal which is kind of the point and it gets a 1 out of 10

Finally cool factor and this is sort of the traditional American suburban family hauler it's not cool at all when it gets a 1 out of 10 for a total weekend score of 11 out of fifth next up are the daily categories and

Features this car is very well equipped with basically all of the latest gadgets it doesn't have any crazy show pieces but it has basically everything you need and it gets an 8 out of 10 comfort is excellent and it gets a 7 out

Of 10 quality is tremendously high both due to materials and Toyota's reputation for reliability and it gets an 8 out of 10 practicality is excellent with 3 easily accessible rows of seating and good

Cargo space and it gets a 10 out of 10 finally value and this is decent it's fifty five thousand dollar sticker prices encroaching on Lexus without the Lexus brand name or quality so it gets a six out of 10 for a total daily score of

39 out of 50 add it up in the dug score is 50 out of 100 which places it here against other midsize SUVs the Highlander ties the Hyundai palisade and Kia telluride and although the Highlander loses to the Ford Explorer ST

That's mainly because it's the high-performance version of the Explorer which has an advantage in the weekend categories but for daily use the Highlander is among the very best

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