Finally, the 2020 Toyota Highlander was officially revealed at this week’s 2019 New York Auto Show with a completely fresh new look. The fourth-generation Highlander gets a full makeover for the 2020 model year, and this midsize SUV is now fully based on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-K) platform. As a reminder, the TNGA platform has previously underpins several other Toyota models, including RAV4, Corolla, Avalon, Camry, Prius, and C-HR subcompact crossover SUVs.
From the front-end design, I think it looks a bit like Mazda…
In order to maintain the Highlander’s reputation as a reliable, safe, and durable family vehicle, Toyota designers provide full redesign and fresh changes to this five-door crossover SUV. This might prove that the Japanese automaker wants to expand its customer base outside the family car segment. The new 2020 Highlander SUV now gets the touch of a shark nose on its vertical front end, and it has a new geometric grille design flanked by sleeker LED headlights.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander has a muscular design line character, and it’s quite different compared to the previous generation models. The grille now also uses lighter composite plastic than steel material. According to the manufacturer, the fourth-gen Highlander has an overall diameter of 2.4 inches longer than the previous-gen Highlander. While other changes can be found in the stretched wheelbase, taper roofline, and sleeker taillights design.
2020 Toyota Highlander Specs & Engine Options
Under its hood, the 2020 Toyota Highlander is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine paired to an eight-speed automatic gearbox capable of producing 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. Standard variants are equipped with front-wheel drive, and have a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. While all-wheel drive configurations are only available as optional on the new Highlander. But the AWD variant is claimed to have a fuel economy rating of 21/27/23 mpg. Apart from that, Toyota is now no longer offering a 2.7-liter four-cylinder unit in this mid-size SUV.
Two different all-wheel drive configurations are available on the refreshed Highlander V6. Three trim levels including L, LE, and XLE have an on-demand AWD system that can transfer up to 50 percent of torque to the rear axle. While the upper trim level “Limited and Platinum” is even more sophisticated because it has been equipped with Dynamic Torque Vectoring in its AWD configuration, which was previously offered on the Toyota RAV4.
This sophisticated system is claimed to be able to improve fuel economy because it offers a different driving mode and has a driveline disconnect feature. The advantages of this drive mode are the availability of multi-terrain selections that can handle heavy terrain such as rock, mud, sand, dirt, and even inclement weather. Of course, it gives greater off-road capability for the new 2020 Highlander crossover.
2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
For the 2020 model years, Toyota offers a new hybrid version for the Highlander which is claimed to be able to provide better fuel economy and greater power output than the previous hybrid version. Well, the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is relies entirely on the Toyota’s Dynamic Force 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine combined with two electric motors capable of producing 240 horsepower. In addition, the new Highlander hybrid has an Atkinson cycle and it’s now equipped with a New Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT).
In addition to the standard front-wheel drive, the 2020 Highlander Hybrid is also available with an all-wheel drive configuration that has a rear-mounted electric motor. Toyota has claimed that the new hybrid model has an EPA-estimated fuel economy number of 34 mpg combined, which means it’s far better than the previous hybrid version (28 mpg combined). However, the new hybrid variant has a towing capacity of only 3,500 pounds. Three different driving modes are still available for hybrid models, including Normal, Sport, and Eco.
Toyota Predictive Efficient Drive System is a new feature carried by the 2020 Highlander Hybrid. This system has several advantages, including being able to analyze daily driving habits, adjust battery charging, and discharge batteries. So, the more data collected can allow the Predictive Efficient Drive system to adjust to daily driving habits, both on everyday urban roads and on mountain roads.
More Rigid Platform with Toyota New Global Architecture
The TNGA-K platform is claimed to be far more rigid, allowing the new Highlander to maneuver more agile on the road. Plus support from the new MacPherson strut front suspension and trailing A-arm rear suspension. There are 18-inch alloy wheels available for the standard “L” trim levels, and Machined-face alloy wheels for the XLE models. While the 20-inch Limited-style alloy wheels are only offered in the Limited trim, and 20-inch Platinum style wheels are only available on the new 2020 Highlander Platinum.
Moving into the cabin, the fourth-generation Highlander offers an 8.0-inch infotainment screen on the base trim level model, while the 12.3-inch touchscreen is only available for the upper trim level, complete with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, configurable 7.0-inch screen with crisp graphics, as well as Alexa In-Car compatibility. There are standard features on the upper trim interior such as heated second-row seats, heated steering wheel, heated and cooled front leather seats.
The interior has 120-volt outlets, two USB ports, and climate controls available for second-row passenger seats. The XLE standard trims up to the upper trim levels are equipped with standard wireless charging, and Wi-Fi connectivity for up to five devices. In addition, there’s also a digital display rearview-mirror and panoramic moonroof. The 2020 Toyota Highlander is now available in several trim level options including L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum.
Anyway, there’s no “LE Plus” trim for the 2020 model year. While the new hybrid variants are available from the LE trim to the Platinum trim level. As for standard safety features, the new Highlander offers Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0) on all trim level options that can detect cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. This TSS 2.0 safety feature can also detect road signs, lane markings and even roadsides.
2020 Toyota Highlander Release Date & Pricing Info
It’s been 19 years since the first debut of the Highlander mid-size SUV at the New York Motor Show back in April 2000. And last year, Highlander sales outperformed the Ford Explorer in the United States with a total of 243,933 units sold out, while the Explorer only sold 227,732 units last year. Well, talking about its release date and on-sale-date, the 2020 Toyota Highlander is scheduled to go on sale at U.S. dealers later this year, precisely starting in December 2019. Followed by a new Highlander hybrid version which will be released early next year as 2020 model years.
There has been no announcement regarding the official price when this article was written, but the 2020 Highlander crossover is expected to go on sale in the United States with a price range of $31,500 to $49,000. Given that the current model has been sold at dealers with a base MSRP of $31,350 for the lower trim level, and $48,830 for the 2019 Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum.