The 3.5-litre V-6 carries over as the base engine for 2020. The all-wheel-drive hybrid uses a four-cylinder gasoline engine instead of the previous V-6, which means a big loss in total system power but an increase in fuel economy of a claimed 19 per cent. Photo: Toyota

Toyota dials in its eight-passenger family hauler

Comfort, roominess and capability are the 2020 Toyota Highlander’s key strengths

Comfort, roominess and capability are the 2020 Toyota Highlander’s key strengths, as they have been for the past 18 model years.

When it arrived for 2002, the Highlander was one of the initial part-car, part-sport-utility-vehicle models on the market. By the time a third-row seat was added a couple of years later, it had become one of the most popular Toyota vehicles.

The previous Highlander’s oversized trapezoid-style grille was not its most welcoming feature, but the nosepiece of the new fourth-generation model improves on that misstep and could serve as a template for future Toyota vehicles. The remainder of the body, from the hood to the liftgate, is also more attractive and correctly conveys a sense that the Highlander is a quality machine.

That also goes for the roomier cabin. A bigger vehicle means an increase in the second-row seat’s fore and aft travel to 11 centimetres from 8.6. That means more legroom. As before, there’s space for eight passengers, or seven when the second-row bucket seats replace the standard bench seat.

The Highlander’s dashboard is more dramatically shaped with an available 12.3-inch touch-screen that juts out, right next to the luminescent gauges. An 8.0-inch screen is standard for most other trims.

Underpinning the Highlander is Toyota’s New Global Architecture that the automaker claims is stiffer and helps deliver a quieter ride plus a smaller turning circle.

Revised powertrain offerings start with a 3.5-litre V-6 that carries over from 2019 and makes 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque.

The optional hybrid model constitutes significant change for the Highlander. Replacing the previous 306-horsepower V-6/electric-motor combo is a 2.5-litre four-cylinder with two integrated electric motors for a net system output of 243 horsepower. This is far less punch than outgoing system, but Toyota says the all-wheel-drive hybrid’s estimated 6.7 l/100 km in combined city/highway driving is 19 per cent better. Gasoline Highlanders achieve an estimated 10.3 l/100 km, combined.

The hybrid’s more compact (but more energy-dense) battery pack is located beneath the rear seats so there’s no loss of stowage or passenger space.

The V-6 is linked to an eight-speed automatic transmission, while a continuously variable unit with Normal, Eco and Sport modes is standard with the hybrid models.

For 2020, three different AWD systems are available. The L , LE and XLE trims ship up to 50 per cent of the engine torque to the rear wheels when the front wheels begin to slip.

The Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD, optional for the Limited and Platinum trims, can vary the rear torque between the left and right wheels (the torque-vectoring part) for increased control when turning. Mud & Sand and Rock & Dirt modes are part of the system, as is a Rear Driveline Disconnect feature that unhooks the driveshaft from the rear wheels when not needed, which conserves fuel.

The hybrid’s AWD uses an electric motor mounted in back. It powers the rear wheels when accelerating and while cornering, for added control.

Highlander pricing starts at $41,800, including destination charges, for the base L and includes heated front power driver’s seat and a wide assortment of active-safety features.

From that point, both content levels and prices climb steadily, topping out with the $55,800 Platinum trim, which includes self-leveling headlamps, heated second-row seats, panoramic moonroof, surround-view camera, heated and ventilated front seats, and a head-up information display for the driver.

Note that all but the base L trim can be ordered with hybrid propulsion.

The 2020 Highlander might look radically different from the outgoing model, but its advancements in useable space, technology and fuel economy are really what make this a standout utility vehicle.

What you should know: 2020 Toyota Highlander

Type: Front-/ all-wheel-drive utility vehicle

Engines (h.p.): 3.5-litre DOHC V-6 (295); 2.5-litre DOHC I-4 with electric motors (243)

Transmissions: Eight-speed automatic; continuously variable (CVT, hybrid)

Market position: The Highlander is considered one of the top-performing family utility vehicles on the market and is also viewed as one of the roomiest and most technologically advanced.

Points: Major redesign improves the looks, especially at the front end. • Standard V-6 engine delivers plenty of power, while optional hybrid system places greater emphasis on lowering fuel consumption. • Added cargo space makes for a more versatile vehicle. • Toyota’s quality reputation and strong resale values contribute to the Highlander’s popularity.

Driver assist: Blind-spot warning with cross-traffic backup alert (opt.); active cruise control (std.); emergency braking (std.); pedestrian detection (std.); lane-departure alert/intervention (std.)

L/100 km (city/hwy): 11.8/8.7 (V-6, est.); Base price (incl. destination) $41,800

BY COMPARISON

Chevrolet Traverse

Base price: $41,600

A 310-h.p. V-6 comes standard in this eight-passenger tall wagon. AWD optional.

Honda Pilot

Base price: $43,200

Eight-passenger model matches Highlander’s 2,270-kg towing capacity.

Mazda CX-9

Base price: $42,000

Sharp-looking utility vehicle inside and out. A 250-h.p. turbo I-4 comes standard.

If you’re interested in new or used vehicles, be sure to visit TodaysDrive.com to find your dream car today!

-written by Malcom Gunn, Managing Partner at Wheelbase Media

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley gives a COVID-19 update during a press conference in Whitehorse on May 26. The Yukon government announced two new cases of COVID-19 in the territory with a press release on Oct. 19. (Alistair Maitland Photography)
Two new cases of COVID-19 announced in Yukon

Contact tracing is complete and YG says there is no increased risk to the public

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on April 8. Yukon Energy faced a potential “critical” fuel shortage in January due to an avalanche blocking a shipping route from Skagway to the Yukon, according to an email obtained by the Yukon Party and questioned in the legislature on Oct. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Energy faced ‘critical’ fuel shortage last January due to avalanche

An email obtained by the Yukon Party showed energy officials were concerned

Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys), the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. “Our government is proud to be supporting Yukon’s grassroots organizations and First Nation governments in this critical work,” said McLean of the $175,000 from the Yukon government awarded to four community-based projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government gives $175k to projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women

Four projects were supported via the Prevention of Violence against Aboriginal Women Fund

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

When I was a kid, CP Air had a monopoly on flights… Continue reading

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Alkan Air hangar in Whitehorse. Alkan Air has filed its response to a lawsuit over a 2019 plane crash that killed a Vancouver geologist on board, denying that there was any negligence on its part or the pilot’s. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Alkan Air responds to lawsuit over 2019 crash denying negligence, liability

Airline filed statement of defence Oct. 7 to lawsuit by spouse of geologist killed in crash

Whitehorse city council members voted Oct. 13 to decline an increase to their base salaries that was set to be made on Jan. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council declines increased wages for 2021

Members will not have wages adjusted for CPI

A vehicle is seen along Mount Sima Road in Whitehorse on May 12. At its Oct. 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the third reading for two separate bylaws that will allow the land sale and transfer agreements of city-owned land — a 127-square-metre piece next to 75 Ortona Ave. and 1.02 hectares of property behind three lots on Mount Sima Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse properties could soon expand

Land sale agreements approved by council

Most Read