How time flies. 2020 marks the 20th year of existence of the Highlander model in the Toyota lineup. The SUV, which has also been focused on comfort due to its monocoque structure, is now a model at full maturity with the presentation of it fourth generation at the New York Auto Show.
Styling-wise the brand’s new design signature, recently showcased on the new RAV4, is immediately recognizable. The changes aren’t revolutionary but they’re implemented in good taste. More significantly, the new 2020 Highlander sits on a version of the company’s new platform, the TNGA-K (Toyota New Global Architecture).
Here are three salient points regarding the new edition.
Still sitting under the hood is Toyota’s 295-hp, 3.6L V6; this unit is both powerful and relatively frugal, and of course it’s super durable. Technologically, the unit gets Toyota’s D-4S direct injection system, which weds the advantages of direct injection with port fuel injectors to help optimize the engine’s performance and fuel efficiency. The latter is also aided by the presence of the stop-start function.
The 6-cylinder engine works in conjunction with an 8-speed automatic transmission, and the powertrain allows for a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 lb.
The new Highlander is offered, not for the first time, in a hybrid variant. But the difference here is that the system works using a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine, supported by two electric motors. Total output according to Toyota is 240 hp for this powertrain, but the significant figure is the 6.9L/100 km average fuel consumption. This, says, Toyota, is a 17% improvement over the outgoing model. Note that this version has a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 lb.
The 2020 Highlander will be offered with front-wheel-drive or an all-wheel drive system. Five trims are to make up the product offering in all: L, LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum. All of them except for the L can be had with the hybrid powertrain.
We’ll skip the exhaustive description of the advanced features, technologies and safety systems here, other than to say Toyota has included everything you can most likely think of. Rather, we’ll just mention just how much the interior presentation has been upgraded for the 2020 edition; quality is apparent everywhere – or at least it is on the range-topping trim we were shown at the launch event. The Highlander is not a run-of-the-mill SUV, it’s a vehicle at ease in the company of the big luxury models.
For the rest, there’s still the option of a seven-seat or eight-seat configuration, and space to spare throughout the cabin. Those sitting in the second row will have nothing to complain about, and when you fold down those seats you get 2,076 litres of cargo volume, which is more than substantial.
As for safety, as we mentioned the list of systems included is indeed very long, starting with the features that come with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package.
The reputation of the model
The Highlander continues its evolution to ever-greater refinement. Of course we won’t get a full impression of its driving dynamics until we take wheel, but that should happen pretty soon.
For the consumer, there’s no doubt this is a value-packed product. It’s reliable and well-laid-out, it breathes quality and it comes with all the latest tech and safety features.
We fully expect it will come with a hefty price tag, but for consumers the good news is that, like all Toyota vehicles, it’s been tested every which way. Buy a 2020 Highlander and you can feel confident it’ll still be serving you faithfully in 20 years, if you so desire.
The Highlander has, in its two decades of existence, gradually climbed up the ladder and it’s now the category’s sales leader, according to Toyota. The product is versatile, attractive, reliable and, especially, indestructible.
The latest update for this new generation means the model’s immediate future is very bright.