2020 Toyota Highlander Begins an All-New Generation

by Tom Crosby
white 2020 toyota highlander

The all-new fourth-generation 2020 Toyota Highlander mid-size SUV set its highest U.S. sales records in 19 years during January and February, and then the pandemic hit. It still remains one of Toyota’s top-selling models and second only to Toyota’s RAV4 in U.S. sales among the company’s six SUVs.

2020 Toyota Highlander XLE Review

Highlander’s redo includes better average mileage with a standard V-6 engine in all five trims – L, LE, LEX, LIMITED, and PREMIUM – increased cargo space, upgraded technology, and a new smooth and clean profile. There are also two hybrid Highlanders.

Our test-drive was the XLE with all-wheel-drive (front-wheel drive is standard) and 20-inch wheels. It was pleasing to drive with satisfying quickness for a more than two-ton 8-seat vehicle. It was stable in tight turns thanks to a more rigid platform, remaining composed over rough pavement and during off-road venturing.

Ground clearance is 8.0 inches, good for pastures, dirt, and gravelly roads, but it’s not a massive rock climber. There is a multi-terrain drive selector and three regular drive modes.

We had four options totaling $2,178 with the primary one costing $1,040 to include Premium JBL audio and 8-inch touchscreen with voice recognition and dynamic navigation.

Outside, Highlander has a monochromatic look (our color was Blizzard Pearl) and is now slightly longer in length and wheelbase. It was topped with chrome roof rails and featured wheel arch cladding.

Inside, the luxurious outfitted cabin boasted soft synthetic leather and wood trim. Seats were comfortable but scrunched in the rear and the front passenger seat could not be raised or lowered.

Improved connectivity includes Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa. There is a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot and a smartphone charger, plus four USB charge ports.

Storage areas abound with two extended trays, one above the glove compartment, one under the center dashboard, and a small drop-down tray left of the driver. Safety shades can cover the second-row window.

Increased cargo space is now 16 cubic feet behind the third row reaching 84 cubes with all rear seats folded. Cargo access is eased by the height-adjustable tailgate.

Highlanders include Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver safety aides and two years or 25 miles of complimentary maintenance. It has top crash safety scores, can tow 5,000 pounds, has fully extendable visors, and an underbody compact spare tire.

In 2019, Toyota Highlander was the best-selling SUV in its class, and Toyota had the best brand for resale.

At a Glance

LIKES: Handling, power, quiet, comfort, cargo space, cabin, ride, resale value
DISLIKES: Tight third row seats, front passenger seat adjustment
BOTTOM LINE: Highlander remains top SUV for a large family

Fact File: 2021 Subaru Cross Trek Limited

Base price w/destination fee
Curb weight
EPA Rating
$42,320 ($44,498 as tested)
4,370 lbs.
112.2 inches
194.9 inches
76.0 inches
3.5-liter, V-6, DOHC, 24-valves
295 hp @ 6,600 rpm
295 lbs.-ft. @s 4,700 rpm
8-speed automatic w/overdrive
20 mpg city/27 mpg HWY
17.9-gallon tank, regular
0-60 in just over 7 seconds

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Tom Crosby has written more than 1,000 automotive reviews and is a retired Vice President of Communications for AAA Carolinas. He has seen dramatic changes in the automotive industry over the past 25 years and ponders the advent of self-driving vehicles, electric-only vehicles, sophisticated in-car telematics, and the financial challenges facing automotive manufacturers in an increasingly congested worldwide market.

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