Toyota happened to be a pioneer in the midsize crossover SUV category, introducing the 2006 Highlander, the first hybrid SUV in its class. The 2020 model raises the bar for hybrid SUV functionality by making it the most fuel-efficient Highlander Hybrid ever, delivering 243 total system horsepower with up to an estimated 36 combined MPG for a 24-percent improvement over the previous-generation Highlander Hybrid’s 29 combined MPG. It still delivers the everyday acceleration, power and responsiveness that buyers want and expect. Another Highlander first – the hybrid is now available in either 2WD or AWD, further expanding hybrid technology for a new group of buyers.
This newest Highlander seats up to eight, with a choice of three powertrains and four model grades, all adding up to an ideal family vehicle. The mid-size SUV began its third generation with the 2014 model lineup and a new grade strategy featuring four well equipped trim levels: LE, XLE, Limited and Limited Platinum. LE is FWD only, while all other grades offer both front-wheel and all-wheel drive configurations, and AWD gas versions include Dynamic Torque Control as standard fare. Each grade level provides progressively more feature content.
Power is provided by a 2.5-liter DOHC, 16-valve 4-cylinder with dual VVT-I delivers 231 horsepower and 215 pound feet of torque. The Hybrid System mates to an electronically controlled automatic transmission – a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with a planetary gear unit for gear reduction and power splitting; electronic all-wheel drive control system. AWD-i models are equipped with front and rear electric drive motors.
The Hybrid System delivers 280 horsepower (209 kW) with three permanent magnet Motor Generators – 650V max voltage. Max output MG2=167 hp (123 kW) / 247 lb. ft torque / MG3= 68 hp (50 kW) / 103 ft-lb. torque. Sealed nickel metal hydride battery pack with 288V nominal voltage and 45 kW Max power output. The System yields an impressive EPA fuel rating of 27 mpg city/28mpg highway/28 mpg combined, best in class for a three row mid-size SUV. Towing capacity is 3,500 pounds.
BOLD NEW DESIGN
This latest Highlander hybrid displays a sculpted new shape with chiseled lines, giving it a more powerful stance, but with a bold, modern, sophisticated persona. The 2020 Highlander continues as a family-friendly SUV, with capacity for enhanced family outings.
Setting off the new design, the L, LE and XLE grades feature a black front grille with silver trim, while the Limited and Platinum grades are distinguished by a black grille with chrome trim and chrome-plated lower rear fascia, premium projector headlamps and the Highlander’s first-ever 20-inch alloy wheels. The Platinum grade stands apart with silver painted front bumper and rear fascia and a unique 20-inch wheel. The Hybrid version adds a blue background to the center grille logo.
While Highlander’s new design is sure to turn heads, it’s also highly versatile and functional. Greater aerodynamic efficiency reduces wind noise while enhancing vehicle stability, and even the taillights and side mirror designs contribute to that end. In profile, the Highlander hybrid features a rearward sloping roofline with and integrated rear spoiler lip, rising beltline and shoulder along with sculpted rocker coves. The “B” and “C” pillars are blacked out, lengthening the greenhouse effect. Pronounced wheelwells feature polymer surrounds along with polymer front and rear lower cladding.
The aft end finishes with a height-adjustable rear lift-gate with an available one-touch power open/close and driver selectable memory height settings. The taillights and bumper display both style and strength. Acoustic-type glass is utilized for the windshield, helping to reduce noise entering the cabin. Even the panoramic moonroof design works to help reduce wind noise, when open.
COMFORT AND CONVENIENCE
The fourth-generation Highlander is 2.36 inches longer, all in the cargo area, adding greater cargo volume than before. The second row slides an extra 1.2 inches further up to increase distance between the second and third rows.
The TNGA-K platform, which makes extensive use of high-strength steel, gives the Highlander a stiffer unibody structure than the previous model. Its added strength allows tuning for the front strut and rear multi-link suspension that improves agility while providing a smaller turning circle along with a smoother and quieter ride than before.
The presence of takumi is evident whenever the driver experiences the Highlander’s premium touch and feel in everyday driving. Throughout vehicle development, these highly trained master craftsmen focused on the finest technical details to ensure a higher level of operating smoothness in all driving conditions, especially at everyday speeds.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid benefits from a premium interior design with advanced technological features, offering ample room for up to eight occupants, with an extensive array of standard comfort, convenience and technology features and equipment. Premium materials are utilized delivering an upscale ambience, with most models featuring standard contrast seat stitching. All Highlanders are equipped with a soft-touch instrument panel; and silver-painted, satin, and chrome-plated accents thoughtfully placed throughout the interior.
Premium fabrics, available smooth and perforated leather trim seats, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob add to Highlander’s upscale interior. The adoption of a high quality knit roof lining and available second-row sunshades also contribute to Highlander’s refinement and comfort.
A new roll-top center console provides a comfortable armrest, or when fully opened is large enough to accommodate a large handbag. All Highlanders feature an LCD in-meter-cluster and the largest in segment 12.3” Multimedia Display. Ambient lighting is available around the front dash, which makes for a relaxing environment.
The 60/40-second row offers bench seating for three passengers or two captain’s seats that feature a collapsible side tray with cup holders for added convenience. Entry into the third-row is easy with the addition of a one-step second-row sliding seat function on both driver and passenger sides that provides nearly three inches of space for easier third-row ingress and egress. The third-row has a standard recline function, enhancing comfort for up to three passengers. Like the second-row bench, the third-row will also be 60/40 split for added passenger and storage flexibility and convenience. Rear cargo space behind the third-row is increased for added storage capability.
Rear seat entertainment is available to keep kids and grandkids busy during travel, and an in-dash shelf with a pass through to USB and 12V plug-ins allows for easy cable management. The center console can hold 58 juice boxes or a large purse.
TECHNOLOGY AND CONNECTIVITY
The Highlander comes with a Backup Camera and Toyota’s Entune audio systems. Upscale models offer advanced safety technologies such as Blind Spot Monitoring with Cross Traffic Alert, Rear Parking Assist Sonar, and an available Driver Technology Package includes a Pre-Collision System with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Automatic High Beam Headlights and Safety Connect. Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P 2.0) driver-assist technology is now standard.
My 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid came in Limited Platinum trim and AWD with a base sticker of $50,200 and a final tally of $52,512 after factoring in options plus the Delivery processing and Handling fee. The exterior finish was Ruby Flare Pearl metallic, while the interior was done in Camel or Saddle with matte finished wood trim accents on the doors and dash.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD accompanied by enhanced interior appointments with upscale comfort levels, pleasing performance and operating efficiency. The Highlander Hybrid’s Hybrid Synergy Drive System operates seamlessly and is highly efficient, while accommodating the entire family with seating capability for up to eight, with gear.
Second and third row air vents are provided with available three-zone climate control. Upscale models come with heated and ventilated front seats, with an available heated steering wheel and heated second row seats. A panoramic moonroof is also available.
First and foremost, this latest iteration Highlander Hybrid handles spirited driving maneuvers deftly. While not a sports car, it performs with surprising agility on the road, handling with solid stability and on-center steering feel, while delivering a most comfortable ride quality. In terms of its performance capability, with a full complement of 8 occupants, on a steep uphill grade, the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder is totally up to the task.
Considering the wide grade range in terms of equipment and feature content, the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid presents itself as an ideal mid-size, three-row SUV. providing several choices for a variety of consumers. It comes with a basic limited warranty coverage: a 3-year/36,000-mile Comprehensive, a 5-year/60,000-mile Powertrain, a 5-year/unlimited-mileage Corrosion Perforation, and an 8-year/100,000-mile Hybrid-related Component Coverage. The Highlander also comes standard with Toyota Care, a complimentary plan covering normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first.
In the final analysis, the 2020 Lexus Highlander Hybrid answers the call as an outstanding and luxurious Hybrid SUV.
SPECIFICATIONS: 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD
Base Price: $50,200.
Price as Tested: $52,512.
Engine Type and Size: 2.5-liter DOHC, 16-valve Atkinson Cycle capable inline four-cylinder with dual VVT-I and VVT-iW, electronic fuel injection. Hybrid System net 243 horsepower with three permanent magnet Motor Generators – MG1-650V max voltage. Max output MG2=167 hp (123 kW) / 247 lb. ft torque / MG- rear= 68 hp (50 kW) / 103 ft-lb. torque. Sealed nickel metal hydride battery pack with 288V nominal voltage and 45 kW Max power output.
Horsepower (bhp): 243 @ 6,000 rpm combined net – includes combustion engine with 186 hp @ 6,000 RPM.
Torque (ft./ lbs.): 175 @ 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) with planetary gear unit for gear
reduction and power splitting; manual mode, overdrive and electronic all-wheel drive control system with Dynamic Torque Vectoring.
Drive Train: Transversely mounted front engine / Electronic AWD with trail mode with front and rear drive electric motors.
Suspension: Front Independent MacPherson Strut, with stabilizer bar and : trailing wishbone
Rear – Multilink with stabilizer bar.
Brakes: Power-assisted, electronically controlled Brake System, four-wheel discs (vented front) with ABS, EBD, BA, VDIM and regenerative control.
Tires: Goodyear Eagle Touring 235/55 R20 – 102V M&S mounted on 5- tri-spoke silver painted alloy wheels .
Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
Length Overall: 194.9 inches
Width: 76.0 inches – w/o mirrors
Height: 68.1 inches –unloaded – no antenna.
Approach Angle: 18.1 degrees
Departure Angle: 22.7 degrees
Ground Clearance: 8.0 inches
Curb Weight: 4,595 lbs.
Turning Circle: 37.4 ft.
Fuel Capacity: 17.1 gallons
EPA Mileage Estimates: 35 mpg city / 34-mpg highway
Drag Coefficient: 0.34
0 – 60 mph: Not tested
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