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

Chad Carlson (left) Jarita Carlson and their two children Milo Carlson (left) and Lennon Carlson are dressing up as Ghostbusters for Halloween. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
Lacombe family passionate about Halloween and giving back to their community

COVID-19 has changed how the Carlson’s will celebrate Halloween this year

The Lacombe Legion volunteers laid poppies beside the graves of veterans on Oct. 28. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
Lacombe Legion volunteers lay poppies for fallen veterans

Twenty volunteers showed up on Wednesday to pay their respects and help out

There were 410 COVID-19 cases recorded in Alberta Wednesday. (File photo by The Associated Press)
Alberta records 410 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday

Central zone dropped to 160 active cases

Shaun Isaac, owner of Woodchucker Firewood in Trochu, is awaiting a new shipment during a firewood shortage in the province. All of the wood he has left is being saved for long-time customers who need it to heat their homes. (Contributed photo).
Firewood shortage in central Alberta caused by rising demand, gaps in supply

‘I’ve said “No” to more people than ever’: firewood seller

Royal Alexandra Hospital front-line workers walk a picket line after walking off the job in a wildcat strike in Edmonton, on Monday, October 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta labour board orders health-care staff who walked off the job to go back to work

Finance Minister Travis Toews said in a news release that he was pleased with the labour board’s decision

Pilots Ilona Carter and Jim Gray of iRecover Treatment Centres, in front of his company’s aircraft, based at Ponoka’s airport. (Perry Wilson/Submitted)
95-year-old Ilona Carter flies again

Takes to the skies over Ponoka

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a daycare in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. Alberta Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz says the province plans to bring in a new way of licensing and monitoring child-care facilities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Alberta proposes legislation to change rules on child-care spaces

Record-keeping, traditionally done on paper, would be allowed digitally

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Husky Energy logo is shown at the company’s annual meeting in Calgary on May 5, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Husky pipeline spills 900,000 litres of produced water in northwestern Alberta

The energy regulator says environmental contractors are at the site

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Most Read