All-new 2020 Toyota Highlander Grows In Size, Increases Hybrid Efficiency in a Big Way To Get More Sales (Video)

2020 toyota highlander suv debut new mpg
2020 Toyota Highlander

Here it is – the all-new 2020 Toyota Highlander. It’s the fourth generation of Toyota’s popular family hauler.  Here is everything we know so far about the upcoming three-row crossover. It includes the gas-powered version and the one with new and much more efficient gas/electric Hybrid system.

2020 Toyota Highlander

The Highlander midsize SUV is very important to Toyota. It’s a very popular seller. In the first quarter of this year, Toyota already sold nearly 53,000 Highlanders. The sales are starting to decrease slightly compared to the year prior, so this redesign is that much more crucial. Toyota has to get this one right to stay on top of the competition.


Let’s start with the styling. The changes are more evolutionary than revolutionary, but the entire SUV just looks more chiseled and more aggressive than before. There is family resemblance to the new RAV4, but the new Highlander goes more for a fluid appearance without many sharp edges or corners.  Three exterior colors carry over from the 2019 model. They are Celestial Silver Metallic, Midnight Black Metallic, and Blizzard Pearl). There are also five new colors being added to keep it fresh. 

Overall, the new 2020 Highlander is 2.36 inches longer than the outgoing model, and most of this added length goes to increase the rear cargo capacity and third row space. There is now 16.1 cu-ft of cargo volume behind the third row (2.3 cu-ft more than before). There are also storage compartments in the cargo area for additional utility.

Chassis and Trim Levels

The 2020 Highlander is built on top of the TNGA-K global vehicle platform. Extensive use of high-strength steel make the unibody structure stiffer than before, although Toyota does not say by how much. The stiffer chassis allows for different suspension tuning that Toyota says makes the ride smoother and quieter. The turning circle is smaller than before for better maneuverability. 

There are five trim level of the new Highlander. The L and LE come standard with a second-row bench seat for an eight person capacity. The XLE and Limited grades come standard with second-row captain chairs for a seven person capacity. There is also the luxurious Platinum grade with available 20-inch wheels, which is a first for the Highlander.

Gas V6 and the Hybrid

The gas-powered Highlander will use the same 3.5-liter V6 with the D-4S dual fuel injection system as before. The D-4S system combines direct and port injection to get both power and efficiency. The rating is still 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. The 8-speed automatic transmission is still there as well. The V6 highlander is rated to tow a maximum of 5,000 lbs. Trailer sway control is available. 

The V6 is available with two distinct AWD system. The base AWD system can shift up to 50% of power to the rear wheels when driving conditions require it. The V6 Limited and Platinum trims get a Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD system with Drive Mode Select. The system is able to shift power not just front to back, but also left to right.  When all-wheel-drive is not needed, the system can quickly disconnect the rear drive shaft to maximize efficiency. This is done automatically, without any input from the driver.

The big news is the new gas/electric hybrid that boosts the overall MPG rating by 17%. This is the next-generation system that combines a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with two electric motors. The total power train system is more compact and more efficient. Toyota says – the total system produces 240 horsepower and EPA-estimated 34 MPG combined rating. This is a significant increase over the previous Highlander Hybrid 28 MPG combined rating, but the total power is also much reduced. It was 306 horsepower before. Another reasons the MPG rating is so high is because the Highlander Hybrid will be available in 2WD or AWD variants. Electric only mode is still available for driving at slow speed and for short distances. There are also Eco, Normal, and Sport driving modes.


Toyota focused on making the interior more premium and quieter than ever. This includes softer padded surfaces, and integrated infotainment and HVAC controls. There is wireless phone charging capability and USB charger ports. The L and LE offer cloth seating surfaces, the XLE has the artificial leather-trim, and Limited offers perforated leather, and the Platinum grade offers several leather color choices plus an option to get a Glazed Caramel brown leather option.

Technology geeks will be happy to know that Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa in-car capability are all available in the new Highlander. There is also Waze , Sirius XM, and Wifi connectivity (using the AT&T network). If you get the upper trim levels, you also get the 12.3-inch infotainment screen, JBL Premium Audio System with 1,200 watts of power and 11 speakers. 8-inch multimedia screen is available on the base model.


Safety is still a big part of the equation. The 2020 Highlander comes with Toyota’s TSS 2.0 driver assistance technology package. Depending on the trim level, Blind Spot monitor, Rear cross traffic alert and braking assist, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beam, lane tracing assist, and road sign detection are all available.


The current Highlander is fighting for the overall sales leadership in the United States against the Ford Explorer. The Explorer sold several hundred more SUVs in the Q1 of 2019. Of course, there are many more competitors that include the Chevy Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder, Honda Pilot, Dodge Durango, Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, and others. It’s a tough segment, but Toyota is looking to continue its popularity and leadership in this space with this thorough redesign.

Toyota has announce pricing of all of the fuel economy rating on the 2020 Highlander yet. However, we now know that the 2020 Highlander V6 will go on sale starting in December 2019.  The new Highlander Hybrid will be on sale in February 2020.

Trims & Optional Equipment

Here are the highlights of what you get with the all five 2020 Highlander trim levels.

• Toyota Safety Sense 2.0
• 18-in. alloy wheels
• 3-zone automatic climate control
• 4.2-in. Multi-information Display (MID) in instrument panel
• 8-way power driver’s seat
• Auto up/down for all power windows
• Multimedia with 8-inch touchscreen display
• Front seat reading lights and cargo area light.
• LED headlamps and tail-lamps
• Privacy glass on rear side, quarter and lift-gate windows
• Smart Key entry on front doors and back door

LE adds over L:
• Power liftgate
• Blind Spot Monitor
• Additional multimedia capability
• LED fog lamps
• Leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob

XLE adds over LE:
• 10-way power driver’s seat
• 2nd-row sun shades
• 4-way power front passenger seat
• 7-in. Multi-information display
• Auto dimming rear-view mirror with garage door opener
• Auto LED headlamps with Auto High Beam
• Plated interior door handle
• Heated front seats
• LED fog lamps
• Machined-face alloy wheels
• Captain’s Chairs second row (standard)
• Power tilt and slide moon roof
• Roof rails
• SofTex®-trimmed seats and door trim

Limited adds over XLE:
• 120V 2nd-row power outlet
• 20-in. Limited style alloy wheels
• Ambient interior lighting
• Cargo area cover
• Driver’s seat memory
• Hand’s-free power liftgate
• Heated and ventilated front seats
• “Highlander” puddle lamp
• Perforated leather trimmed seats in Beige, Gray or Black
• Metal door scuff plates
• Projector beam headlamp with chrome bezels and separate, stylized DRLs
• Wood interior trim
• JBL® Audio System as standard
• Embedded navigation system

Platinum adds over Limited:
• 12.3-in. Multimedia head unit
• 20-in Platinum style wheels
• Adaptive, self-leveling headlamps
• Additional leather seating color choice: Glazed Caramel
• Digital display rear view mirror
• Embossed, perforated leather trimmed seats
• Head-up display
• Heated 2nd-row seats
• Illuminated door scuff plates
• Panoramic moonroof

For full 2019 New York Auto Show coverage and much more about the 2020 Toyota Highlander, stay tuned to and TFLcar Youtube channel.