2020 Toyota Highlander first drive: It raises the bar, but is it the best?

    Drivers available in the market for a brand new SUV face a frightening variety of choices. Even when you’re purchasing for a bigger mannequin, one with three rows of seats, there’s nonetheless a humiliation of riches on the market.

    The South Koreans are approaching sturdy on this phase with the brand new Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade. Ford is fielding a brand-new, rear-drive Explorer. Honda’s Pilot is as versatile as ever; the Volkswagen Atlas provides a great deal of inside room; there’s the contemporary Subaru Ascent and an getting older Nissan Pathfinder. Chevy continues to promote its Traverse and there is even the suave Mazda CX-9.Of course, you would be smart to contemplate the Toyota Highlander, one in every of this burgeoning phase’s pioneers. Totally reworked for 2020, the Highlander is barely bigger and much more premium, whereas including a great deal of new know-how and wrapping all of it in contemporary bodywork.

    The fundamentalsToyota did not throw the proverbial child out with the bathwater on this go-round. The new Highlander seems quite just like the mannequin it is changing, with a big grille and different acquainted kinds on the physique. Despite protecting the identical normal look and proportions, designers nonetheless labored to make this car extra subtle and, dare I say, elegant. For 2020, this three-row utility can be supplied in 5 trim ranges: L, LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum. The fuel-sipping hybrid mannequin is on the menu once more, out there in all these grades save probably the most fundamental one. 

    The Highlander’s new bodywork is unexpectedly comely. 
    And like virtually each redesigned car, the brand new Highlander has grown. It’s 2 inches and alter longer than earlier than, the wheelbase has been elevated barely, and it is a fraction of an inch broader. Facilitating these will increase, it rides on a variant of Toyota’s TNGA platform, which is quickly spreading all through the automaker’s lineup, underpinning every part from the Prius hybrid to the Camry sedan to this massive, three-row family-hauler.

    That modest physique stretch provides the Highlander barely extra inside area than earlier than. There’s 16 cubic toes behind the rear-most seats and 48.4 when these backrests are folded flat. Drop the second row and the full grows to in extra of 84 cu. ft. That’s a tiny bit greater than the outgoing Highlander and present Pilot supply, however a couple of cubes lower than what the brand new Explorer gives. For most capaciousness, you will in all probability need a Volkswagen Atlas; it is by far the roomiest of those rivals.If hauling people as a substitute of freight is a precedence, the 2020 Highlander can seat both seven or eight individuals relying on whether or not it is outfitted with a second-row bench seat or captain’s chairs. Most of its lodging are suitably coddling. Whether you are sitting within the frontmost buckets or occupying a spot one row again, consolation shouldn’t be a difficulty on this Toyota. However, the third row, as in practically each competing mannequin, is a bit too tight for adults, with a backside cushion that is principally on the ground. This place places your knees roughly at chin-level, which isn’t comfy for something longer than a visit across the block. Of course, youngsters should not have any points sitting within the way-back, so reserve this area for them.The trimmingsOther elements of the brand new Highlander’s cabin are extraordinarily effectively achieved. The inside is fantastically constructed and comprised principally of high-end supplies, particularly in higher trim ranges. It’s a nicer place to spend time in than the Atlas, Explorer or Pilot. The Palisade and Telluride is perhaps a little bit higher, to my thoughts.Toyota designers and engineers did a nice job crafting the Highlander’s cabin.
    Soft leather-based and plastics abound, although the dashboard format is unusually asymmetrical, which maybe is not uncommon for Toyota. This automaker tends to provide some fairly out-there inside designs.  When it involves know-how, there is a veritable cornucopia of stuff within the 2020 Highlander. Keeping everybody comfy, three-zone local weather management is customary throughout the vary. LE fashions and better get blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert at no further value. Stepping up the ladder, Limited and Platinum variations function a 1,200-watt, 11-speaker JBL sound system. A 12.3-inch infotainment show with built-in navigation can also be included on the Platinum grade, although it is non-compulsory on Limited fashions. Drivers choosing lesser variations of the Highlander should reside with a smaller, 8-inch display.Keeping tempo with rivals on the know-how entrance, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Alexa compatibility, Waze integration and Wi-Fi are all customary. Unfortunately, so is a complicated and considerably torpid infotainment system. For years, Toyota’s choices on this division have been constantly disappointing, however not less than today you’ll be able to simply plug your smartphone in and use a system that is a lot snappier and simpler to determine.Naturally, the Platinum mannequin examined right here encompasses a 12.3-inch touchscreen. It’s mounted excessive on the dashboard so it is moderately simple to succeed in. Another plus, there are generously sized, bodily local weather controls between the chunky quantity and tuning knobs. Between the underside of the show and this row of switches is an odd lineup of smaller buttons, together with Home, Menu, Audio and Map. Strangely, they are much smaller and outlined in silver trim; the entire association seems like an afterthought.Infotainment tech is that this SUV’s single largest weak spot.
    Providing a welcome bubble of safety, Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 tech is customary on all variations of the brand new Highlander. This suite of goodies consists of issues like automated excessive beams, adaptive cruise management, road-sign recognition, lane-departure alert with steering help and far more.LED head- and taillights, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and keyless entry are additionally included at no further value, although loads of high-end goodies are additionally out there, relying on which mannequin you go for. A hands-free energy liftgate, second-row sunshades, rain-sensing wipers, a head-up show and wheels spanning as much as 20 inches are all on the menu.The greasy bitsTwo powertrains are supplied within the 2020 Toyota Highlander. The base, four-cylinder engine that was supplied in entry-level model final yr has been given the outdated heave-ho. This means all fashions are powered by a 3.5-liter, gasoline-burning V6 matched to an eight-speed automated gearbox. With port and direct gasoline injection, this combo delivers 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque, precisely the identical as earlier than.Fortunately, these are completely aggressive figures, giving the Highlander greater than sufficient vigor to maintain tempo with main rivals, although the Explorer’s engine lineup is far more muscular, providing as much as 400 ponies within the hot-rod ST mannequin.As for the hybrid model of this Toyota, its powertrain is anchored by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, one which’s augmented by a pair of electrical motors. Altogether, this technique delivers 243 horsepower. New for the 2020 mannequin yr, Highlander Hybrids can now be had with both front- or all-wheel drive. Before, these fashions completely featured four-corner traction. Here’s the place the horses reside, 295 of them to be exact.
    When it involves effectivity, front-drive fashions with the V6 engine must be rated at 21 miles per gallon in metropolis driving, 29 on the freeway and 24 mpg mixed. Naturally, all-wheel drive degrades these scores barely, dropping them to 20, 27 and 23 mpg, respectively. As for the hybrid, it is significantly thrifty. Front-drive examples should return 36 mpg round city, 35 on the freeway and 36 mixed. All-wheel drive drops these scores to 35 mpg throughout the board, which is rattling environment friendly, particularly for a car of this measurement.The driveThe Highlander is a significantly polished car, one thing you discover virtually from the second you hearth it up. Underway, it is easy, strong and serene, with Lexus ranges of refinement. Not too shabby, Toyota, not too shabby.That 3.5-liter V6 engine is slick and hushed, offering loads of thrust. Its eight-speed dance accomplice is, for probably the most half, prepared to oblige the motive force as effectively. Acceleration is greater than satisfactory, although it is maybe not fairly as sturdy correctly on condition that the Highlander has practically 300 ponies in its secure.
    Aside from the usual model, I additionally obtained a little bit of time behind the wheel of a Highlander Hybrid. It’s barely much less energetic than variations fitted with the V6, however its total efficiency continues to be completely nice. If you’ll be able to reside with this slight step again and a little bit of four-cylinder thrum at instances, this could possibly be the best way to go. The gasoline economic system it gives is completely astounding.Increasing versatility, six-cylinder Highlanders may also be fitted with a towing package deal. Among different issues, this features a heavy-duty radiator with an engine-oil cooler and higher fan efficiency. It permits the car to tug as much as 5,000 kilos.It raises the bar, however is it finest in school?This machine must be out there at dealerships proper now, so, when you’re , you shouldn’t have any hassle checking one out in individual. Base worth for a front-wheel-drive L mannequin with the V6 engine is $35,720. The range-topping Platinum model examined on this evaluate checked out at about $50,345. (Both of these costs embrace $1,120 in supply charges.) And if the hybrid floats your proverbial boat, there is a modest $1,400 worth premium to get a type of. Gasoline-electric variations are slated to go on sale early subsequent yr. The 2020 Highlander is a nice three-row crossover. I do not know whether or not I prefer it greater than, say, a Pilot or Palisade, however when you think about long-term reliability and resale worth, issues Toyota does higher than simply about another automaker, it is easy to advocate.You may do quite a bit worse than shopping for a brand new Toyota Highlander.
    Editors’ be aware: Travel prices associated to this story have been lined by the producer, which is widespread within the auto business. The judgments and opinions of Roadshow’s workers are our personal and we don’t settle for paid editorial content material.

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