Pros-Redesigned. Roomy. Good performance. Decent handling. Composed ride. Front or All-wheel drive. Safety features.
Cons-Kid-only third row. Tight cargo room with upright third row. Slow touchscreen action.
Bottom Line-One of top medium-size SUV for families.
The redesigned 2020 Highlander medium-size SUV has enough room, performance, style and economy to satisfy many folks.
This fourth-generation Highlander looks sleeker and comes in a variety of trim levels. They start at $34,600 and end at $48,800 for the top-line Highlander Platinum four-wheel-drive model I tested. You can get front or four-wheel drive and a 295-horsepower V-6 hooked to a smooth eight-speed automatic transmission or a hybrid gas-electric model with 243 horsepower and a CVT transmission.
The 0-60 m.p.h. time with the V-6 is a decent 6.8 seconds and highway performance is strong. A driver can choose three driving modes: Sport, Normal and "Eco." Acceleration off the line is a bit lazy in Normal mode, although it quickly brightens up, and Eco is for the best economy during normal commutes. Sport provides the best driving response, although the Highlander is not supposed to be a sporty vehicle.
Only regular-grade gas is needed. The four-wheel-drive Platinum gets an estimated 27 miles per gallon on the highway and 20 in the city, while the front-drive version does a little better here.
Although bumpy pavement gives the Platinum a somewhat floaty ride, the ride is generally firm and composed. No family member should complain.
There's a bit of lean during cornering, but the steering is nicely geared. There are stability and traction controls, besides a stiffer body structure for better ride and handling. The brake pedal has a firm, linear action, and the anti-lock brakes bite quickly. That's good because the Highlander weighs from 4,330 to 4,595 pounds. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds with an optional package.
The 194.9-inch-long Highlander has seating for eight, but that drops to seven with the two second-row captain's chairs instead of a second-row bench. The third-row seat, while fairly easy to access, is for two kids and is cramped and claustrophobic.
Despite a longer luggage area, cargo room with the third seat in place is marginal at 16 cubic feet. But fold the third row forward and room increases to 48.4 cubic feet. Fold the second row seats out of the way you get an impressive 84.3 cubic feet. A power tailgate makes loading easier.
The new Highlander-especially the Platinum model-has a revised, generally quiet cabin with high-end materials, nice stitching and a definite upscale look.
Platinum's features include easily read gauges, convenient controls, easily gripped steering wheel, 3-way automatic climate control, 10-way power driver's seat, JBL audio system, bird's-eye camera for a total surround-vehicle outside look and a power panoramic sunroof.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay have been added. The only drawback is a touchscreen that's slow to respond and an outdated infotainment system..
This being a family vehicle, safety features include ;otsof air bags, dynamic radar cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, front/rear parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert and a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection.
The Highlander has lots of competition, but it's a Toyota so resale value promises to be good.