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2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD Review

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD Review: Cool Technology

“2020 Toyota Highlander is an average performer on a crowded stage.”

  • Well integrated touchscreen

  • Comfortable ride

  • Lack of internal space

  • Low quality internal content

  • Poor transmission

If you need to move a lot of people or luggage, a minivan is the right tool. Yet minivans are terminally uncool, which is why vehicles such as the 2020 Toyota Highlander exist.

With three rows of seats and rugged SUV looks, the Highlander is the perfect choice for parents who are not caught dead in a minivan. This is a much larger segment of public procurement, so the redesigned 2020 Highlander will face new competition in the form of Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas and Hyundai Palisade / Kia Telluride twins, in addition to older rivals such as the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer. is. .

The 2020 Highlander had a base price of $ 35,720, but it only buys a base take model with front-wheel drive. The price goes up quickly with the option. Our test car was a fully loaded Platinum model with all the bells and whistles, plus all-wheel drive – priced at $ 50,663.

Design and interior

With its front end, the Highlander aims to convey truck-like toughness. Under the skin, however, it is based on the same Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA) platform on ordinary cars such as the Camry and Corolla, as well as the smaller RAV4. This is a very common strategy in the car industry, as most buyers want the look and high driving position of a truck, but not poor road manners.

In terms of design, the Highlander’s interior is quite unmistakable. Apart from a floating housing for the infotainment touchscreen, the design is completely informal. While boring to look at, the interior was at least functional. External visibility was good, and small touches like the phone tray and a well-placed USB port made a big change. The Highlander comes standard with four USB ports and two 120-volt outlets in the first and second lines, and Qi wireless phone charging is available. However, you cannot obtain a USB port in the third line. The front seats (upholstered leather with heating and ventilation in our Platinum test car) were very comfortable even after hours on the road.

The Highlander falls short where it really matters: interior space.

The quality of the interior materials was hard to excuse. The shimmer plastic trim and rubber dashboard molding barely felt enough for a vehicle at the Highlander’s $ 35,720 base price, let alone a cost of $ 15,000. Most Highlander’s competitors have the same issue (the Hyundai Policeday being a notable exception), but at Toyota it looked particularly bad.

The Highlander also falls short where it really matters: interior space. At 27.7 inches, the third-row legroom is the worst in the segment, and the overall space is so tight that even young children will find it uncomfortable. Front-row legroom and headroom are also at the back of the pack. Cargo space is slightly below average, and is behind the Chevrolet Traverse and Volkswagen Atlas. With all vehicles of this size, you have to fold the seats in the third row to get a decent amount of cargo room.

Tech, Infotainment, and Driver Assistance

The 2020 Highlander comes standard with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay / Android Auto and Amazon Alexa compatibility, Waze and a built-in Wi-Fi hot spot. Platinum models like our test car have a 12.3-inch touchscreen. A head-up display is also available.

Toyota extended the trend for larger screens, moving with a landscape rather than portraiture, orientation. It looks better than the oddly integrated 10.1-inch portrait-oriented screen in the Ford Explorer, without sacrificing functionality. The screen is placed within easy reach of both the driver and the front passenger, and a three-column split setup makes logical use of Pixel’s huge swath. It’s too bad Toyota decided to populate that huge screen with plain, dated graphics.

The Highlander comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, which includes autonomous emergency braking (with pedestrian detection), adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane tracing assist, automatic high beam, and road sign recognition. Optional features include rear cross-traffic alert, reverse autonomous emergency braking and blind-spot monitoring with a 360-degree camera system.

The three-column partition setup makes logical use of the screen’s large swath of pixels.

The complement of standard driver assistants for the vehicle in this price range is very good, but performance was below average. Adaptive cruise control left a large gap in front of the vehicle, allowing other vehicles to cut off abruptly. The system was still slow to react when the front car accelerated, although this may be partly due to a poorly tuned transmission.

Lane tracing assist, which uses steering input to keep the car centered in its lane, works only on arrow-straight sections of the road. It also cannot follow the Gentle Highway Curves, allowing the Highlander to exit its lane as if it were being operated by an ineffective human that such technology should outperform.

One thing that Toyota did right was camera-system integration. When you switch in reverse, the overhead view automatically pops up on the infotainment screen, and can be activated at other times at the push of a button. Such a simple setup makes parking very easy, but it does not seem that every automaker has to.

Driving experience

For the 2020 model year, Toyota offers two powertrain options: gasoline or hybrid. Toyota dropped the four-cylinder base engine of the previous generation Highlander, so now the default option is the 3.5-liter V6. It makes 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque, and is coupled to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The output is ahead of the Hyundai Palisade / Kia Telluride twins, but the Ford Explorer can produce 300 hp and 310 lb-ft from a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Honda Pilot and Subaru Accent have less horsepower, but more torque. The V6 Highlander is rated at up to 5,000 pounds, which is the average for this segment, though the Nissan Pathfinder leads with a tow rating of 6,000 pounds.

The hybrid option pairs the 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with Toyota’s hybrid synergy drive system for a combined output of 243pp. As with other Toyota hybrid crossovers, all-wheel drive has been achieved using a second electric motor for the rear axle, with no mechanical connection to the front wheels. The Ford Explorer is the only other vehicle to introduce a hybrid powertrain in this power segment.

The V6 engine was let down by a clunky transmission.

Our test car had a V6 engine, which proved to be quite powerful for everyday driving. Despite not having the performance exhaust system used on the Toyota Avalon TRD sedan, it looked great. However, the engine was let down by a clunky transmission. The eight-speed automatic shifted roughly, and was slow to react to calls for more power, like Scotty, if he reported for duty on the Enterprise after taking a sleeping pill .

The Highlander comes standard with front-wheel drive, but our test car had an optional torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system. Torque vectors change the distribution of power between the wheels on each axle to improve cornering. The system made a noticeable difference, making the Highlander feel much more agile than the vehicle it normally would be.

However, the Highlander is no supra. On one hand, torque vector, even at the corners, there is a slight hint of aggression with scolding of tires. The Highlander is very happy on the highways, where it offers a comfortable ride and a view of the road. This is the case with most other vehicles in this segment, although the Subaru Accent and Honda Pilot Twisty offer slightly more excitement on the roads.

Gas mileage and safety

Platinum models, including our test car, rated 24-mpg combined (21 mpg city, 29 mpg highway) with front-wheel drive and 23 mpg combined (20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway) with all-wheel drive. is. Those numbers are slightly above average for this segment. The Highlander Hybrid gets up to 36-mpg combined with front-wheel drive, better than the Ford Explorer Hybrid’s maximum of 28 LAPP combined.

The Highlander received a “Top Safety Pick” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which misses the highest “Top Safety Pick +” rating due to poorly rated headlights at low trim levels. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is yet to evaluate the 2020 Highlander.

Toyota offers a three-year, 36,000-mile, basic warranty and a five-year, 60,000-mile, powertrain warranty, as well as free scheduled maintenance for two years or 25,000 miles. The warranty-coverage period is average for a mainstream brand, but Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride have 10-year, 100,000-mile, powertrain warranties.

Predicting future reliability for a new vehicle such as the 2020 Highlander is difficult, but Toyota has an excellent overall reputation for reliability. The previous generation of Highlanders has proved to be quite strong, which is why they are a favorite of taxi and Uber drivers.

How will DT configure this car

If you want the most technology in the 2020 Toyota Highlander, then you need to get the top Platinum trim level. It gets the largest 12.3-inch touchscreen as standard equipment, as well as a head-up display, digital rearview mirror, and 360-degree camera system. It also gets nuances such as panoramic moonroof, upgraded leather upholstery and 20-inch wheels.

This test drive did not include a hybrid model, but if you are shopping for a Highlander, it may be worth a look. The hybrid V6 carries a premium of about $ 2,000 over the Highlander, but it achieves significantly better gas mileage, and eliminates the rough-shifting transmission used in the V6 model. The hybrid option is also one of the few things that really sets the Highlander apart from the competition.

Take us

The Highlander is an option for many families since the first generation launched in 2001, but the fourth generation 2020 model rests on its merits. As before, buyers can expect a modicum of reliability and practicality, but competition offers more.

For such a vehicle, interior space and functionality are prominent. The Highlander’s third row is too tight for everyday use, and the space in the other two rows is mostly in the back of the pack. The interior has some nice touches, such as a well-integrated touchscreen, but the contents are below average. There is nothing remarkable or innovative about the interior design or packaging.

It is the same story with a driving experience. The Highlander is perfectly fine to drive, but it does not stand out in any way. Buyers don’t expect the performance of a sports car, but the Honda Pilot and Subaru Accent won’t put the driver to sleep, at least. The Hyundai Palisade offers more overall refinement, while the Ford Explorer boasts some off-road capability.

Then there is the sliding-door elephant in the room. Even if you think the Highlander is colder than a minivan, it is undeniably less practical. Toyota’s own Sienna can seat an equal number of people, with greater passenger and cargo volumes. A minivan’s sliding doors and low ride height also make loading and unloading people and luggage easier. Sienna also gets a 33 mpg hybrid powertrain for the 2021 model year.

Should you get one

No. The Highlander is a capable family, but with so many other options, why only for the able?

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