The 2020 Toyota Highlander feels like a big SUV, but overall it's easy to live with as a daily driver. All models are standard with a list of connectivity features, like Apple Car Play, Android Auto, Waze, and SiriusXM. Outward visibility is another strong point for the 2020 Toyota Highlander, making it easier to maneuver through the city. However, if you need every last inch of cargo space, the Highlander may fall short of your expectations. Other three-row SUVs offer more room, but the Highlander, even when equipped with all-wheel drive, still beats them in fuel economy.
Safety & Tech Features
Tight Third Row
The Toyota Highlander is one of the best selling three-row SUVs on the market. For 2020, the Highlander benefits from a complete redesign with new and important updates that should help it stay at the top of the list for consumers. But Kia and Hyundai bring tough competition with the Telluride and Palisade three-row family haulers, as does Honda with a brand new Pilot.
This week, we drove the 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum. Our test vehicle came with all-wheel drive and a V6 engine.
Toyota Highlander: What’s New For 2020?
The Toyota Highlander is fully redesigned for 2020 and offers increased cargo room behind the third row. Tech and connectivity updates for the new model year include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Waze. The previous four-cylinder engine is discontinued for the standard V6, while a new Highlander Hybrid promises better fuel economy.
Trim levels include L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0 (PDF) package is standard on every Highlander.
Features & Options
The top-trim Highlander Platinum comes standard with LED headlights and fog lights, a panoramic sunroof, roof rails, and an eight-inch touchscreen with newly added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Platinum also includes tri-zone automatic climate control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, second-row captain’s chairs, heated leather front seats with more adjustability, and a larger driver information display.
Our Highlander tester came with 20-inch wheels, navigation, ventilated front seats, and a premium JBL audio system, all of which we like. We also used the 12.3-inch touchscreen, a surround-view camera system, a digital rearview mirror, and a heads-up display. All of these features will make the range-topping Platinum appealing to buyers.
What Does The 2020 Toyota Highlander Cost?
Total MSRP, including destination, for our 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum: $51,112. By comparison, the 2020 Toyota Highlander starts at $34,600. Hybrid models start at $38,200.
Interior Highlights: Cramped At Times
The Platinum is the most luxurious of all Highlander trims. It offers an extra level of comfort with leather heated and ventilated seats, heated second-row seats, and a premium sound system. There’s plenty of space up front for taller drivers, but the telescoping steering wheel could use a bit more range.
The 2020 Highlander is longer than last year’s model, adding more cargo space behind the third-row seat. The 2019 Highlander held 13.8 cubic feet of gear behind the third row compared with 16 cubic feet for the 2020 model year change. It’s more for the Highlander but still falls short of rivals like the new Kia Telluride (21 cubic feet) and Hyundai Palisade (18 cubic feet). Similarly, we thought the third row was tight in the Highlander, especially for adults.
If you need more cargo space, folding the 60/40 split third-row seats opens the space to 48.4 cubic feet, and then folding the second row raises that to 84.3 cubic feet.
Interior Highlights: Helpful Technology
We were happy to see Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration this year and the new 12.3-inch display on top-line Platinum trims. The rearview camera allows the driver to see even if the rear area is filled up with extra cargo. The birds-eye-view camera is sharp and can be rotated to see around the vehicle.
2020 Toyota Highlander: Engine & Powertrain
The new Highlander is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft. of torque. The V6 comes mated to an eight-speed automatic. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available for the Highlander Limited and Platinum. The optional all-wheel drive system can send up to 50 percent of the available torque to the rear wheels to counter wheel slip when necessary.
All-wheel drive models come with a multi-terrain select knob on the console. Toyota officially calls it “Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD with Drive Mode Select and Driveline Disconnect.” It’s a long name, but we recommend going with all-wheel drive, even if you don’t live in a colder climate or do any mild off-roading.
EPA fuel mileage estimates for front-wheel drive models come in at 21/29 city/highway and 24 combined. All-wheel drive models get 20/27 city/highway and 23 combined. Against the competition, when equipped with all-wheel drive, the 2020 Toyota Highlander comes out on top in terms of fuel economy.
How Much Can The 2020 Highlander Tow?
When properly equipped with the available towing package, the V6 Highlander can tow a max of 5,000 lbs. The package includes a heavy-duty radiator with an engine oil cooler and Trailer Sway Control.
Driving Dynamics: Solid & Stable
Driving the new Highlander at high altitude in Colorado gave us a good test of the vehicle in an extreme environment. We drove new three-row SUV west of Denver at around 8,300 feet elevation. The Highlander responds quickly when we hit the gas, and we had decent power when it came to passing slower vehicles.
We like the Highlander’s ability to handle the twisty mountain curves as the all-wheel drive, and torque-vectoring systems control body roll. When pushed hard, those systems help keep the three-row SUV stable and planted. Toyota says it applies power to individual rear wheels to enhance the SUV’s handling, and we would concur. We drove the Highlander on dry pavement, but when the snow flies, you’ll have the added all-weather capability and safety.
The Highlander also offers good outward visibility, another key point for families hauling kids around. All models are standard with Apple Car Play and Android Auto, and offer additional features like Alexa In-Car compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM, and Wi-Fi connectivity. We can see a family on the go making use of each of these features at some point, if not daily.
Conclusion: A Solid Choice Overall
The 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum receives high marks for its extra level of comfort and new technology. It gets above-average fuel economy for a V6 engine with just under 300 horsepower. The added cargo space behind the third row, though still less than the competition, is another plus for those who may trade in their older Highlander for a new one. Overall, the 2020 Highlander feels confident on the highway, is secure on twisty mountain roads, and offers plenty of connectivity technology for long trips.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. All of his firsthand reviews are archived on our test drives page. Follow Denis on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy