Toyota Highlander Is The Brand's Best Looking Yet

2020 Toyota Highlander

2020 Toyota Highlander

With the 2019 NY auto show debut Wednesday of its redesigned 2020 Highlander, Toyota hasn't built the Prius of three-row crossover SUVs.

Two powertrain options are available for the Highlander: a V6 engine offering 22 MPG combined fuel economy or a hybrid engine offering 34 MPG combined fuel economy. The Highlander Hybrid is down 75 hp compared to the new Ford Explorer Hybrid, but Ford estimates just 24 mpg combined for its new three-row crossover SUV.

Where the outgoing Toyota Highlander Hybrid was a curiosity in the lineup, the new model is solidly mainstream.

The 2020 Highlander Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter inline-4 teamed to a pair of electric motors to produce a total system output of 240 horsepower. There's softer padding and more stitching across all trim levels to increase the sense of hand-crafted quality, and Toyota's most anal of sound technicians have specially tuned the Highlander's sound deadening to filter out frequencies of sound that drown out the human voice. Additionally, owners can select from five different trims that will add different types of wheels, drive systems, multimedia technologies, and interior finishes among other features.

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On any surface that's not asphalt, the Highlander's available torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive and varying terrain settings will do its best to keep the driver in control of the vehicle. With the V-6, the all-wheel-drive system can shuttle up to 50 percent of power rearward as needed.

The Toyota Highlander has been around for a minute - 18 years, in fact. No matter what badge is on the back, the Highlander Hybrid has seating for seven or eight passengers and infotainment software that now includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.

The 2020 Highlander measures about 2.4 inches longer than the 2019 version. If you opt for a higher tier grade, your Highlander could come with Dynamic Navigation, a 12.3-inch screen, and a JBL Premium Audio System.

Upholstery connoisseurs should have their tastes well-covered; cloth is standard for L and LE trims, XLE gets faux leather, and faux plus trim of real leather comes with Limited and Platinum. The hybrid model, meanwhile, gets four trims: LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum.

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