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2020 Toyota Highlander: What You Need to Know

US News & World Report - Cars logo US News & World Report - Cars 3/25/2020 U.S. News & World Report
a close up of a car: 2020 Toyota Highlander © Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. 2020 Toyota Highlander

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The 2020 Toyota Highlander ranks in the middle of the midsize SUV class. It offers a great predicted reliability rating, a sizable cargo hold, and a gentle ride, but it also has a tight third row and is less exciting to drive than some rivals.

The 2020 Toyota Highlander is ranked:

Is the Toyota Highlander a Good SUV?

Don’t let its ranking fool you. The Toyota Highlander is a good midsize SUV. Aside from its cramped third row, this vehicle has few glaring weaknesses. Some of this Toyota’s positive attributes include a comfortable ride and an upscale interior. However, in most other respects – like interior quality, acceleration, and handling – the Highlander trails the rest.

Should I Buy the Toyota Highlander?

While the Toyota Highlander is a good midsize SUV, there are several great vehicles in the class. The Subaru Ascent has more cargo space than the Highlander, and the Kia Sorento features a relaxed ride and premium cabin materials. If you can make do with a slightly smaller vehicle, you might consider the similarly outfitted Toyota RAV4. All three vehicles boast more affordable starting prices than the Highlander.

If you like what this vehicle has to offer but want something with better fuel economy, you might consider the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, which we review separately.

Should I Buy a New or Used Toyota Highlander?

Toyota redesigned the Highlander for 2020, so while you might save money by shopping for a previous-generation model, you’d be getting a significantly different vehicle.

The new Highlander now comes standard with a V6 engine and an 8-inch touch screen, which were extra-cost upgrades in older models. It also features Android Auto and Apple CarPlay for the first time; both are standard. The new Highlander has more standard safety features, such as road sign recognition, and available amenities that weren’t offered at all in older models, like a 12.3-inch touch screen. Additionally, the 2020 Highlander boasts a larger cargo hold, as it gains 2.2 cubic feet of space behind the third row and 6.1 cubes behind the second row.

If you’re considering an older model, be sure to read our 2017 Highlander, 2018 Highlander, and 2019 Highlander reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Used Car Deals page to learn about savings and discounts you can find on used vehicles.

We Did the Research for You: 9 Reviews Analyzed

To make our car rankings and reviews as consumer-oriented as possible, we do not rely on our personal opinions. Instead, we analyze hard data such as cargo space dimensions, horsepower specs, and predicted reliability ratings, as well as the opinions of the automotive press.

This 2020 Highlander review draws on nine reviews and incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2020.

Why You Can Trust Us

At U.S. News & World Report, we rank the Best Jobs, Best Hospitals, and Best Colleges to guide readers through some of life’s most complicated decisions. We've been ranking and reviewing the Best Cars since 2007, backed by a team with more than 75 years of combined automotive experience. To keep favoritism out of the picture, we maintain a separate advertising team and decline expensive gifts and trips from car companies.

How Much Does the Toyota Highlander Cost?

The base Toyota Highlander has a starting MSRP of $34,600. Next to the Buick Enclave and Toyota 4Runner, the Highlander is one of the most expensive vehicles in its class.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

Toyota Highlander Versus the Competition

Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot?

The Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander are both good midsize SUVs with a few key distinctions. The Toyota includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard equipment across all trims, while getting those features in the Honda requires jumping up to a higher trim. Additionally, the Toyota has some available features that the Honda doesn’t, such as a 12.3-inch touch screen. Both vehicles offer similar cargo room, but the Pilot has more passenger space. Additionally, the Honda is more affordable than the Toyota. You could buy a similarly equipped Pilot EX and still save a couple hundred dollars compared to the price of a base Highlander.

Which Is Better: Toyota Highlander or Toyota 4Runner?

The only reason to pick the Toyota 4Runner over the Highlander is for its off-road prowess. In most other respects, the Highlander is a more sensible choice. While both SUVs have comparable standard features, the Highlander has nicer cabin materials, a gentler ride, more composed on-road handling, a stronger engine, and better mpg ratings than the 4Runner. The Highlander is more affordable too, retailing for around $1,400 less than the base 4Runner.

Highlander Interior

How Many People Does the Highlander Seat?

This vehicle seats up to eight people. The Highlander XLE, Limited, and Platinum trims come with middle-row captain's chairs that drop capacity to seven, though the XLE and Limited models can be equipped with a second-row bench seat at no cost that raises capacity back to eight.

Also standard are cloth seats and an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat. Driver Easy Speak is included too. This system projects the driver’s voice through the speakers, making it easier to communicate with those in the rear rows.

Several seating upgrades are available. These include SofTex synthetic leather or genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats with additional power adjustments, heated second-row seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a heated steering wheel.

This Toyota’s third-row seats are cramped, even for kids. Most passengers will be fine in the first two rows, though taller riders may find their heads nudging the ceiling.

Highlander and Child Car Seats

The Highlander has two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the second-row outboard seats, as well as tether-only connections for the second- and third-row middle seats.

Highlander Interior Quality

Inside, the Highlander boasts some handsome materials, with soft plastics and excellent fit and finish. That said, some rivals, such as the Mazda CX-9, feature even nicer cabin materials.

Highlander Cargo Space

This vehicle doesn’t have class-leading cargo space, but it’s decent. The Highlander has 16 cubic feet of space behind the third-row seats, 48.4 cubic feet behind the second row, and a total of 84.3 cubic feet with both rows folded down. A hands-free power liftgate with height adjustment is available.

Highlander Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

Standard equipment in the Highlander includes an 8-inch touch screen, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, Android Auto, five USB ports, Bluetooth, a Wi-Fi hot spot, satellite radio, and a six-speaker stereo.

A navigation system is available, as are a 12.3-inch touch screen, an 11-speaker JBL premium stereo, Qi-compatible wireless device charging, HD Radio, and a moonroof or a panoramic moonroof.

Outside of the navigation system’s dated graphics, there’s little to complain about with the infotainment interface. The touch screen responds quickly to inputs, and there are several physical controls for audio and climate settings.

Highlander Performance

Highlander Engine: Passable

The sole engine in this Toyota is a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The engine produces sufficient power for most driving situations. It doesn’t feel as energetic or capable as what you’ll find in rivals, but it’s perfectly serviceable. The transmission generally makes smooth shifts.

Highlander Gas Mileage: Reasonably Good

The Highlander gets an EPA-estimated 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Those are slightly above-average figures for the midsize SUV class, and they are especially impressive when you consider that some rivals have base four-cylinder engines instead of V6s.

Highlander Ride and Handling: Relaxed Ride

This Toyota opts for comfort over agility, providing a gentle ride on most roads. Strong brakes and competent handling help make the Highlander easy to drive, but it isn’t especially sporty. Front-wheel drive is standard, and all-wheel drive is available.

Highlander Reliability

Is the Toyota Highlander Reliable?

The 2020 Highlander earns a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five from J.D. Power.

Toyota Highlander Warranty

Toyota covers the Highlander with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

How Much Does It Cost to Insure a Toyota Highlander?

The cost of insuring a Toyota Highlander will depend on a variety of factors, including your deductible, the level of coverage that you want, and the type of insurance that you choose. Your age, gender, location, credit score, and driving record can also have an impact on your insurance rates. Check out our car insurance guide to find the best policy for you.

Highlander Safety

Highlander Crash Test Results

At the time of writing, neither the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety nor the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has crash tested the 2020 Highlander.

Highlander Safety Features

Standard safety features in this Toyota include a rearview camera and the Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver aids, which bundles a pre-collision warning and braking system, cyclist and pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, automatic high-beam headlights, a head-up display, and road sign recognition. The suite also includes lane departure alert and lane trace assist, which help keep the vehicle in its lane.

A few more driver assist features are available. These include rain-sensing windshield wipers, front and rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a surround-view parking camera system, and a 10-inch head-up display.

Toyota Highlander Dimensions and Weight

The Toyota Highlander is around 16.2 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,145 to 4,450 pounds. Its gross vehicle weight rating ranges from 5,830 to 5,935 pounds.

Where Is the 2020 Toyota Highlander Built?

Toyota builds the 2020 Highlander in Indiana.

Which Toyota Highlander Model Is Right for Me?

Toyota offers the Highlander in five trim levels: L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. Each has a 3.5-liter V6 engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. The Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 suite of driver aids is included in every Highlander too.

All-wheel drive is available throughout the lineup. It costs $1,600 in the lower three trims and $1,950 in Limited and Platinum models.

The base L trim comes well-equipped with several safety and tech features. Shoppers after more comfort add-ons should look to the XLE trim and higher.

Toyota also offers the Highlander Hybrid, which we review separately.

Toyota Highlander L

The entry-level Highlander L has a starting MSRP of $34,600. Standard equipment includes an 8-inch touch screen, Amazon Alexa, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, a Wi-Fi hot spot, five USB ports, satellite radio, a six-speaker stereo, and Bluetooth. Tri-zone automatic climate control, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, proximity keyless entry, alloy wheels, and a rearview camera are also standard. No notable packages are available.

Toyota Highlander LE

With a base MSRP of $36,800, the Highlander LE builds off the L trim with a height-adjustable power liftgate, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, HD Radio, and a leather-trimmed steering wheel.

Toyota Highlander XLE

The Highlander XLE retails for $39,600. Unlike the L and LE trims, it comes with second-row captain’s chairs and seats seven people instead of eight. It also gains a 7-inch display in the gauge cluster, Qi-compatible wireless device charging, a moonroof, SofTex synthetic leather seats for the first two rows, and heated front seats with additional power adjustments.

A second-row bench seat can be added at no cost, bumping seating capacity back to eight. You can add a navigation system for $1,040.

Toyota Highlander Limited

The Highlander Limited models have a starting MSRP of $43,650. This trim gains the navigation system, as well as an 11-speaker JBL premium stereo, a 120-volt household-style power outlet, a hands-free liftgate, front and rear parking sensors, leather-trimmed seats for the first and second rows, ventilated front seats, and a heated steering wheel.

The second-row bench seat remains available. You can also outfit the Limited with a 12.3-inch touch screen and a surround-view parking camera system for $1,050.

Toyota Highlander Platinum

The top-of-the-line Highlander Platinum starts at $46,850. It comes with everything listed above as standard equipment, minus the bench seat. It also gains rain-sensing windshield wipers, adaptive headlights, a 10-inch head-up display, larger alloy wheels, second-row heated seats, and a panoramic moonroof.

The second-row bench seat is not available in the Platinum.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

The Final Call

The Toyota Highlander is a good midsize SUV, but it’s stuck in a class of great ones. The Highlander’s engine provides adequate power, and its ride is balanced and composed. This SUV gets decent fuel economy estimates, and it has a large cargo hold. However, plenty of rivals are more powerful, sportier, or roomier.

The biggest thing for shoppers to consider is how much third-row space is needed, as this Toyota’s rearmost row is unquestionably cramped.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

Read the full 2020 Toyota Highlander review on U.S. News & World Report for more details, photos, specs and prices.


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