Toyota Highlander Pros and Cons Review: A Good 3-Row Family SUV?

Toyota Highlander Pros and Cons Review: A Good 3-Row Family SUV?


  • Large cargo space
  • Massive infotainment screen
  • The fuel economy of the hybrid

The inconvenients

  • Tight third row
  • The hybrid tour
  • The V-6’s lack of low-end punch

Aside from those made in China for local consumption, every Toyota Highlander (and Kluger, as it’s known in Japan and Australia) is built at a factory in Gibson County, Indiana, which employs 7,296 Hoosiers.

For 2020, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana has been retooled to build the fourth-generation Highlander and Highlander hybrids around Toyota’s TNGA-K architecture and two powertrain combinations. Non-hybrid models receive Toyota’s ubiquitous 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and eight-speed automatic transmission.

See other 2021 SUV of the Year contenders and finalists here

Meanwhile, the Highlander Hybrid uses a new system based on the proven 2.5-liter Atkinson I-4 cycle model, two coaxially mounted electric motors, a battery mounted under the rear seats, and a sequentially ‘shifting CVT. “. The Highlander’s hybrid transmission now operates in both front and all-wheel drive; Toyota claims it’s smaller, lighter, and 24% more efficient than the previous generation, making the new Highlander Hybrid the class leader in fuel economy (however, lower it by a size and l (Sorento 2021 hybrid is slightly more efficient).

Updates for 2021 include a new Highlander XSE version. Learn more here.

Between gasoline and hybrid, front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive and six trim levels, there are no less than 20 flavors of Highlander. No matter which one you choose, you’ll get Toyota Safety Sense 2.0, a suite of active safety systems that includes automatic braking capability, automatic high beams, radar cruise control, lane change assist, lane keeping assistance and road sign assistance.

Toyota sent us a V6 AWD Platinum and Hybrid AWD Platinum. We gave both high marks for an interior that retained preferred features while enhancing key areas. “I like that they kept the little center shelf below the HVAC controls, with the little hole for the charger cable,” said senior features writer Jonny Lieberman. “It was one of my favorite parts from the previous generation. I also love how the air conditioning controls work on the touchscreen – a very smart use of real estate. “

Feature editor Scott Evans added, “This is obviously the highest level of trim, but they really give you a lot for what you pay for. Everything looks high quality. Toyota’s infotainment system has taken a big step forward – this one looks cleaner and responds better than most of their past efforts.

Our judges were divided on the driving dynamics of the chassis and the powertrain. Evans found the hybrid’s powertrain “severely overloaded” with heavy driving: “It’s both loud and unrefined, it vibrates a bit when he’s working to move the car.” Editor-in-chief Christian Seabaugh disagreed, preferring both the ride and smoothness of the hybrid: “It feels faster thanks to the lack of excessive gearshifting and the engine’s rating. V-6. The torque of the electric motor really matches the character of a family mover than the V-6. It might be a bit under-cushioned, but the impacts wear off quickly. While there is a bit of a head and guts shake, others in the segment are worse. “

So, is this the best mid-size three-row SUV? No. Our judges unanimously analyzed the inexcusable pressure of the Highlander’s third-row seat and its general lack of sizzle.

“The Highlander is a perfectly nice family device that lacks that little X factor,” Lieberman said. “If he only did one really cool thing, if he had a unique selling point, I could become an advocate for that SUV.” For some Toyota loyalists, “solidly competitive” is all they need. But when it’s not even the best in the segment, there’s no way it could be our SUV of the year.

“It pushes the Highlander forward to keep it relevant,” said Zach Gale, director of the Buyer’s Guide, “but it’s not a conquering SUV.”

2020 Toyota Highlander V6 AWD Platimum
Base price / as tested$ 49,975 / $ 51,167
Power (SAE network)295 hp at 6,600 rpm
Torque (SAE thread)263 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm
Accel, 0-60 mph7.4 seconds
Quarter mile15.7 seconds at 145.7 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph127 ft
Lateral acceleration0.79 g (average)
MT figure eight27.7 s at 0.61 g (average)
EPA City / Hwy / Comb20/27/23 mpg
Vehicle layout4-door SUV, 7 passengers, all-wheel drive, front engine
Engine / transmission3.5L DOHC 24-valve V6 / 8 automatic transmission
Empty weight (Dist F / R)4462 lbs (55/45%)
Wheelbase112.2 in
Length x Width x Height194.9 x 76.0 x 68.1 inches
Energy consumption, city / highway169/125 kW-h / 100 miles
CO2 emissions, comb0.86 lbs / mile
2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid AWD Platinum
Base price / as tested$ 51,375 / $ 52,567
Power (SAE network)186 hp at 6000 rpm (gasoline) + 118 hp (front electric), 54 hp (rear electric); 243 HP (comb)
Torque (SAE thread)175 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm (gasoline) + 149 lb-ft (front electric), 89 lb-ft (rear electric)
Accel, 0-60 mph8.4 seconds
Quarter mile16.3 seconds at 85.6 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph123 ft
Lateral acceleration0.78g (average)
MT figure eight28.4 s at 0.58 g (average)
EPA City / Hwy / Comb35/34/35 mpg
Vehicle layout4-door SUV, 7 passengers, all-wheel drive, front engine
Engine / transmission2.5L Atkinson Cycle DOHC 16-Valve I-4 / Auto Variable Cont
Empty weight (Dist F / R)4,568 lbs (53/47%)
Wheelbase112.2 in
Length x Width x Height194.9 x 76.0 x 68.1 inches
Energy consumption, city / highway96/99 kW-h / 100 miles
CO2 emissions, comb0.56 lbs / mile

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