The 2020 Toyota Highlander offers tons of options—and we’re not talking about illuminated door sills or blacked-out badges. After our first experience with the redesigned family hauler, we’re … lukewarm about the changes Toyota made. More testing will help fill out our impressions, but we don’t yet see the 2020 Highlander as a Kia Telluride-beater, even though the former will still dominate the sales charts.
So you’re sure you want a 2020 Toyota Highlander? Keep reading to find out how two MotorTrend editors who’ve already driven the new SUV would build their versions.
How I’d Spec It: 2020 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD—Miguel Cortina
With Toyota going premium for the top two Highlander trims, the Limited is the one to pick if your budget is a little tighter. After sampling the LE, Limited, and Platinum models during my recent 2020 Toyota Highlander drive, I’d recommend the Limited AWD V-6 version, which offers a good combination of premium materials, technology, and the 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Although the Highlander’s hybrid engine is remarkable with its up-to-36 mpg and 600-mile range, I’d argue that the V-6 feels punchier and more agile, which is especially important when you have a full crew on board.
Besides the added power, the Limited trim comes with 20-inch wheels, heated and ventilated front seats, perforated leather seats, wood-like interior trim, ambient lighting, and a JBL audio system with 11 speakers, which sounds crisp and clear. I’d skip the 12.3-inch touchscreen (a $1,050 option) and keep the 8.0-inch display; it’s already big enough and comes with pretty much the same things as the bigger screen.
More on the 2020 Highlander’s interior here.
Although you can opt for a bench seat for the second row at no cost, I’d go with the captain’s chairs, as they are more comfortable and look better.
The Blizzard Pearl exterior color adds $425, but it’s worth it when you see the bold lines on the hood and sheetmetal in person. Per the online configurator, my Highlander would come out to $47,145, which isn’t terribly expensive considering all of the equipment, interior materials, and technology you get.
How I’d Spec It: 2020 Toyota Highlander XLE AWD Hybrid—Zach Gale
Rarely these days do you encounter a truly unique advantage, but that’s exactly what Toyota has—for now—with the 2020 Highlander Hybrid. The model was once easy to dismiss thanks to a V-6 engine that couldn’t provide enough fuel efficiency, but that’s changed. The new model only has four cylinders, but thanks to its hybrid system providing 243 total horsepower, it feels plenty responsive in everyday driving. Miguel is probably right—with a carload of people, the hybrid may feel slightly underpowered, but I’d argue that it wouldn’t be quite so bad.
Read our 2020 Highlander Hybrid review here.
If I’m shopping for a three-row SUV, horsepower isn’t at the top of my list. Anything that can save me time might be, though. And the hybrid’s biggest advantage (besides the obvious plus of better mpgs) is its driving range. No matter how you slice it—by overall city, highway, or combined city/highway mileage—the hybrid will take you way farther on one tank of gas before you need to stop again. OK, I’ll make that more accurate: When you stop for another bathroom and snack break, you won’t necessarily need to get fuel, too.
So why get a 2020 Highlander XLE Hybrid? The Limited is tempting, and I completely understand Miguel’s choice. However, I really, really want that 12.3-inch screen. The problem is, the only way to get it is to first upgrade to the Limited trim and then add a $1,050 package. If you compare the XLE to the Limited with that package, we’re talking about around $5,000 for a cool screen with good functionality, attractive 20-inch wheels, a better sound system, and the other benefits Miguel mentioned. I want those features, but I don’t $5,000-want-them, you know?
My 2020 Highlander XLE still gets heated front seats, a standard-size moonroof, and LED headlights. I wouldn’t get the L because I’m too lazy to close the liftgate by myself (a power liftgate and driver’s seat start at the LE trim). I might try the LE, but I’m not a fan of the plain, cheap-looking door handles—the XLE feels slightly more premium. And with the beige interior color, I like the way Toyota has layered brown on most of the upper dash. With the carpet mat package and the hybrid powertrain that’s just $1,400 on every trim starting with the LE, my Highlander would cost $44,038 (the 2020 Highlander is on sale now, and the hybrid arrives in February).
Revisit our 2020 Toyota Highlander review here.
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