Engine: 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder and Atkinson-cycle electric motor
Transmission: Electronic continuously variable transmission
Torque: 175 lb.-ft.
EPA ratings: 35/city, 34/highway, 35/combined
Base price: $50,200
As tested: $52,512
Overview: The redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander features a new interior, new styling, more cargo space and a larger footprint. Its shape is less angular than last year, and it rides on new modular architecture shared with other Toyota vehicles including the RAV4 and Camry.
Walkaround: The new Highlander’s styling departs from the previous arrow-straight lines, adding some aggressiveness with large air intakes, burly haunches and flared fenders and sills. The inverted trapezoid grill is smaller, sporting a big, chrome Toyota badge dead center. The high taillights appear to visually lift the rear for a more athletic look.
Interior: The Highlander’s enlarged footprint means more space inside, with plentiful first- and second-row room. The asymmetrical cockpit design is well thought-out, with most instrumentation and controls grouped around the optional 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen. Redundant knobs and buttons below look toward the driver, while a large shelf and shallow storage bins face the passenger. The multitier dash offers bins to hold smartphones and more, and includes wireless charging. While less expensive Highlanders use hard plastic on the dash and doors, our Platinum test driver featured softer plastic and a nice, caramel interior with heated and cooled leather seats. The seats are comfortable, with available lumbar support and excellent headroom — even under the sunroof. Available captain’s chairs in the second row are separated by a low console. The seats slide forward to give better access to the third row. Rear legroom is a generous 41 inches. Behind the optional third row is 16 cubic feet of cargo space. With it folded flat, there’s 48.4, and 84.3 with the second row down. That massive space is accessed via a standard power liftgate.
Behind the wheel: The Highlander Hybrid pairs a 2.5-liter inline-4 gas engine to a nickel-metal hydride battery pack mounted below the rear seats, utilizing a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The hybrid system delivers a total of 243 horses. While normally front-wheel drive, the Highlander sports an electronic, on-demand AWD system — with a trail mode. Torque from electric motor moves it quickly off the line but it gripes a bit when pushed. However, the trade-off is 35 mpg. The suspension delivers a nice ride thanks to the extra, low-centered battery weight. The Hybrid can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Bottom line: The redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid nails it everywhere — bold styling, roomier cabin, sharper handling, great ride and 35 mpg.