2021 Toyota Highlander Review | Price, Specs, Features And Photos

2021 Toyota Highlander Review | Price, specs, features and photos

While the latest RAV4 underwent a revolutionary redesign to reset its look, character and capability, a far more evolutionary approach was taken with its big brother Highlander's own redo last year. The 2021 Toyota Highlander represents the second year of the current generation, which dawned wearing softer and more organic styling, a more welcoming cabin and an improved driving experience. Yet, the overall concept remained the same. It is a three-row family crossover, and although it grew just a smidgen to accept a bit more luggage, it remains one of the smallest choices in the segment. The third row is best used in a pinch. Apparently, Highlander customers didn't have a problem with that, which says a lot, since there are a lot of them and they tend to be repeat shoppers of a nameplate that's been around for 21 years.

Now, if you don't foresee larger teens or adults needing that third row, then the Highlander's more manageable size, ultra-efficient Highlander Hybrid model, impressive cabin quality, and time-tested dependability and resale value add up to a large family vehicle that'll work for many. However, it has many impressive competitors, many of which cost the same or less despite offering more spacious and comfortable third-row seating. Among those are the excellent new Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade cousins, as well as the no-nonsense Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent family haulers. The new Highlander makes a much more compelling case for itself against them, but we'd also highly recommend considering them all especially after determining how much room you really need.

2020 Toyota Highlander Luggage Test | How Much Fits Behind The Third Row?

2020 Toyota Highlander Luggage Test | How much fits behind the third row?

The 2020 Toyota Highlander is bigger than the model it replaces, growing some 2.36 inches in overall length. All of that pretty much went to its very end, as the cargo area aft of the third row sees the only significant increase of interior space, growing to 16.0 cubic feet from 13.8. 

Sounds good, but when you look at the 2020 Highlander versus these primary competitors, you'll see that 16.0 is still smaller than them all. And it's behind that third row where extra cubic feet can really make the difference, where one bag might be left behind or you'll have to resort to a rooftop carrier. By contrast, the Highlander's space with the third or second rows lowered is seemingly on par for the segment, as by those metrics, all entries are basically various degrees of enormous.

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum Interior Driveway Test Video

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum Interior Driveway Test Video

The Kia Telluride has received a lot of deserved attention for its luxurious cabin that looks great and is put together using higher-end materials than is expected for the non-luxury three-row crossover segment. However, after spending time in the range-topping 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum, I think that its materials and construction are just as good, possibly better. 

The earthy two-tone color scheme is distinctive, warm and generally inviting. The silver trim that wraps around the control binnacle like a fork is textured to make it look richer and more like actual metal. The wood trim on the dash and center console, be it real or not, is subtle and tasteful. The padded SofTex vinyl that covers much of the dash, doors and center console is pleasant to touch, while the real leather on the seats is buttery soft. All the switchgear is top notch, and I've already extolled the virtues of the widescreen infotainment system. 

2020 Toyota Highlander 12.3-inch Touchscreen Driveway Test | Infotainment, Features, Video

2020 Toyota Highlander 12.3-inch Touchscreen Driveway Test | Infotainment, features, video

The 2020 Toyota Highlander is the first vehicle to receive the newest and biggest touchscreen available in the company's expansive lineup. Measuring 12.3 inches diagonally, it is a widescreen unit, which matches the size offered in the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade. It is also the same size as that found in many Lexus vehicles, but that isn't a touchscreen — it's exclusively controlled by the perpetual punching bag that is the Remote Touch touchpad. Advantage Highlander.  

The above video goes into detail about how the extra size is put to good use, and specifically, the widescreen design. 

2020 Toyota Highlander Gets Iihs Top Safety Pick Award

2020 Toyota Highlander gets IIHS Top Safety Pick award

Toyota's redesigned 2020 Highlander midsize SUV has earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with the familiar caveat that the rating applies only to certain headlight packages available in certain trim levels.

The fourth-generation Highlander comes with three headlight options. IIHS rates the static LED reflectors, the base version that comes on the L, LE and XLE models, as poor, which is why the crossover missed out on being named a Top Safety Pick+. The static LED projector headlights on the Limited and Hybrid Limited trims rated acceptable, while the curve-adapted LED projectors on the Platinum versions earned good ratings.

2020 Toyota Highlander | Everything We Know So Far

2020 Toyota Highlander | Everything we know so far

One of the original and most popular three-row family crossovers has been completely redesigned, and if you liked the previous version, chances are you'll like the incrementally improved 2020 Toyota Highlander. It's well-equipped with generous safety equipment and entertainment features, and is available with the best fuel economy by far thanks to its unique hybrid offering. That said, it is smaller than virtually all of its competitors, so if you plan to frequently use all three rows of seats and/or need lots of luggage space, it may not be for you.

We have yet to drive the 2020 Highlander, but will update this post when we do. In the meantime, you can find everything we know so far about it below.

What's new for 2020?

The Toyota Highlander is all new for 2020, riding on the same new platform that underpins other recently redesigned Toyotas. It's only a bit bigger than before, and largely represents evolutionary changes intended to bolster its refinement and sharpen its driving experience. The previous Highlander's V6 engine is now standard (the weakling four-cylinder has been dropped), while the Highlander Hybrid model is more powerful, more efficient and now available with front-wheel drive. The advanced torque-vectoring all-wheel drive system from the RAV4 Adventure is now an option on some V6 trim levels. Finally, styling inside and out is significantly different and infotainment features have been bolstered with standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A jumbo 12.3-inch touchscreen is also now available.

5 Questions Answered About The 2020 Toyota Highlander

5 questions answered about the 2020 Toyota Highlander

The 2020 Toyota Highlander has debuted at the New York Auto Show, and we've had our first look at what is largely an evolution of this highly successful mid-size, three-row crossover. Although checking it out in person answered some of our questions, we got a chance to interview the Highlander's chief engineer Yoshikazu Saeki about the rest.

Here are five questions we asked and had answered here in New York about the all-new Highlander.

2020 Toyota Highlander Sticks To The Formula That Has Worked

2020 Toyota Highlander sticks to the formula that has worked

NEW YORK — The 2020 Toyota Highlander may be all-new, but it very much represents an evolution of a tried-and-true formula. Not only was the Highlander one of the first midsize crossovers, launched at time when the Explorers and Blazers of this world were based on truck platforms, but it went on to be one of the best-selling. Since then, each of the succeeding generations has been a bit bigger than its predecessor, which is the case with this new fourth-generation model, based on Toyota's now-ubiquitous TNGA platform and specifically the longer K version used in the Camry, Avalon and RAV4.

However, despite adding 2.36 inches in overall length, all of which has gone into the cargo area, the Highlander remains one of the smaller three-row crossovers. Whereas most new or redesigned segment entries like the 2020 Kia Telluride and 2020 Ford Explorer get attention with big interior numbers, the new Highlander is sticking with what has worked. If customers were demanding the Highlander go jumbo, or were choosing something bigger, you'd better believe Toyota would've made them happy. That it didn't go big should be a strong indication that customers are perfectly OK with a smaller-than-average entry.