2020 Toyota Highlander Appears At New York Auto Show

Matthew Guy
by Matthew Guy

While you were sleeping, Toyota rolled out the fourth generation of its three-row Highlander crossover. It is an all-wheel drive box powered by a V6 engine, packed with gadgets, and offering an optional hybrid powertrain. Given the tastes of car buyers in this segment, none of these things are surprising.

What is surprising is that this nameplate has been around for 20 model years. Perhaps it’s because your author has never been in the market for a rig like the Highlander, or that the model’s ubiquity has caused the thing to fade into the background like proverbial wallflowers. Whatever the case, Highlander is nearly old enough to order its own drinks, and it’s put on a new set of clothes for the occasion.

Applying the new corporate face to the rig provides better results than when the company placed a Gillette razor on its nose. The trapezoid shaped grille and downward-turned foglamp housings create a frowny face not unlike that of a child who has been denied ice cream.

Along the flanks, an expressive bodyline swoops down from taillight level to the rocker panels, breaking up the monotony of what would otherwise be a very tall and very plain set of doors.

The 2020 Highlander rides on a version of the Toyota New Global Architecture vehicle platform, dubbed TNGA-K in this example. Measuring 193.5 inches in length, it is 2.36 inches longer than the old model, all of which was added to the cargo area. Making the most of this newfound length, the second-row seats can slide an extra 1.2 inches forward to increase distance between it and the third row.

Its interior will look familiar to anyone who has recently spent time in a newer Toyota. This is not a bad thing, with most controls logically placed in the centre stack and a high-riding infotainment system that should be within easy view of the driver’s field of vision (we’ll leave the distracting properties of most modern touchscreens as a conversation for another day). The company made a point to show the device equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Also note that the company has included knobs for both radio volume and tuning. Thank you, Toyota.

They’ve also not latched on to the current trend of replacing the traditional gear selector with an electronic joystick or push buttons. This does consume extra console space, but will certainly be a more familiar device to many buyers. There also seems to be a couple of neatly sized cubbies just south of the HVAC vents, which will be super handy if sloped and shaped properly. It’ll seat eight with a middle bench, seven with optional captain’s chairs.

Powering the new Highlander is a 295 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine lashed to an eight-speed automatic transmission. So configured, it can haul 5,000 pounds. There will also be a hybrid version that deploys a 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine and two electric motors, for a system total of 240 horses (Toyota claims an EPA-estimated combined rating of 34 mpg). Both methods of propulsion will be available in front- or all-wheel drive. Trims are familiar: L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum As expected from Toyota, suites of driver aids and safety equipment will keep drivers coloring inside the lines and all hands safe in a wreck if they don’t.

Highlander will arrive on dealer lots this December, with the Hybrid showing up in February 2020.

[Images © 2019 Tim Healey/TTAC, Toyota]

Matthew Guy
Matthew Guy

Matthew buys, sells, fixes, & races cars. As a human index of auto & auction knowledge, he is fond of making money and offering loud opinions.

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  • Tankinbeans Tankinbeans on Apr 18, 2019

    I guess boring, if a bit on the ugly, is better than the eye-searingly ugly crap they've been releasing. Either the angle of those photos is bad or the car itself is just terrible because it looks like a blob fish.

  • Stuki Stuki on Apr 18, 2019

    Tow 5000 lbs. Not Haul. At least I think that is what you meant....

  • Mike Some Evs are hitting their 3 year lease residual values in 6 months.
  • Tassos Jong-iL I am just here for the beer! (did I say it right?)
  • El scotto Tim, to be tactful I think a great many of us would like a transcript of TTAC's podcast. 90 minutes is just too long for most of us to listen. -evil El Scotto kicking in- The blog at best provides amusement, 90 minutes is just too much. Way too much.
  • TooManyCars VoGhost; I was referring more to the Canadian context, but the same graft is occurring in the US of A and Europe. Political affiliation appears to be irrelevant.
  • The Oracle Going to see a lot of corporations migrating out of Delaware as the state of incorporation. Musk sets trends, he doesn’t follow them.