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2020 Toyota Highlander gets completely redesigned but doesn't stray far from the mold

The Toyota Highlander has been redesigned for the 2020 model year but still retains many features families love.

Photo courtesy of Toyota

The Toyota Highlander has been a perennial favorite for buyers. Since its last redesign, the Highlander's competition has gotten fierce with entries from the Subaru Ascent, Kia Telluride, Volkswagen Atlas, and Hyundai Palisade all arriving on dealership lots in the last two years.

Riding on Toyota New Global Architecture, the unibody fourth-generation 2020 Toyota Highlander has slim taillights that jut out at the rear creating a more aggressive appearance. The new Highlander's grille will no doubt garner comparisons to Subaru's with its chrome Toyota logo placement.

Toyota only carries over three paint jobs from 2019 into the new model year (Blizzard Pearl, Celestial Silver Metallic, and Midnight Black Metallic). The Highlander will also be available in five new colors: Magnetic Gray Metallic, Moon Dust, Ruby Flare Pearl, Blueprint, and Opulent Amber.

2020 Toyota Highlander Buyers will be able to get the 2020 Highlander with their choice of eight paint jobs.Photo courtesy of Toyota

Buyers will have two powertrain options. Its base power plant is a 295-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine that is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and delivers 263 pound-feet of torque. Stop-start engine technology is standard on the model. V6 models come with either front- or all-wheel drive and achieves an EPA-estimated 22 mpg.

Gasoline-powered Highlander models with all-wheel drive come with a terrain mode selector that includes Rock & Dirt and Mud & Sand modes. These modes employ torque vectoring technology to optimize power allocation to the wheels based on the needs of the vehicle while it is in motion.

Toyota will offer a towing package for the V6-powered Highlander that will increase its towing capacity to 5,000 pounds. The package includes a heavy-duty radiator with engine oil cooler and improved fan performance. It also comes with Trailer Sway Control.

2020 Toyota Highlander The Highlander is available in two- and all-wheel drive. Photo courtesy of Toyota

The 2020 Highlander Hybrid will be powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that employs an electric motor and battery to achieve 240 net horsepower and an EPA-estimated 34 mpg combined. That fuel efficiency is a 17-percent improvement over the previous generation's fuel efficiency. The battery pack resides under the rear seats, not causing any loss of cargo space.

Vehicles powered by the hybrid power plant will be available in two- and all-wheel drive. The Highlander Hybrid will come with Normal, Eco, Sport, and EV drive modes.

Toyota is touting the SUV's ability to "coach a driver to drive as economically as possible." To do this, in-vehicle technology will suggest an acceleration level that the in-vehicle computer has determined is best according to current traffic conditions. The car then scores the driver on their efficiency.

Predictive Efficient Drive uses the Highlander Hybrid's navigation system to analyze driving habits and learned road and traffic conditions to optimize the vehicle's battery charging.

2020 Toyota Highlander The Highlander comes standard with Apple Carplay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa.Photo courtesy of Toyota

The interior of the Highlander isn't a copy-made-bigger of the RAV4, or even the new Corolla or Avalon. The design very much sticks to the history, of the Highlander but with new materials and technologies. The storage tray on the passenger side of the dashboard remains and a new small storage area is under the infotainment screen and climate controls. Both areas feature ambient lighting.

All Highlander grades come standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Alexa In-Car compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM, and Wi-Fi (AT&T subscription). Top Platinum models come standard with a 12.3-inch infotainment screen with navigation. The silver surround of the infotainment screen, with its unique arrow-like design, is sure to drive anyone who craves symmetry nuts.

A JBL Premium Audio System is standard on Limited and Platinum grades and features 11 speakers. Clari-Fi technology and Qi wireless charging are also available.

Tri-zone climate control is standard.

2020 Toyota Highlander The Highlander is larger inside than the RAV4, with one more row of seating.Photo courtesy of Toyota

The Highlander has been lengthened by 2.36 inches for the new model year, resulting in greater cargo volume over the previous generation. It has 16.1 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row, which is a big improvement but still falls short of the Ascent's over 17-cubic feet of space. Rear seats feature a 60/40 folding split. Folding them results in 40.6 cubic feet of cargo space while also folding the second row raises that number to 73.3 cubic feet.

A second-row bench seat is standard in the 2020 Highlander. Top tiers come standard with captain's chairs.

Additionally, second row seats can be slid an extra 1.2-inches forward to increase the distance between the second and third row seats.

Each new Highlander comes equipped with the second-generation of Toyota Safety Sense, which includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, road sign recognition, and lane tracing. Deepening on the trim, the Highlander can be equipped with rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, Intelligent Clearance Sonar, rear traffic braking, and a bird's eye view camera.

The 2020 Toyota Highlander is expected to go on sale later this year. It will be available in L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum trims. The 2019 Highlander starts at $31,330 and tops out over $48,000. The 2020 model will likely be priced similarly with Highlander Hybrid models costing more than V6-powered Highlanders.

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New hot hatch

Toyota teases GR Corolla hatchback

The Instagram teaser contains many hints at the new GR Corolla.

Toyota

Toyota isn't always top of mind when it comes to performance cars, but the Japanese giant has a few tricks up its sleeve. There's the Supra, which the automaker partnered with BMW to produce and there's also the not-for-the-U.S. GR Yaris. The hotted-up hatchback features tremendous power and a four-wheel drive system, but buyers here can only watch jealously as our friends in Europe and elsewhere get all the fun. That's about to change for U.S. buyers, however, as Toyota has begun teasing the GR Corolla hatchback, which we will get.

The automaker posted a cryptic image to Instagram a month ago, but it's still making the rounds on the internet today, with users of the GR Corolla Forum still discussing the post today. The teaser, which is of the Corolla's interior, features hints as to what we might see when the car debuts. The navigation screen shows GR Four road, which points to the car's four-wheel drive system, while a G:16 on the clock in the gauge cluster represents the G16E-GTS engine that the car is expected to get. The GR Yaris also sports that engine, where it produces 268 horsepower and 266 pound-feet of torque.

Toyota GR Corolla GR, or Gazoo Racing, is Toyota's motorsport armToyota Europe

The GR Corolla should break cover next year, but we don't yet know if it will be a 2022 or 2023 model. As far as pricing goes, Toyota may pull out some surprises, but the car will likely be far more expensive than an everyday Corolla. The smaller GR Yaris is priced starting at nearly $40,000 in Europe, so the Corolla's price tag should be around or slightly above that number.

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VinFast will soon launch in the United States.

VinFast

The automotive business is a tough place to cut your teeth as a company. So many have tried and failed to break through with new vehicles, both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Electric vehicles seem to present a perfect opportunity for companies of all types to jump in with a new product. Such is the case with VinFast, a Vietnamese automaker. The company launched two new crossovers at the LA Auto Show yesterday, both of which are heading to the United States.

VinFast EVs Two models will debut at first, but the company plans on expanding here.VinFast

The VinFast VF e35 features up to 301 miles of range on a charge, while the full-size three-row VF e36 can travel up to 422 miles on a charge. Both vehicles come with a ten-year/100,000-mile warranty. VinFast says that its launch strategy in the United States wraps in charging stations, as the company realizes that they are a necessary part of EV adoption. In Vietnam, VinFast is in the process of building 40,000 charging stations to bolster adoption.

VinFast EVs VinFast will eventually build a factory in the United States.VinFast

Here, the automaker will build dozens of company-branded stores to sell its vehicles, similar to the approach taken by Tesla. VinFast's plan is to position itself as an exclusive product in the EV space, and to help it expand in the U.S., the company plans to build a factory in 2024. Part of its launch will also involve several special events across the country to introduce the brand and its vehicles.

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