New Model News

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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We don't know what the Ford Bronco (officially) looks like yet, but a source has told AutomotiveMap that an off road racing-ready variant is already planned.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

A well-placed source within the off-road racing community has tipped off AutomotiveMap that Ford is planning to debut a specialized off road racing-ready version of the Bronco shortly after the model debuts next year.

There's some heritage in the Bronco being an off road racer. The first-generation Ford Bronco (1966-1977) is a popular off-roader even today and the internet is full of pictures and stories that tell the tale of championship rides.

Recently revealed patents for the Ford Bronco, first reported by AutoGuide, show numerous model configurations including two- and four-door trucks that could have a bed, with looks similar to the Jeep Gladiator. This style Bronco, with a bed, could compete directly with the Jeep Gladiator and, in racing, with the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2.

Chevrolet is far ahead of Ford when it comes to their truck racing program. The GM division worked with Hall Racing and suppliers like Multimatic to develop and test Chevrolet Performance parts that can be sold to off-roading enthusiasts. With these modifications Hall Racing has blown past the 100 mph mark on their Colorado ZR2 race truck and given the truck the parts it needs to remain planted when cornering, even at high speed.

1974 Ford Bronco side profile The first generation Ford Bronco, including 1974 models like this, remain popular in the off-roading community.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Chevrolet division recently introduced a desert racing version of the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Custom Trail Boss, which the company will test during the Desert Racing Series using a similar process. Expectations are that this testing will lead to a Ford F-150 Raptor-fighter model of the Silverado. Insiders are referring to it as the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 ZR2.

But what about the Ford Ranger Raptor? The source was quick to point out to AutomotiveMap that the prospective off road racing-ready Ford Bronco model is not the Ford Ranger Raptor. Currently sold only in overseas markets, it is likely that the Ranger Raptor will debut when the next-generation Ranger comes to market in a few years.

Ford has confirmed that the Bronco will share a platform with the next-gen Ranger, and so it would make sense that a Bronco with Ranger Raptor characteristics would be on tap. Ford could easily test the underpinnings of a future off-roading Bronco model while wearing Ranger camouflage.

When approached for comment, Ford responded, "We don't comment on speculation about future products."

The Volvo XC40 Recharge is the company's first modern electric vehicle.

Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

Its quirky shape, engaging drive dynamics, and encompassing available Bowers and Wilkins stereo system have earned the Volvo XC40 accolades since it debuted in 2017. Now, Volvo has introduced the 2020 XC40 Recharge, a battery electric-powered SUV that will competing directly the forthcoming Tesla Model Y and current Kia Niro EV and Hyundai Kona EV.

The XC40 Recharge is Volvo's first step in a new lineup built around electrified powertrains. The automaker has already pledged to introduce a new EV each year in order to make half its lineup fully electric by 2025.

Volvo has given the XC40 Recharge a 78 kilowatt-hour battery. That's the same battery pack that is in the Polestar 2.

Volvo XC40 Recharge rear back plug charging Volvo has not yet announced which charging company they are teaming up with in the U.S.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

U.S. models are slated to have 487 pound-feet of torque and 402 total horsepower. The compact SUV has a promised range of over 200 miles for U.S. buyers (most Americans travel just 30 miles a day) and can be charged up to 80 percent of its capacity in 40 minutes using a fast-charging system. On a Level 2 charger, getting to that point will take 7.5 hours. The automaker has not yet announced a charging company partner.

Volvo claims the vehicle can get from zero to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds, squarely placing it in the "zippy" category.

Volvo XC40 Recharge charging front grille headlights wheels The XC40 Recharge isn't too different from a traditional XC40 on the outside and inside.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

The XC40 Recharge has very similar looks to the 2019 Volvo XC40. The biggest differentiator is its enclosed grille. Side mirrors, lower fascia, and the roof have been given a black paint job. Volvo will sell the XC40 Recharge with an available Sage Green paint job.

Because there is no engine, the front trunk (frunk, if you prefer) has been turned into a cargo storage area.

Volvo XC40 Recharge roof side spoiler black Volvo has kept the two-tone look on this XC40.Photo courtesy of Volvo Car USA

The model's interior is nearly identical to the XC40. It includes Volvo's new Android-powered infotainment system that supports Google Assistant, Google Maps, and Google Play.

The model will go on sale in late 2020 and is promised to cost around $55,000.

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