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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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Audi E-Tron is being made more affordable.

Photo courtesy of Audi AG

Longer range, cheaper price. That's the bottom line for the 2021 Audi E-Tron. The all-electric SUV was the first in the E-Tron family to debut and go on sale and the a big step toward the brand's commitment to electrifying 30 percent of its U.S. model lineup by 2025.

Though Audi has revised the model's packages and lowered pricing, it's still pretty much the same SUV. Same fascia, body lines, wheels, brakes, and battery.

About that battery ... Software adjustments have made it so that drivers can now get 222 miles of all-electric range out of the 95 kilowatt-hour battery - an increase of 18 miles. The net energy amount goes up to 86.5 kilowatt-hours, nearly three kilowatt-hours more than the 2019 model.

2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback Audi sells the E-Tron in two varieties: E-Tron SUV and E-Tron Sportback.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The SUV retains its standard 355 horsepower (it can go up to as much as 402 horsepower with Boost Mode) and can get from zero to 60 mph in 5.5 seconds using Boost Mode.

The all-wheel drive SUV will start at $65,900, an $8,900 dip from the starting MSRP of the 2020 Audi E-Tron. The model trim level lineup tops out at $79,100. A potential federal tax credit for purchasing an Audi E-Tron up to $7,500 may apply. There is a $1,095 destination charge.

The Premium (base) trim level is available with the Convenience Plus Package, which includes the Driver Assistance package and Black exterior trim kit. It comes standard with 20-inch five-spoke wheels; a heated steering wheel; quad-zone climate control; lane departure warning; heated front seats; a power lift gate; Audi Virtual Cockpit Plus; heated, auto-dimming, power-folding exterior mirrors with memory; Homelink; Integrated Toll Module; and comfort pre-conditioning.

The E-Tron Premium Plus grade comes standard with charge ports on both the driver and passenger side of the vehicle. It also gets the Driver Assistance Package; ambient interior lighting; heated and ventilated 12-way power-adjustable front seats; matrix-design LED headlights; 3D Bang & Olufson Sound System; and wireless device charging.

2021 Audi E-Tron Sportback The Audi E-Tron Sportback is more expensive than the traditional E-Tron SUV.Photo courtesy of Audi AG

The highest grade E-Tron Prestige adds a head-up display; individual contour front seats with massage functionality; Full Leather package; multi-color LED interior ambient lighting; dual-pane acoustic glass; an air quality system; power door closers; and rear sunshades.

The E-Tron Sportback, a sloped-roof version of the same SUV, has a higher starting price - $69,100. The E-Tron Sportback Premium Plus is $78,000 and the E-Tron Sportback Prestige is $82,300. It has an EPA-estimated range of 218 miles, has a 5.5-second zero to 60 mph time, and delivers up to 402 horsepower with Boost Mode engaged.

The standard features list for each of the E-Tron Sportback's grades is nearly identical to what is offered in the E-Tron SUV.

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North Korea’s leader took a spin in a Lexus LX today and made news.

Photo courtesy of Twitter

The Supreme Leader of North Korea has done something few owners of a Lexus LX 570 do - gotten it dirty off-roading. Technically though, given North Korea's... we'll call them infrastructure challenges ... it might just be muddy on-roading. Still, it's a rather filthy LX 570 and that's a taste of something the model rarely gets.

Photographs of Jung-un driving the LX 570 recently appeared on Twitter via an article on nknews.org.

The LX 570 is the flagship SUV in the Lexus lineup. It has two or three rows of seating (the two-row option was new for the 2018 model year). While it's not immediately clear which model year Jung-un was driving in the photo opp, it's clearly one from the last few years as it shows several of the updates the LX has received over the last few years.

It's also not immediately clear how Jung-un got his LX though it's likely that it came from China. There are no Lexus dealerships in North Korea.

When contacted, Lexus refused to assist with information for this story. Despite that, given what we know of the pricing and body style of the LX 570, there's some things we can infer about LX buyers.

It's safe to say that the same vehicles that are frequently parked at Whole Foods with a level of sheen that can only come from a car wash on them rarely see a dirt path, let alone a trail. In truth, despite the fact that the LX 570 is nearly as capable as the Toyota Tundra, its 6,000 pound curb weight is a lot of body to haul up a trail.

2020 Lexus LX 570 For the 2020 model year, Lexus introduced a Sport version of the flagship SUVPhoto courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Lexus has given the SUV 8.9 inches of ground clearance (about the same as a Subaru Outback), a 25-degree approach angle, 20-degree departure angle, and 23-degree break over angle. Those numbers are comparable to the Ford Expedition and best the prowess of the Nissan Armada.

With a starting price close to $90,000 in the U.S. when destination charges are added in, LX 570 customers are undoubtedly affluent. According to CarFigures.com, the starting price of the LX in China is equal to about $180,000 USD.

Reliability is likely important. J.D. Power rates the LX as having extremely high reliability and the models are typically the subject of very few recalls.

Buyers are probably also boastful and prefer showing off their ability to afford the model over the practicality of it. The LX achieves miserable fuel economy - its 5.7-liter V8 is more fuel-inefficient than the similarly powered BMW X7 and Mercedes-Benz GLS achieving just 15 mpg combined. There's also other models with far more cargo space - the three-row Land Rover Range Rover has nearly the double the cargo are the LX does.

The 2020 Lexus LX 570 is on sale now.

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