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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Cadillac is moving the car buying experience into an interactive video-based platform as the brand works to gain new customers.

Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Edmunds.com is predicting hat sales of used cars will rise through 2020. At the same time, used car prices are expected to decline. That's a recipe for success for used car buyers according to Carvana. The online used vehicle retailer is predicting four trends for used car shoppers.

Mainstream Cars Stay Hot

Carvana believes that demand for used cars from mass-market brands like Honda, Toyota, and Nissan will continue. In 2019 small and mid-sized cars showed the strongest price appreciation in the used-vehicle market, a trend that is expected to continue in 2020.

Consumers Choose Quality Over Everything

According to Carvana, "A recent study from Brandwatch asked consumers what attributes were most important for brands in the auto industry, quality was the most popular option with 30% of the vote. Affordability followed, with 21% of respondents choosing it as the most important attribute. Carvana has more than 8,000 cars available on their site for local buyers priced under $15,000."

Customers Continue to Get Comfortable Shopping Online

If there's one thing America can agree on, it's not politics. It's that they generally hate going to car dealerships. Shopping for vehicles online has grown tremendously over the past decade and Carvana expects that to continue, a trend driven by the ability for customers to "do it all" from financing to browsing to scheduling delivery without ever having to talk to a salesperson.

According to Carvana, 75% of car buyers are willing to purchase a car online and 97% of car buyers do online research before a purchase.

The Digital Economy Will Continue to Transform Car Buying

Technology is making it easier than ever to buy a car. New online initiatives like Cadillac Live allow customers to talk to a salesperson without leaving their couch. Getting a 360-degree view of the vehicle is possible thanks to sights from most manufacturers, and CarFax offers reports on used vehicles.

The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is one of the winners of the U.S. News & World Report 2020 Best Cars for the Money awards.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

It isn't just about which cars are good. For many buyers, it's about reaching the perfect blend of good, fuel efficient, and bang for your buck. The annual U.S. News & World Report Best Cars for the Money awards rates many of those factors, and more.

"Cars with low price tags aren't always good values," said Jamie Page Deaton, executive editor of U.S. News Best Cars. "A cheap car can have high ownership costs, making it more expensive in the long run. Plus, a lot of inexpensive cars don't give you a great ownership experience; it's not a good deal if it's not a good car. Every Best Car for the Money winner is a pleasure to own and a good value overall."

Within each class, the award winner has the best combination of quality and value. U.S. News & World Report measured quality using a car's overall score in the U.S. News Best Car Rankings. The overall score is based on safety and reliability data, as well as the collective opinion of the automotive press on a given model's performance and interior and how strongly each reviewer recommends the car. They measured value by looking at each model's real-time transaction prices, provided by TrueCar, and five-year total cost of ownership data, calculated by Vincentric.

Covering 11 categories, the awards highlight the cars, SUVs ,and minivans that give drivers the best combination of quality and value in their respective classes.

Here are the winners.

Best 2-Row SUV for the Money: 2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

2020 Hyundai Santa Fe

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

Best 3-Row SUV for the Money: 2020 Kia Sorento

2020 Kia Sorento

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Best Compact Car for the Money: 2020 Kia Forte

2020 Kia Forte

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Best Compact SUV for the Money: 2020 Honda CR-V

2020 Honda CR-V

American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Best Hybrid and Electric Car for the Money: 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Best Hybrid and Electric SUV for the Money: 2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

2020 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Best Large Car for the Money: 2020 Chevrolet Impala

2020 Chevrolet Impala

Photo courtesy of Chevrolet

Best Midsize Car for the Money: 2020 Toyota Camry

2020 Toyota Camry

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Best Minivan for the Money: 2020 Kia Sedona

2020 Kia Sedona

Photo courtesy of Kia Motors

Best Subcompact Car for the Money: Honda Fit

2020 Honda Fit

American Honda Motor Co., Inc

Best Subcompact SUV for the Money: 2020 Kia Soul

2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Turbo Photo courtesy of Kia Motors