One-Day Drive

First Drive Review: Redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander is friendlier for modern families

Toyota has redesigned the Highlander but hasn't reinvented the wheel - and that's a good thing.

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

The redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander is so good, it will have you wondering why Honda even bothers to still sell the Pilot. Seriously. Toyota has hit the nail on the head with the redesign.

On the outside, the 2020 Highlander is more visually interesting though not wholly dissimilar in the new generation from the previous gen. Its design plays out best in bright colors from the available color palette like Ruby Flare Pearl, Moon Dust, and Blizzard Pearl.

2020 Toyota Highlander The 2020 Highlander is more visually interesting than its predecessor.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Toyota sells the Highlander in the buyer's choice of two powertrain options. The gasoline-only 3.5-liter V6 is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission and delivers 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. A hybrid 2.5-liter four-cylinder delivers 243 horsepower and has over 600 miles of range.

The hybrid powertrain also has the benefit of achieving an estimated 36 mpg combined. That's a whopping 7 mpg more than the 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid was able to achieve and quite an impressive number compared to other three-row SUVs.

When driven back to back, there isn't too much difference between the two powertrains that the average buyer will notice - both are suitably confidence inspiring. The lack of horsepower in the four-cylinder is made up for by the electric burst of energy from the hybrid powertrain. Both models have a variety of drive modes designed to bring a level of customization to the vehicle's drive experience and inspire confidence.

2020 Toyota Highlander The Highlander has similar exterior design to the last-gen Highlander and the new Toyota RAV4.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

Toyota is selling the gasoline V6 engine-powered Highlander in five trim levels: L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. Front wheel drive is standard in those and all-wheel drive is available.

The Highlander Hybrid is available in four trim levels: LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. Like the V6 models, it's available in in front- and all-wheel drive variants.

2020 Toyota Highlander The interior of the Highlander is thoughtfully redesigned.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

With an available towing package, the V6 can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Sitting inside the Highlander, one word comes to mind - thoughtful. Those that had their hands in designing the new Highlander must have spent significant time in the previous generations' models and listened to a lot of feedback. The feedback must have said to not reinvent the wheel, but rather refine it. Truthfully, the 2020 Highlander isn't completely dissimilar from where the last-gen ended up. It's a natural evolution, installing the latest comfort and convenience tech and improving on the interior features and easy usability Toyota has been known for.

2020 Toyota Highlander The second-row seats in the 2020 Highlander move forward and back more in this new generation.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The Highlander comes standard with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM, and a Wi-Fi hot spot. An 8-inch infotainment touch screen is standard while a 12.3-inch screens is available in higher trims. Top-tier models also get a 10-inch head up display. There are four USB ports and two 12-volt outlets in the Highlander.

Front row seats are comfortable for long spells though there is a lip to climb over when getting in. Once you're seated, the lip makes sense, offering a spot to rest your feet that's elevated from the cabin floor. The second-row seats have more forward-aft movability than in the previous generation and adults can fit in the third row.

This new generation Highlander gains 2.36 inches in length, which is translated right to its cargo area. The rear storage space remains a reasonable size for the modern family.

2020 Toyota Highlander AWD The rear seats fold flat in all models of the 2020 Highlander.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

All Highlanders come with a suite of driver assistance and safety technology known as Toyota Safety Sense 2.0. In all but the base model, blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert is added. Limited and Platinum trim levels also get rear cross traffic braking.

Where the Pilot no longer competes, the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride do. Those two models are the new darlings of the three-row SUV field and they also stand out for their interior appointments and features, comfort, and value proposition. If you're shopping for the Highlander, you'll want to cross-shop those two and forget stopping at the Honda lot.

The 2020 Toyota Highlander starts at $36,400 and the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid starts just a tick higher at $38,200. Both are on sale now.

The Land Rover Defender stars alongside Daniel Craig in Bond 25.

Photo courtesy of Land Rover

Most people are guilty of fast forwarding through commercials on their DVR to get to the good stuff. James Bond doesn't have time to waste, and neither do you. A new Land Rover ad for the 2020 Defender will give you good reason to watch again and again - unless you don't care for heart thumping, blood pumping off-roading chase scenes.

Set up as a peek behind the scenes at the 25th James Bond film "No Time to Die", the spot takes audiences through an audacious test run of the Bond scenes, complete with mud, much, hills, motorcycles, and a rollover. It's at least as thrilling as it sounds.

2020 Land ROver Defender stunt No Time to Die James Bond 25 The new spot features a myriad of stunts that will get viewers' hearts thumping.Photo courtesy of Land Rover

"We developed a new test standard for Defender, the most challenging we've ever had and unique to this vehicle," said Nick Collins, Land Rover Defender vehicle line director "Physical strength and durability is measured by a number of different tests including a bridge jump test which gave us confidence to deliver what the stunt team needed to create for "No Time To Die", with no modifications to the body structure except the installation of a roll cage."

Defender's off-road prowess should be of no surprise to off-roading enthusiasts. Land Rover is known for their competent powertrains and go-anywhere capability. The new Defender was tested by Red Cross all-terrain experts during development to ensure its readiness for all types of terrain.

Land Rover recently allowed brand and Bond enthusiasts a peek behind the scenes of Bond 25 when they debuted still imagery of their models in the film and highlighted the work of stunt coordinator Lee Morrison and stunt driver Jessica Hawkins.

Jessica Hawkins Land Rover Defender No Time to Die James Bond Jessica Hawkins, stunt driver, sits behind the wheel of the 2020 Land Rover Defender on the set of 'No Time to Die'. Photo courtesy of Land Rover

In the movie, the Defender appears alongside the Range Rover Sport SVR, Land Rover Series III, and Range Rover Classic as the Bond character, played by Craig, traverses the globe to rescue a kidnapped scientist. Ten Defenders were used in the making of "No Time To Die" including the seventh Defender built VIN 007.

Land Rover's design team worked closely with Special Effects and Action Vehicles Supervisor Chris Corbould to spec the Defender vehicles in the film. They are based on the Defender X model in Santorini Black, with darkened skid pans, 20-inch dark finish wheels, and professional off-road tires. The modes were the first Defender vehicles to be built at Jaguar Land Rover's new production facility in Nitra, Slovakia.

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"No Time to Die" will be released starting April 2, 2020 in the U.K. and in the U.S on April 10.

The Defender 110 will be priced from $49,900 in the U.S. and will go on sale in the spring.

Learn more about the Defender's development and design here.

The Hyundai Nexo is noted for its well-designed headlights.

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has announced its results from the latest round of testing. Five vehicles came out on top earning the highest headlight score across all trim levels.

How does IIHS test? According to their website:

IIHS engineers measure the reach of a vehicle's headlights as the vehicle travels straight and on curves. Sensors on the track measure how far from the vehicle the light extends with an intensity of at least 5 lux. A lux is a unit of illuminance, or the amount of light falling on a surface. For comparison, a full moon on a cloudless night illuminates the ground below to about 1 lux.

Both low beams and high beams are measured on five approaches, shown in the graphic below:
- Straightaway
- Gradual left curve (800-foot radius)
- Gradual right curve (800-foot radius)
- Sharp left curve (500-foot radius)
- Sharp right curve (500-foot radius)

On each approach, visibility measurements are taken on the right edge of the roadway. On the curves, measurements also are taken on the left edge of the travel lane. On the straightaway, the second measurement is taken at a point corresponding to the left edge of a two-lane road. This allows the engineers to gauge the illumination on both the right and left side of a straightaway, which are typically quite different. With most headlights, there is a steep drop-off in light on the left side of a straight road in order to prevent glare to oncoming vehicles.

Glare for oncoming vehicles is also measured from low beams in each scenario. Engineers record the percentage by which it exceeds a set threshold.

Headlights are tested as received from the dealer. Although many headlight problems could be resolved by adjusting the aim of the lamps, IIHS doesn't change headlight aim. Few vehicle owners adjust the vertical aim of their headlights, so leaving the aim the way it was set at the factory makes the testing more realistic. Horizontal aim also is important, but in most vehicles it can't be changed after the initial factory setting.

Readings are taken 10 inches from the ground for visibility and 3 feet, 7 inches from the ground for glare.

IIHS testers use a system of demerits to rate the headlights. Low beams are weighted more heavily than high beams. Straighway readings are weighted more heavily than curved ratings because crashes happen most often on straight roads. Vehicles equipped with high-beam assist get their low beam demerits reduced.

All the vehicles on this list earned a perfect "Good" score in IIHS headlight testing across all trim levels.

2020 Honda Insight

2020 Honda Insight

Photo courtesy of American Honda Motor Co., Inc

The 2020 Honda Insight comes standard with multi-element LED headlights. The Insight starts at $22,930.

Hyundai Nexo

2020 Hyundai Nexo

Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor America

The 2020 Hyundai Nexo comes standard with LED headlights, daytime running lights, and taillights. Automatic headlights are also standard. Hyundai prices the Nexo starting at $58,735.

Lexus NX

2019 Lexus NX

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

Lexus has equipped the 2020 Lexus NX with standard automatic headlights. Premium triple-beam LED headlights and enhanced LED daytime running lights with integrated turn indicators are available. The Lexus NX starts at $36,870.

2020 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

2019 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid

Photo courtesy of Subaru of America

The 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid comes standard with LED steering responsive headlights and LED fog lights. The Crosstrek Hybrid starts at $35,145.

Tesla Model 3

Tesla Model 3

Photo courtesy of Tesla

The Tesla Model 3 starts at $39,990 and comes standard with LED headlights and taillights. Automatic high beams are standard and fog lights are available.