Behind the Wheel
2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review: It won't turn heads but it will hold onto your heart
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid isn't going to make any headlines for its sexy looks, rugged prowess, or zero to 60 mph time. It doesn't have to. While the Toyota Supra, Ford Bronco, and Ferrari SF90 Stradale dominate that conversation, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid goes about its day.
It doesn't have time to stop and check out the other models. It's too busy solidly doing its job, just like it has been for the last two decades. And there's nothing wrong with that.
It's precisely that premise that carries over from the last-generation Highlander Hybrid to the new one. Redesigned for 2020, the model isn't revolutionary in the way that the new Ram 1500 was when it debuted. Instead, it's a thoughtful improvement.
The Highlander Hybrid is fuel-efficient and can lug around three rows of passengers.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid shines in its practicality, continuing to move the midsize SUV story along in (mostly) all the right ways.
Like many things that Toyota has done with its vehicles over the last decade, the Highlander Hybrid hits that sweet spot blending the expectations of buyers with the modern technology that they may not have even known that they wanted.
The three-row SUV's hybrid 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine delivers 243 horsepower and is just powerful enough to get you through your drive with ease. The SUV achieves over 600 miles of range, which is fantastic for road trips.
There's an EV mode in the hybrid that gets you going out of parking lots and driveways with little exterior noise. However, the SUV's passengers can hear wind noise against the windshield – something that only goes to prove just how comparatively quiet an electric vehicle is.
Steering the Highlander Hybrid is easy and it comes equipped with a boatload of standard safety technology.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
Driving the Highlander, which came equipped with all-wheel drive, in mixed conditions resulted in right around 33 mpg. That's not bad considering the week included short trips for groceries, running the air conditioning at full blast most of the time, and keeping up with traffic off the line. It's rated at 35 mpg combined by the EPA. It's not uncommon for real life driving to be slightly lower than expectation.
The SUV is fantastically easy to maneuver, and the wheel feels good in-hand. Multi-view parking cameras make fitting into and out of a parking spot a breeze, which is good because rearward visibility through the glass isn't great.
The Highlander Hybrid is comfortable in every row. Adults can easily fit in the first two for extended periods of time. There's gobs of small item storage space providing perfect opportunity to keep your car plenty cluttered if you'd like.
The peanut butter and jelly-colored interior in the Highlander Hybrid tester isn't a favorite and there are some less-than-premium materials in the premium-priced model but the overall design is attractive.
The large 12.3-inch infotainment screen dominates the dashboard in higher trim levels.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
Its large 12.3-inch infotainment screen on the tester isn't the most pleasing to use, but it gets the job done. Use Apple CarPlay and most of your problems in that regard are solved.
Moving the second-row seats is relatively easy but having a permanent cupholder base between captain's chairs, no matter how rugged, is not my favorite design choice. A family's littlest third-row occupants are likely to choose to go this route and there's plenty of space for feet to get stuck and plastic to get scuffed.
The third-row seats go up and down with ease. There's a good amount of cargo room at the back for groceries.
Putting down the second- and third-row seats for storage is an easy endeavor.Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.
A flat load floor is something minivan owners rave about. Personally, I prefer foot wells in the second row, which provide more contained storage solutions for when you pop out to the store and don't need/want to store in the cargo area. They also provide a divider between second-row passengers leading children kicking each other less.
The three-row SUV isn't revolutionary. It never had to be. What it is, is very good, especially compared to the Honda Pilot. The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid should be on your test drive list for the very reason that it makes life with a family easier.a
But (and this is a big but) it is pricey. The Highlander Hybrid can cost over $50,000 in its highest trim (the cheapest is $38,200). The Highlander's hottest competition, the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade, aren't nearly that expensive, but they also don't come with hybrid variants.