Behind the Wheel

2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review: It won't turn heads but it will hold onto your heart

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has been completely redesigned for the 2020 model year.

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

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.

2020 Toyota Highalnder Hybrid 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.

2020 Toyota Highalnder Hybrid 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.

2020 Toyota Highalnder Hybrid 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.

2020 Toyota Highalnder Hybrid 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.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The SCC Tautara is now the world's fastest car.

Photo courtesy of SCC North America

He's an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and car enthusiast. He's also the new King of Speed. Dr. Larry Caplin's SSC Tuatara recently became the fastest production car ever with a set of of records during an October 10 event in Pahrump, Nevada along a seven-mile stretch of State Route 160.

With professional racing driver Oliver Webb at the wheel, the Tuatara hit an average of 316.11 mph following two consecutive high-speed test runs. To comply with test regulations, the car traveled first in one direction down the road clocking 301.07 mph then turned around and went the other direction on the same road getting to 331.15 mph, consecutively, within one hour.

SCC Tautara Shelby Webb sign Jerod Shelby, CEO of SSC (left) and driver Oliver Webb (right) celebrate the car's record.Photo courtesy of SCC North America

The times were then averaged. Officials were on site to verify all world record criteria was met and even reviewed Dewetron GPS measurements, which tracked the speed runs using 15 satellites. The Tuatara earned the title of the "Fastest Production Vehicle".

The car also earned three other titles: "Fastest Flying Mile on a Public Road" at 313.12 mph, "Fastest Flying Kilometer on a Public Road" at 321.35 mph (517.16 km/h), and "Highest Speed Achieved on a Public Road" at 331.15 mph.

Caplin is celebrating the milestone by donating community programs that support children, youth, and military families worldwide. His $316,000 donations will support health and wellness programs in underserved schools, provide college scholarships to first-generation students, and help military communities and families nationwide.

Larry Caplin SCC Tautara record car Dr. Larry Caplin celebrates the record set by his car.Photo courtesy of Dr. Larry Caplin

"I am beyond thrilled to own the World's fastest car because it's another opportunity to shine a light on important issues that support local communities and serve military families," said Caplin. "Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would be the owner of a historic vehicle, but I recognize that I have a responsibility to use this opportunity to help those who need support in a tangible way."

SSC North America is producing 100 SSC Tuatara hypercars. High-speed,high-downforce, and track versions are now available to customers.

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The 2021 MINI Cooper 1499 GT Special Edition is a throwback to a 1969 MINI.

Photo courtesy of MINI

The MINI 1499 GT Special Edition pays tribute to the iconic 1275 GT from 1969 while the MINI Countryman Oxford edition offers unique value proposition. The two models are new for the 2021 model year.

2021 MINI Cooper 1499 GT Special Edition

Photo courtesy of MINI

MINI has given the 1499 GT a Midnight Black Metallic exterior complete with gold 1499 GT side stripes. There's a Piano Black grille frame, door handles, and headlight rings, which surround LED headlights. There are Piano Black taillight rinks and Union Jack taillights.

The addition of the MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) styling package adds JCW front and rear bumpers, side skirts, split level spoiler, and door entry plates. The MINI 1499 GT rids on 17-innch Track Spoke Black wheels wrapped in all-season tires.

Under the hood, the model has a 1.5-liter three-cylinder engine that delivers 134 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The car can get from zero to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and has a top speed of 130 mph. A six-speed manual transmission is standard while a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission is available.

MINI refines the interior with more JCW accents including Sports seats in Carbon Black Dinamica/Cloth, a JCW steering wheel in perforated leather with Chili Red stitching and multi-function controls, along with Piano Black finishing throughout the interior with an Anthracite Headliner. The list of standard equipment includes dual-zone automatic climate control, a 6.5-inch infotainment touch screen with navigation, MINI Assist eCall, remote services, Apple CarPlay, and a digital instrument cluster.

The MINI 1499 GT will be offered with a starting MSRP of $27,040 plus an additional $850 destination and handling fee.

MINI Countryman Oxford Edition

MINI's small SUV, the Countryman, is getting a budget-friendly version that available with front- and all-wheel drive. It comes with the standard equipment list of the Classic Trim, which includes leatherette upholstery, an 8.8-inch display with Bluetooth, rear camera, rear park distance control, seven-speed dual clutch transmission, and a panoramic sunroof. The Countryman Oxford Edition also has LED headlights and fog lights and Union Jack LED taillights.

MINI has given the model standard 18-inch wheels (Silver of Black) that are wrapped with run-flat tires, an anthracite headliner, heated front seats, automatic climate control, and a choice of six exterior colors, including metallic paint options. Those options include British Racing Green IV metallic, Midnight Black metallic, White Silver metallic, Moonwalk Grey metallic, Chili Red, or Island Blue metallic. Exterior options also include body color roof and mirrors, or choice of a contrast white or black roof and mirror combination.

The staring MSRP for the 2021 MINI Cooper Countryman Oxford Edition is $26,500 and the 2021 MINI Cooper Countryman ALL4 Oxford Edition is $28,500, plus an additional $850 destination and handling charge. This means the MINI Countryman Oxford Edition is specially configured with $5,600 worth of optional equipment as standard at no additional cost.

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