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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The Twisted NAS-E California Series is a new all-electric 4x4.

Photo courtesy of Twisted

Earlier this year, a luxury 4x4 retailer in Austin, Texas showed off the Twisted NA-V8, a vehicle based on a classic Defender that comes in five different body styles. Now a limited run of 30 Twisted NAS-E all-electric 4x4 is bowing.

The NAS-E is born of the classic Land Rover Defender 90 body with a soft top and features an electric powertrain, a luxurious interior, and impressive off-roading capability. Each model is compliant with all North American EV Regulations and California CARB regulations.

Twisted NAS-E and NAS-E Plus

Photo courtesy of Twisted

"As the world moves steadily toward mass electrification, the Californian market has been missing a uniquely stylish electric 4x4 option that can stand out at the beach, off-road and at stoplights with a level of exclusivity and prestige that can only come from the timeless British Defender form," said Bruce Riggs, COO, Twisted North America. "With color schemes reflecting the natural beauty of California, a removable soft top shape to fully live the elements, advanced electric powertrain engineering exclusive to Twisted, zero-emission power, practical battery range and luxuriously modern interior touches, the Twisted NAS-E is the ultimate expression of the American coastal lifestyle."

The model is the first hero vehicle of the Twisted Legacy collection. It will be sold in two trim levels: NAS-E and NAS-E Plus. The difference mainly comes down to the power allocation. The NAS-E will be powered by a Remy Borg-Warner motor delivering more than 280 pound-feet of torque and 214 brake horsepower. The NAS-E Plus sees its output upped to 309 pound-feet of torque and 320 brake horsepower.

Twisted NAS-E Malibu Photo courtesy of Twisted

Twisted says that the model has a 200-mile range from its 60 kilowatt-hour battery pack.

The SUVs have custom-valved dampers, six-piston front brakes, four-piston rear brakes, hard-use RS29 brake pads, and a traction control system. Four-wheel drive is standard. There are Sport, Eco, and Off-Road drive modes.

The model will be offered in three color options: Malibu, Yosemite, and Tahoe. They will make up the California Series of the models, a limited time 30-vehicle offering.

Twisted NAS-E Tahoe Photo courtesy of Twisted

The NAS-E comes with a good list of features: cream leather seats featuring Alston Alcantara inserts, a three-seat bench across the front row with detachable headrests, 4x tip ups located in the load area, Twisted Sport Wheels finished in silver, a Twisted Stage One front end, NAS roll cage, Bimini hood, an infotainment system, EV management system touch screen, raptored 'spray down' unique flooring, eight-channel audio system, rearview camera with wideview angle, GPS tracker, immobilizer, and air conditioning.

The NAS-E Plus builds on that to include a NAS brush bar, NAS side steps, roll-bar spotlights, NAS-E body stripe decal, and black side sills.

Twisted offers the model with a comprehensive 24-month/20,000-mile warranty. Extensions are available.

Twisted NAS-E Malibu Photo courtesy of Twisted

The Twisted NAS-E starts at $185,000 while the NAS-E Plus comes in at $210,000. Each has a lead time of approximately nine months and requires a fully refundable deposit to reserve. Limited test drives will be available early October 2020.

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This image of a young child was considered so perverted by some that Audi decided to apologize for it.

Photo courtesy of Audi A

Audi has apologized for an advertisement that shows an image of a young girl eating a banana while she stands in front of an Audi RS 4 Avant.

The apology was issued after outcry from critics on Twitter who pointed to perceived numerous flaws in the ad from the overt sexualization of the child because of the banana involved to the potential danger the child was in because she was standing in front of a parked vehicle that can go up to 174 mph.

In the three-part apology, Audi stated, "We care for children. We hear you and let's get this straight: We care for children. The Audi RS 4 is a family car with more than thirty driver assistance systems including an emergency break system. That's why we showcased it with various family members for the campaign."
The statement continues, “We hoped we could convey these messages, showing that even for the weakest traffic participants it is possible to relaxingly lean on the RS technology. That was a mistake! Audi never intended to hurt anyone's feelings. We sincerely apologize for this insensitive image and ensure that it will not be used in future. We will also immediately examine internally, how this campaign has been created and if control mechanisms failed in this case.“
Some of Audi's Twitter followers said that, in their view, the criticism was likely unwarranted while others chose to concentrate on the fact that the model in the photo features a potent power plant. Others pointed out that they felt that the image was pro-pedophilia writing, in German, “I see a pedophile ad here. And child abuse. Disgusting and reprehensible.“

Though this is the first advertising slip up this year for the Audi brand, it's the second major ad folly for Volkswagen Group, Audi's parent company. In May, the company became embroiled in a controversy surrounding an advertisement that features a dark-skinned man being maneuvered around by the hands of a white woman. As the ad developed, the dark-skinned man ended up being flicked away from a yellow Volkswagen Golf, all while upbeat music played in the background.

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