At the New York Auto Show, Toyota has unveiled an all-new rendition of the Highlander crossover-SUV. The Highlander is one of Toyota's best-selling products in North America, and now enters its fourth generation with better fuel economy and more standard features.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander marks the fourth generation of the three-row crossover, with both a gasoline and hybrid version. The Highlander Hybrid model will achieve an EPA-estimated 34 mpg (6.9 l/100km) combined, an improvement of 17 percent over the 2019 Highlander Hybrid. The Highlander will also become one of the first Toyota models to offer both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay as standard, as well as Alexa compatibility and a large 12.3-inch infotainment display.
New design elements for the exterior are in line with the all-new Toyota RAV4 announced a year ago. The grille is flatter, diamond-shaped, and wider than before. Headlamps are more square while the lower scoop is more frowning, with a prominent approach guard. Bodywork on the new Highlander is a bit more chiseled without being overdone.
Underneath, the 2020 Toyota Highlander now rides on the Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-K) platform, which heralds the next generation of Toyota models. As a result, the Highlander should now have better handling and upgraded safety.
Under the hood of the new Highlander is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 295 horsepower (220 kW) and 263 lb-ft (357 Nm) of torque. An eight-speed automatic transmission is standard, as is front-wheel drive with all-wheel drive as an option. Towing is rated at 5,000 lb (2,268 kg), when equipped.
The 2020 Highlander Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive. HSD includes two electric motors on the transaxle. One motor helps propel the crossover while the other acts as a starter and regenerative braking generator.
Other improvements in the new hybrid system include replacing planetary gearing with a parallel shaft gear to reduce weight and bulk, and replacing the planetary ring gear with a multi-function gear. That multi-function gear acts as a power-split planetary ring gear, a parking gear, and a counter-drive gear. A smaller and lighter power stack for computer control reduces energy losses as well.
All of that change in the 2020 Highlander Hybrid model means an efficiency improvement of 17 percent over the previous generation. The battery pack for the new hybrid fits underneath the rear seating, so it does not impede on passenger or cargo space.
The new Highlander Hybrid also contains a learning computer that compiles data as the vehicle is driven, and combines it with GPS and real-time road and traffic conditions to begin predicting needs. This Predictive Efficient Drive system can, over time, improve efficiency in the Highlander Hybrid by adjusting charge and discharge states of the crossover's battery for better power consumption. The more the vehicle is driven, the better the system will get.
The optional all-wheel-drive system in the 2020 Highlander is actually three different systems, two of which are offered in the V6-powered models and one for the hybrid. Which AWD system is employed in the V6 will depend on trim point, with the lower three getting the lower-end system and the other trims getting the higher-end.
The standard AWD system for the 2020 Highlander will be able to split power at up to 50:50 between axles, otherwise defaulting towards the front. The upgraded AWD system can also split torque between axles in that way, but also incorporates wheel-to-wheel torque vectoring. This is controlled both through vehicle responses to terrain and the driver's inputs via the Multi-Terrain Select control dial in the cabin.
In the Highlander Hybrid model, AWD is achieved through the addition of another electric motor. Mounted on the rear axle, this motor is controlled by the computer and operates without mechanical connection to the powertrain of the Highlander. It's designed similar to the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid's AWD system.
Also new in the 2020 Toyota Highlander is an upgraded multimedia infotainment system. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Alexa in-car capability, Waze, SiriusXM satellite radio, and Wi-Fi connectivity are all now standard features. Advanced safety systems, such as automatic emergency braking and collision responses, are also standard in the 2020 Highlander. A new 12.3-inch touchscreen is found in the Platinum trim level.
Seating in the 2020 Highlander can be for eight or seven, depending on configuration. Cargo space is rated at 16.1 cubic feet (456 liters) behind the third row and 40.6 cubic feet (1,150 liters) with the third row folded. Total available cargo capacity in the 2020 Highlander is 73.3 cubic feet (2,076 liters) with both the second and third rows folded.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander will enter dealerships later in 2020, with pricing and other details being released nearer that date.
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