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The 2020 Toyota Highlander Redesign Promises Big Changes and You Will Like Them

Toyota recently introduced its fourth-generation 2020 Highlander. With it comes the promise of improved ride quality, comfort, safety and technology. Here is all that is new:

Whenever someone asks me how the Toyota Highlander drives, I normally respond with three very appropriate words: smooth, quiet, comfortable. That has been the calling card of the Highlander for the last decade or so. It is the SUV that drives like a Camry. This is one of the many reasons Highlander has been the best-selling SUV in its segment since 2016.

In December we will begin seeing shipments of the 2020 Toyota Highlander at our local dealerships. We will find a refined exterior, interior, and loads of improved creature comforts.

2020 Toyota Highlander InteriorFirst let’s meet our contestants

I find it best to know what grade levels we are talking about up front. In a move to make grade levels easier to understand, the 2020 Highlander is offered in the L, LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum.

There will also be 2020 Highlander Hybrid with trims LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum (sorry L – “no Hybrid (or soup) for you!”).

What about the colors of the 2020 Highlander Jeff?

Keep it simple. Everyone eventually thinks about car colors, so give them what they want Jeff. The 2020 Toyota Highlander carries over three familiar colors: Midnight Black Metallic, Celestial Silver Metallic and Blizzard Pearl. Then, to keep the color selection department busy, five new colors will be introduced: Opulent Amber, Ruby Flare Pearl, Moon Dust, Blueprint and Magnetic Gray Metallic.

Get to it already - What’s under the hood of the 2020 Highlander?

The 2020 Toyota Highlander will operate with two engine choices. The first is a traditional 3.5-liter V6 gasoline engine delivering 295 horsepower / 263 lb.-ft. torque. This will operate with a direct-shift 8-speed automatic transmission. Second, Highlander Hybrid will be driving with a team of a gas-powered 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and two electric motors. They will give drivers 240 total net hybrid horsepower. No longer available is the 4-cylinder gas engine that was on the 2019 entry level LE. Frankly it was underpowered so I’m ok with this.

Now, the all-important fuel mileage. What can you expect during your morning commute and your family’s next Disney road trip. With the V6 gas engine, look for a combined 22mpg. You will see a huge improvement in m-p-g in the Hybrid, with 34mpg combined.

What will it look like?

Toyota will proudly unveil 2020 Highlander to a new modernized look and feel. Aerodynamic sculped lines will not only help with fuel efficiency but will give drivers a feeling they are driving in a high-end luxury SUV. Perhaps the most prominent exterior highlight, since they say first impressions are everything, the bold new front end and grille.

Just like its wildly popular RAV4 counterpart, 2020 Toyota Highlander presents a bold trapezoidal front grille. This makes a strong statement, and I’m not quite sure the best way to describe this, but it combines an ideal blend of high-class luxury with rugged sportiness. Did I just contradict myself here? The L, LE and XLE trim levels will have black front grilles with silver trim. At the higher end of the spectrum, you will find Limited and Platinum featuring a black grille with chrome trim and chrome-plated lower fascia.

Consumers shopping for a new Highlander will get to choose between 7-passenger and 8-passenger seating. You will find soft, well-padded fabric seating with 2nd row bench seat on the L and LE grades. For XLE and Limited customers, you will have standard 2nd row Captain’s chairs with the option for a bench seat. XLE offers Softex synthetic leather seating while Limited has leather seats. Platinum is served up with Captain’s chairs only in the 2nd row. This is standard with embossed leather seats.

2020 Toyota Highlander Seats

Third row passengers will be pleased, as the 2020 Toyota Highlander is about 2.4 inches longer than its 2019 predecessor. This lengthening is devoted to providing more 3rd row leg room and cargo capacity.

A tertiary benefit to exterior aerodynamics and styling is a quietness not yet seen in Highlander. This has always been a very quiet road vehicle. However, due to dedicated soundproofing efforts by the Toyota engineering team, you will find this new Highlander to have less cabin noise, road noise and wind noise than ever before.

“I’ll take safety, technology and convenience for $100 please Alex”

I swear every vehicle on the market is looking more and more like airplane cockpits each year. Show a 2020 Toyota Highlander to someone who grew up driving in the 1960’s and they would be blown away with the sheer amount of technology and illuminated buttons / controls along the dash. But I digress…

The 2020 Highlander interior cabin has been refined with a luxurious look and feel. Layout is simple and refined yet loaded with buttons and controls to help with safety and convenience. I like breaking up the smart storage shelf into two sections, including one directly beneath the multimedia display. The dash is designed with soft materials and stitching that looks as if it was sewn by hand (well in assembly line fashion – but still).

Speaking of multimedia display, and I really appreciate this touch, all 2020 Toyota Highlanders will have at least an 8” touch-screen with their sound systems. Prince might have literally wanted to go crazy when hearing about the whopping 12.3” multimedia display found in the Platinum version. This is a market segment leader.

You asked for it and it is here. Finally. Standard in 2020 Highlander across all trim levels are Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Waze, Alexa commands, SiriuxXM and Wi-Fi connectivity through Verizon.

Limited and Platinum passengers will enjoy concert-like performance with standard JBL premium sound, providing 1,200 watts that kick through 11 speakers in nine locations. I was a guest at last year’s JBL Festival in Las Vegas. I’ve seen all that goes into making crystal clear in-vehicle sound. There really IS a difference with JBL.

There is so much more to add. Each grade level will see its share of unique highlights. I will be giving more updates as we get closer to December. Be prepared to see features such as blind spot monitor, power liftgate, LED headlights, LED fog lights, LED daytime running lights and LED taillights (I just wanted to see how many times I could type LED). This is welcome news.

Also look for up to 20” alloy wheels for the first time, along with available puddle lamps, adaptive self-leveling headlamps, panoramic moonroof, birds eye camera and rain-sensing wipers.

The 2020 Toyota Highlander is expected to reach dealerships beginning December. Expect 2020 Highlander Hybrid around February of next year.

What are you looking forward to seeing in the 2020 Highlander? Will you be in the market in the next year for a midsize SUV? If so, what is important to you when searching for the perfect one?

Thanks for following my Toyota news and reviews. I work hard to be “Your complete Toyota resource.” See you next story…

Jeff Teague is a Toyota news reporter at Torque News. You can reach Jeff on Facebook and follow his Instagram for his popular "Toyotajeff Minute" quick Toyota reviews. Follow him on Twitter at @toyotajeff1 and tweet him tips for new stories. Jeff also shares Toyota news videos on his Youtube Channel at ToyotaJeff1.


Timothy (not verified)    May 23, 2019 - 11:03AM

I am not impressed. Toyota has continued to use their shoddy eight-speed transmission in the V6, they have deleted the V6 Hybrid, they deleted the separate opening rear window and they weren’t smart enough to put in a split tailgate and instead have kept an inferior and frustrating power liftgate. They seem to have eliminated a CD player as an option and have proceeded to once again decrease the overall cargo space and have eliminated many easy to use analog buttons. If this is the future of the Highlander my 2019 Hybrid will be my last. I expect to buy one of the upcoming straight six Mazda diesels for my next car.

Jacoby (not verified)    May 23, 2019 - 1:09PM

Have you already driven the car? How do you know the car is really quiet?

" will find this new Highlander to have less cabin noise, road noise and wind noise than ever before."

Ed B (not verified)    May 30, 2019 - 9:32AM

In reply to by Jacoby (not verified)

I think it's safe to say that with a new platform, better aerodynamics and additional noise dampening changes, the 2020 Highlander should be quieter and more refined than the previous generation. That held true with Subaru. However, my concern is it's still relatively small and we'll see if brand loyalty suffers in the face of new competitors and larger offerings in the segment. I think Toyota will do just fine with the new Highlander. I'll reserve judgment until I test drive.

Daniel (not verified)    May 23, 2019 - 3:43PM

I like it. My 2003 doesn’t have a split back hatch, also as for the CD player, Toyota’s stock sound systems were never that impressive, to begin with. However, if you must have a CD player, get an old CD walkman from Goodwill (or Amazon if you don’t want to shop with peasants), an AUX cord, hook one end into the earphone jack of the Walkman, the other into your AUX port, problem solved. You now have a CD player... You’re welcome.

Mike (not verified)    June 14, 2019 - 2:53AM

Consumer reports wasn’t impressed with the newly redesigned RAV4. I think Toyota isn’t the great company that everyone says they are.
Sales numbers are meaningless, even garbage vehicles like Jeep sell in large numbers. Most people don’t intelligently buy vehicles.
I will consider the new hybrid highlander only because of the incredible MPG, but I waited months for the new hybrid RAV4 and was not impressed except for the MPG.

Susan Tesluk (not verified)    July 27, 2019 - 7:36PM

The 2019 Highlander has no digital speedometer. I find it’s numbers quite small. Do you know if the 2020 Highlander has the option for digital speed on the screen between the speedometer and the RPM gauge? Or, projected onto the dash like the 2019 Camry?

Linda Norman (not verified)    September 13, 2019 - 8:49AM

We are a Toyota family we currently own 7 vehicles. A tundra!, Tacoma and several RAV4 , Highlander and a 4 runner. The last several years the selection of colors for exterior for the vehicles has been disappointing to say the least . The drab khaki color , the light blue looks like a pinto from the 70s and this years color a flat army green. Please introduce some attractive metallic colors .

Amy Niemann (not verified)    September 17, 2019 - 7:00AM

In reply to by Linda Norman (not verified)

Yes! Better colors PLEASE! I have a gorgeous blue Tundra and want to buy the 2020 Hybrid Highlander in February but fear the color selection. Please Toyota give us some beautiful colors to choose from.

Kevin F OGrady (not verified)    November 7, 2019 - 1:07AM

your article says the Limited will have the option of a 2nd row bench seat. I have read elsewhere that this will not be the case as to the Limited. Do you know the answer on this point for sure?

Nick (not verified)    December 5, 2019 - 9:28PM

Wow. It seems with each iteration, the Highlander keeps getting uglier. So much for classic, clean lines. Time to ditch Toyota and rethink the Pilot.