2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum V6 AWD Review – Timing Victim
2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum V6 AWD Highlights
3.5-liter V6 (295 hp @ 6,600 rpm, 263 lb-ft @ 4,700 rpm)
Eight-speed automatic all-wheel drive
20 cities / 27 highways / 23 combined (EPA, MPG estimated rating)
11.7 city, 8.6 hwy, 10.3 combined (NRCan rating, L / 100 km)
Base price: $ 48,800 (United States) / $ 54,150 (Canada)
As tested: $ 51,112 (United States) / $ 56,905 (Canada)
Prices include $ 1,120 US destination charges and $ 1,940 freight, preparation and air conditioning in Canada and, due to cross-border equipment differences, cannot be directly compared. The V6 has to be specially ordered in Canada, so consumer prices are not readily available.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander is a pretty good improvement over the previous generation, building on an already solid foundation, but unfortunately for Toyota, it comes just as Kia’s Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade soar towards the class domination.
Ask anyone who has big plans for after March 1, 2020 and they’ll tell you: timing is everything.
In the case of Toyota, a very, very good three-row family hauler gets lost in all the hype about the two remarkable Korean entries.
Somewhere, a Toyota sales manager is sobbing in his cafe between Zooms.
Naturally, because the Highlander is very good at accomplishing its mission – transporting your minions / stuff / pets / anything in town in relative comfort, without being a chore to drive.
The Highlander is not a joy to drive – it can feel heavy, heavy and slow at times, despite the 3.5-liter V6’s 295 and 263 lb-ft of torque. The manipulation is deliberate. However, the journey is pleasant and comfortable. An eight-speed automatic transmission transmits power to the all-wheel drive system.
Still, the driving dynamics aren’t so far removed from what the Kia / Hyundai twins offer that they’re completely out of reach. And most buyers in this class don’t care too much about on-road dynamics, anyway. Skill is often sufficient.
And the Highlander is more than proficient in the areas that matter. The interior looked and felt quite upscale, and there was no shortage of creature comforts. The cabin design isn’t as good as the Hyundai and Kia’s, and it’s a bit of a mishmash of shapes, but as previously noted, the materials are nice enough to make up for any stylistic quirk. And there is enough utility in terms of cup holders, lockers, and storage areas to help any harassed parent.
Even the infotainment screen is better integrated than on many Toyota products, although the brand’s graphics still rival Honda for being furthest behind its time.
Shortly after driving the Highlander on gas, I walked west for an hour to drive the hybrid version of the Highlander through the suburban streets around Toyota’s regional offices in the Chicago area. I guess when it comes to this Highlander there can be more than one.
Unsurprisingly, the hybrid is slightly less engaging on the road, in the service of fuel economy, but the set doesn’t look too different. You give up power – the 2.5-liter four-cylinder has 186 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. You’re also swapping out an eight-speed automatic transmission for a CVT.
The exterior design combines a slab cladding with curved fenders and a sloping roofline with a front end that’s more than a little angry. Thank the angled headlights, as well as a chrome strip that includes the Toyota badge, for that. Anti-fog openings also contribute to the Highlander’s perpetually edgy face.
It’s an aggressive look that contradicts the crossover’s mission as a comfortable family transporter. It’s not a bad look, but it feels unnecessary, as well as incongruous with the softer styling of the A-pillar towards the back. Who asked that – dads who want to show they can still be hardcore with a baby seat in the back?
The spec list, especially on the Platinum version I drove, was competitive in the category. There weren’t many options – just the paint color ($ 425), carpeted floor mats and cargo mat ($ 318), a tablet stand ($ 99), and crossbars. for cargo space ($ 350).
Standard features included Toyota’s SafetySense suite of driver assistance technologies: Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Warning with Steering Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, automatic main beam headlights and road sign assistance. Other standard features include blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear parking assistance with automatic braking, a 360-degree camera, 20-inch wheels, LED headlights, a adaptive front lighting, LED fog lights, a hands-free power tailgate, panoramic sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, heated and cooled front seats, leather seats, heated second row seats, third row seats 60 / 40 folding / folding flat, 12.3 inch touchscreen infotainment system, navigation, satellite radio, premium audio with subwoofer, USB media port, four USB charging ports, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, wireless smartphone charger and rearview mirror with HomeLink.
It all totaled $ 48,800. With the options and the destination fee of $ 1,120, the sticker was $ 51,112. That base price of $ 48,800 is a bit higher than that of a base Telluride SX, but clicking plenty of option boxes on the Kia puts it on par with the tested price.
However, a Telluride specification close to this Highlander underestimated it by several thousand dollars.
The Highlander is a damn good three-row crossover, with nice interior materials. It’s not as strong as the Palisade or the Telluride, mainly because it’s not as appealing, inside or out, and it’s not as engaging on the road. But it’s prettier than Ford’s Explorer, which can get expensive, and feels a bit upscale compared to Volkswagen’s Atlas (which scores well in terms of utility, if not aesthetics. ).
There’s a reason the Telluride and Palisade kick things off, but if they don’t ring you, the Highlander works well.
Maybe our hypothetical sobbing Toyota manager will feel better.
[Images © 2020 Tim Healey/TTAC]