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Auto review: 2020 Toyota Highlander channels Camry's spirit in a three-row SUV

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

SAN ANTONIO -- The 2020 Toyota Highlander channels the spirit of the Camry midsize sedan as Toyota shifts its focus from cars to SUVs. There's nothing flashy about the Highlander, but the midsize SUV promises the characteristics that made Toyota a juggernaut: practicality, durability and resale value.

The new Highlander goes on sale in mid-December. Prices range from $34,600 for a base front-drive model to $50,200 for a loaded all-wheel-drive hybrid.

At 194.9 inches long, the 2020 Highlander is about 2.4 inches longer than the current model. Versus key competitors, it's 1.6 inches shorter than a Honda Pilot, about 4 inches shorter than a Ford Explorer and 9.4 inches shorter than a Chevrolet Traverse.

The Highlander's other competitors include the Hyundai Palisade. Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent and Volkswagen Atlas.

The Highlander is Toyota's pitch to family buyers who are abandoning midsize sedans in favor of SUVs. But don't write the Camry off yet. It remains Toyota's No. 2 seller in the U.S., behind the RAV4 compact SUV.

Driving impressions


I spent a day driving gasoline and hybrid Highlanders around the Hill Country in central Texas. The SUV is comfortable, with plenty of room in the front two rows of seats and a usable back seat. Laminated front side windows contribute to a quiet interior.

Cargo space behind the third row seat increases to 16 cubic feet. Useful, but smaller than the best competitors.

The front seat has simple controls and plenty of storage. The steering wheel has flush controls for cruise, audio and other functions. I expected the feature to be confusing compared to wheels that have elevated switches for the most frequently used functions, but it seems reasonably intuitive. Android Auto joins Apple CarPlay among standard features.

Most models have an 8-inch touch screen. The top of the line Platinum gets a 12.3-inch screen Toyota claims is the biggest in its class.


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