August 4, 2021

The highlander has been around for twenty years now and at first, it had limited competition, but times have changed. Since midsize SUVs have become more popular many manufacturers have vehicles that directly compete with the Highlander making it harder to be named best midsize SUVs nowadays. The Highlander has become more luxurious with every new generation released. Lexus styling is apparent when looking at the taillights and very much resembles other Lexus SUV’s which is a good thing. These little additions like the rear taillights and rear panels that also give it a Toyota Supra like wide-body flow in the rear give the highlander a little personality to help make it not look as boring as it really is compared to some of its competitors. The Toyota Highlander falls short when it comes to the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and others in its class, but it still is a great vehicle to consider due to it having its legendary Toyota heritage.

Price

  • L: $35,720
  • LE: $37,920
  • LE Hybrid: $39,320
  • XLE: $40,720
  • XLE Hybrid: $42,120
  • Limited: $44,770
  • Limited Hybrid: $46,170
  • All-wheel drive is an added $1600

Powertrain and MPG

3.5-liter V-6 295 hp, 263 lb-ft, and is available in FWD and AWD 

Hybrid

2.5L 4-Cyl equipped with two electric motor’s 243 hp

2.5L 4-Cyl

21 city/29 highway

Hybrid

36 city/ 35 highway

Color Options

Moon Dust

Blizzard Pearl

Magnetic Gray Metallic

Celestial Silver Metallic

Midnight Black Metallic

Ruby Flare Pearl

Opulent Amber

Blueprint

Performance and driving

The V-6 motor in the Highlander is right in the middle of the pack with having slightly under 300hp and an 8-speed CVT transmission. The acceleration is adequate and gives you just enough power if you do happen to need to get up and go but it’s a minivan so performance isn’t going to be Toyota’s main focus. If you wanted to get the best fuel economy Toyota also offers a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid motor which 186 hp, but with the use of its two electric motors the horsepower output increases to 243 hp. When driving there is a noticeable amount of wind noise as compared to other Toyota models and the handling is nothing to praise other than having a typical minivan feel. If you choose the all-wheel-drive model you have a wide range of driving modes depending on the terrain that you may be tackling. These modes include.

Driving modes 3.5 L

Normal

Rock and dirt

Mud and sand

Snow

Hybrid model modes

Normal mode-  standard mode

ECO mode- for best efficiency

Sport mode- for maximum acceleration

Trail Mode- for best traction

EV mode- when at low speeds electric motors are only used

Fuel economy

the 2020 Highlander  V6 achieves 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway in front-wheel-drive form. All-wheel drive causes the mpg to drop in the city and highway by 2mpg due to the extra moving drivetrain parts. Compared to its competitors it achieves pretty good gas mileage so you won’t be disappointed. If that isn’t enough Toyota offers the best in class hybrid version that achieves 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway making the Hybrid a great choice as well if you want to fork over $3,000 more on average as compared to the base model.

Safety features 

The Toyota Highlander has all the standard safety equipment that all other vehicles have in its class and that’s great, but Toyota didn’t introduce anything to make the safety stand out from its competitors. If you have kids Toyota made it easier for parents to be able to view who’s buckled up in the rear by having an animation pop up in the dash displaying who is buckled up and who isn’t which is very convenient.  The safety features include

adaptive cruise control 

lane-keeping assist

automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection

automatic high-beam headlamps

automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection

blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross-traffic alert

lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist

Interior

The interior is definitely a step up from its previous generation, but when compared to its rivals it resides more in the middle of the pack when it comes to quality and features. The Highlander gives you the ability to have either 7 or 8 passenger seating depending on if you choose the second row to have Captain or bench seating. The seats come upholstered in fabric, SofTex, or leather material in either black or ash. The seats are comfortable enough to go on long trips but aren’t going to blow you away. The Highlander also has rear climate control giving passengers the ability to have ac or heat regardless of what’s going on in the front, but all the air comes from ceiling vents which are very small and could be a downside for some. What I do like about the Highlander is that it has plenty of storage space. Toyota incorporated areas on the dash being on the middle console as well as the passenger side where you can place your phone or other small items. In all the trim levels except for the base you also have the ability to wirelessly charge your phone above the center console storage area. With the wireless charger being on top of the storage area Toyota gave us the ability to still be able to get to the storage area without having to remove your phone from being charged by allowing you to lift your wirelessly charged area and not have your device fall out. The second row has two USB charging ports available as well to keep passengers’ devices charged. The third-row seats aren’t as roomie as other models in its class but Toyota at least added two cup holders on each side of the vehicle making me feel like Toyota didn’t neglect the rear and at least made the 3rd row slightly more convenient when traveling long distances with kids with drinks in the vehicle. The rear cargo is adequate and seats can easily be folded down to provide more room. 

 

infotainment

With the Highlander, you get two display options with a standard 8 inch and a massive 12.3-inch touch display. The infotainment display is very responsive and customizable in the Toyota Highlander. You have the ability to swap your two selectable viewed information on either the left or right side of the monitor.  Not only is it touchscreen, but right below the display, there are four physical buttons allowing you to navigate from Home, Menu, Audio, and Map with a touch of a button. One complaint I had was the actual car’s settings are in the small gauge cluster instead of within the available display which doesn’t make sense to me. Hopefully, Toyota integrates these settings into the display in upcoming models. Android Auto and Apple Car play come standard which is all that I ever want in an audio system. Toyota also has Amazon Alexa integration, 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, and Sirius XM as well on all models. An 11-speaker JBL audio system is also an available upgrade to get the party going as you go about your day.

Warranty

  • Limited warranty- three years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty- five years or 60,000 miles
  • Hybrid-component warranty- eight years or 100,000 miles
  • Complimentary maintenance-  two years or 25,000 miles
Automotive Test Drives

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