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  • William Maley
    William Maley

    Quick Drive: 2017 Toyota Highlander XLE AWD

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    The Toyota Highlander may not be the flashiest or fun to drive. But it has many qualities to make it one of Toyota’s best selling models such as functional and spacious interior, long list of standard equipment, and high-reliability marks. Last year, Toyota unveiled an updated Highlander with tweaks to the exterior, revised V6, and more safety. Considering it has been a few years since we last checked out the Highlander, it seemed a revisit was in order.

    • The 2017 Highlander boasts new front and rear fascias to give it a more SUV-appearance and we think Toyota has mostly succeeded in this regard. The only issue is the front end reminding us too much of a Cylon from the original Battlestar Galactica TV. Thank the new grille design for this.
    • Move inside and the Highlander is the same as we last saw it back in 2014 when we did our original review. This is both good and bad. The good is that the controls for the various functions are easy to use. The center console features a huge storage bin that you can easily fit a large purse or a laptop computer. A shelf underneath climate controls provides a nice space to throw small items such as a smartphone. The bad is that the controls for certain functions are not in easy reach for the drive. We also not fans of the capacitive touch buttons around the 8-inch touchscreen as they didn’t always respond. There were times we found ourselves hitting the buttons two to three times to get something to happen.
    • The infotainment system itself is beginning to look somewhat dated with an interface that looks like it comes from the Windows XP era and the screen is somewhat dim. But we cannot argue that the system is easy to use thanks to a simple layout.
    • Passengers sitting in the front and second-row seats will appreciate the large amount of head and legroom on offer. Also, the seats themselves are padded quite nicely. We do wish the second-row was mounted slightly higher for better long-distance comfort.
    • The third-row seat as the seats aren’t that comfortable due to the thin amount of padding. Legroom is also quite tight with only 27.7-inches of space, meaning this is a space best reserved for small kids.
    • Most Highlanders like our XLE AWD tester will feature Toyota’s latest 3.5L V6 that comes with direct and port fuel-injection and an upgraded valve train. The end result is 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque - up 25 and 15 respectively. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic. Other engines include a four-cylinder for the base LE and a hybrid powertrain.
    • Toyota’s V6 engine is one our favorites as it provides impressive acceleration and a steady stream of power up to redline. This updated engine is no exception as it feels slightly quicker than the last Highlander we drove. 
    • The powertrain stumbles somewhat due to the eight-speed automatic’s programming. Toyota went for something that focuses on fuel economy which means the transmission is quick to upshift, but slow to downshift. This means you’ll be waiting for a moment or two for the transmission to get its act together when trying to merge onto a freeway.
    • You might be fooled into thinking that you’re riding in a Lexus considering the smooth ride of the Highlander. Bumps are turned into minor ripples. Little road and wind noise that come inside.
    • The Highlander is a vehicle you want to keep in its comfort zone when it comes to handling. Push it in a corner and you’ll experience excessive body roll.
    • One thing Toyota deserves credit for the 2018 Highlander is having a number of active features standard across the entire Highlander lineup. This includes adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection and automatic braking; and lane departure warning with lane keep assist. The only item we would like to see added to this list is blind spot monitoring. You can only get it on XLE models and above.

    Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Highlander, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2017
    Make: Toyota
    Model: Highlander
    Trim: XLE AWD
    Engine: 3.5L DOHC D-4S with Dual VVT-i V6
    Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, 
    Horsepower @ RPM: 295 @ 6,600
    Torque @ RPM: 263 @ 4,700
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/26/22
    Curb Weight: 4,430 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Princeton, Indiana
    Base Price: $39,980
    As Tested Price: $43,184 (Includes $960.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:
    Rear Seat BluRay Entertainment System - $1,810.00
    Carpet Floor Mats & Cargo Mat - $225.00
    Body Side Molding - $209.00

    Edited by William Maley

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    Nice ride, over all I am sure a solid CUV competitor and of course the Toyota loyal Lemmings will love it.

    For me I usually like the brick on wheels look but this is just a Meh to me. Weird.

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    I will say ditto to pretty much what dfelt wrote.  Nothing too exciting and it is a Toyota, soooooo..... unless you get in the "Wayback" machine a few decades, you are getting a competent and either poorly styled or. at the very least, mundane looking vehicle.

    And this Highlander is all of that and the proverbial "bag o' chips".

    Edited by lengnert

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    I am not a huge fan of the big grill, but I think it looks overall pretty good considering how everything else in the segment looks.

    It is not sporty but what other 3 row CUV in the segment, maybe besides CX-9, can claim to be sporty?  

    Nice interior, excellent V6 , great reliability.  No wonder Toyota sells boatload of them.

    5-year reliability data from true-delta

    image.png.92e2ef26557d3f1f0c669d0a440edfbe.png

    Edited by ykX

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    Sounds like that XLE Highlander is trying to be a cheaper version of the Lexus RX, if the RX were a 7 seater rather than a 5 seater.  Then again, in some respects it looks like an Enclave competitor without the Buick curves or presumably the personality.

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    Front is pretty ugly, maybe less so than the RX.  Strong similarity to the GC in greenhouse, rear and rear quarter that I've noticed. 

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    A good friend who had 2 crv's in the past (and hated them) just got their second highlander. They love them. He gives them glowing review. Right size for them with 2 kids in college. Good performance and as good of mpg as the crvs. Basically he has nothing bad to say about them. 

    I drove the cx-9 and it's chic but the turbo four is an epic fail compared to this since the v6 here will prob get the same or better mpg. 

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    12 minutes ago, regfootball said:

    A good friend who had 2 crv's in the past (and hated them) just got their second highlander. They love them. He gives them glowing review. Right size for them with 2 kids in college. Good performance and as good of mpg as the crvs. Basically he has nothing bad to say about them. 

    I drove the cx-9 and it's chic but the turbo four is an epic fail compared to this since the v6 here will prob get the same or better mpg. 

    Yeah.  Turbo 4cyl do not belong in a CX-9 or a Highlander.  The V6 is still useful.  Mazda better buy a clue or dump the CX-9.

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    Highlander are boring to drive and on par with everything else. People who have never driven a performance auto thinks there great when in fact they are just boring lemming mobiles.

    This will sell to the same lemming crowd but is far from a performance fun CUV to drive.

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    8 hours ago, dfelt said:

    Highlander are boring to drive and on par with everything else. People who have never driven a performance auto thinks there great when in fact they are just boring lemming mobiles.

    This will sell to the same lemming crowd but is far from a performance fun CUV to drive.

    Which exactly performance CUV you are talking about that would have three rows and will cost around $40k?

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    5 hours ago, ykX said:

    Which exactly performance CUV you are talking about that would have three rows and will cost around $40k?

    True, we no longer have any reasonably priced performance SUV/CUV's that cost $40K.

    Trailblazer SS was the last reasonable performance SUV that was out on the market.

    Durango has them but far from the $40K price.

    Still I would not use performance to describe the Highlander AWD CUV.

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    5 minutes ago, dfelt said:

     

    Still I would not use performance to describe the Highlander AWD CUV.

    No one did...it's a midsize 3 row family hauler like the Explorer, etc..

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar

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    10 minutes ago, dfelt said:

     

    Still I would not use performance to describe the Highlander AWD CUV.

    I don't think anybody did describe it as such.   Nor any other CUV in the segment

    Edited by ykX

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    On 10/13/2017 at 8:28 AM, William Maley said:

    Most Highlanders like our XLE AWD tester will feature Toyota’s latest 3.5L V6 that comes with direct and port fuel-injection and an upgraded valve train. The end result is 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque - up 25 and 15 respectively. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic. Other engines include a four-cylinder for the base LE and a hybrid powertrain.

    I wonder if/when the Tacoma will take over these power numbers with that 8spd. it could desperately use both that hp/tq tune and 8spd(although more tq would be better yet). Heck, even the hybrid system would be great for it. I wonder who will be the first to throw a hybrid system in their mid size trucks. 

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    2 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    I wonder if/when the Tacoma will take over these power numbers with that 8spd. it could desperately use both that hp/tq tune and 8spd(although more tq would be better yet). Heck, even the hybrid system would be great for it. I wonder who will be the first to throw a hybrid system in their mid size trucks. 

    Agree on the Hybrid for mid size trucks, Hopefully GM will be first and continue to lead the way. Here is to positive thinking.

    3 hours ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    No one did...it's a midsize 3 row family hauler like the Explorer, etc..

     

    2 hours ago, ykX said:

    I don't think anybody did describe it as such.   Nor any other CUV in the segment

    True no one came out and said it was a performance version, but Riviera74 said good performance and even that I am not so sure as the engine has to rev like crazy to product torque to move it's ass.

    In that regards I do not consider it good performance or any performance but then I admit my view is skewed as I see things as one that has nothing but big and small block V8's.

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    5 minutes ago, dfelt said:

     

    True no one came out and said it was a performance version, but Riviera74 said good performance and even that I am not so sure as the engine has to rev like crazy to product torque to move it's ass.

    In that regards I do not consider it good performance or any performance but then I admit my view is skewed as I see things as one that has nothing but big and small block V8's.

    Your are confusing 'good performance' with 'high performance'...a semantic disconnect.   Engines can perform to spec and be class-competitive (perform well within their product class) without being considered high performance.  

    Edited by Cubical-aka-Moltar
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    • Upvote 1

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    12 minutes ago, Cubical-aka-Moltar said:

    Your are confusing 'good performance' with 'high performance'...a semantic disconnect.   Engines can perform to spec and be class-competitive (perform well within their product class) without being considered high performance.  

    Yes it is a semantic of words, Perform well in it's class is fine for this auto. Performance is another thing altogether. :) 

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    26 minutes ago, dfelt said:

    as the engine has to rev like crazy to product torque to move it's ass.

    In that regards I do not consider it good performance or any performance but then I admit my view is skewed as I see things as one that has nothing but big and small block V8's.

    Yeah welcome to modern n/a V6's... That's basically just what they're like in comparison to turbo 4s and V8s, let alone tubo V8s.

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    3 hours ago, ccap41 said:

    Yeah welcome to modern n/a V6's... That's basically just what they're like in comparison to turbo 4s and V8s, let alone tubo V8s.

    Modern engines suck in many regards as well as have some cool tech, like my NA V6 and V8 Pushrod engines over the cam crap engines and especially the turbos. Would rather have a supercharger that goes with the flow of the engine helping out from low to high rpm than a turbo.

    EV will address all those shortcomings in the near future. ;) 

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      The seating color palette enhances the sense of luxury permeating the 2020 Highlander. The L and LE grades offer comfortable woven cloth in Graphite or Black; the XLE offers embossed Softex®artificial leather trim in Harvest Beige, Graphite or Black, while the Limited offers those colors in perforated leather trim. The top-of-line Platinum grade, the most luxurious Highlander ever offered, exclusively features embossed, perforated leather trim in those three colors plus Glazed Caramel, a luxuriously delicious new brown.


      Multitalented Multimedia 
      However passengers listen to music and connect with their worlds, the 2020 Highlander is ready with the latest multimedia systems.  All grades come standard with Apple Car Play®, Android Auto™, Alexa In-Car compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM®, and Wi-Fi connectivity through AT&T.
       
      All Highlander models come equipped with Toyota Safety Connect with a one-year trial subscription.
       
      LE and above grades offer Service and Remote Connectivity. A move up to XLE or Limited grade offers available Dynamic Navigation. A move up to Platinum grade offers standard Dynamic Navigation and the 12.3-inch screen.
       
      The JBL® Premium Audio System is standard for Limited and Platinum grades and rocks music of all genres with 1,200 watts of power playing through 11 speakers in nine locations. Clari-Fi®technology breathes new life into compressed digital music formats, with the result like a mobile concert. The system will not, however, settle arguments over which music to play.
       
      Exceptional Toyota Value, Naturally 
      Toyota’s typical outstanding value is clearly evident in the Highlander L grade, where the standard equipment list includes features that one might expect in an upgraded model:
       
      L: Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 18-in. alloy wheels 3-zone automatic climate control 4.2-in. Multi-information Display (MID) in instrument panel 8-way power driver’s seat Auto up/down for all power windows Multimedia with 8-inch touchscreen display Front seat reading lights and cargo area light. LED headlamps and taillamps Privacy glass on rear side, quarter and liftgate windows Smart Key entry on front doors and back door  
      LE adds over L: Power liftgate Blind Spot Monitor Additional multimedia capability LED fog lamps Leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob  
      XLE adds over LE: 10-way power driver’s seat 2nd-row sun shades 4-way power front passenger seat 7-in. Multi-information display Auto dimming rear-view mirror with garage door opener Auto LED headlamps with Auto High Beam Plated interior door handle Heated front seats LED fog lamps Machined-face alloy wheels Captain’s Chairs second row (standard) Power tilt and slide moon roof Roof rails SofTex®-trimmed seats and door trim  
      Limited adds over XLE: 120V 2nd-row power outlet 20-in. Limited style alloy wheels Ambient interior lighting Cargo area cover Driver’s seat memory Hands-free power liftgate Heated and ventilated front seats “Highlander” puddle lamp Perforated leather trimmed seats in Beige, Gray or Black Metal door scuff plates Projector beam headlamp with chrome bezels and separate, stylized DRLs Wood interior trim JBL® Audio System as standard Embedded navigation system  
      Platinum adds over Limited: 12.3-in. Multimedia head unit 20-in Platinum style wheels Adaptive, self-leveling headlamps Additional leather seating color choice: Glazed Caramel Digital display rear view mirror Embossed, perforated leather trimmed seats Head-up display Heated 2nd-row seats Illuminated door scuff plates Panoramic moonroof Rain-sensing windshield wipers Birds eye camera  
      Safety at Its Core
      The new TNGA-K platform forms the foundation for exemplary collision protection in the 2020 Toyota Highlander, while a suite of standard driver-assist technologies is designed to help prevent collisions, or to mitigate their impacts.
       
      The 2020 Highlander is equipped with the second-generation of Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0). Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) are standard on LE grade and above. Rear Cross Traffic Braking (RCTB) is available with clearance sonar on Limited and above.
       
      The standard backup camera features projected path. A Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, available on Limited and standard on Platinum, provides a live rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle.
       
      The 2020 Highlander is equipped with eight airbags, including side-curtain airbags for all three rows. Toyota’s Star Safety System includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).
      View full article
    • By Drew Dowdell
      Toyota took the wraps off the all-new Toyota Highlander at the New York International Auto Show today.  This new fourth generation Highlander rides on Toyota's new TNGA-K platform.   
      Powering the Highlander will be a choice of a V6 with 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque with both direct and port injection, or a hybrid that is 17% more efficient than the outgoing model. The hybrid is a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder combined with two electric motors for a total system rating of 240 horsepower.  Preliminary estimates put the Highlander hybrid at 34 mpg combined fuel efficiency.   The new hybrid setup is lighter and more compact than before while the battery pack has been reduced in physical size and now sits below the rear seats so as not to reduce cargo room. 
      On the safety front, Toyota loaded the Highlander up.  Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 is standard.  This includes Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert are standard on LE grade and above. Rear Cross Traffic Braking is available with clearance sonar on Limited and above.
       
      The standard backup camera features projected path. A Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, available on Limited and standard on Platinum, provides a live rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle.
       
      The 2020 Highlander is equipped with eight airbags, including side-curtain airbags for all three rows. Toyota’s Star Safety System includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control , Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution , Brake Assist , Anti-lock Braking System , and Smart Stop Technology (SST).
       
      More from Toyota on the Press Release on Page 2 
      World Premiere of All-New 2020 Highlander at New York International Auto Show
      Toyota’s Fourth Generation SUV Redesigned from the Ground Up;
      Offers Best-in-Class MPG for Hybrid
        17 Percent Fuel Economy Improvement Over Current Gen Hybrid with Estimated 34 MPG Combined Bold, Chiseled New Design New TNGA-K Platform Enhances Driving Refinement Standard Android Auto™, Apple CarPlay®, SiriusXM®, Waze and Amazon Alexa Compatibility Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 Standard (TSS 2.0) Available with 7- or 8-Passenger Seating Choice of V6 or New-Generation Hybrid Powertrain New Available Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive with Driveline Disconnect and Multi Terrain Select Largest in segment 12.3” multimedia display April 17, 2019 NEW YORK (April 17, 2019) – Toyota is on a major roll with new SUVs, especially the next-generation three-row 2020 Highlander debuting at the New York International Auto Show. Arriving in Toyota dealerships in winter, the Highlander Gas model will arrive in December 2019 and the Highlander Hybrid will make its way to customers in February 2020.
       
      Just as the first RAV4 launched the compact crossover SUV segment 22 years ago, the original Highlander redefined the midsize family SUV when it arrived in 2001. At a time when most midsize SUVs were truck-based, the Highlander’s unibody structure with four-wheel independent suspension quickly became the template for a new segment of more comfortable and family-friendly SUVs. After adding a third row, the Highlander not only grew in size, but is also now the best-selling retail model in the segment since 2016.
       
      Now, the fourth-generation of this benchmark SUV brings a new level of bold, distinctive design to a foundation built on safety, comfort, quality, durability and reliability set by predecessors. The 2020 Highlander amplifies all qualities while taking on a dramatic new design direction that combines a powerful SUV presence with sophisticated detailing.
       
      The 2020 Highlander’s new sophisticated look, covers a new vehicle platform called Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA-K). This robust new foundation, shared with other Toyota models, enables even greater capability, comfort and safety than before.
       
      The fourth-generation Highlander offers the choice between a powerful V6 or new-generation hybrid powertrain, with the gas version offering a manufacturer-estimated 22 MPG combined fuel economy and the Hybrid offering an manufacturer-estimated 34 MPG combined fuel economy.
       
      Whether they’re young families or empty nesters exploring a new chapter in life, safety remains the top priority for Highlander customers.  Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 comes standard in all models in the 2020 Highlander. This comprehensive active safety system includes:
        Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD) Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA) Automatic High Beam (AHB) (New) Lane Tracing Assist (LTA) (New) Road Sign Assist (RSA) Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection offers automatic braking capability under certain circumstances should the driver not react in time in a system-detected emergency situation. Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Parking Support Braking and Intelligent Clearance Sonar (ICS) are available depending on the model grade.
       
      The 2020 Highlander delivers renowned Toyota value in a choice of five grades, starting with a new L grade, then layering amenities and technology in LE, XLE, Limited and the top-of line Platinum. (The Hybrid is offered on all but the L grade.)
       
      The 2020 Highlander offers cutting-edge entertainment and connectivity for all ages through its intuitive and versatile multimedia system, including a new 12.3-inch touchscreen display on the Platinum grade and 8-inch on the other models. The available new JBL Premium Sound System delivers a whopping 1,200 watts of power to turn any music source into a mobile concert.
       
      The midsize SUV segment has become fiercely competitive, and the 2020 Toyota Highlander is ready to take on all.
       
      The Strong, Athletic Type
      A sculpted new shape with chiseled lines gives the 2020 Highlander a more powerful stance, yet with a modern, sophisticated attitude. The 2020 Highlander remains a family-friendly SUV, now with capability for bigger family adventures.
       
      Setting off the new design, the L, LE and XLE grades feature a black front grille with silver trim, while the Limited and Platinum grades are distinguished by a black grille with chrome trim and chrome-plated lower rear fascia, premium projector headlamps and the Highlander’s first-ever 20-inch alloy wheels. The Platinum stands apart with silver painted front bumper and rear fascia and a unique 20-inch wheel.
       
      Accentuating the 2020 Highlander’s bold lines, the exterior color palette carries over three colors from 2019 (Blizzard Pearl ($395 option), Celestial Silver Metallic and Midnight Black Metallic) while adding five new ones: Magnetic Gray Metallic, Moon Dust (a striking blue premium paint), Ruby Flare Pearl (a daring red premium paint), Blueprint and Opulent Amber (a deep, luxurious brown).
       
      While Highlander’s new design will turn heads everywhere it goes, it’s also highly functional. Greater aerodynamic efficiency reduces wind noise while enhancing vehicle stability, and even the taillights and side mirror designs lend a hand.
       
      The fourth-generation Highlander is 2.36 inches (60mm) longer than before, all in the cargo area to add even greater cargo volume than before. The second row can be slid an extra 1.2-in. further up to increase distance between the second and third rows.
       
      The TNGA-K platform, which makes extensive use of high-strength steel, gives the Highlander a stiffer unibody structure than the previous model. Its inherent strength allows tuning for the front strut and rear multi-link suspension that enhances agility and a smaller turning circle while also providing a smoother and quieter ride than before.
       
       The presence of takumi is evident whenever the driver experiences the Highlander’s premium touch and feel in everyday driving. Throughout vehicle development, these highly trained master craftsmen focused on the finest technical details to ensure a higher level of operating smoothness in all driving conditions - especially at everyday speeds.
       
       
      Take It All with You
      Looking sporty does not come at the expense of practicality in the 2020 Highlander. The L and LE grades come standard with a second-row bench for seating for eight, while the XLE and Limited grades come standard with a Captain’s Chair second row with seating for seven and the option of a second-row bench for seating for eight. Finally, the Platinum grade will come standard with a Captain’s Chair second row with seating for seven. Either way, the large rear doors provide easy access, while versatile seat folding features make it easy to enter the third row. And, passengers in the third row stay comfortable thanks to standard three-zone climate control that ensures ample flow of warmed or cooled air.
       
      With all seat rows in use, Highlander offers 16.1 cu. ft. of carrying space behind the third row. Folding the 60/40 split fold-flat third-row seatbacks opens the space to 40.6 cu. ft., and then folding the second row increases that to 73.3 cu. ft. The versatile cargo area makes the most of its additional length with side surfaces and pockets shaped for maximum space usage.

      Power, Performance and Panache … with Efficiency
      Power and efficiency are a whole lot sexier when wrapped in Highlander’s striking design. The 2020 Highlander offers a choice between two advanced powertrains, a gas V6 or a new version of the Toyota Hybrid System.

      The 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is the epitome of smoothness. Its Toyota-innovated D-4S Injection system combines direct fuel injection with port fuel injectors to optimize efficiency, power and emissions in all conditions. Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence (Dual VVT-i) likewise ensures ideal response and efficiency at all engine speeds.

      That translates into 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. of torque, which further translates into exemplary everyday performance and generous towing capability. The Direct Shift 8-speed automatic transmission maximizes Highlander’s acceleration and highway merging capability while operating seamlessly and transparently.

      On V6 models, the available towing package enables a 5,000-pound towing capacity. The package includes a heavy-duty radiator with engine oil cooler and improved fan performance. Trailer Sway Control (TSC) uses the Vehicle Stability Control to help control unwanted trailer movement.
       
      Why use fuel when you don’t need to? The Highlander’s standard Stop and Start Engine System allows the engine to shut off when the vehicle comes to a complete stop, and then instantly restarts when the driver’s foot lifts from the brake pedal. This technology reduces fuel consumption and cuts emissions.


      Hybrid Aims Even Higher 
      Toyota made “hybrid” synonymous with high fuel efficiency more than 20 years ago. Later, Toyota introduced the first hybrid SUV in its class, the 2006 Highlander. Leave it to Toyota to again raise the bar for hybrid SUV functionality by making the 2020 model the most fuel-efficient Highlander Hybrid ever.

      The new-generation Toyota Hybrid System in the 2020 Highlander Hybrid combines a high-efficiency 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine with two electric motors in a system that’s more compact, and more efficient than before. The gas engine employs Variable Valve Timing-intelligent system by Electric motor (VVT-iE) on the intake camshaft, and VVT-i on the exhaust camshaft. A variable cooling system (electric water pump, electric thermostat) and a fully variable oil pump further improve engine efficiency.

      The bottom line is an eye opener for the efficiency-minded: 240 total system horsepower and an EPA-estimated 34 combined MPG. The latter is a 17-percent improvement over the previous-generation Highlander Hybrid’s 28 combined MPG. Yet, Highlander Hybrid still delivers the everyday acceleration, power and responsiveness that family buyers expect. In another Highlander first, the hybrid is now available in either 2WD or AWD, further expanding hybrid technology to a new group of buyers.

      The transaxle mounts the electric motors (MG1 and MG2) coaxially rather than in-line, and the resulting smaller and lighter package reduces frictional losses. The gas engine and MG2 work in concert to deliver dynamic performance, while both MG1 and MG2 charge the hybrid battery.

      To reduce the transaxle’s size and weight, the reduction gear is now a parallel shaft gear, rather than a planetary, and a new multi-function gear integrates the power-split planetary ring gear, parking gear, and counter-drive gear. New computer integration and a smaller, lighter power stack installed directly above the transaxle reduce energy transmission losses.

      The battery pack is small enough to be installed under the rear seats, so it does not take up any cargo or passenger space.  

      Seamless Everyday Performance
      The Highlander Hybrid delivers its exemplary fuel economy and performance without calling attention to its high-tech powertrain operation. Quite the contrary, like all Toyota Hybrid vehicles, it simply goes about its business in a transparent way. For example, the new system optimizes the level of electric motor assistance and gas engine speed without the engine running at high revs. Engine speed is synchronized with vehicle speed, yielding effortless and quiet acceleration.

      As on many modern vehicles, the Highlander Hybrid offers selectable NORMAL, ECO and SPORT driving modes that let the driver choose the vehicle’s performance personality. The bonus is the EV mode, which allows electric-only driving at low speeds for short distances.

      SPORT mode unlocks boost from the hybrid system for improved acceleration response. ECO mode gets maximum efficiency from the fuel and battery, while NORMAL mode is ideal for everyday driving.

      Special, easy-to-use hybrid tech adds an element of control and fun. Using a sequential shifting feature, the driver can “downshift” to increase the regenerative braking in steps, which fosters greater control when driving in hilly areas, for example.

      The 2020 Highlander Hybrid can also coach the driver to drive as economically as possible. For example, an accelerator guide function suggests an acceleration level to the driver according to the driving conditions, and a scoring function adds a measure of fun to eco driving.
       
      Features for More Efficiency
      Highlander Hybrid’s Predictive Efficient Drive (PED) analyzes the driver’s daily driving habits and upcoming road and traffic conditions to more efficiently charge and discharge the hybrid battery accordingly alongside actual driving.

      The more the vehicle is driven, the more data is accumulated, contributing to practical fuel efficiency. Many actual roads chosen to represent common usage scenarios, such as in urban congestion or on mountain roads, were driven on and analyzed to create control that feels natural to the driver when operating to enable more efficient driving.
       
      All-Wheel Drive Gets Smarter
      The 2020 Highlander gets a grip on any road with a choice of front-wheel drive or three different available all-wheel drive systems -- two for the V6 models and a unique AWD system for the Highlander Hybrid. For the Highlander Gas L, LE and XLE models, the optional AWD system can send up to 50 percent of available torque to the rear wheels to counter wheel slip when necessary.
       
      Sounding like something from a high-end sports car, Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD with Drive Mode Select and Driveline Disconnect is available for the Highlander Limited and Platinum for even greater agility and capability. In addition to governing torque distribution between the front and rear wheels, this advanced system uses special couplings to actively manage torque distribution between the left and right rear wheels.
       
      Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD doesn’t need wheel slippage before springing into action. Rather, a sophisticated AWD Integrated Management (AIM) manages Electric Power Steering (EPS), throttle control, transmission shift control and drive torque distribution to continually optimize handling.
       
      Using the Multi-Terrain Select control dial on the console, the driver can maximize traction when driving through inclement weather or road conditions. Mud & Sand mode works well for beach driving, while Rock & Dirt mode optimizes AWD traction for trails. The driver can monitor, in real time, torque allocation and slip control on the Multi-Information Display (MID).

      In addition, Highlander models include the following features for optimal on-road and off-road performance and safety:
        Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) Trailer Sway Control (TSC) Downhill Assist Control (DAC)  
      All-wheel drive is a great traction partner, but it’s not needed all the time, such as during steady highway cruising. In such situations, Rear Driveline Disconnect automatically disengages drive to the rear wheels and stops the propeller shaft’s rotation. As one might guess, that reduces the energy needed to propel the vehicle and therefore reduces fuel consumption. When AWD is needed, the system instantly re-engages, without the driver even noticing.
       

      Hybrid AWD
      As with the AWD system in the previous Highlander Hybrid, the 2020 model’s AWD employs a separate rear-mounted electric motor to power the rear wheels when needed. Like the hybrid powertrain itself, the AWD works seamlessly and transparently.
       
      The rear electric motor operates independently, with no mechanical connection between the transmission and the rear wheels. Preemptively distributing more driving force to the rear wheels, such as when accelerating, helps suppress front wheel slip during off-the-line starts. The system also enhances cornering agility by helping to reduce understeer. And, when venturing onto a trail, the increased rear-wheel torque helps move the Highlander Hybrid confidently over rough or slippery surfaces.
       
      A New Level of Comfort
      From the L grade to the top-of-line Platinum, the 2020 Highlander offers its plushest accommodations ever. Designers took inspiration from luxury crafted interiors to create a more premium ambience. Details include softer padded surfaces and a more tailored look with stitching that continues from the door trim to the instrument panel. The dash integrates the multimedia and HVAC controls in an elegant and functional way.
       
      The 2020 Highlander cabin offers improved functionality throughout, from a center console that offers available Qi wireless charging to plenty of storage spaces and USB charging ports. On Limited and Platinum grades, new ambient LED lighting sets a relaxing mood. Inset steering wheel controls are a modern luxury touch on all grades.
       
      Highlanders have long been renowned for a quiet ride, and with the high-strength TNGA platform, Toyota pushes the bar even higher. Sound-damping and soundproofing materials have been optimized throughout the vehicle, with the takumi approach focusing particularly on minimizing noise in the frequencies that interfere with conversation.
       
      The seating color palette enhances the sense of luxury permeating the 2020 Highlander. The L and LE grades offer comfortable woven cloth in Graphite or Black; the XLE offers embossed Softex®artificial leather trim in Harvest Beige, Graphite or Black, while the Limited offers those colors in perforated leather trim. The top-of-line Platinum grade, the most luxurious Highlander ever offered, exclusively features embossed, perforated leather trim in those three colors plus Glazed Caramel, a luxuriously delicious new brown.


      Multitalented Multimedia 
      However passengers listen to music and connect with their worlds, the 2020 Highlander is ready with the latest multimedia systems.  All grades come standard with Apple Car Play®, Android Auto™, Alexa In-Car compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM®, and Wi-Fi connectivity through AT&T.
       
      All Highlander models come equipped with Toyota Safety Connect with a one-year trial subscription.
       
      LE and above grades offer Service and Remote Connectivity. A move up to XLE or Limited grade offers available Dynamic Navigation. A move up to Platinum grade offers standard Dynamic Navigation and the 12.3-inch screen.
       
      The JBL® Premium Audio System is standard for Limited and Platinum grades and rocks music of all genres with 1,200 watts of power playing through 11 speakers in nine locations. Clari-Fi®technology breathes new life into compressed digital music formats, with the result like a mobile concert. The system will not, however, settle arguments over which music to play.
       
      Exceptional Toyota Value, Naturally 
      Toyota’s typical outstanding value is clearly evident in the Highlander L grade, where the standard equipment list includes features that one might expect in an upgraded model:
       
      L: Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 18-in. alloy wheels 3-zone automatic climate control 4.2-in. Multi-information Display (MID) in instrument panel 8-way power driver’s seat Auto up/down for all power windows Multimedia with 8-inch touchscreen display Front seat reading lights and cargo area light. LED headlamps and taillamps Privacy glass on rear side, quarter and liftgate windows Smart Key entry on front doors and back door  
      LE adds over L: Power liftgate Blind Spot Monitor Additional multimedia capability LED fog lamps Leather-trimmed steering wheel and shift knob  
      XLE adds over LE: 10-way power driver’s seat 2nd-row sun shades 4-way power front passenger seat 7-in. Multi-information display Auto dimming rear-view mirror with garage door opener Auto LED headlamps with Auto High Beam Plated interior door handle Heated front seats LED fog lamps Machined-face alloy wheels Captain’s Chairs second row (standard) Power tilt and slide moon roof Roof rails SofTex®-trimmed seats and door trim  
      Limited adds over XLE: 120V 2nd-row power outlet 20-in. Limited style alloy wheels Ambient interior lighting Cargo area cover Driver’s seat memory Hands-free power liftgate Heated and ventilated front seats “Highlander” puddle lamp Perforated leather trimmed seats in Beige, Gray or Black Metal door scuff plates Projector beam headlamp with chrome bezels and separate, stylized DRLs Wood interior trim JBL® Audio System as standard Embedded navigation system  
      Platinum adds over Limited: 12.3-in. Multimedia head unit 20-in Platinum style wheels Adaptive, self-leveling headlamps Additional leather seating color choice: Glazed Caramel Digital display rear view mirror Embossed, perforated leather trimmed seats Head-up display Heated 2nd-row seats Illuminated door scuff plates Panoramic moonroof Rain-sensing windshield wipers Birds eye camera  
      Safety at Its Core
      The new TNGA-K platform forms the foundation for exemplary collision protection in the 2020 Toyota Highlander, while a suite of standard driver-assist technologies is designed to help prevent collisions, or to mitigate their impacts.
       
      The 2020 Highlander is equipped with the second-generation of Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.0). Blind Spot Monitor (BSM) with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA) are standard on LE grade and above. Rear Cross Traffic Braking (RCTB) is available with clearance sonar on Limited and above.
       
      The standard backup camera features projected path. A Bird’s Eye View Camera with Perimeter Scan, available on Limited and standard on Platinum, provides a live rotating 360-degree view around the vehicle.
       
      The 2020 Highlander is equipped with eight airbags, including side-curtain airbags for all three rows. Toyota’s Star Safety System includes Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).
    • By William Maley
      I was a bit surprised when I got word that I would be spending a few days with a Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross only a few weeks after doing a brief first drive. As I noted in my report, I came away pretty impressed with certain aspects of this latest contender in the compact crossover class. But there were some items that I needed more time to mess around with such as the infotainment system and powertrain. With a bit more time behind the wheel, how would Mitsubishi’s newest model fare? 
      As I talked about in my quick first drive, Mitsubishi’s design staff went crazy with the Eclipse Cross. Sharp angles, a split shape for the tailgate, and aggressive front end treatment will draw a lot of comment. But credit should be given to the design team as they have created something that does stand out in a very crowded class. The polarizing design can be toned down a lot if you choose a different color than the red as seen on my tester. 
      Sadly, that polarizing design doesn’t carry into the interior. But the plain look does allow for most controls to be easy to find and reach. Only the placement of the trip computer controls (behind the steering wheel) and climate control (nestled deep in the center stack) will invoke some frustration. Mitsubishi has also made some noticeable improvements to overall interior quality. There are higher quality hard plastics and some soft-touch materials used throughout. Also, there were no glaring build quality concerns that I noticed in the Outlander Sport.
      The front seats provide decent support for short trips, but I was wishing for more padding after doing a day trip to Ohio. The sloping roofline and large sunroof will eat into rear headroom, but legroom is decent for most passengers. Cargo space is on the low side with 22.6 cubic feet with the seats up and 48.9 cubic feet when folded. The sloping tailgate design does also mean you’ll need to plan carefully as to how you plan on loading cargo.
      Mitsubishi equips all Eclipse Cross models with a seven-inch touchscreen, but only the LE and above get a free-standing version with a touchpad controller. The touchpad controller reminds a lot of the Lexus’ Remote Touch system and its issues. Both systems exhibit some slowness to respond when your finger is moving across the pad. At least the Mitsubishi system has a touchscreen as another input method, but you’ll be stretching your arm to use it. The graphics and overall performance do trail competitors, but it is a huge step forward when compared to the previous systems Mitsubishi has installed. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility are standard on LE models and above.
      A new turbocharged 1.5L four-cylinder powers the Eclipse Cross. Output is rated at 152 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. All models come with a CVT and the choice of either front or Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel-Control (S-AWC). During my first drive, I came away mostly impressed with the turbo-four as it moved the vehicle with subtle verve around town. This still held true during my time with the vehicle. But I did find the engine runs out of steam at higher speeds, making it somewhat difficult to pass quickly when traveling on the highway. Also, the engine does sound somewhat unrefined in hard acceleration. The CVT is similar; providing excellent performance around town, but noticeably struggles on the highway. 
      EPA fuel economy on the Eclipse Cross SEL S-AWC is 25 City/26 Highway/25 Combined. My average for the five-day period I had the vehicle landed around 27.2 on a 70/30 mix of highway and city driving.
      Despite the Eclipse name on the vehicle, this is not a sporty crossover. There is pronounced body lean and the steering feels noticeably light. But for most buyers, this is not a big issue. They’re more concerned about how the Eclipse Cross rides and the news is better. The suspension does a great job of absorbing most bumps. Wind noise is kept to very acceptable levels, but there was a fair amount of road noise coming inside - especially when traveling on the highway. This makes long trips somewhat tiring.
      While many enthusiasts may bemoan the fact that Mitsubishi is using the Eclipse name on a crossover, I’ll be the first to admit this is their best vehicle in quite some time. The design and turbo engine help the model stand out in what is becoming a quite crowded class. Plus, the starting price of $23,295 for the base ES makes it quite tempting. Still, the Eclipse Cross does trail the pack in terms of comfort, cargo space, and performance at higher speeds. There is room for improvement, but Mitsubishi has most of the basics right on the money.
      Disclaimer: Mitsubishi Provided the Eclipse Cross, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Mitsubishi
      Model: Eclipse Cross
      Trim: SEL S-AWC
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.5L Direct-Injected Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 152 @ 5,550
      Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 2,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/26/25
      Curb Weight: 3,516 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Okazaki, Japan
      Base Price: $27,895
      As Tested Price: $32,310 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Touring Package - $2,500.00
      Red Diamond Paint - $595.00
      Accessory Tonneau Cover - $190.00
      Accessory Carpeted Floormats and Portfolio - $135.00

      View full article
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