Toyota Highlander is positioned above the Toyota RAV crossover, Highlander is a three-row crossover. 2019 Highlander received a major update in 2017. Highlander is expected to undergo a generation change in next year. It will become more competitive once it is redesigned on Toyota’s Global Architecture Platform.
Highlander has aged but it still isn’t obsolete. It offers stiff competition to newly updated models like the Honda Pilot and Ford Explorer. Subaru’s newly introduced three-row crossover has set new benchmarks for this segment. The Highlander needs a lot of catching up to do but it is still relevant with its powerful V6, comfortable ride, and spacious seats in first and second row.
Toyota Highlander is powered by a 2.7-liter inline-four in its base trim. This engine lacks steam and only manages a 184 hp output but the 3.5-liter V6 engine produces decent horsepower. Surprisingly the V6 engine is more fuel efficient than the turbo-four.
7.9/10 Engine and Performance
2020 Toyota Highlander Features
The Toyota Highlander is available in five trims. The base engine is equipped with a turbocharged 2.7-liter inline-four engine. It offers a 6.1-inch touchscreen display and a standard rearview camera. The LE plus upgrades to a 3.5-liter V6 engine, this engine is standard on rest of the trims. You can upgrade to AWD by choosing an optional package. LE plus introduces a bigger 8-inch infotainment screen and three-zone climate control.
XLE trim adds premium touches with leather-trimmed seats, sunroof, push-button start, and an optional rear-seat entertainment package. SE trim brings in a sport-tuned suspension and larger alloys. The Limited trim offers a unique saddle interior color and option to get the Platinum package that brings in goodies like Bird's Eye View Camera, 19-inch Chromtec alloys and heated steering wheel.
Adds or deletes features from LE:
Adds or deletes features from LE Plus:
Adds or deletes features from XLE:
Adds or deletes features from SE:
2.7-liter 4-Cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic transmission
3.5-liter V6 engine and 8-Speed Automatic Transmission
Rear-seat Blu-ray Disc entertainment system (optional)
LED taillights and stop lights
Integrated fog lights
Power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade and jam protection
Daytime Running Lights (DRL)
18-in. split 5-spoke machined alloy wheels
Height-adjustable power liftgate with jam protection
18-in. turbine-look alloy wheels
19-in. multi-spoke machined alloy wheels with black finish
19-in. 5-spoke Chromtec alloy wheels
Windshield wiper de-icer
Three-zone automatic climate control with separate second-row control panel
Second-row retractable window sunshades
Black leather-trimmed seats with unique ribbon inserts and red stitching
Available Saddle Tan interior color
Seating for up to eight
SofT/cloth seats with contrast stitching
Leather-trimmed seats with heated front seats
Seating for up to seven
Seating for up to eight
Integrated backup camera with projected path
Stop and Start Engine System
Smart Key System with Push Button Start
Rear parking assist sonar
6.1-in. touch-screen display
8-in. high-resolution touch-screen display
Driver Easy Speak driver voice amplification
Platinum Package (optional)
We would suggest most buyers move up to the LE plus trim. It brings in the 3.5-liter V6 engine and a longer list of standard equipment. It offers features like powered liftgate, an 8-inch touchscreen, upgraded upholstery, and start-stop function. This trim has the maximum value for money appeal.
2020 Toyota Highlander Engine and Performance
"The Highlander's V6 has plenty of power for daily driving tasks, but it can be lazy to respond when you aren't asking for maximum acceleration. The steering is sometimes too light and less responsive than we'd like, and the Highlander's capabilities are merely average."-Edmunds
Engine and Transmission
In its base configuration, the Toyota Highlander is powered by a 2.7-liter inline-four engine. This engine is severely underpowered for a vehicle of this engine. The 3.5-liter V6 engine has enough grunt to get this three-row crossover going. Considering its power output of 295 hp, the Highlander produces best in segment power.
Transmission duties are taken care by an 8-speed automatic. The Highlander is available with standard FWD but AWD is available for an additional expense.
3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6
2.4-liter turbocharged Subaru Boxer 4-cylinder
295 hp @ 6600
280hp @ 6000
288 @ 6500
260 hp @ 5,600
263 lb.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
262 lb.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
254 lb.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
277 lb-ft. @ 2,000 rpm
Ford Explorer takes the second place with its 288 hp output and then followed by Honda's 280 hp output. But when we consider drivability, the newly introduced Subaru Ascent has better lower rpm grunt due to a turbocharged engine.
A Toyota Highlander powered by a V6 engine completes its 0-60 run in 7.2 seconds and the quarter mile is completed within a respectable 15.5 seconds. Even after having the best power output, Highlander only manages an average acceleration. To put it into perspective, a similarly equipped Honda Pilot is faster to reach to 60 mph by 1 second.
3.5 L V6
3.5 L V6
3.5 L V6
2.4 L H4
(Tons/yr. of CO2 Emissions @ 15K mi/year)
Toyota Highlander tips the scales at 4244 lbs., it is the second lightest vehicle in this comparison. Yet it has below average acceleration. Honda's segment best 6.2-second run is followed by Subaru's 6.9-second. And finally, the Ford Explorer in its base trim takes the longest 8.2 seconds to reach 60 mph.
Ride and Handling
The Highlander isn't the best handling three-row crossover out there. The Highlander is bulky and you have to be careful with it in the urban space. The steering isn't the nimblest unit out there, so maneuvering the Highlander takes some attention. With a curb to curb turning radius of 38.4 ft. taking U-turns would require some preparation.
Although the Highlander doesn't respond well to enthusiastic input from the driver. Highlander displays good high-speed stability and it is a very capable highway cruiser. The cabin refinement is also on the higher level of this segment.
Highlander is equipped with ventilated discs at the front and at the rear has a solid disc setup. The 2019 Highlander offers below average braking performance. Under emergency braking scenario, this three-row Toyota underperformed a lot. It covered a distance of 128 feet before coming to a standstill from 60mph. Not good figures for a family hauler.
Brake Front (in.)
Brake Rear (in.)
Curb Weight (lbs.)
60-0 MPH (ft.)
108 (With optional tires)
The Ford Explorer scores an impressive stopping distance of 108 ft. This feat is achieved with the optional summer tires. However, the Toyota Highlander cover 20 feet more to stop from a similar speed.
Highlander can tow a maximum load of 5000 lbs. when properly equipped. The Highlander can tow 5000 lbs. in every trim except the base trim which is powered by a 2.7-liter engine. When we talk about the competition, Toyota lives up to the expectations of a vehicle of its class.
3.5 L V6
3.5 L V6
3.5 L V6
2.4 L H4
2020 Toyota Highlander Fuel Economy
The 3.5-liter V6 engine offers a combined mpg of 22. The engine start-stop system works in unobtrusively to increase the fuel efficiency. The competition also offers a similar combined fuel economy but the newly introduced Subaru Ascent beats everyone by a margin of 1 mpg.
Looking at the competition, the newly introduced Subaru Ascent delivers a segment-best of 21 mpg which is followed by the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot.
2020 Toyota Highlander Interior
"Material quality is solid, though this SUV won't fool anyone into thinking it came from a luxury brand, especially from the second and third row seats. LE models sport a painted silver trim that looks downmarket, but Limited and Platinum models swap in fake wood, and most Highlander trims are available with either synthetic or real leather."-TheCarConnection
Seating and Comfort
Toyota Highlander can seat eight people. The front and second row offer good space. The third row is poorly equipped to seat adult passengers. This row is best left to smaller passengers. The cabin has lot spaces to store items. Starting from the center console, it offers enormous space for miscellaneous items. You can easily keep your laptop there. It offers a power socket. The row between glovebox and the upper part of the dashboard is a well-designed space to keep keys, wallet, and tickets.
The interior has a sturdy built and the higher trim levels have been decorated with wood grains and metal inserts. The upper part of the dashboard and the doors have been finished with nice soft touch material. The top-spec Limited trim is offered with a massive panoramic roof that elevates the in-cabin ambiance.
Front (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (In.)
Second (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (In.)
40/ 60.3/ 38.6
Third (Head/Shoulder/Leg) (In.)
Toyota's interiors are starting to show their age. Newly updated competitors offer better interior features and also offer more passenger volume. The newly introduced Subaru Ascent offers the maximum passenger volume in this segment - 153.5 cu-ft.
The base trim level is equipped with a 6.1-inch touchscreen display and 6-speaker setup. The higher trims come with an 8-inch touchscreen display. The Entune touchscreen system from Toyota doesn't support Apple Carplay and Android Auto. It has soft touch buttons on either side of the screen. The system requires little time to get used to. Hopefully, Toyota will upgrade this system in the upcoming generation change.
Power adjustable door mirrors
Auto-dimming rear view mirror
Cargo area light
3 Climate control zones
Adaptive cruise control
The Toyota Highlander offers the least cargo space behind the 3rd row at 13.8 cu-ft. Fold the third row, and space increases to 42.3 cu-ft. Fold the second and third rows and the total cargo space available is 83.7 cu-ft. The cargo bay doesn't have a loading-lip. It is easy to load/unload your luggage. The rear window can be opened for easy access to the boot. Ford Explorer offers the best rear cargo space behind the third row.
Cargo Volume (cu-ft.)
2020 Toyota Highlander Exterior
"We generally like the Highlander's look. It's large but not imposing, muscular yet handsome. It has more a squared-off look vs. the rounded Honda Pilot. In this respect, the Highlander looks the part of a more traditional, slabbed SUV. Up front, it's hard to miss that massive grille. Base models come with 18-inch wheels, while higher trims wear 19-inchers." - KelleyBlueBook
Dimensions and Weight
The Highlander comes with a generous chrome application at the front. The front fascia tries to bring out the width of the car. This design comes off as aggressive but once you are behind the wheel you will feel lack of driving dynamics. The higher trims receive a fancy cladding beneath the grille that accentuates the width of the vehicle.The exhaust is hidden below well and the reflectors are covered in chrome.
The Toyota Highlander offers modest dimensions. It has the smallest wheelbase in this comparison and has the least the passenger volume in the segment. Highlander has a decent ground clearance of 8.0-inch and it can handle light off-roading jobs.
Curb weight (lbs.)
Ground clearance (in)
Track width (in) F/R
The competition has an edge over Toyota here, the Ascent offers a whopping 8.7-inches of ground clearance and also offers a larger wheelbase which translates to more passenger volume. When we compare the third-row dimensions, the Highlander offers the least space there.
2020 Toyota Highlander Safety
2019 Toyota Highlander receives an overall 5-star rating from NHTSA. The Highlander also scores well in the safety tests conducted by IIHS. The Toyota Highlander comes with standard Toyota Safety Sense. It really takes the safety of the driver and passengers to a higher level. This system comes with Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control.
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)
Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA W/ SA)
Automatic High Beams (AHB)
Pre-collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS W/ PD)
2020 Toyota Highlander Competition
Toyota Highlander vs Honda Pilot
Honda Pilot is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that generates 280 horsepower. Pricing for the Honda Pilot starts at $31,450. The 2019 Honda Pilot comes off as more contemporary vehicle due to the newly introduced updates. Honda has a very intuitive infotainment system on offer. It also offers standard Apple Carplay and Android Auto. The Pilot offers electrically operated second-row seats for convenient third-row access. When it comes to convenience, the Pilot takes the crown from the Highlander.
Toyota Highlander vs Ford Explorer
Explorer's 3.5-liter V6 engine belts out 288 horsepower. The Explorer is the heaviest three-row crossover in this segment. It has a lot of positives like a spacious cabin, mild off-roading capacity and the option to choose from a lot of three engines. The Toyota has only two engines on offer - a 2.7-liter inline four and a 3.5-Liter V6. Ford Explorer offers more features than the Toyota Highlander but it commands a bigger price tag.
Toyota Highlander vs Subaru Ascent
Subaru Ascent is powered by a four-cylinder boxer engine and comes mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission. Ascent is a better driving three-row SUVs available in the market. The turbocharged engine produced more torque than the Highlander's V6. And when it comes to standard features, Ascent is equipped with standard AWD, Subaru's eyesight safety system and offers the better cargo and passenger volume than the Highlander. Until Toyota updates the Highlander, the Subaru comes off as a better package.
2020 Toyota Highlander Final Verdict
The Highlander is equipped with a 2.7-liter inline-four engine that makes a meager 185 hp and 184 lb-ft. of torque. The power output isn't good for a three-row SUV. The base engine isn't good for a vehicle of this size. The Highlander becomes competent when equipped with the larger V6 engine.
Toyota Highlander shows its age, considerably. The infotainment system falls behind the competition. The cargo and passenger volume isn't impressive. If you want a little more out of your three-row crossover then the Highlander disappoints with its strictly commuter nature and lackluster stopping power.
The Highlander offers a well-built cabin, plush ride and a reliable V6 engine that is very adept at doing school duty and grocery runs but the Highlander is about to receive a generation change next year. If you can wait, then the newly upgraded Highlander would be a much better choice. If you can't wait, then your money is better spent elsewhere.