Skip to main content

2020 Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD – Road tested and reviewed

Written By | Jun 28, 2020

SEATTLE — Toyota’s best-selling suv, the Highlander, is also one of the most economical SUVs you can find, thanks to its Hybrid offering. It’s rather astonishing to see how well the Highlander has sold for Toyota and this particular model is better than ever. Let’s dig in.

The brand-new design for 2020 is the best-looking Highlander to date. It combines a good deal of aggressive look with refinement. And that refinement isn’t only reserved for the exterior but more on the interior in a moment.

Powertrain:

The heart of the hybrid drive system is a 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine that’s matted with a pair of electric motors that is good for a combined output of 243 horsepower. So it’s not the most powerful SUV in its class, but this combination helps the Highlander achieve a whopping 36 miles per gallon around town and 35 on the highway. Those numbers are the kinds we used to see on hybrid sedans – would have never imagined that for a mid-size SUV. Kudos Toyota.

The all-wheel-drive uses an electric motor for the rear axle that has no mechanical connection to the front.




For daily use, the power output was more than adequate and didn’t feel too slow — even for those jack-rabbit-like starts off the line or when passing. The torque-vectoring system assures even power distribution between all four wheels while cornering. You’ll find that the Highlander handles itself on-road, quite well. Little body roll, modest under steer and an overall feeling of it being lighter than it really is.

Inside:

Our test model featured the great-looking “glazed caramel” colored interior which goes miles to helping provide a very upscale look and feel. Use of quality materials and stitched leather runs rampant throughout the cabin area and the seats feel very plush.

Tons of USB ports and storage abound and the new 12.3-inch touchscreen display on the infotainment system is bright and clear and is rather easy to use after a bit of getting used to it. We absolutely love the sound quality of its JBL-powered, 11-speaker sound system.

Seating comfort and 2nd row legroom are excellent, however, the third row is rather cramped for anyone larger than Tattoo from Fantasy Island.

Amenities include, a panoramic sunroof, a color heads-up display, wireless smartphone charging (which is in a troublesome location and can’t fit all phones if they have a case on) and 2nd row heated seats. There is also rear climate control, an AC power inverter and quite a bit of storage – especially with the 3rd row folded down.

Driver aids include adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, parking alerts, collision avoidance, lane-keeping assist and a digital rear-view mirror.

Driving:

Perhaps the best part of this vehicle is that as a daily driver, it’s super comfortable – in fact, it even gives its sister brand, Lexus, a run of the money. It’s quiet, smooth and very civilized. After spending a week with one, it’s easy to see why it’s nearly the perfect family vehicle. While it’s not an off-road horse, it does have modest capabilities in inclement weather or dirt roads.



The fact is, if you want a reliable midsize SUV that gets the best fuel economy in its class – with a few minor disappointments, then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better vehicle out there. We don’t like the cramped rear seating area nor the odd location for the wireless phone charging. Outside of those issues, there’s not a lot to hate in this 2020 Highlander Hybrid Platinum edition.

With near sublime ride quality and a lot of refinement, you’ll be hard-pressed to not love this SUV.

Duane Pemberton

Duane Pemberton is a lifestyle writer and CDNs Auto Editor. Pemberton loves anything that helps bring people together which is why he writes about food, wine, cars, and travel.