It’s important not to underestimate how important a vehicle like the Highlander is for Toyota. They sell near a quarter million of them each year in the United States alone. As the company’s go-to three row crossover, they need to get it right. The fourth generation Highlander just launched for 2020, so let’s see if it’s good enough to keep the pace in the competitive crossover world.
It’s been a few years since my first take on the Highlander. My final thought in that review was “It’s not particularly exciting, but it’s darn good”. With a few sporty exceptions, that has sort of been Toyota in a nutshell. The very first Highlander, also known as the Toyota Kluger in Japan and Australia, began production way back in 2000. It shares some family lineage with the Lexus RX and Toyota Harrier (which is an awesome name for a car) and has soldiered on for the last twenty years as a go-to in the midsize crossover world.
The Highlander comes in five main trim levels, from the base L ($34,600) to the Hybrid Platinum ($48,250). Our press loaner was a Highlander Platinum AWD model that started at $46,850. You have a choice of a 3.5L V6 gas engine, or a 2.5L 4-cylinder hybrid setup and AWD is optional with both engines.
As you can see, you’ll get 295 horsepower on the petrol-only engine, and 240 horsepower with the hybrid. Our V6 AWD version bumps the starting price up about $2000 to $48,800. Next you can pick from eight colors, a couple of which will run you another $425, including our tester’s “Moon Dust” paint color. Add in a beige interior and that rounds things out. The Platinum has basically all of the options you can spec on a Highlander, so that’s the end of the build.
Toyota added some mats, cargo bars, and a tablet holder and the final tally, came to a robust $51,112. That’s $16,512 more than the base Highlander, which is a bit more than the starting price of a Toyota Yaris. Let’s find out if it’s worth it!
I’ll start with what I consider a weak area for the Highlander, the exterior styling. I actually think the 3rd generation Highlander was a bit better looking. A good friend bought a 2019, we dubbed it “Lando”, and I felt like it was a bit more butch, a bit more aggressive.
The new one, well it just sort of blends in with the background. The pale blue color didn’t really help matters.
It’s not a bad looking SUV, I just couldn’t find a lot to like about the exterior styling. Inoffensive is the best term I could use to describe it.
For those families out there looking for the 3-row experience in something cooler than a minivan, I’m not sure this is it.
On the other hand, the interior was quite comfortable and well put together. Toyota’s updated interior layout still has a bit too much of that piano black that shows every speck of dust, but the overall feel is more upscale than the previous generation.
The seats were quite comfortable, I spent a decent amount of time driving the Highlander and was regularly impressed with it’s level of comfort and utility. We even plugged in a power strip to the standard 120 volt outlet for an outdoor movie night!
Elsewhere, the Highlander was just the right size for home improvement trips and generally family hauling. And while I wouldn’t opt for the beige interior, it was pretty nice inside.
I mentioned that Toyota sells darn near a quarter million per year here in the U.S.; actually as impressive as that is, they sell around 200,000 more RAV4s and about 100,000 more Camrys (long live the sedan!). Still, the Highlander is the least expensive 3-row Toyota, that makes this a pretty important redesign.
For all those out there looking for a modern, well-appointed 3-row SUV in the $30-something-thousand range, it’s an impressive choice. Ideally we’ll see some sort of cooler version, at least an SE, maybe even a TRD at some point?