If you’re looking for a hybrid or electric family vehicle, you have a growing number of options. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets redesigned for 2020 with more features and even better fuel efficiency. It also has a comfortable ride, nice cabin, user-friendly infotainment system, many standard features and tech, and lots of room for passengers and cargo.
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid was first introduced in 2006 and became the first hybrid in its class. The 2020 model is now the most fuel-efficient Highlander Hybrid ever.
The Highlander Hybrid is available in four trims: LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. Starting prices range from $38,200 to $50,200, which are a little higher than other hybrid and/or midsize crossovers.
The Highlander Hybrid can seat seven or eight passengers, depending on whether you choose bench seats or captain’s chairs for the second row. Front-wheel-drive is standard and all-wheel-drive is available.
For 2020, the V6 engine is replaced by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It’s combined with two electric motors and a battery pack. The powertrain produces 243 horsepower, a drop of 63 horses from the outgoing model. A continuously variable automatic transmission is standard.
The Toyota Highlander is easy and pleasant to drive. There’s enough power for most everyday driving situations. Acceleration from a stop is perky but you may wish for more oomph when passing and merging at freeway speeds, especially when going uphill, or when the Highlander Hybrid is loaded with passengers and gear. The gas engine can get noisy when pressed. The CVT shifts smoothly and quickly. The brakes feel pretty normal and have less of that typically squishy feel of many hybrids. Steering is responsive. You’ll notice some body lean when cornering. The ride is nice and smooth, even over rough roads.
When properly equipped, the Highlander Hybrid can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Fuel efficiency is excellent for a three-row crossover; in fact it rivals what you’d find in a small car. EPA ratings for my AWD tester are 35 mpg city and 34 mpg highway with a combined rating of 35. I got 32 mpg during my week with a mix of city and highway driving.
The cabin is upscale and modern with a clean design. Materials look and feel good with minimal hard plastics. Interior space is the same as the gas-powered Highlander. The first two rows are comfortable, supportive and roomy with good leg- and headroom for adults. The third row is tight and only small kids will be comfortable there.
There’s a long list of standard features including proximity keyless entry, push-button start, rear view camera, cloth upholstery, tri-zone climate control, eight-way power driver’s seat, 4.2-inch instrument cluster display, infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen, six-speaker audio system, HD Radio, satellite radio, Bluetooth, four USB ports, Wi-Fi hot spot, and Driver Easy Speak, an intercom system for talking to passengers in the second and third rows. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa capability all became standard for 2020.
Many driver assistance technologies are standard as part of Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 including forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, lane center, lane keeping assist, automatic high beams, cyclist detection, and adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert also come standard.
Available features include synthetic leather upholstery, genuine leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, 12.3-inch touchscreen, navigation, 11-speaker JBL sound system, wireless device charging, head-up display, adaptive headlights and surround-view camera system.
Available driver assistance technologies include rear automatic emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors and hands-free parallel park assist.
The infotainment system is user-friendly with redundant buttons and knobs for common functions such as audio and climate controls. The system responds quickly to voice and touch commands.
The Highlander Hybrid has the same interior space and cargo room as the regular Highlander. There are 16 cubic feet behind the third row, 48.4 cubes with the third row folded and 84.3 cubes with both rows folded.
Easy, pleasant driving dynamics
Great fuel efficiency
Many standard driver assistance technologies
User-friendly infotainment system
Same cargo space as gas-powered Highlander
Less power than outgoing model
Could use more power at times
Gas engine can be noisy
Starting prices higher than many rivals
Third row is tight
My tester starts at $50,200. The special color is $425. Carpet floor mats and cargo mat are $318. Cargo cross bars are $350. Universal tablet holder is $99. Delivery fee is $1,120 bringing the grand total to $52,512.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is an excellent three-row crossover. It does everything you need a family vehicle to do, getting great gas mileage along the way.