2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD V6: Changed, but the same–a good thing

23 Dec 2020 | 499 views | No Comment
          By Don Hammonds It's hard to stand out in a crowded SUV market. So many products look the same, offer the same equipment, and provide pretty much the same benefits--and issues. But Toyota has clearly set itself apart with the Highlander. On top of all the terrific perks that you get with any Toyota--dependability, impeccable quality, longevity, high resale value--Toyota has bestowed a completely new look on the Highlander, which instantly helps distinguish this much-loved brand against its competitors. Though I personally think the RAV4 is the style leader among the company's SUV lineup, the Highlander now looks pretty contemporary and rugged, too. The aggressive, clearly macho oriented grille, which looks more like what you would expect on a performance model, l certainly helps, but it also has a really cool profile with all sorts of muscular styling cues along with a forward looking, sleeker roofline. No matter which model or for that matter, whether you are talking about Lexus as well as Toyota, the company has gotten some awesome styling chops of late.  When you have just about everything else that consumers want, it's styling that will make the big difference between a thumbs up and a thumbs down from those buyers.  Toyota has turned a corner vigorously when it comes to design, and I salute them for that. Let's take a closer examination of the Highlander: 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD V6: Price: $51,112 Economy: Published figures are 23 miles per gallon overall, with 20 city and 27 highway ratings.  It takes4.3 gallons of gasoline for every 100 miles you drive, and you will spend $1,250 more for gasoline over a five year period compared to other new vehicles. Your annual fuel costs will be $1,750 annually over a five year period, driving 15,000 miles a year on gasoline costing $2.70 a gallon. Performance: Power comes from a 295 horsepower, 3.5 liter V6 with an eight speed automatic transmission. Though the Highlander feels heavy and sometimes even slow in urban traffic, the Highlander feels much lighter and livelier on the highway.  Combine that with the almost legendary comfort you experience in all Highlanders, that makes the brand a top choice for long distance driving.  It's also a pretty good handler around curves too! The Car: The Highlander, with new styling, addition of an important new system that allows for both Android and Apple CarPlay, and a larger screen for drivers for audio and climate control functions.  As you might expect, especially since the Platinum is their topline Highlander model, the materials used for the interior are high quality. There's a bit more cargo space behind the third seat--16 cubic square feet instead of 14 cubic feet. But other three row seaters have considerably more space behind that third row compared to Highlander. But there are some issues, not the least of which is that the Highlander feels sluggish and heavy behind the wheel until you get underway, at least to my view. And that third row should be limited to children--and young children at that.  My teenager was furious when he had to sit in the third row seat. And although visibility is good, the Highlander can be a handful if you have to park in narrow spaces in typical urban settings. Also, The rear door entrance is pretty high and likely to be an annoyance to older rear seat passengers who will find that lifting their legs high enough to get into the car to be a nuisance, and the controls for moving the second seat forward to allow easier third seat entrance are cumbersome and hard to locate at night because the controls blend into the plastic trim along the edge of the second row seat. There are a couple of other issues concerning the instrument panel that I will discuss under our "Styling and Aesthetics" section of this review. Technology: Buying your Highlander includes comparing the five variants available to you: L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. No matter which one you pick, you will find there is only one power team for all of them: a 3.5 liter V6 engine that produces 295 horsepower, with an eight speed automatic transmission.  You will have to pay extra if you want all wheel drive; the standard system is front wheel drive. By the way, the Highlander has a multi-terrain selector system that allows you to choose the car's driving mode to fit driving conditions.
All models are powered by a 295 horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard and all-wheel drive is optional. There is also a Highlander Hybrid, which is reviewed separately.
    If you choose the base L model, your standard equipment will include Safety Sense 2.0,Toyota's big package  of advanced driver safety aids (Safety Sense 2.0) plus LED headlights, tri-zone automatic climate control, and a 8-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If  you buy the LE version, you're getting blind spot monitoring, a power liftgates and LED foglights, along with some additional multimedia functions and a leather steering wheel.
     There are lots of folks who of course, want more.  And more is what you get when you choose an XLE. Get ready for standard sunroof, second row captain's chairs, roof rails, heated front seats with more choices for more comfortable riding, simulated leather seating and a larger driver screen on your instrument panel. Your upscale, top of the line models for the Highlander are the Limited and the Platinum, which was our test car. If you choose the less expensive Limited, look for standard integrated navigation, 20 inch wheels, ventilated leathere front seats. and a top of the heap JBL audio system--and there are even more items that are standard that we haven't even mentioned. Now for the Platinum.  You get not just a standard sunroof, but a huge panoramic sunroof, a 12.3 inch tochscreen, a digital rearview mirror, a surround-view camera system and a driver's head-up display.        Safety:
Many, many standard safety features on the Highland. There is Safety Sense 2.0, which includes a Pre-Collision system with pedestrian detection; a full speed range dynamic radar cruise control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Lane Tracing Assist; automatic high beams; Road Sign Assist; eight airbags; Toyota's Star Safety System; blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert; front and rear parking assist with automatic braking; bird's eye view camera, and plenty of other good stuff. The bottom line is that Toyota ranks at the top for its attention to safety in its products. Styling and Aesthetics: The Highlander has more of a brawny look now, with muscular blisters over the wheel wells.  It's a cool way to distinguish Highlander from so many competitive products  which, at least when it came to the previous generation Highlander, looked almost identical to it. But I think the interior brings the greatest change.  There's a huge screen which makes it infinitely easier to read information and work the controls for climate and entertainment.  But make sure you read the owners manual carefully-- it's all pretty complicated, which is not unlike many autos and trucks these days. The dashboard is gorgeous, thanks to a multitude of curves, angles, colors and textures of the materials used.  It's both imaginative and efficient. Warranty: The usual 3 years, 36,000 mile warranty on the entire car, with a 5 year, 60,000 mile warranty on the powertrain.  

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