They're everywhere—the Highlander is one of the longest-running three-row SUVs and a best-seller in Toyota's lineup. Now in its fourth generation, the Highlander was redesigned for the 2020 model year. It's equipped with a V-6 engine, although a four-cylinder hybrid variant is also offered. The Highlander's second row is a three-across bench as standard, and captain's chairs are available for seven-passenger capacity. As ever, the Highlander is positioned as a family-focused crossover backed by Toyota's reputation for reliability and value.
The Highlander may have helped popularize the midsize three-row SUV segment, but it's no longer a mover and shaker. In 2021, it's a fairly milquetoast option among more appealing competitors. Is that a bad thing?
For the most part, the Highlander accomplishes its mission of being a versatile, family-friendly SUV. Its miniscule third row is only suitable for young children, but passengers in the front rows have a good amount of space and amenities. When the third row isn't in use, folding it opens up plenty of cargo space.
The Highlander's ride is comfortable, if a bit bouncy. Hopefully the new-for-2021 XSE trim's sportier suspension will button things down. A V-6 engine is standard, although its peaky power delivery isn't ideal for relaxed everyday driving. That's one reason we think the Highlander Hybrid is the one to get—it's down on power but has good low-end responses, and it returns better fuel economy.
Although the Highlander isn't the most interesting choice in the expansive midsize three-row SUV segment, Toyota fans should be satisfied by the new model.
The Highlander's standard engine is a 3.5-liter V-6 producing 295 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. It's joined to an eight-speed automatic transmission, with standard FWD standard and optional AWD. In MotorTrend testing, Highlander models equipped with AWD posted 0-60 mph acceleration between 7.2 and 7.4 seconds. EPA-rated fuel economy is 21/29 mpg city/highway on most FWD trims and 20/27 mpg on AWD models.
When fitted with the available curve-adaptive LED projector headlights (standard on the Platinum trim), the Highlander earns the 2020 Top Safety Pick designation from the IIHS. All trims earned the highest Good score in six crashworthiness tests. From the NHTSA, the Highlander got a five-star overall safety rating, the highest possible score.
For 2021 the Highlander is equipped with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) suite of driver-assist and active safety features. It includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, front automatic emergency braking, emergency steering assist, road sign recognition, and automatic high-beams.
With all three rows of seats upright, cargo capacity measures 16.0 cubic feet. Folding the third row expands that to 48.4 cubic feet. With the second and third rows folded, the Highlander has 84.3 cubic feet of maximum cargo space.
Standard front-row headroom measures 39.9 inches, which compares to 40.1 inches in the Honda Pilot. Second-row headroom measures 39.4 inches in the Highlander, less than the 40.2 inches in the Pilot. Third-row headroom is 36.1 inches in the Highlander, less than the 38.9 inches in the Pilot.
Front-row legroom is 40.4 inches in the Highlander, while the Pilot has 40.9 inches. Second-row legroom is 41.0 inches in the Toyota, better than the Honda's 38.4 inches. Third-row legroom is just 27.7 inches in the Highlander; the Pilot has 31.9 inches.
As standard, the Highlander is equipped with an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen and 4.2-inch gauge cluster display. Higher-end trims get 12.3-inch touchscreens and a 7.0-inch gauge display. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, Wi-Fi hotspot capability, and Bluetooth streaming are included on all, and built-in navigation is available. Five USB charge ports are standard, and a wireless device charging pad is included on higher-end models. Premium technology options include a digital rearview mirror and 11-speaker JBL audio system
Do family-focused SUVs need to be boring? Toyota doesn't think so, and that's why it's offering the Highlander XSE trim for 2021. The Highlander XSE stands apart from the rest of the range with more aggressive exterior styling, 20-inch alloy wheels, and an available red leatherette interior. Although the 295-hp V-6 powertrain is unchanged, the XSE model is equipped with stiffer suspension springs and retuned dampers, a new rear stabilizer bar, and a steering different calibration. Look, choosing the XSE trim isn't going to turn the Highlander into a super-SUV competitor. But if you want a three-row family crossover that at least tries to be fun, check out the Highlander XSE.
|$500||Toyota announces a College Graduate Rebate on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||01-04-2021|
|$0||2.9% Financing for a maximum term of 72 Months - Toyota announces special APR Financing on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||01-04-2021|
|$0||0% Financing available for varying term lengths : 36, 48 Months - Toyota announces special APR Financing on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||01-04-2021|
|$500||Toyota announces a Bonus Cash offer on select models when financing through SETF. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||01-04-2021|
|$0||1.9% Financing available for varying term lengths : 36, 48, 60 Months - Toyota announces special APR Financing on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||01-04-2021|
|$1000||Toyota announces a Bonus Cash offer on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||01-04-2021|
|$1500||Toyota announces a Customer Cash offer on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||01-04-2021|
|$750||Toyota announces a Military Rebate on select models. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||01-04-2021|
|$750||Toyota announces Bonus Cash on select models for eligible current owners. [Regional Incentive. See dealer for availability.]||01-04-2021|