2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid arrives, promises 34 mpg combined


Facing its first three-row hybrid rival, the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid that bowed Thursday at the 2019 New York auto show boasting one big number: 34 mpg combined, according to the automaker’s estimates.

That’s 10 mpg higher than early estimates for the 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid.

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Though EPA ratings will come closer to its February 2020 on-sale date, the 2020 Highlander could best its relatively frugal predecessor by 6 mpg combined thanks in part to a new front-wheel-drive version. The outgoing Highlander Hybrid was only available with all-wheel drive.

The 2020 Highlander Hybrid uses a 2.5-liter inline-4 teamed to a pair of electric motors to produce a total system output of 240 horsepower. That’s well down on the Explorer Hybrid’s 318 hp, although a conventional 295-hp V-6 hooked up to an 8-speed automatic transmission is standard on the 2020 Highlander.

2020 Toyota Highlander

2020 Toyota Highlander

Toyota hasn’t said how much the new Highlander will weigh, but the automaker switched its three-row crossover SUV to its modular TNGA-K platform and shed weight in the crossover’s driveline by switching its reduction gear from planetary to parallel design. The Highlander rides on struts up front and a multi-link setup out back.

In addition to the normal, sport, eco, and EV drive modes, the Highlander Hybrid offers a system that works in tandem with the navigation system to anticipate traffic conditions ahead and can allow the crossover to coast for longer distances when the driver’s foot is off the gas pedal.

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2020 Toyota Highlander

2020 Toyota Highlander

Toyota mounted the Highlander Hybrid’s lithium-ion battery pack below its rear seat and the automaker says that it doesn’t take up any cargo space.

The new Highlander will earn its best fuel economy ratings with front-wheel drive. The optional all-wheel-drive system uses a second electric motor in the rear axle that shuttles power between the rear wheels with no mechanical connection to the front.

Overall, the new Highlander stretches about 195 inches from bumper to bumper, a bump of 2.6 inches over last year’s model.

2020 Toyota Highlander

2020 Toyota Highlander

The 2020 Highlander Hybrid will go on sale in early 2020 in four trim levels, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum. A base Highlander L trim is reserved for the V-6 only. No matter what badge is on the back, the Highlander Hybrid has seating for seven or eight passengers and infotainment software that now includes standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. An 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard on most trims, while the Highlander Platinum is fitted with a 12.3-inch touchscreen.

Cloth seats come standard on the LE trim, while synthetic leather is fitted to the Highlander Hybrid XLE. Limited and Platinum trims are upholstered in leather.

Toyota has not announced how much the 2020 Highlander Hybrid will cost.

 
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