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2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Performance Review


Performance: 7.2

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a zippy yet fuel-efficient hybrid system that hustles the SUV around town confidently. It rides smoothly on rough pavement, but it feels a bit cumbersome around turns, a common criticism of three-row SUVs.

  • "Compared to the gas-only Highlander, the Hybrid … feels quicker off the line and smoother at around-town speeds. The electric power helps give it that immediate, satisfying start. The electronically controlled CVT keeps the revs where they need to be without any artificial steps to mimic a normal automatic. … The engine works a little harder as you climb to higher speeds, but it never feels pokey like some hybrids." -- Autoblog
  • "There is a satisfyingly firm brake pedal, particularly the hybrid's, and it's easy to modulate. The rather softly tuned strut front and multilink rear suspension has gentle body movements and delivers a decently plush ride over shoddy pavement, even on the optional 20-inch wheels (18s are standard)." -- Car and Driver
  • "Hard corners induce plenty of body roll and tire squeal, and the torque-vectoring all-wheel drive on higher trim levels improves little of that. None of this should come as a deal-breaker for SUV shoppers — our Challenge winner, the Palisade, exhibited largely the same characteristics — but those who want more driving fun might consider the Ford Explorer, Mazda CX-9 or Volkswagen Atlas, in that order." --

Acceleration and Power

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid features a 243-horsepower powertrain. This setup includes a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, two electric motors, a battery pack, and a continuously variable automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard. All-wheel drive is available.

This hybrid system operates smoothly, and it propels the Highlander around town and up to highway speeds without issue. That said, there isn’t a lot of passing power on the highway, especially with a full complement of passengers and cargo.

The Highlander Hybrid gets up to 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, according to Toyota’s estimates. The ratings dip by a point in models with all-wheel drive. These fuel economy ratings are great by midsize SUV standards, but they aren’t as impressive when compared to other vehicles in the hybrid and electric SUV class.

  • "[The Highlander Hybrid is] … slightly less energetic than versions fitted with the V6, but its overall performance is still perfectly fine. If you can live with this slight step back and a bit of four-cylinder thrum at times, this could be the way to go. The fuel economy it provides is absolutely astounding." -- CNET
  • "Because on the road, the 2020 Highlander Hybrid feels responsive and plenty powerful, up to a point. Around town, the 2.5-liter I-4-based powertrain and its CVT are always there to provide the response you need, though it does feel like it runs out of juice toward the end of a highway onramp. Everywhere else, though, the Highlander gets the job done." -- Motor Trend
  • "The 20 percent or so of Highlander buyers that Toyota expects to opt for the hybrid are probably going to like it. The on-road behavior is similar to the V-6's, and the CVT is decently responsive and tuned to keep the inline-four from droning excessively under hard acceleration." -- Car and Driver

Handling and Braking

The Highlander Hybrid rides comfortably over bumps and dips in the road, thanks to its softly-tuned suspension. The steering is quick and responsive as well, and its brakes slow down this SUV confidently. On the downside, the Highlander Hybrid feels a bit unsteady through tight turns.

  • "As for the ride, Toyota unsurprisingly veered toward the realm of the comfortable. The suspension is soft and isolating, soaking up the larger imperfections, while transmitting just a smidgeon of the road surface as light vibration to the soles of the feet and palms of the hands." -- Autoblog
  • "The Highlander Hybrids we drove featured brakes with excellent feel for a hybrid. Sometimes, hybrid cars and SUVs will stop abruptly at the end of the pedal's travel, but that wasn't the case with the Toyotas we drove." -- Motor Trend
  • "As solid as the TNGA-K architecture feels, each Highlander model we drove had a surprising amount of float to its suspension tune, a trait most noticeable on undulating pavement or when negotiating the many 90-degree intersections linking the rural Texas roads that ring San Antonio. No one in their right mind would expect sports-car cornering out of a family-friendly crossover, but the Highlander is less focused on handling competence when compared to rivals like the Honda Pilot or Kia Telluride." -- Automobile Magazine
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2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

MSRP: $38,200 - $50,200

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