2020 Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD: Luxurious SUV that Sips Gas

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Tony Maples Photography


The 2020 Highlander comes in three trims: L, LE, and Platinum. The Platinum will be my focus. The 2020 Highlander is a fourth generation three-row SUV.

It has been designed with new technology, upgraded for any kind of road challenge or condition. I liked the more chiseled approach to the Highlander’s exterior than seen in earlier models.

Highlander is powered by a 2.5-liter Atkinson 4-cylinder engine with electronic continuous variable transmission (ECUT) and Electronic on-demand with trail mode. It delivers 186-horsepower with 6,000 rpm (gas) plus 118 horsepower (front electric) 54- horsepower (rear electric), 243-combined, plus 175 lb-ft- torque with 4,400 rpm (gas) plus 149 lb-ft.

Highlander Hybrid continues to offer an optional rear motor to provide all wheel drive without actually a prop shaft hack from the front end. Fuel economy is 35 mpg-city and 34 mpg-highway.

The Highlander Hybrid is perfect for an urban environment with congestion, stop and go traffic, and pedestrians everywhere. In fact, these conditions allow the battery to recoup energy from the regenerative braking system.

Numerous standard safety and security systems are offered through the Toyota Sense 2.0. Pre Collision System with pedestrian detection, full-speed range dynamic radar cruise control and Lane departure alert with steering assist are included. My favorite was the Bird’s Eye View Camera.

The 12.3 inch touchscreen was command center for the technology. Dynamic Navigation, JBL 11 speakers, subwoofer and amplifier, Sirius XM, Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay compatible with two 120 volt outlets are featured.

Highlander did quite nicely on the open road when we journeyed on Highway 45 South from Dallas to Galveston and back again recently.

We found the Highlander interior greatly improved from earlier models. The handsome Glazed Carmel leather upholstery power-heated-ventilated front seats, heated 2nd row and 3rd row 60/40 split fold-flat seats are more than capable of meeting the needs of passengers and for cargo. Although we didn’t need to try it, Highlander can tow up to 3,500 pounds.

2020 Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD: Luxurious SUV that Sips Gas

Photo: Jo Ann Holt

Toyota delivered our Highlander one bright Monday morning. Our destination for the week was Galveston. We were asked to select three restaurants by the tourist folks, and write stories on each of them about food quality, service, and price. Some of our photos and a little info about the restaurants will be included in this Highlander column.

The drive down was perfect. Highlander handled nicely whether traffic was packed or with lots of space between cars.

On our first day we selected Fisherman’s Wharf located near The Strand and next to the water. After a good meal (mine was the Captain’s Platter), consisting of several ocean delicacies like fried and grilled shrimp, fried oysters, cod, hush puppies and accessories like French fries, butter rolls and slaw, plus enough sweet tea to swim in. My Sweetie ordered a shrimp salad. No dessert for me since I was on a diet. We sat near the window admiring the harbor, watching gulls while getting a grand view of the tall ship Elissa docked there.

After the filling meal we walked The Strand. There didn’t appear to be as many people on the streets as there had been on previous visits. We got some ice cream, and while JoAnn shopped I sat out on a storefront bench and ate mine.

2020 Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD: Luxurious SUV that Sips Gas

Photo: Jo Ann Holt

With her arms full of packages JoAnn returned and commented she could hear me talking to everyone that came along the sidewalk. I replied that I was just a friendly guy. Beside folks were just looking at and admiring our new Highlander. It seemed the ladies wanted to look inside the vehicle, while the guys wanted to kick the tires and stand back a ways and look at the body design.

“I thought you were on a diet,” she said. “Then why are there three scoops on your cone?”

“Well, they don’t have a cone to hold four, so actually I’m still on my diet,” I replied.

Things kind of got better after that since I only had a single large Dr Pepper on the way to the car.

Yep, driving the Highlander along the Strand got smiles, friendly waves from folks, and thumbs up.

The next day our restaurant was the Black Pearl Oyster Bar, which features our favorites: Oyster Po’ Boys, Seafood Gumbo, and fried catfish with fried onion rings the size of hubcaps. Located about three blocks from The Strand, it offers a wide selection of seafood. Our table was next to a window where I could view my Highlander. Whenever someone came by to admire the car, I knocked on the glass and indicated it was my car.

After several incidents of self-promotional bragging, JoAnn gave me a choice. I could either quit calling attention to myself or move to another table. That is when I met Frank and Bob. We got to be good friends, they bought my lunch and took me fishing the next morning. However, there was no conversation driving back to the resort. I should have gotten suspicious when JoAnn told me to wait in the car. After two hours waiting, I found my room key didn’t work.

Our last day in Galveston we had lunch at Millers Seawall Grill, a very popular and usually crowded local favorite. Everything imaginable was on the menu from breakfast all day to steaks and seafood. JoAnn ordered a cup of seafood gumbo and the shrimp tacos, while I ordered fried shrimp. It was a wonderful meal of closure to our trip. I had to park far away from the restaurant, so my Sweetheart got my full attention.

We left early the next morning for home. The parking attendant, Harold, helped us carry the luggage down and started placing things in the large cargo area.

“It sure smells nice in here,” he proclaimed as he jumped into the backseat while rubbing on the leather upholstery. But before JoAnn could get in the front passenger side, Harold beat her to it. “Look at that large touch screen and those satellite stations listed. Say, it’s a little warm in here, mind if I turn the air up?”

Finally, I wrestled Harold out and got JoAnn aboard. As we sped towards home JoAnn reached into the backseat and said, “Honey you know what I just found in the cooler?”

“Oh not Harold again!” I screamed. “No Honey, a nice cold Dr Pepper,” she said with a smile.

“Ain’t life grand?” I proclaimed. Especially in a new Highlander! Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price $52, 512.

Durhl Caussey writes a car column read around the world. He may be reached at this website or [email protected].