A burgundy 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is driving on a dirt road with bikes on the roof.

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Is All-New and Makes Too Much Sense

Toyota keeps making it easier for us to save the environment, and in the process, feel better about ourselves. The Toyota Highlander is all-new for the 2020 model year and features a hybrid model with impressive fuel efficiency, especially for a midsize SUV. This is the kind of efficiency you would expect from a compact sedan. Yet, the fourth-generation, 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is a midsize 3-row SUV that seats up to 8 passengers and opens up to 84 cu.ft. of total cargo space. If you are looking for a family hauler but are concerned about the environment, or just want to save money on gas, the Highlander is the only option in its class.

Highlander’s Only Competitor

You will not find a real competitor for the Toyota Highlander in the segment. For example, the Ford Explorer, a midsize SUV with a hybrid model, falls in line with what you would expect from a midsize hybrid SUV. It sacrifices power for better fuel efficiency, though it only returns 23/26 MPG city highway with all-wheel drive. For a big SUV, that’s about what you would expect, even with the latest advancements in hybrid technology. So, what should we expect from Toyota? Remember, Toyota has been doing this for a long time, since 1997, when the Prius first went on sale in Japan, so it’s possible we do not need to temper our expectations as we do with automakers like Ford.

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid returns 36/35 MPG city/highway. That’s quite a difference. The Explorer loses this comparison by a landslide. But to be fair, the Highlander’s fuel rating is for its front-wheel-drive model. That must be the reason for such a massive discrepancy in the numbers. There must be some explanation for why Toyota’s midsize hybrid is 37% more efficient than Ford’s. Well, for the all-wheel-drive model, the Highlander’s efficiency rating drops to 35/35 MPG. That’s still 35% more efficient than the Explorer Hybrid. So, even if you go for the all-wheel drive model, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2020 remains incredibly efficient.

And with 600 miles between trips to the gas station, you will be doing your part in saving the environment. (The 2020 Toyota Highlander also emits a low 254 grams/mile of carbon dioxide, as estimated by the EPA). If you were comparison shopping midsize hybrid SUVs, you would see that the Ford Explorer Hybrid has an 18-gallon gas tank while the Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s tank is 17.1 gallons. So how does this translate to real-world numbers, such as how often you will be stopping to refuel? Even with a smaller gas tank, you will be able to drive 100 miles further in the Highlander than the Explorer on a single tank of gas. One hundred miles add up quickly, especially if you will be using your SUV as a daily driver or family hauler.

Imagine the significance of 100 extra miles with every tank of gas. And now imagine that you only have to pay $1,400 to upgrade to the hybrid model. You will be able to recoup that money in no time with the Highlander’s hybrid model. When you take into account the durability and build quality of the Toyota Highlander, you will be saving for a long, long time. The total cost of ownership, when you consider that you are essentially getting a free 100 miles on every tank of gas, is extremely impressive. And when combined with the Highlander’s reputation for reliability and high resale value, you have the makings of the perfect family SUV. The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is built for your family and your budget.

A couple is next to a red 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid in a city parking garage at night.

Lots of Standard Stuff

While the fuel efficiency is ground-breakingly awesome—for you and the environment—in the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, what else is there to know about this midsize SUV? Well, lots of standard features, for one. With the 2020 model year being the first year of the Highlander’s fourth generation, it is loaded with standard tech and convenience features. You will find an 8-way power driver’s seat, an 8-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa, tri-zone climate control, and keyless entry. Also standard on all Highlander models is Toyota Safety Sense 2.0.

Just when you thought the Highlander could not be any more family-friendly, Toyota made its safety suite standard across all models. This suite includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, pedestrian detection, full-speed adaptive cruise control, and lane tracing assist. Lane tracing helps center the Highlander in your lane when adaptive cruise control is engaged. Safety clearly is a top priority for Toyota, as this safety suite is as comprehensive as you’ll find standard in any segment. Another great standard feature is Toyota Care, which gives you two years or 25,000 miles of complimentary maintenance.

Upscale Features

The Highlander does not hold back on luxury amenities either. Since you will be saving so much money on gas, you might be able to afford some extras you otherwise would not be able to consider. These extra features include a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, front-seat heaters, power moonroof, leather interior with wood trim, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster, and 2nd-row sunshades. Navigation and a premium JBL audio system, 20-inch wheels, and heated/ventilated front seats are also options.

And that’s not even the highest trim. The Platinum trim offers a best-in-class 12.3-inch touchscreen, panoramic sunroof, surround-view camera, heated 2nd-row seats, head-up display, and a digital rearview camera, which can function as either a traditional mirror or digital image. Overall, the Highlander Hybrid offers so many features and options, enabling you to make it the vehicle you want it to be.

A woman is sitting in the brown leather interior of a 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Space and Performance

Another interesting aspect of the all-new Highlander is that the hybrid model has the same interior space as the non-hybrid models. Often hybrid models sacrifice interior cargo and passenger space to house their extra powertrain components. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2020, however, features 16 cu.ft. behind the rear seat, which is enough for several bags of groceries. And when you fold the third-row seat, your available space grows to over 48 cu.ft., and as much as 84 cu.ft. of cargo space with the second row folded. You will also find 41 inches of second-row legroom. That translates to plenty of space for the family—and friends.

There is no other good option for a midsize hybrid SUV outside of the Ford Explorer, so if you are looking for a hybrid SUV with enough space for your growing family, the Highlander far exceeds segment expectations. While the Hybrid Explorer takes the performance-first approach, the Highlander considers the family. The Explorer may boast more horsepower, though not much more. Combined horsepower for the Highlander Hybrid is still 243 hp, which is more than adequate. Really, there is no competition currently for the 2020 Highlander Hybrid.

Too Practical?

If you consider Toyota’s resale value and reputation for reliability, the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid risks being too sensible of a purchase. This is the SUV you should buy because unless you need your midsize SUV to tow heavy, which is not necessarily recommended anyway, there is no reason to look anywhere else. The Highlander’s superiority has become boring—it’s engineering so far above the rest of the pack that you feel like you’re rolling the dice if you buy anything else.