Hybrids & Electrics

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s Weaker Engine Is Actually a Major Plus

If Toyota advertised that its 2020 Highlander Hybrid is weaker and more expensive than the outgoing model, they wouldn’t sell very many SUVs. However, that is exactly the case with the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. But that’s not the entire story, given that the Highlander Hybrid has gone on a serious diet. The extensive loss of weight means that the less-powerful engine is more efficient than ever before. Car and Driver recently reviewed the 2020 Highlander Hybrid and called it “a Three-Row Prius.”

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid gets a brand-new look

A photo of the 2020 Toyota Highlander outdoors.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid | Toyota

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has always been a great family SUV. Offering a third row of seats since its first generation, the Highlander is both spacious and affordable. For 2020, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid received a major re-design. The exterior styling is a major step forward, receiving a much sharper aesthetic. To stylize the front bumper, Toyota added two small running lights below the main headlights encased in what almost look like air intakes. The result is that the front bumper’s design is slightly more dynamic than previous generations.

A photo of the 2020 Toyota Highlander outdoors.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid | Toyota

The biggest change, however, comes in the form of a re-designed interior. Despite being a great family SUV, the previous generation Toyota Highlander was severely let down by extensive use of plastic. To liven things up, Toyota now incorporates a variety of textures throughout. The new cabin looks more upscale, from a leather-like material on the dashboard to gloss black accents throughout. Pair that with the new two-toned interior colors, and the 2020 Highlander Hybrid is a major leap forward.

How does a weaker engine result in a better hybrid SUV?

A photo of the 2020 Toyota Highlander outdoors.
Toyota Highlander Hybrid | Toyota

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Previously the Toyota Highlander Hybrid came standard with a V6 engine coupled with an electric motor. According to Car and Driver, the total system output used to be 306 hp. For 2020, Toyota ditched the V6 in favor of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Total engine output dropped a decent amount to 243 hp. While that is a significant power loss, Car and Driver notes that the Toyota Highlander Hybrid it tested weighed around 276 pounds less than a previous generation model.

Since the smaller engine has to push around a lighter body, it can do so much more efficiently. According to Car and Driver, the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid consumes an estimated 36 mpg on the highway, a 7 mpg improvement over the outgoing model. If we compare the hybrid to the standard model, the new Highlander Hybrid is up to 15 mpg more efficient on the highway. Since buyers opt for the hybrid model for greater fuel economy, they’ll likely appreciate the added mpg’s over the loss in performance.

How much more expensive is the 2020 model?

Toyota Logo | Alex Gottschalk/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and it’s $38,410 starting price is almost $900 more expensive than the 2019 model’s $37,520 base price. According to Car and Driver, the range-topping Platinum trim had a $47,170 base price in 2019. The 2020 Highlander Hybrid Platinum starts at $48,365, meaning the price gap increases as you move up the trim levels.

Regardless of the price bump, the 2020 Toyota Highlander is absolutely worth its price. According to Car and Driver, the Highlander Hybrid is one of the most fuel-efficient three-row SUVs currently on the market. Aside from fuel-efficiency, it is one of the only SUVs to achieve those figures for less than $40,000.