NEW YORK -- The redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander, which starts rolling into dealerships in December, promises new interior refinements, more standard safety gear and a better ride. And the hybrid version, due in February, boasts a 17 percent increase in fuel economy.
The fourth generation of the three-row crossover, revealed at the New York auto show Wednesday, will ride on the Toyota New Global Architecture.
The Highlander was the second-best-selling large crossover in the U.S. last year, trailing only the Ford Explorer. It is one of Toyota's top-selling light trucks, with sales of 244,511 in 2018, an increase of 13 percent, outpacing the segment's 11 percent growth. In the first quarter of 2019, U.S. sales dropped 0.5 percent.
The large crossover segment is among the most profitable for automakers, with average transaction prices of $38,626 per vehicle in the first quarter, up 1.1 percent from the first three months of 2018, according to Kelley Blue Book. But it is also getting more crowded and competitive, with recent entries from Subaru and Volkswagen, and a redesigned Explorer and all-new Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride on the horizon.
The 2020 Highlander's standard 295-hp, 3.5-liter, V-6 gasoline engine, mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission, is expected to deliver an estimated combined fuel economy of 22 mpg. An optional hybrid powertrain -- part of the automaker's plan to spread hybrid technology across its lineup -- will feature a 2.5-liter inline-four paired with two electric motors to deliver 240 hp and estimated combined fuel economy of 34 mpg, 17 percent better than the current hybrid Highlander.
For the first time, the hybrid version of the Highlander -- which had been all-wheel drive only -- will be available in either awd or front-wheel drive.
Toyota added just over 2 inches in length to the 2020 Highlander, all in the cargo area, to boost capacity to 16.1 cubic feet with all three rows of seats up and to as much as 73.3 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats collapsed. Speaking of seats, the 2020 Highlander will come standard with a second-row bench seat in the lower-level L and LE trims to provide seating for up to eight and standard second-row captain's chairs in the XLE trim and above for seven-passenger seating.
Inside the cabin, the base-level L trim 2020 Highlander will come standard with an 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system, while an optional 12.3-inch touch-screen system will be in the top-end Platinum trim level. Like other Toyota models, even the base level comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense, the automaker's suite of driver-assistance and safety technologies, with additional features such as rear cross-traffic braking and adaptive self-leveling headlamps available in upper trims.
The 2020 Highlander will be available in five trim levels: L, LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum, along with the two powertrain variants. Pricing has not been released.