2020 Toyota Highlander is a Work of Art at New York Auto Show

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Toyota showcases new Highlander in NYC with special 3D art installation to hype new model’s improved performance and safety.

When officials at Toyota began coming up with their plan on how to showcase their annual trip to the New York International Auto Show, they decided to separate themselves from the competition. While presenting a vehicle as unique as the 2020 Toyota Highlander, they wanted their presentation to be just as spectacular.

“We asked Brooklyn artist Michael Murphy to create a very special 3D art installation of the 2020 Toyota Highlander,” said Group VP and General Manager Jack Hollis. “We then filmed a short video and it was projected on walls and buildings around the city.”

The reason this year’s NYIAS was so important to Toyota is because of the history the company has with the New York International Auto Show and how it connects to the newest Highlander.

YotaTech at NYIAS

“We really wanted to do something special, because 19 years ago, right here in New York, we had a world premier that changed the game,” said Hollis at NYIAS. “The 2001 Toyota Highlander was introduced and made its mark on the mid-size SUV market because back then most mid-size SUVs were all truck-based. After that reveal, the Highlander’s unibody construction with four-wheel independent suspension quickly became the template for a whole new era of more comfortable, family-friendly SUVs. And we’re here to change the game all over again.”

The 2020 Highlander is the fourth generation of the model. It has built upon the features that were set by its predecessors.

This includes a new look, which the company calls the “Toyota New Global Architecture.”


‘The 2020 Highlander Hybrid LE offers 240 horsepower and the model’s best-in-class fuel economy ever, which is a 17% improvement from the previous generation.’


“The fourth-generation design of this highly influential SUV sports a new chiseled look based on the Toyota New Global Architecture platform, which gives it even greater performance, comfort and safety than ever before,” added Hollis. “Built on the well-known foundation that Highlander owners have come to know and trust, the new model takes a dramatic design direction, providing a powerful SUV presence with sophisticated detailing.”

The Toyota New Global Architecture platform, which makes extensive use of high-strength steel, gives the Highlander a stiffer unibody structure than the previous model. This allows for a smaller turning circle while also providing a smoother and quieter ride than before, according to Toyota.

YotaTech at NYIAS

The 2020 Highlander L, LE and XLE grades feature a black front grille with silver trim, while the Limited and Platinum grades are set apart by a black grille with chrome trim and chrome-plated lower rear fascia, projector headlamps and the Highlander’s first-ever 20-inch alloy wheels.

One of the most impressive options about the 2020 Highlander is that it not only comes in the standard V6 but also in hybrid form.

“Highlander offers a choice between two advance power trains,” explained Hollis. “You have a gas V6 and you have the Toyota Hybrid System. Now, here’s the best part of this: The 2020 Highlander Hybrid LE offers 240 horsepower and the model’s best-in-class fuel economy ever at an estimated 34 combined MPG, which is a 17% improvement from the previous generation.”

The 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 comes with the D-4S Injection system, which combines direct fuel injection with port fuel injectors to optimize efficiency, power and emissions in all conditions. Dual Variable Valve Timing with intelligence likewise ensures ideal response and efficiency at all engine speeds. The Direct Shift 8-speed automatic transmission maximizes Highlander’s acceleration and highway merging capability.

YotaTech at NYIAS

According to Toyota, the V-6 models come with a towing package that enables a 5,000-pound towing capacity. The package includes a heavy-duty radiator with engine oil cooler and improved fan performance. Trailer Sway Control uses the Vehicle Stability Control to help control unwanted trailer movement.

For the 2020 Highlander Hybrid, Toyota combined a 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine with two electric motors in a system that’s more compact, and more efficient than before. The gas engine employs Variable Valve Timing-intelligent system by Electric motor on the intake camshaft, and VVT-i on the exhaust camshaft. A variable cooling system (electric water pump, electric thermostat) and a fully variable oil pump further improve engine efficiency.


‘We are confident the Highlander will retain its impressive position in the crossover segment, which has grown exponentially since the first one rolled out nearly 20 years ago.’


Regardless of which model a consumer chooses, the technology used to make the Highlander stand apart from its competition was impressive.

“Our powerful 295 horsepower V6 is available with dynamic torque vectoring all-wheel drive with drive mode select for improved agility and capability,” Hollis said. “What’s also important in every single Toyota is Toyota’s safety technology. The 2020 Highlander comes standard with our second generation of Toyota’s Safety Sense. And standard on LE grade and above are blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.”

But, Toyota also showed that it is about more than just safety and performance. The carmaker also wanted to make the 2020 Highlander fit into this new generation.

“From a connectivity standpoint, we’re offering an array of options,” Hollis added. “Drivers can now enjoy standard Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Amazon Alexa, and Wi-Fi Connect. With all of these changes, we are confident the Highlander will retain its impressive position in the premium crossover segment, which has grown exponentially since the first one rolled out nearly 20 years ago.”

The 2020 Highlander is due in dealerships later this year. The Highlander V-6 model will arrive in December, and the Highlander Hybrid will make its way to customers beginning next February.

Photos for YotaTech by Michael Kinney

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Longtime automotive journalist Michael Kinney has been covering the world of cars for over five years and is a familiar site at auto shows from coast to coast. He currently covers Ford Mustangs for The Mustang Source, writes about Porsches for Rennlist, reviews international auto shows for Ford truck Enthusiasts, and offers tips on car careers on HondaTech.

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