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Drywall or kayaks? The 2020 Toyota Highlander is ready for your weekend plans

The new 2020 Toyota Highlander made its global debut on the eve of the 2019 New York Auto Show. It’s bigger and more high-tech than the outgoing model in a bid to fend off competition from a growing list of do-it-all rivals designed specifically for families.

Toyota built the fourth-generation Highlander on the same modular platform found under many of its other models, including the Prius and the Camry. It’s about 2.3 inches longer than before, and the additional sheet metal extends its cargo capacity while letting the second-row occupants slide their seats forward or backward. Both seven- and eight-seater configurations remain available.

Trunk space checks in at 16.1 cubic feet with all three rows of seats occupied, and 40.6 cubes with the third row folded flat. Folding the second-row seats into the floor yields 73.3 cubic feet behind the front passengers. The Highlander still isn’t at the top of its category when it comes to cargo capacity, but it’s spacious enough for most adventures, whether they involve drywall, dogs, or kayaks.

The bottom four trim levels come with an 8.0-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, but the range-topping version benefits from a 12.3-inch screen with crystal clear graphics. And, while Toyota resisted Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for years, it’s finally letting the two tech giants get settled into its dashboard. The Highlander comes standard with both smartphone integration technologies plus Alexa In-Car compatibility, Waze, SiriusXM, and Wi-Fi connectivity via AT&T. You’ll need to subscribe to a monthly plan to unlock on-the-go internet, though.

Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 engine that sends 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is available at an extra cost. Buyers seeking better fuel economy can order a gasoline-electric hybrid drivetrain made up of 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine to power the front wheels, and a pair of electric motors that spin the rear wheels by drawing electricity from a small battery pack mounted under the rear seats. The total system output checks in at 240 hp.

The Highlander returns about 22 mpg combined when equipped with the V6 engine. The hybrid powertrain bumps that figure to 34, while allowing the Highlander travel on electricity alone for short distances. The V6-powered model tows 5,000 pounds; Toyota hasn’t released the hybrid’s towing capacity, but it’s likely less.

The gasoline-powered 2020 Toyota Highlander will begin arriving in American showrooms in December of 2019, while buyers who want the hybrid model will need to wait until February of 2020. The lineup will include five trim levels named L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum, respectively. Pricing information hasn’t been released yet, but we don’t expect it will cost considerably more than the current model, which starts at $31,530.

When it arrives, the Highlander compete in a crowded — and growing — segment of the market against other newcomers like the Kia Telluride, the Hyundai Palisade, the Subaru Ascent, and the Ford Explorer, and against well-established rivals such as the Volkswagen Atlas and the Honda Pilot.

Updated on April 28, 2019: Added live photos.

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