2020 Toyota Highlander vs. Ford Explorer vs. Chevy Traverse: Which One Should You Buy?

Each car takes a different approach to the family hauler

Toyota is sticking to what works with the new Highlander.

Toyota just revealed the all-new 2020 Highlander at this year’s New York Auto Show. The fourth generation of Toyota’s family hauler doesn’t drastically stray from the formula that made it one of the best-selling models in its class, but there have been some major improvements. Then we got to thinking: How does the new Highlander compare to other favorites, like the Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse?

2020 toyota highlander suv debut new mpg

On the styling front, the 2020 Toyota Highlander sports a similar appearance to the outgoing model. The changes here are evolutionary, and aren’t likely to scare off any potential buyers. As before, there will be traditional gasoline V6-powered models, as well as a Highlander Hybrid version. The new Highlander is 2.36 inches longer than the outgoing version, which mainly goes to third-row and cargo space. Thanks to the additional length, there is 2.3 cubic feet more cargo volume behind the third row.

The 2020 Toyota Highlander seats eight in its standard configuration. L and LE models come standard with a second-row bench seat, making for a 2-3-3 configuration. XLE and Limited models get the option of second-row captain’s chairs, which allow the Highlander to seat seven people.

Under the hood of the standard 2020 Toyota Highlander is the same 3.5-liter V6 as the old model. As before, it produces 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque, and comes mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. The Hybrid, on the other hand, has seen some major revisions.

Toyota used their next-generation hybrid system in the new Highlander, linking two electric motors to a 2.5-liter inline-four engine. Overall, Toyota says the efficiency has gone up by 17 percent, although the power output has dropped significantly. The 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid manages 240 horsepower (down from 306), but it also manages an EPA-rated 34 mpg. That’s a big step from the last model’s 28 mpg combined.

Inside the 2020 Toyota Highlander

The layout inside the 2020 Toyota Highlander is not radically different from the previous model. However, Toyota did focus on refinement in this new version. There are softer materials, as well as a revised infotainment system. This new system is now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible as well.

2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid

Ford Explorer

So far this year, the Ford Explorer was the most popular midsize crossover. Ford revealed a new model coming for 2020, and it will compete directly against the Toyota Highlander. Not only will the basic model directly compete, but there’s also a hybrid model coming later this year.

The high-performance Ford Explorer ST is also on offer, with 400 horsepower. It’s arranged in a six-seat configuration (2-2-2), to the Highlander’s eight.

2019 Chevrolet Traverse

Chevrolet Traverse

Chevy is taking a slightly different approach to the Traverse lineup. Instead of going for a hybrid model or out-and-out performance, their three-row crossover offers a wide range of value options. The base model starts under $30,000, which makes it the least expensive of the three, at least going against prices for the 2019 Highlander and Explorer.

However, it can also end up being one of the most expensive with the luxury High Country trim. Spec out a fully-loaded high-end Traverse, and you can easily spend over $55,000. The Traverse is also the largest of the three crossovers with regard to passenger space, so it may be the most comfortable option.

Which would you buy? Let us know in the comments below! Stay tuned for more news on the 2020 Toyota Highlander and more from the New York Auto Show.