2020 Toyota Highlander Off-Road Review: Mud, Snow, Rocks, Oh My! (Video)

AWD, Rock/Dirt Mode, 8-inches of ground clearance and one unavoidable reality.

Roman and Tommy take the all-new 2020 Toyota Highlander high into the Colorado Rockies to face the Ironclad, TFL’s multi-step off-road test. The drive pits the Highlander’s 8 inches of ground clearance, sophisticated AWD system, and independent suspension against mud, rock, sand, and snow.


Highlander Specs

The new three-row Highlander has a V6 under the hood that pumps out 295 hp and 263 lb-ft. torque and delivers it via an 8-speed automatic. The AWD system has a front-wheel bias, but it will direct up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels. A smart torque-vectoring system moves power between wheels to find the ones with traction. The vehicle even comes with Mud/Sand and Rock/Dirt modes.

Off-road Performance

Highlander approach angle

With the rock-crawling involved on the trail, Tommy opts for the Rock/Dirt setting, the vehicle’s most aggressive and sets out. He then quickly discovers the Highlander’s Achilles heel, the vehicle’s bulbous front end and front fascia, which reduces the crossover’s approach angle to useless (see above). And that’s as far as the Highlander can go. As Roman says, “It gets you too the trailhead but not beyond.”

Premium Interior, Premium Ride, Premium Price?


But let’s face it; the Highlander is not going to be shopped for it’s off-road capability as a family hauler. Toyota has three stellar options for that, the 4Runner, Sequoia, and the Land Cruiser. But for what it is, the Highlander delivers astounding creature comforts inside and the second-row legroom (see above) for our crew of 6-footers makes it a must for any tall or large family to consider in this 3-row crossover segment.

The one thing that made us go hmmm was the list price of our test vehicle, $51,112 for Toyota’s fully-loaded Platinum edition. That puts the Highlander close to Toyota’s Sequoia, which comes with three rows, 4WD, a V8, and a more rugged chassis.

Highlander price

To see how the Highlander performed in the mud, snow, ice and muck before being stopped by the rocks, click on the video below. Despite the large wheels and pavement-oriented all-season tires, the Toyota held its own!