2023 Toyota Highlander

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2023 Toyota Highlander Review: The Sales Champ Isn't Quite The Class Champ

by Michael Butler

The Toyota Highlander is one of the best-selling three-row midsize SUVs on the market today and offers an outstanding balance of value for money, practicality, and legendary reliability. However, it's up against some incredibly tough opposition and that includes an all-new generation of the Honda Pilot. For 2023, the Highlander features a 2.5-liter hybrid powertrain that delivers impressive fuel economy, and the V6 gets replaced with a turbocharged four-cylinder producing 265 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. Although the four-pot is a greener engine than the V6 it replaces, it lacks the refinement of the V6 and is barely more efficient, so not everyone sees it as an improvement. It doesn't help Toyota's cause that the brilliant Kia Telluride still comes with a V6 and boasts an array of appealing features. Can the Toyota badge overcome the Highlander's few weak spots in this segment? Let's find out.

Read in this review:

  • Exterior Design 8 /10
  • Performance 7 /10
  • Fuel Economy 9 /10
  • Interior & Cargo 8 /10
  • Infotainment & Features 9 /10
  • Reliability 10 /10
  • Safety 10 /10
  • Value For Money 8 /10
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2023 Toyota Highlander Changes: What’s The Difference vs The 2022 Highlander?

The big news for buyers in the USA is the replacement of the V6 engine. The old naturally-aspirated six-cylinder has been replaced with a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine producing 265 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque. Toyota promises that this new mill delivers a 50% reduction in NOx and NMOG, and a reduction in CO2 emissions, along with better responsiveness thanks to 17% more torque than before.

A new optional 12.3-inch infotainment display joins the feature list, and the Limited and Platinum trims get two 12.3-inch screens as standard. Those models also get standard power-folding exterior mirrors.

L and LE trims have a seven-inch multi-information display that replaces the smaller 4.2-inch one. The optional wireless charger has been relocated for easier access, while for the exterior, Cypress Green has been added as a new color.

Pros and Cons

  • Efficient hybrid model
  • New gas engine delivers more effortless passing power
  • Premium interior fittings
  • Many standard features
  • Impressive safety suite
  • Cramped third row
  • Cluttered dashboard
  • New four-pot sounds rougher than previous V6 and is barely more efficient

What's the Price of the 2023 Toyota Highlander?

The entry-level L model retails for $36,420 in the US. The LE trim costs $38,820, increasing to $41,820 for the XLE. The XSE costs $43,415 and is only available in non-hybrid guise. The Limited carries an MSRP of $46,075, while the top-spec Platinum has a price tag of $49,075. All-wheel drive is available across the whole range. On XSE, Limited, Platinum, and models, it adds $1,950 to the price. On the lower half of the range, which includes the L, LE, and XLE, AWD costs an additional $1,600.

The hybrid powertrain starts at $40,220 in LE guise. The hybrid XLE has an MSRP of $43,220 and the hybrid Bronze Edition costs $45,780. Moving up to the more upscale models, the hybrid Limited goes for $47,475, while the top-spec hybrid Platinum costs $50,475, excluding AWD. The hybrid trims require the same outlay for AWD as for their gas-only counterparts.

The price of the Toyota Highlander excludes the destination charge of $1,335.

Best Deals on 2023 Toyota Highlander

2023 Toyota Highlander Trims

See trim levels and configurations:

Trim Engine Transmission Drivetrain Price (MSRP)
2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
Hybrid LE
2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas
8-Speed Automatic
Front-Wheel Drive
All-Wheel Drive
See All 2023 Toyota Highlander Trims and Specs

2023 Toyota Highlander Handling And Driving Impressions

The three-row Highlander is first and foremost a family car, and its job is to keep its occupants as comfortable as possible. It does this well, managing to soak up bumps efficiently and smoothly, delivering a pleasingly smooth ride. Cruising at the legal speed is no problem, and the superior torque of the new four-cylinder turbo engine makes passing power easier, with fewer gear changes required to maintain momentum. On the downside, the 265-hp 2.4-liter doesn't sound as good as the V6 it replaces, and we did notice some wind noise in our Toyota Highlander first drive review that intrudes at highway speeds. Customers will have to decide if this engine is good enough, especially since Toyota Highlander competitors like the Kia Telluride and new-generation Honda Pilot still have smooth V6s.

Handling is unexciting, but it would be foolish to expect the Highlander to feel like a Supra. For a three-row family vehicle, it's stable enough through the corners. The 2023 Toyota Highlander has a sport mode which sharpens up throttle response, but the sportier suspension setup on the XSE seems a bit out of place. Off-road, the Highlander handles itself well. This SUV does struggle with ground clearance, but light gravel roads are dealt with confidently.

Verdict: Is The 2023 Toyota Highlander A Good SUV?

Cars like the Highlander have a straightforward job: to transport families in comfort over all sorts of terrain while offering practicality and safety, and the new Toyota Highlander SUV simply gets the job done. We understand why it continues to be a sales leader in this class. It's excellent at swallowing up people, and despite the tight third row, there's still plenty of space for kids. The ride is compliant, and the handling is predictable, precisely what you want from a car of this size. Toyota's choice to go with a turbocharged engine that doesn't offer any significant fuel economy benefits is puzzling, but we do appreciate the new powerplant's low-down surge of torque. The Safety Sense 2.5+ driver assistance system adds peace of mind, and Toyota's excellent reliability record adds to this car's appeal. If you're using the third row only occasionally, the Highlander is a good bet, but both the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade are more comfortable three-row SUVs.

What 2023 Toyota Highlander Model Should I Buy?

The Highlander range starts at just over $36,000 and goes up to over $50,000 depending on your choice of trim, engine, and drivetrain. That's a wide selection of models to choose from. The best model can usually be found in the middle of the lineup, and that's precisely where Toyota put the XSE with all of its sportier adornments. It has all of the features you need, like tri-zone climate control, five USB ports, a power-adjustable driver's seat, LED headlights, and keyless entry with push-button start. In addition to that, the XSE has a good-looking set of 20-inch alloys, a mesh grille with a sportier bumper, a twin-tip exhaust, black roof rails, leather seats, and seat heating for the front passengers. The only extra we'd add is the $1,375 12.3-inch touchscreen with the 11-speaker JBL sound system. If there could be only one, this would be the perfectly well-rounded Highlander.

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