2023 Toyota Highlander Performance

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Toyota Highlander Performance Rating

2023 Highlander Performance

This year, the previous naturally-aspirated V6 falls away and is replaced by a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 265 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque; that torque figure is up by 17%. It's available in both front- and all-wheel-drive configurations, both using an eight-speed automatic transmission. If you add the available towing package, the gas Highlander is capable of towing 5,000 lbs. In hybrid format, the Highlander uses a naturally-aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors. The combination puts its power down via a CVT transmission. It's available in FWD, in which case the electric motor is part of the gearbox assembly, or in AWD hybrid form where there is no mechanical coupling between the front and rear axle. The engine powers the front wheels, while a single electric motor takes care of the rear. Hybrid models have a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 lbs.

Toyota doesn't claim performance figures, but independent tests have shown that the new turbocharged engine needs eight seconds to get an AWD Highlander from 0 to 60 mph. That's over a second off the pace of the previous V6. Although it may be a bit disappointing off the mark, we found that the greater torque makes for better passing power in our review of the turbo Toyota Highlander.

The hybrid is now actually quicker than the gas-only model, taking 7.3 seconds to do the same. Still, there are more powerful hybrid options out there. Ford's Explorer is a prime example, as it's both faster and can tow more. Toyota's focus appears to be fuel efficiency, however. In this particular segment, the latter makes more sense to us.

2023 Highlander Performance Photos

2023 Toyota Highlander Rear Angle View CarBuzz 2023 Toyota Highlander Gauge Cluster CarBuzz 2023 Toyota Highlander Engine Bay CarBuzz
2023 Toyota Highlander Rear Angle View
2023 Toyota Highlander Gauge Cluster
2023 Toyota Highlander Engine Bay

Engine and Transmission

The 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine equipped as standard is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Hybrid-wise, you can choose a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated motor with electric assistance.

The 2.4-liter produces 265 hp at 6,000 rpm, while the 310 lb-ft arrives from just 1,700 rpm. Compare that with the previous V6's 263 lb-ft that only kicks in at 4,700 rpm, and it's obvious why the new turbo-four is less peaky. It doesn't sound as good as the old V6, though. In everyday situations, the eight-speeder goes about its business quietly and efficiently. That's perfectly fine, considering the application.

The hybrid model is quite interesting in its approach. Whereas rivals like the Ford Explorer use hybridization to produce more power, Toyota uses it for ultimate efficiency. CVT transmissions are getting better, but they're still nowhere near as refined as traditional torque converter 'boxes. CVTs tend to work well in vehicles with plenty of low-down torque. The combustion engine produces 186 hp and 175 lb-ft by itself. These figures are poor, but the electric motor takes the combined power output up to 243 hp. The low-down torque comes from the electric motor, which fills the power gaps adequately.

We're not fans of CVTs, but this one works well enough. It doesn't make us want to get out of the Highlander and walk in front of an oncoming bus. The same could not be said of the first- and second-generation Prius.

2023 Toyota Highlander Performance Specs:

Toyota Highlander TrimsToyota Highlander EnginesToyota Highlander HorsepowerToyota Highlander TransmissionsToyota Highlander DrivetrainsToyota Highlander MPG/MPGE
L2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas265 hp @ 6000 rpm8-Speed AutomaticAWD
FWD
24 MPG
25 MPG
LE2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas265 hp @ 6000 rpm8-Speed AutomaticAWD
FWD
24 MPG
25 MPG
Hybrid LE2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid243 hp @ 6000 rpmContinuously Variable Automatic (CVT)N/A35 MPG
36 MPG
XLE2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas265 hp @ 6000 rpm8-Speed AutomaticAWD
FWD
24 MPG
25 MPG
XSE2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas265 hp @ 6000 rpm8-Speed AutomaticAWD
FWD
24 MPG
25 MPG
Hybrid XLE2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid243 hp @ 6000 rpmContinuously Variable Automatic (CVT)N/A35 MPG
36 MPG
Limited2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas265 hp @ 6000 rpm8-Speed AutomaticAWD
FWD
24 MPG
25 MPG
Hybrid XLE Bronze2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid243 hp @ 6000 rpmContinuously Variable Automatic (CVT)N/A35 MPG
36 MPG
Hybrid Limited2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid243 hp @ 6000 rpmContinuously Variable Automatic (CVT)N/A35 MPG
36 MPG
Platinum2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas265 hp @ 6000 rpm8-Speed AutomaticAWD
FWD
24 MPG
25 MPG
Hybrid Platinum2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid243 hp @ 6000 rpmContinuously Variable Automatic (CVT)N/A35 MPG
36 MPG

2023 Highlander Gas Mileage

One of the main motivations for downsizing is usually an improvement in gas mileage. However, the new 2.4-liter turbo-four is only marginally more efficient than the 3.5-liter V6 it replaces. FWD models now return a best of 22/29/25 mpg city/highway/combined; that's the same highway rating as the FWD V6 and only 1 mpg better on the city and combined cycles. With AWD, the new turbo engine manages 21/28/24 mpg. Again, this is just 1 mpg better overall.

It must be said, however, that the new turbo-four is a much more environmentally-friendly engine. That may not mean much to you in day-to-day driving, but it does support the industry's goal of delivering greener cars - even outside the hybrid/EV arena.

The Highlander's hybrid powertrain is the undisputed champion of frugality. According to the EPA, the FWD model can return 36/35/36 mpg, while the AWD manages 35s across the board in its lower trim levels. Hybrid models are equipped with a 17.1-gallon tank, and gas models get a slightly larger 17.9-gallon tank. The estimated range from a full tank is 616 miles for the most frugal hybrid, down to 429 miles for the least efficient non-hybrid AWD model.

2023 Toyota Highlander Fuel Capacity

Toyota Highlander TrimsLLEHybrid LEXLEXSEHybrid XLELimitedHybrid XLE BronzeHybrid LimitedPlatinumHybrid Platinum
Toyota Highlander Fuel Economy (Cty/Hwy)21/2821/2835/3521/2821/2835/3521/2835/3535/3421/2835/34

2023 Toyota Highlander Trailering

Toyota Highlander TrimsLLEHybrid LEXLEXSEHybrid XLELimitedHybrid XLE BronzeHybrid LimitedPlatinumHybrid Platinum
Toyota Highlander Maximum Trailering Capacity5,000 lbs.5,000 lbs.3,500 lbs.5,000 lbs.5,000 lbs.3,500 lbs.5,000 lbs.3,500 lbs.3,500 lbs.5,000 lbs.3,500 lbs.
Engine2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid2.4L Turbo Inline-4 Gas2.5L Inline-4 Hybrid
Transmission8-Speed Automatic8-Speed AutomaticContinuously Variable Automatic (CVT)8-Speed Automatic8-Speed AutomaticContinuously Variable Automatic (CVT)8-Speed AutomaticContinuously Variable Automatic (CVT)Continuously Variable Automatic (CVT)8-Speed AutomaticContinuously Variable Automatic (CVT)
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