2023 Toyota Highlander Arrives With New Turbocharged Four-Cylinder Engine

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It loses the V6 but gains turbocharged four-pot power with more torque.

  • Toyota's beloved 3.5 V6 has been dropped in favor of a turbocharged four-pot
  • The hybrid model soldiers on with the same powertrain
  • Interior upgrades include two 12.3-inch screens
  • All-new color called Cypress Green

Toyota is making substantial upgrades to the Highlander range, and the biggest news of all is the axing of the 3.5-liter naturally aspirated V6 engine. In its place, Toyota will now offer a new 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 265 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The engine is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The outgoing V6 produced more horsepower (295 hp), but the new engine boasts a 17% increase in torque over the previous 3.5-liter V6 engine's 263 lb-ft. That's the kind of gain you'll definitely appreciate, especially when ferrying seven or eight people and their luggage around.

The EPA-estimated fuel consumption figure is 25 mpg combined, which isn't a huge improvement. The biggest reduction is on the emissions side, where the Highlander emits more than 50% less NOx and NMOG compared to the outgoing V6 engine.

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The Highlander turbo can tow up to 5,000 pounds, and trailer sway control is standard and incorporated into the stability control system. It matches the towing capacity of the outgoing V6, which was also rated at 5,000 lbs.

Front-wheel-drive is standard, but two all-wheel-drive systems are available. The turbocharged L, LE and XLE models can be equipped with a basic AWD system that can send up to 50% of the available torque to the rear wheels when it detects wheel slip at the front axle.

The XSE, Limited, and Platinum turbo models get a more performance-oriented system with Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD with Drive Mode Select and Driveline Disconnect. This advanced system uses special couplings to actively manage torque distribution between the left and right rear wheels.

Toyota's advanced AWD system's driving modes include Mud & Sand, Rock & Dirt, and the driver can monitor the torque distribution on the Multi-Information Display.

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The Highlander Hybrid soldiers on with the same powertrain as before. It's a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder working in tandem with two electric motors to produce 243 hp.

In the AWD model, an additional electric motor is used to power the rear axle. The hybrid comes standard with Normal, Eco, and Sport driving modes, and Toyota claims a towing capacity of 3,500 lbs.

Other updates include two 12.3-inch screens (a digital instrument cluster and infotainment combo) and an 11-speaker JBL sound system as standard on the Limited and Platinum grades. The dual screens will be optional on the XLE and XSE trims, which get an eight-inch touchscreen as standard. The L and LE grades get a new seven-inch digital instrument cluster.

On models where it's a standard feature, the wireless charger has been moved from the center console box to a more convenient location below the multimedia screen in the center console.

Finally, Cypress Green joins the color palette as a new option.

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The Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition is carried over, as is the sportier XSE. The XSE for 2023 will now roll on exclusive all-black 20-inch wheels, wrapped in 235/55R20 all-season tires. A specially tuned suspension with high-rate springs, rear stabilizer bar, and low-friction shock absorbers works with the tuned electric power steering to give the XSE a distinctly sporty feel.

Highlander L and LE grades come standard with a second-row bench for seating for eight, while the XLE and Limited grades are sold with a standard Captain's Chair second row for seven-seat capability. Buyers can choose a second-row bench for the XLE Gas, XLE Hybrid, and Limited Gas grades.

Pricing starts at $36,420 for the entry-level turbocharged model, increasing to $51,025 for the Highlander Platinum with AWD. The hybrid range kicks off with the LE, selling for $40,220. The most expensive model in the range is the Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD, with an MSRP of $52,425.

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