2023 Toyota Highlander Pros
– The turbocharged 2.4L engine packs a punch.
– The cabin is spacious and well put together.
– It’s an easy vehicle to live with.
2023 Toyota Highlander Cons
– Hybrids remain difficult to come by.
The midsize three-row SUV, ah the segment that’s about to all but kill the midsize two-row SUV because we can never have enough room for everything. Case in point: The new Toyota Grand Highlander! But that’s a story for another review.
The Highlander’s been around since the 2001 model year and had since then resonated with families desiring room, reliability, and comfort. Toyota continues to deliver all of this today. 2023 marks the 4th generation Highlander’s midcycle refresh and unless you know, you’d never know simply by looking at the SUV. Introduced for the 2020 model year, Toyota’s three-row offering has not changed much if at all. Despite that, it is more exciting to look at than any previous iteration.
XLE marks the spot
The tested XLE had me excited for a number of reasons. One, it’s the best non-hybrid trim offering the most bang for the buck, rolls on lovely 18-inch wheels, plus it was painted Ruby flare. Although the Highlander may not have the Nissan Pathfinder’s rugged stance or the Volkswagen Atlas’ upscale presence, I think it looks nice just the way it is.
And the way it is inside is perfectly operational and welcoming for all families. Once more, the XLE, priced at a reasonable (?) $48,350, adds a heated steering wheel, SofTex material, power lumbar support, power passenger seat, and power liftgate, and more over the base LE for less than $3,000 more. The one possible letdown for some is the 8-inch touchscreen, size-wise, but its functionality is straightforward.
Speaking of functionality, the Highlander offers countless storage bins throughout the cabin including ahead of the front passenger. All of these spots are perfect for phones, cables, tissues, keys, name it. High points are awarded to fit and finish as well as the materials used. Toyota has managed to blend useability with just enough of a premium feel that owners will never get the impression they got a mainstream product.
There’s loads of room onboard for all passengers including those in the third row unless you’re an adult of average height. The trunk will swallow up to 453 litres of stuff behind the third row and when stowed, volume just about triples to 1,371 litres. The Highlander doesn’t have the most capacious boot but then, that’s where the Grand Highlander comes in.
The big changes are found under-hood. Now gone is the venerable 3.5L V6 however it’s unlikely to be missed. The base turbocharged 2.4-litre 4-cylinder engine develops 264 hp and 309 lb.-ft. of torque, besting the Subaru Ascent and the updated VW Atlas’ revised 2.0T. The power is immediate or nearly, and the 8-speed automatic transmission is impressively at ease with it.
Now, although this is true, driving the Highlander is exactly how you imagine it to be. It’s serene, comfortable, thanks in one part to the 18-inch wheels and generously side-walled tires. If a little more “dynamism” is on your wish list, the XSE and its “sport-tuned” suspension might be right for you as it also includes 20-inch wheels and tires. In my world, I have a reasonable family vehicle and a Civic Type R, or in this case, a GR Corolla…
Toyota divulges that 10.3L/100km is what the SUV should deliver in mixed driving. My test drive covered roughly 400km and I managed a thirsty 11.5L. It is possible that I had too much fun exploring boost…
As I’ve stated in past midsize three-row SUV reviews, there are over a dozen offerings in the segment. In my book, although the 2.4T needs to prove itself over time, the Highlander remains a go-to option. Though, to be honest, it’s still lagging severely behind the Sienna, as are ALL OTHER SUVs.
And they include the Subaru Ascent, Honda Pilot, Chevrolet Traverse, Mazda CX-90, Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Dodge Durango, Volkswagen Atlas, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Palisade, and Kia Telluride, to name a few.