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2013 Toyota Highlander

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In only its second generation of production, the 2013 Toyota Highlander is among the top picks for a midsize SUV. Unlike its cousin, the 4Runner, the Highlander is built for on-road comfort and prowess. The 2013 Toyota Highlander comes in both the standard and hybrid versions. North American sales for the standard version have risen steadily since 2009.

Although it doesn't possess the largest cargo capacity of the class, the 2013 Toyota Highlander manages to shine in just about every other area. Families looking for an SUV with an available third-row seat would be hard pressed to find something better, especially given its safety, reputation for reliability, and family-friendly features.

Expert Reviews

"The successful recipe for a family-friendly crossover SUV goes something like this. To a platform with carlike handling and ride qualities add roomy passenger and cargo accommodations, bake in reliability and refinement, sprinkle liberally with convenience features and wrap in attractive though conservative styling. Follow this formula and you get the 2013 Toyota Highlander, a crossover that will satisfy the appetites of countless savvy consumers." (Edmunds)

"The Highlander has a cushy ride, comfortable cabin, and smooth powertrain. It has roomy second-row seats and a tight but usable, third-row seat. The 3.5-liter V6 delivers solid performance and 18 mpg overall. Handling is sound and secure but not particularly agile, and the steering feels vague. The controls are easy to use, fit and finish is very good, and cabin access is easy." (Consumer Reports)

"Toyota's 2013 Highlander crossover SUV continues to impress with its abilities, features and resale value. The vehicle that basically invented the segment, the Highlander established its beachhead and never let go. No longer the smallish tall wagon that it was originally, the 2013 version (still just the second generation) has grown considerably in size and sophistication." (Kelley Blue Book)

Most experts agree that the four-cylinder engine, though offered, should be avoided if possible. "4-cylinder Highlanders accelerate adequately, though not surprisingly, passing punch is on the weak side. The conventional V6 is much stronger in all situations, and it's the way we'd go. It's peppy off the line and has plenty of reserve punch." (Consumer Guide)

Owner Reviews

Most owners agree that the Highlander stays on the side of good and right in most areas. "I've owned this vehicle for 6 months and it has driven great. Driving a mountain pass daily it easily out performs most vehicles on the commute. My only complaint is the lack of cargo space when compared to the Chevy Traverse...although we all know I will still be driving this vehicle long after similar Traverses are at the Junk Yard!" (Owner review from Idaho owner, KBB)

"The Highlander wasn't actually my first choice, but now that I own the new 2013 I am so glad I went this way! The V6 engine provides plenty of power and the rear DVD system is great for the kids. I really don't care for the lack of cargo space but we have a four-person family so we can always use the far rear seat for storage. That's all it really big enough for anyway." (Owner review from Kelly J., Jacksonville, FL)

There are a few bad reviews regarding the navigation system. Most don't complain that it's hard to work, they just seem to find that it is simply not helpful. It seems that a minimal cargo capacity is the biggest drawback. Other than those two main drawbacks, most owner reviewers rave about the Highlander's comfort and Entune system. The JBL sound system upgrade is well worth the extra loot.


The 2013 Toyota Highlander comes in four different trims, all of which have a more regal feel than the average buyer would expect. The Base Highlander isn't exactly a slouch when it comes to standard options. It includes 17-inch alloy wheels, an eight-way adjustable driver's seat (manual), rear privacy glass, air conditioning (with rear controls), Bluetooth, and a six-speaker sound system with CD player and iPod/USB interface.

The next level up is the Plus trim level. It goes a little higher on the tech items. Moving up to this level will get you foglights, roof rails, a rearview camera, extendable visors with vanity mirrors, a power lumbar driver's seat, windshield wiper deicer, and a rear cargo privacy cover. On any level you can add the towing prep package and boost the towing capacity of the Highlander to a maximum 5,000 lbs.

The third trim level is the SE. It adds a power liftgate, leather upholstery, sunroof, eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The last level up, the Limited, boosts the wheels up to 19-inch alloys, heated mirrors, keyless ignition/entry, tri-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, navigation system, Toyota's Entune system, wood-grain accents, and a nine-speaker JBL sound system. There is also a technology package that puts together the JBL system, Entune, navigation system, and rear-seat DVD entertainment system; it is optional on all trims.


The interior of the Highlander is elegant and well laid out. The cockpit features a dual-eye display on the dash, housing the rpm and speedo gauges from left-to-right. Steering wheel radio controls are in good spots and easy to use. The display screen for the navigation system is large and easy for either the driver or passenger to use. The console shifter sits just to the left of two cup holders that accommodate most cup sizes quite well.

The materials quality is above average and most hard corners and surfaces have been covered by smooth, easy-to-touch coverings. The front seats are quite comfortable and provide plenty of space. Like most SUVs with third-row seats, the third row of the Highlander doesn't offer much space. It is, however, much easier to get to, thanks to the split-folding middle row.

Maximum cargo capacity is 95.4 cubic feet with the second- and third-row seats folded down. That's not at the top of the list, but it's impressive when compared to most competitors. On the other hand, the second-row seats don't lie flat, making the storage space above them of limited use. If you leave both rear seats up, that capacity drops to 10.3 cubic feet. That's very small for any class.


The 2013 Toyota Highlander has two available engine choices. The first is the 2.7L four-cylinder. It's good for 187 horsepower and 186 ft.-lbs. of torque. It comes coupled to a six-speed automatic transmission. The EPA estimates fuel efficiency for the four-banger at 20/25 mpg (city/highway). Most find that this engine lacks the amount of power necessary to move the Highlander in situations where that little extra power is needed.

The Base, SE and Limited models both offer the 3.5L V6 that's good for 270 ponies and 248 ft.-lbs. of torque, but it comes standard on the Limited model. It's attached to a five-speed automatic tranny and comes standard with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive is available as an optional upgrade. Fuel efficiency for the V6 is estimated at 18/24 mpg but the AWD will drop those numbers to 17/22 mpg. There is also a hybrid version of the 3.5L V6 that comes coupled with a CVT transmission, but that does hike the price up well over what the Limited version costs.

The ride of this year's Highlander is absolutely refined. The suspension provides a cloud-like ride over the roughest of roads. Of course, if you're planning on wandering off-road the 4Runner would probably suit you better. Handling is smooth and controlled, but the stability and traction control systems can be a tad overbearing in harsher weather. It takes a bit of getting accustomed to before feeling totally comfortable.

Safety & Reliability

The Highlander performs very well in safety for the SUV class. Standard safety features include antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, full-length side curtain airbags, side-impact airbags including a driver's knee airbag, and active front head restraints. Braking performed extremely well, bringing the Highlander to a stop from 60 mph in a very respectable 118 feet. Hill-start assist is standard on all levels, but only the all-wheel drive models get the hill-descent control.

Government crash tests also went well for the new-model Highlander. It earned four out of five stars in an overall rating as well as the front crash and rollover tests, but managed a five-star rating in the side-impact test. The IIHS gave the 2013 Toyota Highlander a top rating of Good in all tests and made it one of their Top Safety Picks. MSRP ranges from $28,870 for the Base model to $37,800 for the Limited. The hybrid version starts at $40,170.

Trim Style Engine Drive Train MSRP
4WD 4dr V6 (Natl) V6 4WD 31845
Plus 4WD 4dr V6 Plus (Natl) V6 4WD 33300
SE 4WD 4dr V6 SE (Natl) V6 4WD 36010
Limited 4WD 4dr V6 Limited (Natl) V6 4WD 39400
FWD 4dr I4 (Natl) 4 Cylinder FWD 29020
Plus FWD 4dr I4 Plus (Natl) 4 Cylinder FWD 30475
FWD 4dr V6 (Natl) V6 FWD 30395
Plus FWD 4dr V6 Plus (Natl) V6 FWD 31850
SE FWD 4dr V6 SE (Natl) V6 FWD 34560
Limited FWD 4dr V6 Limited (Natl) V6 FWD 37950

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