The Highlander has a lot to offer, but it’s only a mid-pack player in a brutally competitive mid-size SUV segment with over two dozen vehicles. There are eleven trim options available. There are hybrid and nonhybrid powertrains available, with front-wheel drive as standard and all-wheel drive as an option. All trims offer competent handling and a comfortable ride, but the Highlander’s driving demeanour could use a caffeine boost.
Even on the base L, the interior is well-equipped, with modern conveniences, simple infotainment, and a slew of driver-assistance features as standard. With handsome leather upholstery, a premium JBL stereo system, and additional tech features, the Limited and Platinum models do a good impression of a Lexus. Despite this, rivals such as the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade offer more luxury and third-row space, the Mazda CX-9 has a nicer interior and better driving dynamics, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee L offers off-road capability. The Highlander, while competent, is a less compelling option in comparison.
When is the 2023 Toyota Highlander coming out?
Toyota Highlander Trims and Pricing
The Toyota Highlander 2022 comes in six different trim levels: L, LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum. Four of the six trim levels are hybrid (LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum), with the exception of the new-for-2022 XLE Bronze Edition, which is hybrid only. The hybrid models are $1,450 more expensive than the non-hybrid models, and all-wheel drive can be added for $1,600 to $1,950, depending on the trim. The most popular model is the XLE, but we recommend the Hybrid LE. We’ll explain why later.
The Highlander L starts at $36,620 (plus $1,215 for delivery). It has 18-inch painted alloy wheels, a compact spare tyre, heated power-adjustable side mirrors, tinted glass, fully automatic LED headlights, LED brake lights, variable intermittent windshield wipers, and a fixed-interval rear wiper with defroster as standard. An eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, cloth upholstery, 60/40-split folding second and third rows, proximity keyless entry, push-button ignition, dual-zone climate control, a locking glove box, two 12V power outlets, one-touch power up/down windows, a full floor console, and hidden cargo area storage are all standard. Six audio speakers, an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, Amazon Alexa compatibility, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, satellite radio, a Wi-Fi hotspot, advanced voice recognition, and Bluetooth are among the entertainment features.
For $38,820, the Highlander LE adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and a power liftgate. Fog lights, remote engine start, a leather steering wheel, and HD Radio are also included.
The hybrid version of the Highlander LE is our pick for the best value. It not only gets great gas mileage, but it also comes with a nice list of standard features for a reasonable $40,270.
A sunroof, wireless charging, roof rails, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable passenger seat, and second-row captain’s chairs are among the $3,000 upgrades from LE to XLE ($41,820). Navigation is also available for $1,040, and a bench seat in the second row is free of charge.
The XSE trim, which was introduced last year, costs $43,415. It has the same equipment as the XLE, but it has unique exterior styling, 20-inch wheels, and chassis tuning. Its goal is to add some sportiness to the family-friendly Highlander. It has a new front fascia with a larger air intake and a stylish red-and-black interior. The engine and transmission are the same as in the other trims, but the XSE has tighter steering, a sport-tuned suspension, and a rear anti-roll bar, which should improve handling. Other enhancements include aggressively styled headlights and wheels.
Bronze Hybrid XLE
The Hybrid XLE Bronze ($45,295), which is new for 2022, has distinctive bronze-colored accents both inside and out, including bronze-colored 18-inch wheels, door sills, and interior stitching. The hybrid-only trim adds a hands-free power liftgate, a digital rearview mirror, rain-sensing wipers, and a 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory to the XLE trim.
The Limited, which costs $45,775, has a unique exterior trim and 20-inch wheels. A hands-free liftgate, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, an in-car intercom, an 11-speaker JBL premium audio system, and upgraded interior trim are also included.
The top-of-the-line Platinum ($48,975) provides significantly more equipment than the Limited ($3,200). Adaptive headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a panoramic sunroof, a rear camera mirror, heated second-row seats, a head-up display, a surround-view camera, and a larger 12.3-inch touchscreen are all included.
Toyota Highlander EXTERIOR COLORS
Engine, Transmission, and Performance
The Highlander is equipped with a standard 265-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and either front- or all-wheel drive. We haven’t driven this version yet, but we’ll be able to comment on its performance once we do. The Highlander Hybrid’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and two electric motors produce a total of 243 horsepower.
This model has a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and the option of front- or all-wheel drive. Taking advantage of Toyota’s hybrid expertise, this powertrain offers buyers something significantly more fuel efficient than the standard model without sacrificing much in terms of performance; the last hybrid model we tested reached 60 mph in 7.3 seconds on our test track. The handling is uninspiring but stable, and the ride is ideal for family-chauffeur duty. Potential buyers in this segment may be aware that the Ford Explorer is also available in hybrid form. When these utes are pitted against each other, however, the Toyota comes out on top in terms of fuel economy.
Fuel Economy and Real-World MPG
So far, Toyota has only stated that the new turbocharged engine gets 24 mpg combined, leaving us to speculate on its city and highway ratings. Hybrid models will undoubtedly outperform the gasoline-only model, with front-wheel-drive models earning 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. When the Highlander arrives at our office, we’ll put its fuel economy to the test on our 75-mph highway fuel economy test route, and we’ll update this story with the results.
Interior, Comfort, and Cargo
The base L and midrange LE models can seat eight passengers using bench seats in the second and third rows, but higher trims offer a seven-seat configuration with second-row captain’s chairs. Passenger space is more generous than in the CX-9, but not as spacious as in the Chevrolet Traverse, particularly in the third row, which is too small for adults. The cabin materials are far superior to those found in the previous generation Highlander. The upscale Limited and Platinum models offer the most creature comforts, but they fall short of the features offered by the Palisade and Telluride. The cargo area behind the third row could only hold four carry-on suitcases; the Traverse could hold six.
Infotainment and Connectivity
Most trims come standard with an 8.0-inch infotainment system, but the Highlander Limited and Platinum get a 12.3-inch display with a secondary 12.3-inch screen serving as the gauge cluster. The larger 12.3-inch infotainment display is available for the mid-level XLE and XSE, but the analogue gauges from lower-end models remain. There is an 11-speaker JBL audio system available. For all models, Toyota includes SiriusXM satellite radio, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, and Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa integration. A wireless smartphone charging pad, which is integrated into the dashboard below the infotainment display, is optional.
2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD
front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon
PRICE AS TESTED
$51,068 (base price: $49,975)
DOHC 16-valve Atkinson-cycle 2.5-liter inline -4, 186 hp, 175 lb-ft + 3 permanent-magnet synchronous AC motors; combined output, 243 hp
continuously variable automatic
Suspension (F/R): struts/multilink
Brakes (F/R): 13.3-in vented disc/13.3-in vented disc
Tires: Goodyear Eagle Touring, 235/55R-20 102V M+S
Wheelbase: 112.2 in
Length: 194.9 in
Width: 76.0 in
Height: 68.1 in
Passenger volume: 135 ft3
Cargo volume: 16 ft3
Curb weight: 4615 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 7.3 sec
100 mph: 21.9 sec
Rolling start, 5–60 mph: 7.8 sec
Top gear, 30–50 mph: 3.9 sec
Top gear, 50–70 mph: 5.2 sec
1/4 mile: 16.0 sec @ 87 mph
Top speed (governor limited): 118 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 176 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad: 0.82 g
Standing-start accel times omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 29 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/city/highway: 35/35/35 mpg