By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.4
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. That growth translates into a roomy, 7-passenger SUV ideal for growing families. Sharing much of its architecture with the Lexus RX 350 luxury SUV gives the Highlander another leg up on its competition, as does the vehicle's impressive ability to hold its value over time. There is a hybrid model that attains best-in-class fuel economy without sacrificing power or interior space.
When you combine the 2013 Toyota Highlander's wide model range, exceptional resale value and strong owner-satisfaction figures, it may look hard to justify buying anything else.
The Toyota Highlander's only change for 2013 is a rearrangement of standard equipment and trim-level packages. A new Highlander Plus package replaces what was the Tech package and adds some features, including a rearview camera.
Driving Impressions Between full-time 4-wheel drive (4WD) and electronic traction and stability control, the 2013 Toyota Highlander is about as confidence-inspiring as you could want on slick, variable surfaces. The 270-horsepower V6...engine is smooth and responds instantly to the slightest request for more power. It moves the Highlander around smartly, and with EPA city/highway fuel-economy numbers of 17/22 mpg, the efficiency is there. Those willing to trade a little power and smoothness for even better mpg should check out the 4-cylinder, front-wheel-drive (FWD) models, whose fuel-economy figures are a frugal 20/25. If money is no object and you want the best in fuel-stretching technology, shoot for the Highlander Hybrid. Regardless of powertrain, the Highlander delivers the expected on-road experience. Ride and handling qualities are finely developed but conservatively targeted, meaning no one will be either inspired or let down.
CENTER STOW SEAT
This clever feature allows the second row of seats to be converted from 3-across to 2-across seating, opening a convenient pass-through area to access the third-row seats. The central seat panel stows easily out of sight.
HILL-START AND DOWNHILL ASSIST CONTROL
If you live in rolling terrain, you'll appreciate these features that prevent the Highlander from rolling backward at a stop on steep up-grades and controls downhill speed (on non-hybrid 4WD models) during slippery descents.
The 2013 Toyota Highlander SUV has an attractive if somewhat conservative interior. Big round knobs on the dash for the radio and climate control are easy to use even when wearing bulky winter gloves. There are loads of little storage spaces thoughtfully placed, and the rear-most occupants get their own climate controls. The Highlander features a sliding second-row seat that can move 4.7 inches fore or aft depending on where you need to maximize space. And a flexible center section can serve as a middle seat, a console, or fold away to create an easy path to the third-row seat.Exterior
The 2013 Toyota Highlander has a sporty and dashing look to it. Rather than going for a macho and rugged SUV-like image, Toyota has targeted buyers who want the functionality of a big SUV in a vehicle that is both strong and intelligent. The Highlander SUV's profile is lower than a Chevy Traverse's or Dodge Durango's, which makes sense given it shares a common platform with the Toyota Camry. Large rear doors provide more space to easily access the third-row seat, and the flip-up tailgate opens high to minimize bumping your head on the corners.
The base front-wheel-drive (FWD) 2013 Toyota Highlander rolls on 17-inch alloy wheels and comes with halogen headlights, AM/FM/CD MP3/WMA-capable 6-speaker stereo, tilt/telescope steering wheel, clever second-row fold-away Center Stow seat and console, third-row 50/50 split-bench seat and an aerodynamic rear spoiler. Standard safety features include seven airbags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. The 4WD versions include standard Downhill Assist Control. The Highlander Hybrid comes very well equipped, as what was the Leather Premium package is now the base spec.
Options available on the 2013 Toyota Highlander are largely bundled into the Plus, SE and Limited equipment packages. They offer such niceties as an 8-way power driver's seat, a flip-up liftgate window, fog lights, upgraded seat fabric, automatic climate control, power moonroof, rear-seat entertainment system, power liftgate and a navigation system with premium audio, voice activation and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Four-wheel drive is available in all grades with the V6 only; the 4-cylinder engine, with front-drive only, is available in base and Plus configurations.
The 2013 Toyota Highlander crossover SUV uses a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine in FWD versions of the base, Highlander Plus and SE trim levels. A 3.5-liter V6 is optional on those, standard on the Limited, and mandatory with all 4WD applications. The 2.7 liter scores well on fuel efficiency and power, with 187 horsepower and upward of 25 mpg in highway driving. The 4-cylinder engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission while the V6 model makes do with an electronically controlled 5-speed automatic. The Highlander Hybrid teams the 3.5-liter V6 with two electric motors for a total of 280 net horsepower. The Hybrid's unique on-demand 4WD system uses a second electric motor powering the rear wheels, avoiding the need for transfer gears and a shaft.
187 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm
186 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/25 mpg (FWD only)
270 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 mpg (FWD), 17/22 mpg (4WD)
3.5-liter V6/AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motors
231 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm (gas engine)/280 horsepower (net combined)
215 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/28 mpg (4WD only)
The 2013 Toyota Highlander SUV starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $30,000 for a base, front-drive, 4-cylinder model, and about $2500 more for a 4WD, V6 version. The top-line Limited trim runs from about $38,700 to $43,000. The Highlander Hybrid starts close to $41,000 and tops out about $51,000. We expect our Fair Purchase Price values to reflect real-world transaction prices at or near sticker price. Toyota Highlander resale values typically are some of the strongest in its class. A Hyundai Veracruz, as an alternative, offers a lower price for a comparably equipped model but won't have the Highlander's strong resale value. The V6-powered Honda Pilot is probably the closest competitor in terms of price, features and resale.
By dtown40 (TX) on Tuesday, December 03, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Ride, Fuel economy, safety features, style."
Cons: "3rd row seating should have been an option."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Bought new and haven't had any real problems at all. Quality has been excellent. Great ride, impressive fuel economy with a v6 engine. Spacious front and rear seating, although, 3rd row is very small and useless to me. (My only complaint about the car)"
By PamN1 (IL) on Tuesday, November 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 110,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "No issues with this vehicle."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This has to be my second best buy vehicle. Purchased new and after 110,000 miles the only maintenance has been 1 new set of tires, 2 brakes jobs front and back. The only other vehicle I have owned that didn't need a ton of "fix and repair maintenance" was a 2004 Lexus ES. Put 120000 miles on the Lexus with nothing but general maintenance. Not sure how Toyota is building the newer cars, but the 2008 Highlander was definitely a good buy. Still runs great and handles well. The four wheel drive is awesome in snow! The primary reason I gave up the Lexus was for this 4 wheel drive SUV."
2 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By GG (GA) on Tuesday, November 05, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 16,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "I drives good - looks good."
Cons: "Functionability lacking in several interior areas."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 5
"is very inconvenient - like bench seat better. Trying to get into the 3rd row is very difficult. 2nd row seat only lays flat, does not lift any to allow access to 3rd row. Small amount of storage, etc. in front seats. Navi is hard to negotiate - even after reading instructions. Mat for back when 3rd row seat is down very bulky and must be completely removed if using 3rd row. NO storage in rear as small storage in floor holds cover for back storage when not in use. Salesman told me car had parking sensors until I signed papers, then said he didn't tell me that. I really wanted sensors. I was "attacked" by 3 or 4 people at dealership and overall experience was a bummer. Doesn't help me like this vehicle at all. I'm sick about the deal - been a year now - time to get rid of and move to another tried and true vehicle. I guess it's perfect for some folks, just not me."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful
By John (IA) on Saturday, November 02, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Reliable, SUV without being too big."
Cons: "Updates to navigation system a nusiance."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"5 yr. anniv. of car. Not one issue to date. Keyless ignition has pros and cons. Mostly car idles so quietly you need to be conscious that it is still running. The ride is good but not as soft as one may like on rougher roads."
By Curly T. (SC) on Saturday, October 26, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 10,500overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Dependable, comfortable, convenient"
Cons: "My dealer cost was excessive!"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Highlander is the way to go. In 2008 I bought an 06, 4 cyl, made trips between LA, MN, WI, & SC. with fantastic mileage and comfort,- not one problem. Gave it to our "snow country" daughter in 2011 and she is still happy with it in 2013. We leased a new 2011 Highlander until March 2013 when I purchased my own with a V6. I like the comfort and easy control of the vehicle when I am behind the wheel. The wife loves the comfortable seats and smooth, quiet ride on long trips. We find it easy for back seat entrance and exit when hauling Grandkids or older church ladies. The space and convenience of the 2nd and 3rd row fold down seats is important to us. And we are most appreciative of the ease of the fold up and down effort. The cargo space is more than adequate. I have only 2 "downers" on the 2013. (1)The 2011 model had a rear view mirror with direction indicator (N, S, NE, etc.) in the corner, which the dealer wants $275.00 to replace in my '13. And (2) the '11 model had a 3-disc CD player. My "new" '13 has a plain mirror and a single disc player. Notable, is the 15-20 mpg normal and 25-30 on the highway. This fact alone has us "casually" observing other vehicles."
7 people out of 7 found this review helpful
By Paul (SC) on Friday, October 25, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,300overall rating 2 of 10rating details
Cons: "Too much electronic garbage that does not work"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"We were excited to get our 2012 Highlander brand new. Now, a little more than a year later, we can not wait to get rid of it. After 2 months the power steering started acting up and just stops working briefly then starts up again. Toyota has had issues with this and states there is not fix and that is the way it is designed. This is not safe and Toyota is in denial about this very serious flaw. After 6 months, the power assist on the brakes failed and "Brake Failure" appeared on the dash.. talk about scary when your kids are in the car. Again, Toyota was not able to repair the issue. At first we thought we had a lemon, but when researching the issue, these are common problems with all Toyota models, just google. Toyota is not the same company it once was and is using electronic garbage on their vehicles. I will not buy another Toyota again!"
5 people out of 12 found this review helpful