By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating:
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.
If you need an SUV that can be taken off-road, or that can tow more than 5,000 pounds, a Toyota 4Runner or Dodge Durango with a HEMI V8 might be a better choice.
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 kjsmith (LA) on Saturday, May 04, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 17,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "tech package, flexible seating, good gas mileage"
Cons: "not the most exciting to drive"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"We have had our 2012 highlander for about a year and are very happy with it. We got the 4 cylinder model for mileage and for the flat Louisiana roads we drive 95% of the time. So far, the 4 cylinder has been great. We are averaging over 25 mpg in mostly highway driving and it makes only a few hp less than our 2005 Ford Freestyle. It did struggle a bit on a trip to the mountains of Arkansas,so I would probably get the 6 cylinder if I lived in a mountainous area or towed with it. We love the tech package with the bluetooth and rear view camera. Also love the flexible seating that can seat people our lay flat to carry our large dogs. So far,has been a typical reliable Toyota vehicle. Toyota Care which includes your scheduled maintenance has been a bonus. If you are in the market for a SUV, do yourself a favor and look at the highlander."
6 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Mike (NJ) on Sunday, April 28, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 2,900overall rating 1 of 10rating details
Cons: "14MPG.... Gas guzzler and no performace"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I drove this car for 3000 miles now and it is giving me headache since day 2. Rattling started in the car at 600 miles. All seats makes so much cranky noise. There is so much wind leak noise too. Took to Toyota to check out and they made even worst. DONT BUY THIS RATTLING JUNK..... Plastic is VERY CHEAP inside the car. NO TOYATO anymore."
5 people out of 17 found this review helpful
By betsybrat (NV) on Saturday, April 20, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 42,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "comfort, reliable, and great travel car"
Cons: "not crazy about the look of the front"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I love my Highlander so much that i'm impatiently awaiting the 2014 to see what they have come up with. I drove the new RAV 4 and really liked the changes with that, but not as comfortable and roomy and my Highlander. Would recommend this vehicle highly"
By Jackrabbit (CA) on Sunday, March 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Room, Performance, Visibility"
Cons: "Plasticy door panels, not cheap"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I don't regret a minute of owning this car. It is excellent on road trips. Handles my three tall kids, and my 6' 3' frame. The visibility is great with the huge side mirrors and the back-up camera it's a breeze to park. Though rated at 24 highway I have achieved 26 on more than one trip. The only knock I have is the excessive use of cheap looking plastics in the interior. I chose the SE with leather and Nav in 2WD. It is very light and quick. My wife has the Limited 4WD which is much heavier and more plush feeling. She liked mine so much she bought one of her own. You can spend more money but it's hard to get a better value. We compared it to the Pilot but found it too cramped for our family. The MDX was too small and too complicated to operate. The RX350 wasn't better, just more expensive. I'd recommend this car to anybody, especially if you're tall and have a heavy right foot."
18 people out of 18 found this review helpful
By snowbelt sam (OH) on Saturday, March 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 74,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "A suv with room, power and dependabiltiy."
Cons: "Not great snow road abiltiy/cheap interior parts."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6
"Pros: Never in 3 1/2 years have we had a problem with the vehicle. Have over 74000 miles on a 2009 limited all wheel drive. Like 3rd seat when needed. Like the wood grain accents in the interior. Nice drivers position and good visability. Good engine power. Gas mileage in city 19, highway 23/24 mpg. Rides nice on highway. outside design, while not breathtaking, is conservative in look. Like individual heat and air controls. Like the rear controls as well. Nice middle rear seat hide away feature. Very much like the rear autoclose hatch door. Cons: Cheap, hard plastic parts through out interior. Very few soft feel surfaces. Dash looks cheap. And for a $40,000 vehicle there are some things that just shouldn't be. Like the very cheap almost cardboard like headliner. Leather seats that look like the cheapest leather toyota could find just to call them leather seats. And then there are the stock tires. I read alot of reviews on this suv before I bought it. The toyo tires looked like I should stay away from, so ordered with dualers on it. Did not make a difference. Shame on toyota for putting tires on a car that made me wonder in winter whether I was going to turn through a intersection or slide trough it. I hypothicate having tire that give the manufacture another 2 miles per gallon was key thought when they put them on the car. Last, but not least, because of the amount of snow where we live, all wheel drive is looking like it is not the best choice to have. Bells go off, dash lights flash just to tell me what I already know, that the vehicle is slipping. I want a system that is already in 4 wheel drive mode to prevent that from happening in the beginnng. Maybe should of bought the 4 Runner instead. Like a suv with room, power and dependabiltiy? Then look at this vehicle. Need great road capability in snow and what a quality looking and feeling interior features, then maybe look elsewhere."
10 people out of 10 found this review helpful
By jowandamar (TX) on Tuesday, February 26, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,500overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Standar Equipment, Gas saver and space."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is my first Toyota and I have to admit... Is just Incredible... The options you get and the standar equipment are great!!! The driving experience is great, so smooth and quiet and the confort is a plus,considering that is a 4 cylinder the power is good and the MPG is great for this segment of SUV's."
5 people out of 5 found this review helpful