2013 Toyota Highlander Review


There are so many midsize crossovers on the market that even our editors have a hard time keeping them straight sometimes. For one thing, the 2013 Toyota Highlander was the first-ever midsize crossover SUV when it debuted more than a decade ago. The innovative idea was to start with the Camry sedan platform and transform it into a tall, rugged-looking utility vehicle with available all-wheel drive. The Highlander met with some initial skepticism in the press, but it was an instant hit with the buying public.

It started a crossover craze that, 12 years later, shows no signs of abating. For another, the Highlander is simply an excellent all-around vehicle. Toyota's midsize has grown over time, now featuring three seating rows in all models, but those Camry roots ensure that it remains a smooth-riding, pleasant-handling crossover. The optional V6 is a perennial all-star, and there's even an available Hybrid model that provides 28 mpg along with surprisingly strong acceleration.

Competition is no joke in this segment, and the current 2013 Toyota Highlander is one of the older options. But it's also one of the best. Don't buy a midsize crossover without driving this Toyota first. The non-Hybrid base model is remarkably well-equipped, featuring standard niceties like 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, Lexus-like Optitron instrumentation, a 3.5-inch TFT trip computer, a height-adjustable driver seat, climate vents for all three seating rows, and a six-speaker stereo with a 6.1-inch touch-screen and iPod/USB and Bluetooth connectivity.


The Plus adds fog lights, power-folding outside mirrors, black roof rails, power front seats, a rearview camera, "easy-clean" upholstery, illuminated vanity mirrors, a cargo cover, and one-touch levers in the cargo area for folding down the second-row seatbacks. The SE tacks on perks like a sunroof, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and optional Entune smart phone integration with navigation.

The sunroof, leather trim and auto-dimming mirror are optional on the base Hybrid, but Entune with navigation is standard, as are an array of Hybrid-specific gauges and displays. The Limited boasts sharp 19-inch alloy wheels, chrome exterior trim, keyless entry with push-button start, a navigation system with nine-speaker JBL audio, tri-zone automatic climate control, perforated leather upholstery, wood-like interior trim, and heated front seats with additional power adjustments.

Offered exclusively on Limited V6 and both Hybrid models is a rear-seat DVD entertainment system. In our interior evaluation, we found that although the Highlander's front seats are forgettable flat, they're perched up nice and high, so you get that expansive view of the road that SUV drivers appreciate. Dashboard materials, however, are just average, with plenty of hard plastics to differentiate the2013 Toyota Highlander from its more luxurious sibling, the Lexus RX.