2023 Toyota Highlander review by kbb.com
2023 Toyota Highlander Review
The 2023 Toyota Highlander is an excellent midsize 3-row SUV with seating for up to eight. It gets a lot of things right, especially safety, and it gets even better for 2023. Pricing starts at $36,420.
This generation of Highlander midsize SUV launched in 2020, so there’s plenty of up-to-the-minute technology. This year, Toyota has given the top two trims dual 12.3-inch displays, a feature that’s becoming increasingly popular from Mercedes-Benz down to Kia.
The Highlander plays in a competitive field of midsize 3-row SUVs. Some of our other favorites include the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Honda Pilot.
2023 Toyota Highlander Pricing
The 2023 Toyota Highlander starts at $36,420. The most popular XLE model starts at $41,820, and the near-luxury Platinum trim begins at $49,075. All-wheel drive is a $1,600 option on the L, LE, and XLE trims, and it’s $1,950 on the upper trims. The pricing of the Highlander is similar to Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9.
- Highlander L: $36,420
- Highlander LE: $38,820
- Highlander XLE: $41,820 | Most Popular
- Highlander XSE: $43,415
- Highlander Limited: $46,075
- Highlander Platinum: $49,075
These are the manufacturer’s suggested retail prices (MSRP) and don’t include the $1,335 factory-to-dealer delivery fee.
Before buying a Highlander, check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to know what you should really pay. The Highlander boasts strong resale values, and the Toyota brand earns our Best Resale Value Award.
What’s New for 2023?
A turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is now the sole engine option in the non-hybrid Toyota Highlander. The V6 is no longer available, but the turbo engine is arguably better. Other updates for 2023 include a hands-free power liftgate for the XLE and XSE trims, plus dual 12.3-inch screens in the top two trims.
Driving the 2023 Toyota Highlander
From a performance perspective, nothing was especially lacking in the V6 that powered the Highlander SUV up until this model year. Now the new turbocharged 4-cylinder unit we tested develops more thrust, which we felt when moving away from a standstill and when calling on maximum muscle to make it up steep climbs.
The sport-tuned suspension in the XSE version might bring a slightly mischievous glint to a driver’s eye when driving solo on back roads, but life in a 2023 Highlander is generally quite relaxed.
An optional all-wheel-drive (AWD) system adds confident traction on snowy roads. From the XSE version and up, all-wheel drive also includes torque vectoring, distributing the right amount of power to each wheel, depending on which has the most grip, and tackling corners with utmost efficiency.
Eight occupants can fit into the L and LE trims. The XLE and Limited versions have a pair of captain’s chairs in row two, bringing the seat count down to seven, but offer the option of a 3-person bench seat. Those captain’s chairs are non-negotiable in the XSE and Platinum variants.
Space in the first two rows is plentiful. Legroom for the second row is a generous 41 inches. Things get a little tighter in the third row, but it’s nice that the extra seats are there if you need them.
One minor change this year is that, where it’s fitted, the wireless charging pad moves to a more convenient spot. And speaking of convenience, every new Highlander 3-row SUV comes with eight cup holders, six bottle holders, and a concave conversation mirror to help the driver keep tabs on those in the back.
A careful corporate styling approach means the 2023 Highlander doesn’t make any visual statements that might be considered too bold. There’s a little more swagger from the XSE trim and up with 20-inch alloy wheels.
This year, Limited and Platinum trims gain power-folding side mirrors, which are nice to have in tight parking spots. Cypress, a fairly dark green, is a new paint choice.
In terms of size, the Highlander is slotted between the Venza and the Sequoia in the Toyota lineup. The size of the Highlander is similar to 3-row rivals like the Kia Telluride and Honda Pilot.
The new turbo engine powering the Toyota Highlander delivers more torque and returns better fuel economy than the outgoing V6. It also boasts a 5,000-pound towing capacity, which is on par for this segment.
The family-friendly interior of the Toyota Highlander comes standard with three rows of seats with room for up to eight people. Second-row captain’s chairs are optional, making the second row more comfortable and the third row easier to access.
Wireless smartphone connectivity
The standard 8-inch infotainment system and the optional 12.3-inch screen both come with wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Connect your phone to the screen in your car without taking it out of your purse or pocket.
Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+
The standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ bundles a range of driver assistance technologies including automatic emergency braking, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, road sign assist, and automatic high beams.
Dual 12.3-inch displays
New for 2023 in the Limited and Platinum trims, one is for driver information, the other for controlling the infotainment system. The driver’s display has four different modes with cheeky names: Casual, Smart, Tough, and Sporty.
JBL audio system
Another feature reserved for the two most expensive versions of the 2023 Highlander, sadly. But JBL is part of the same company that includes other illustrious audio brands like Harman Kardon and Mark Levinson. The latter is well-known to Lexus owners.
The most affordable new Highlander SUV is the L trim, with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED exterior lighting, keyless entry/ignition, 3-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and cloth upholstery.
Driver assistance features include forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-tracing assistance, lane-departure alert, and automatic high beams.
The infotainment system has an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Amazon Alexa compatibility, one USB-A port, four USB-C ports, Bluetooth, and satellite radio.
A better choice would be the next-up LE trim, with blind-spot monitoring, LED fog lights, height-adjustable powered tailgate, remote start/lock/unlock (optional in the L), a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and Wi-Fi.
It isn’t until the XLE trim that roof rails are added, along with 18-inch alloy wheels, powered moonroof, wireless charging, heated front seats (now 10-way power-adjustable for the driver and 8-way for the passenger), simulated leather upholstery, and (new this year) hands-free tailgate operation.
The XSE brings a sport-tuned suspension, 20-inch alloy wheels, ambient cabin lighting, and torque vectoring with the optional all-wheel-drive system, but other differences are mainly cosmetic. Both the XLE and XSE are eligible for a 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen.
The Limited and Platinum models gain dual 12.3-inch displays, plus a heated steering wheel, heated/ventilated front seats, perforated leather seating surfaces (optional in the XSE), Driver Easy Speak (sending the driver’s voice through the rear speakers — optional in the XLE and XSE), 120-volt outlet, front/rear parking sensors with automatic braking, and an 11-speaker/1,200-watt JBL audio system.
Platinum raises the luxury game even higher with adaptive front lighting, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic roof, 360-degree camera system (optional in the Limited), head-up display, digital rearview mirror, and heated second-row seats.
Engine & Transmission
The V6 is no more. This erstwhile 3.5-liter unit has been a mainstay among Toyota engines, but the 2023 Highlander now has greater torque and lower emissions.
The new turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine has less horsepower, more torque, and better fuel economy than the outgoing V6. The sacrifice in horsepower is a worthwhile tradeoff to get better efficiency with the same 5,000-pound tow rating as the outgoing V6.
Like most of its rivals, front-wheel drive (FWD) is standard, with all-wheel drive (AWD) offered as an option. The transmission is an 8-speed automatic.
2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
265 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm
310 lb-ft of torque @ 1,700-3,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/29 mpg (FWD), 21/28 mpg (AWD)
More Highlander fuel economy information is available on the EPA’s website.
The Toyota Highlander is backed by a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. This is typical protection for the segment.
Top Safety Pick+
Since the Highlander’s appeal is primarily as family transport, potential buyers will be reassured by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) making the current-generation Highlander a Top Safety Pick+, the institute’s highest accolade. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also awarded the Highlander its maximum 5-Star overall score.