2023 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD – Review by David Colman +VIDEO
Solid choice for 2023's most affordable rolling real estate
Special Correspondent to THE AUTO CHANNEL
Every week, when a new vehicle arrives, my wife and I try to guess its price without looking at the window sticker. Usually, we come within a couple of grand of the MSRP. But we both whiffed big time on this Highlander, which had us convinced it was a $60,000 Toyota. In point of fact, the base price of the 2023 Highlander Limited AWD is $48,025, Delivery tariff brings the total to $50,210. Why did we both miss by ten thousand dollars? Because our striking metallic green 4x4, with comfortable seating for 5 (and jump seating for 7) looks, feels and operates like an SUV worth ten grand more than it costs.
You would assume that because Toyota de-contented the Highlander's engine bay this year by replacing the standard V6 with a turbo 4, that performance would suffer notably. After all, that's a staggering displacement loss of 1100cc, an amount large enough to power almost any two-wheeled superbike. Furthermore, that beefy 3.5 liter V6 produced 295hp compared to the new motor's 265hp rating.
But from the driver's seat, the shortfall is barely noticeable. The reconfigured Highlander still has the grunt to get the job done. Especially notable is the turbo 4's torque output of 310lb.-ft. which comes on line at just 1700rpm, and continues all the way to 3600rpm. That's enough torque to tow a 5000lb. trailer. The electronically controlled 8-speed "Direct Shift" transmission does such a competent job of keeping the 2.4 liter turbo on full boil when you need speed that you'll never notice the V6 has gone the way of the Dodo. With its 24MPG overall fuel economy rating, the turbo 4 also bumps fuel economy by 2MPG (to 24MPG) when compared to the V6.
Interior refinement and high grade materials make the Highlander feels more costly than it is. In the Limited, the seats are leather-trimmed, with the front row pair heated, ventilated, and electrically adjustable. The spacious second row's 60/40 split bench converts instantly to flat floor storage space, as does the constricted pair of third row seats. Interior cargo capacity in this configuration is 41 cubic feet.
If you aren't using the back two rows for occupants, you'll want to collapse the headrests of those seats in order to improve rear vision. The only option on our test Toyota was an $850 Panoramic View Monitor. When you're backing up, this camera system displays a rear view on the dash's 12.3 inch multimedia touchscreen. We quickly discovered, however, that daytime reflections obliterate that image when you most need it. That's why collapsing the headrests is preferable to deciphering the image on the touchscreen.
At 4,455 pounds, the Highlander is no decathlete on back roads. It stands 68 inches tall, so the upper cabin tends to oscillate from side to side if you insist on attacking curvy roads with vigor. Toyota equips the Limited with 20 inch chrome finished alloy rims shod with long life (TW500) Bridgestone Alenza A/S Sport all-season radials (235/55R20). These mud and snow-rated tires offer a dry weather grip level far higher than you will ever need on pavement. Out on the freeway, the Highlander combined well-calibrated spring and shock rates to provide an agreeably comfortable ride.
During our stint on the open road, we tested the "Full Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control" and found it to be somewhat hesitant to follow pre-set speed commands. For example, when the freeway curved gently from the straight and true, the FSRDRCC sensed that cars in an adjacent lane were actually in front of the Highlander, rather than next to it. At that point, the cruise control backed speed way down and even applied brake force. Likewise, the "Lane-Tracing Assist" tended to lose its bearing when confronted with faded paint lane markers. We found it more relaxing to cut the AI system loose and revert to right foot pedal control and manual steering instead.
In view of our initial overestimation of the Highlander's base price, it can come as no surprise that this Toyota is something of a sensational buy for the money. If you need a king-size hunk of SUV equipped with an endless supply of useful features, the revised Highlander Limited is a solid choice for 2023's most affordable rolling real estate.
2023 TOYOTA HIGHLANDER LIMITED AWD
ENGINE: 2.4 liter inline 4 cylinder turbocharged
FUEL CONSUMPTION: 21MPG City/28MPG Highway
PRICE AS TESTED: $50,210
HYPES: Multi-Terrain Dial for Mud & Sand/ Rock & Dirt
GRIPES: Hard to Park: Occluded Rear Vision, Invisible Front Corners
STAR RATING: 9 Stars out of 10
© 2023 David E. Colman