- MSRP: $29,020
- MPG City: 20
- MPG Hwy: 25
- Seating Capacity: 7
- Rating: 8.2
Toyota has long been considered the leader when it comes to producing popular, high-quality sedans for family and compact buyers, but it has always had an uphill climb when competing for SUV buyers. For whatever reason, most people in search of an SUV typically gravitate either to high-end German luxury models or domestic models from the likes of Ford and Chevrolet. With the 2013 edition of Honda’s crossover SUV, this pattern may just reverse itself for the first time.
What’s New for 2013
Toyota’s family-friendly Highlander remains largely unchanged in terms of exterior design for the 2013 model year, but that doesn’t mean there are some changes inside and under the hood. The company has retooled the interior for 2013 model year buyers, giving it an added sense of comfort and refinement.
The company has also created an entirely new trim level for the 2013 Highlander, known as its “Plus” option. This trim level will be discussed in a bit more detail later, but it’s a great option for adding extra features without compromising an initial budget at the time of purchase.
Pros and Cons
- + Comfortable and quiet ride
- + Powerful optional V6 engine
- + Solid gas mileage
- – Third row is too cramped for adults
- – 4 cylinder is underwhelming
- – Steering feels numb and imprecise
- Trim: FWD 4dr I4 (Natl)
- Passenger Capacity: 7
- Passenger Doors: 4
- Transmission: 6-spd automatic w/OD
- Drivetrain: Rear Wheel Drive
- MPG: 20 City / 25 Hwy
- Engine: Gas I4 2.7L/163
- Horsepower: 187 @ 5800
- Torque: 186 @ 4100 2.7L/163
Trim Levels, Options & Pricing
The entry-level Toyota Highlander comes in a base trim, while customers interested in technology and feature upgrades can choose from upgraded Plus, SE and Limited trims that each add advanced features to the cabin and a few enhancements to the SUV’s curb appeal.
For customers on a tight budget, the base-level trim starts at $29,030 and is still a really great option and a great deal. This model comes with a 50/50 folding rear eat and 40/20/40 folding seats in the middle row. Air conditioning is included, and passengers in the rear have their own set of controls to change the temperature as they wish. The Highlander base trim comes with Bluetooth, a six-speaker sound system, and an iPod/USB interface as standard features. 17-inch alloy wheels are included as well.
The upgraded Plus trim, which is entirely new for the 2013 model year, is a value-minded upgrade designed to bridge the gap between the entry-level model and the more expensive SE and Limited options. The Highlander Plus comes with all of the base model’s features, but also includes roof rails, fog lights, a backup camera, power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, vanity mirrors, and even a deicer for the windshield wipers. That’s an impressive series of features for only a minor additional cost. In fact, the difference between base and Plus trims is less than $1,000.
The SE model comes with even more enhancements, including a sunroof, heated leather seats, a full power driver’s seat, and a rearview mirror with auto-dimming features. The SE trim starts at $34,560.
The high-end Limited model ups the ante with a large number of luxury features. For $37,950 buyers will gain heated mirrors, interior wood accents, an upgraded sound system with nine speakers, automatic climate control, upgraded leather upholstery, keyless ignition, GPS navigation, heated mirrors, and Toyota’s Entune system for smartphone control.
“The successful recipe for a family-friendly crossover SUV goes something like this. To a platform with carlike handling and ride qualities add roomy passenger and cargo accommodations, bake in reliability and refinement, sprinkle liberally with convenience features and wrap in attractive though conservative styling. Follow this formula and you get the 2013 Toyota Highlander, a crossover that will satisfy the appetites of countless savvy consumers.” – Edmunds
“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.” – Kelley Blue Book
“No matter which facet or dimension you measure–except excitement–the 2013 Toyota Highlander offers competent performance, great space, and good value.” – The Car Connection
Toyota has long been known for its commitment to safety on the road, and the Highlander is an example of that commitment. The SUV comes with standard antilock disc brakes, stability control, traction control, and plenty of airbags. The company has added front and side curtain impact airbags, as well as a driver’s side knee airbag for added protection. Active front head restraints guard against whiplash or more serious injuries, while features like all-wheel drive and hill-start assist keep the car stable in a variety of weather conditions.
Thanks to this extensive laundry list of safety features, the Highlander earned four of five possible stars in government crash tests and earned a safety rating of “Good” from the IIHS. For an SUV in this class, those marks are generally on par with the competition.
Interior Design and Best Features
Perhaps the best thing about the Highlander, especially when compared to similar models from domestic manufacturers, is that it offers a more refined cabin experience. Unlike competing options, the Highlander can be equipped with wood grain accents, a smartphone app control system, perforated leather seating, and three-zone climate control. It feels like a luxury car, but it’s still priced as affordably as any other Toyota on the market.
Another key perk of choosing the Highlander is its relatively large amount of legroom for passengers in the first two rows of seats. Things do tend to get a bet more confined in the third row, but that’s the case with virtually every SUV currently on the market in this segment. All told, the Highlander feels like more than a mid-range SUV, giving parents on a budget the opportunity to ride in comfort without sacrificing their fiscal sanity.
For SUVs in this segment, consumers have almost resigned themselves to dealing with a relatively jolted ride that suffers from a poor turning radius and rather uninspiring smoothness on the highway. That is not the type of ride that the Highlander offers, however. In a departure from the conventional consumer expectation, the Highlander offers an exceedingly smooth and quiet ride and is actually quite easy to handle.
Its drive quality is enhanced by an independent suspension and a slightly shorter length than competing crossovers and SUVs in this class. That makes the car just a touch more agile, and it makes all the difference around tighter curves and even in parking lots. For those buyers who are looking for an SUV that drives a bit more like a car, and has the potential to handle much better on winding country roads, the Highlander stands the best chance of making the grade and feeling natural in virtually any environment.
A Great Car for the Family
With its three rows of seating, exception luxury features, and its ability to convert from a family car to a cargo-hauling behemoth, the easy-to-drive Highlander is a great choice. Buyers will love added legroom, the Toyota Entune system, and the ability to choose a Highlander with the right features and monthly payment amount for virtually any budget.