2013 Toyota Highlander Preview

Jeff Youngs | May 21, 2013
  • Limited trim level added for 2013
  • Midsize crossover SUV is available with hybrid drivetrain
  • 4- and 6-cylinder engines are available
  • Second row has removable center section
  • Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds


The Toyota Highlander is a midsize crossover SUV with seating for 7. The 2013 model carries over from the previous year but adds a new trim level, plus a reversing camera as standard equipment on the upper trim levels. Toyota promotes the Highlander as a family-friendly, versatile SUV, and offers all-wheel drive (AWD) as an option in addition to the standard front-wheel drive (FWD). It's available with either a 4-cylinder engine or a V-6, or with a hybrid drivetrain that features two electric motors. The Toyota Highlander competes with crossover SUVs such as the Dodge Durango, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Ford Flex, among others. The 2013 Toyota Highlander is available in four trim levels with a conventional gasoline engine: the base model, Plus, and SE, as well as the new Limited trim level. The hybrid version is offered only in the base and Limited trim levels. With proper equipment, the Toyota Highlander can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Exterior Features

The 2013 Toyota Highlander is offered in a choice of 10 colors; availability and price may vary by model. Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, with the Limited trim level stepping up to 19-inch wheels. Fog lights, roof rails, manually lifting rear window, and windshield wiper de-icer are added to the Plus trim level, while the SE trim level includes a power liftgate and a sunroof. The Limited adds more chrome to the exterior, and keyless entry and ignition, in addition to the larger wheels.

Interior Features

Standard interior features on the Toyota Highlander include power windows with driver's side auto up/down; air conditioning with rear controls; cloth upholstery; 8-way manual-adjustable driver's seat; tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel; 6-speaker sound system with auxiliary jack, USB port, and hands-free phone capability; reclining/sliding 40/20/40 second-row seat with a removable, stowable center section; 50/50 folding third-row seats; and a complement of cupholders and bottleholders. The Plus trim level includes a rearview camera as standard equipment, power adjustments on the driver's seat, second-row seats that fold flat at the touch of a button, and a cover for the cargo area. Leather upholstery is the main feature of the SE trim level, which also adds heat to the front seat and more power adjustments to the driver's seat. The Limited trim upgrades the upholstery to perforated leather and includes tri-zone climate control and power adjustments to the front passenger seat, as well as woodgrain accents, a 9-speaker JBL sound system, and Toyota's Entune communications/entertainment services. Storage space in the 2013 Highlander with rear seats folded is 95 cubic feet.

Optional Features

Because of the multiple trim levels, few options are offered with the conventional engine. On the base model hybrid version of the Toyota Highlander, two option packages add most of the features found on the Limited trim level. Individual options and accessories include alloy wheel locks, exhaust tip, hood protector, paint protection film, roof rack crossbars, running boards, remote ignition, ashtray, various cargo organizers, security system, first aid kit, and wireless headphones.

Under the Hood

The Toyota Highlander's standard engine is a 2.7-liter, 187-horsepower 4-cylinder model that produces 186 lb.-ft. of torque. Optional (and standard on the Limited) is a 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V-6 engine that produces 248 lb.-ft. of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission accompanies the 4-cylinder engine; the V-6 works with a 5-speed automatic transmission, and AWD is available with the V-6. On the Hybrid models, that V-6 engine combines with three electric motors and a continuously variable transmission.

Fuel Economy

EPA fuel-economy estimates for the 2013 Toyota Highlander are:

  • Highlander with 4-cylinder engine and FWD: 20/25/22 mpg (city/highway/combined)
  • Highlander with V-6 engine and FWD: 18/24/20 mpg
  • Highlander with V-6 engine and AWD: 17/22/19 mpg
  • Highlander Hybrid: 28/28/28 mpg


Standard safety features on the 2013 Toyota Highlander include anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, and a full complement of air bags. A rearview camera is standard on upper trim levels. Hill-start assist is standard; hill-descent control is added to AWD models.

In crash tests conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2013 Toyota Highlander received an overall rating of 4 stars (out of 5), including 4 stars for rollover protection and for frontal impact, and 5 stars for side-impact protection. In tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the 2013 Highlander received "Good" ratings--the Institute's highest--for frontal-offset and side-impact protection, and for roof strength.Additional Research
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