2013 Toyota Highlander Expert Review

3.7 Overall Score
Performance 3.5 Comfort 3.9 Styling 3.5 Value 3.4

Editor's Overview

Toyota's 2013 Highlander crossover SUV continues to impress with its abilities, features and resale value. It is a roomy, 7-passenger SUV ideal for growing families. Sharing much of its architecture with the Lexus RX 350 gives the Highlander a leg up on its competition. There is a hybrid model that attains best-in-class fuel economy without sacrificing power or interior space.

You'll Like The 2013 Toyota Highlander If...

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.

You May Not Like The 2013 Toyota Highlander If...

If you need an SUV that can be taken off-road, or that can tow more than 5,000 pounds, a Toyota 4Runner or Dodge Durango with a HEMI V8 might be a better choice.

What's New

The Toyota Highlander's only change for 2013 is a rearrangement of standard equipment and trim-level packages. A new Highlander Plus package replaces what was the Tech package and adds some features, including a rearview camera.

Interior Features

The 2013 Toyota Highlander SUV has an attractive if somewhat conservative interior. Big round knobs on the dash for the radio and climate control are easy to use even when wearing bulky winter gloves. There are loads of little storage spaces thoughtfully placed, and the rear-most occupants get their own climate controls. The Highlander features a sliding second-row seat that can move 4.7 inches fore or aft depending on where you need to maximize space. And a flexible center section can serve as a middle seat, a console, or fold away to create an easy path to the third-row seat.

Exterior Features

The 2013 Toyota Highlander has a sporty and dashing look to it. Rather than going for a macho and rugged SUV-like image, Toyota has targeted buyers who want the functionality of a big SUV in a vehicle that is both strong and intelligent. The Highlander SUV's profile is lower than a Chevy Traverse's or Dodge Durango's, which makes sense given it shares a common platform with the Toyota Camry. Large rear doors provide more space to easily access the third-row seat, and the flip-up tailgate opens high to minimize bumping your head on the corners.

Driving Impressions

Between full-time 4-wheel drive (4WD) and electronic traction and stability control, the 2013 Toyota Highlander is about as confidence-inspiring as you could want on slick, variable surfaces. The 270-horsepower V6 engine is smooth and responds instantly to the slightest request for more power. It moves the Highlander around smartly, and with EPA city/highway fuel-economy numbers of 17/22 mpg, the efficiency is there. Those willing to trade a little power and smoothness for even better mpg should check out the 4-cylinder, front-wheel-drive (FWD) models, whose fuel-economy figures are a frugal 20/25. If money is no object and you want the best in fuel-stretching technology, shoot for the Highlander Hybrid. Regardless of powertrain, the Highlander delivers the expected on-road experience. Ride and handling qualities are finely developed but conservatively targeted, meaning no one will be either inspired or let down.

Pricing Notes

The 2013 Toyota Highlander SUV starts at a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just under $30,000 for a base, front-drive, 4-cylinder model, and about $2500 more for a 4WD, V6 version. The top-line Limited trim runs from about $38,700 to $43,000. The Highlander Hybrid starts close to $41,000 and tops out about $51,000. We expect our Fair Purchase Price values to reflect real-world transaction prices at or near sticker price. Toyota Highlander resale values typically are some of the strongest in its class. A Hyundai Veracruz, as an alternative, offers a lower price for a comparably equipped model but won't have the Highlander's strong resale value. The V6-powered Honda Pilot is probably the closest competitor in terms of price, features and resale.

Notable Equipment

The base front-wheel-drive (FWD) 2013 Toyota Highlander rolls on 17-inch alloy wheels and comes with halogen headlights, AM/FM/CD MP3/WMA-capable 6-speaker stereo, tilt/telescope steering wheel, clever second-row fold-away Center Stow seat and console, third-row 50/50 split-bench seat and an aerodynamic rear spoiler. Standard safety features include seven airbags, stability control, traction control and anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution. The 4WD versions include standard Downhill Assist Control. The Highlander Hybrid comes very well equipped, as what was the Leather Premium package is now the base spec.

Notable Options

Options available on the 2013 Toyota Highlander are largely bundled into the Plus, SE and Limited equipment packages. They offer such niceties as an 8-way power driver's seat, a flip-up liftgate window, fog lights, upgraded seat fabric, automatic climate control, power moonroof, rear-seat entertainment system, power liftgate and a navigation system with premium audio, voice activation and Bluetooth phone connectivity. Four-wheel drive is available in all grades with the V6 only; the 4-cylinder engine, with front-drive only, is available in base and Plus configurations.

Favorite Features


This clever feature allows the second row of seats to be converted from 3-across to 2-across seating, opening a convenient pass-through area to access the third-row seats. The central seat panel stows easily out of sight.


If you live in rolling terrain, you'll appreciate these features that prevent the Highlander from rolling backward at a stop on steep up-grades and controls downhill speed (on non-hybrid 4WD models) during slippery descents.

Under the Hood

The 2013 Toyota Highlander crossover SUV uses a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine in FWD versions of the base, Highlander Plus and SE trim levels. A 3.5-liter V6 is optional on those, standard on the Limited, and mandatory with all 4WD applications. The 2.7 liter scores well on fuel efficiency and power, with 187 horsepower and upward of 25 mpg in highway driving. The 4-cylinder engine is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission while the V6 model makes do with an electronically controlled 5-speed automatic. The Highlander Hybrid teams the 3.5-liter V6 with two electric motors for a total of 280 net horsepower. The Hybrid's unique on-demand 4WD system uses a second electric motor powering the rear wheels, avoiding the need for transfer gears and a shaft.

2.7-liter inline-4

187 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm

186 lb-ft of torque @ 4,100 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 20/25 mpg (FWD only)

3.5-liter V6

270 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm

248 lb-ft of torque @ 4,700 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 18/24 mpg (FWD), 17/22 mpg (4WD)

3.5-liter V6/AC 650-volt permanent-magnet motors

231 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm (gas engine)/280 horsepower (net combined)

215 lb-ft of torque @ 4,800 rpm

EPA city/highway fuel economy: 28/28 mpg (4WD only)

Editors' Notes

Toyota's 2013 Highlander crossover SUV continues to impress with its abilities, features and resale value. The vehicle that basically invented the segment, the Highlander established its beachhead and never let go. No longer the smallish tall wagon that it was originally, the 2013 version (still just the second generation) has grown considerably in size and sophistication. That growth translates into a roomy, 7-passenger SUV ideal for growing families. Sharing much of its architecture with the Lexus RX 350 luxury SUV gives the Highlander another leg up on its competition, as does the vehicle's impressive ability to hold its value over time. There is a hybrid model that attains best-in-class fuel economy without sacrificing power or interior space.

Road Test Video Reviews

2013 Toyota Highlander Owner Reviews

224 Reviews
66% 31% 3% 2 star 0% 1 star 0%
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2013 Toyota Highlander: Very reliable and spacious with back up camera

I enjoy the comfort of the Highlander and fortunately, I've had very few problems thus far. Mine is a 2013 and so far I've only had a problem with the door locking system. The drivers side door no longer locks on its own and it has to be done manually now. Toyota is a very reliable brand and I love how my vehicle has a 3rd row seat. With only 1 child, we have plenty of room to put luggage for travel, and we have plenty of seating to take additional passengers. I also love the rear air conditioning, the space the 2nd rowing seating has, and the ride is very smooth. The seats are very comfortable and are cloth material, which I like because it does not make the car extra hot in the summer time like leather seating does, even though it is harder to clean. There is plenty of headroom, as my husband is 6'4' and he can drive it comfortably. The highlander gets great gas mileage compared to full size SUVs. I prefer a full size SUV, but for the size of vehicle this is, I have been very pleased. I think my favorite is the backup camera, as I have never had one before. It is very convenient with having a child and with trying to maneuver in parking lots, etc. I also love how it connects to Bluetooth and you can make phone calls through the car without holding the cell phone. Again, this is another feature I have never had before.

- Kathryn C

It's dependable, comfortable, and very much worth the money.

I'm very pleased with my Toyota Highlander. It's comfortable and reliable. It's performance has been above what I expected. I've driven it for four years and expect it to last another 10 years. I've never had any problems with it and I've driven across country a few times. I can say I never worry about being stranded. I chose this vehicle because it was one of the safest vehicles on the market at the time. And I've never been disappointed. I've spoken to several others, who agree totally with me. I found one vehicle that was almost the exact same but costed $16,000 more than mine. I can't say enough good about my suv. On the other hand, my 3 previous vehicles, all disappointed me, in some way, with their performance.

- Janie L

The best family and traveling SUV on the road.

I absolutely love my Toyota Highlander! With two kids in car seats, the space is in beatable. If we ever decide to have another child, we have additional space with the third row. As of right now, the third row is laid down and my trunk space is HUGE! I love when we travel or go on outings with friends, we can always use my vehicle to help us get places. For an SUV, the mileage is good. I have had no problems at all with the performance of my car. Just normal wear and tear things to be replaced like windshield wipers and just last week I had to buy a new battery. Not too bad after 5 years. If I bought a new car, I would be buying an updated Highlander, that's for sure!

- Torei A

I love my Toyota highlander!!

My highlander is my 5th vehicle purchase and by far, the best. The cabin is so quiet and so comfortable. Other than routine maintenance, I have not had to have any repairs. I have owned this vehicle for 5 years and it still drives as well today as it did when I drive it off the lot. The extra features that came with my highlander (I.E, moonroof, steering wheel controls, power seats, 3rd row seating and heated seating) have made my car feel like just another extension of home. My young daughter totally enjoys the back seat. It is very roomy, comfortable and the passenger hearing controls on the back make it even better.

- Tammie S

It's the most expensive vehicle I've ever owned, and I plan to keep it until it stops running.

I purchased my vehicle in 2013 brand new and I love it. I want to keep it as long as possible. It is very comfortable and spacious for me and my family. I maintain it as recommended and it still runs like a brand new car. The only thing that I "dislike" is it doesn't have a built in navigation system, but I can use my phone for that when needed. I don't have any complaints, when I first bought it there was a problem with the transmission, but the dealership promptly took care of the problem and replaced it with a new one. They also offered me an extended warranty at no charge as a result.

- Jazmin F

Toyota highlander best SUV ever.

I have absolutely loved our highlander. For a 2013, it has been so good to us. The tires have been reliable, the 4 wheel drive is amazing, and I especially love the snow feature in the winter season. We haven't had any major problems caused by the car itself, so no worries there. The sound system is incredible, and it can get to a fast speed within a short amount of time. We have gone camping with it a ton and it does well on some rugged ground! Even better, we already feel like we have a family car though we do not have a family yet. It seats 8 total including the driver and passenger!

- Emily H

It is a spacious and sporty.

The only problem I have had with my highlander is the driver side window clunks when I shut it. I love how smooth it drives, the heated seats, how comfortable and cushy the seats are ( especially compared to a Honda that feels like sitting on cardboard)how roomy it is. I have no use for 3rd row seats because you have to be tiny to sit back there. I am always using the cruise control which is so easy. I love that you can convert captains chairs in back so 3 can sit there. The navigation and hands free system for phone. Love it and would but another one.

- Maria W

The highlander has plenty of legroom.

The 2013 Toyota highlander is a wonderful vehicle with many fun bells and whistles. I have two athletic children who need lots of room for equipment & plenty of leg room, which it definitely has whether you sit in front or the back. Also, having a third row is a plus. The ride in comfortable and smooth. If you have third row of seats up, the storage in the back is joke! The only problem that I have had with this vehicle is with the blower. For the air conditioner / heat. It either blows at very high or very low.

- Mo L

Safe, spacious, superb... Toyota highlander.

Driving a Toyota highlander is like surrounding your family with safety, security, and comfort ability as you drive on a day-to-day basis or on long distance journeys. The comfort of the vehicle is by far superior to many vehicles. The highlander offers many features inside, including a spacious interior, that allows for up to 7 individuals to ride with no issues. Having the Toyota brand affords families a reliable vehicle. Their routine maintenance plan is ideal and worry free for the owner.

- April S

Love that there are 4 cup holders between the 2 front seats.

It gets decent gas mileage (21 - 22 mpg) on the highway. I have 2 boys who are quite tall for their age (10 and 12), and it fits the 4 of us very comfortably. My husband is 6’2”, and he loves the amount of headroom and legroom he has. The third row seat is also a decent size. I have had to sit back there occasionally and find it bearable for a 46 year old female. I would like to be able to open the back hatch with the remote which I cannot do. The trunk of the car is very roomy.

- Meredith P

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