Drive Apart Overview

Although an all new, totally redesigned 2013 Toyota Highlander is waiting in the wings to be launched early next year, the stalwart and reliable second gen is soldiering through this, its last year on the market with plenty of good attributes, still on offer. Sure, we may find the 4Runner to be a sexier choice but for many folks out there, the Highlander is still their pick.

What We Liked

The 2013 Toyota Highlander is definitely a more user friendly passenger vehicle when it comes down to its ride height and also down to ease of entry and exit from the third row of seats compared to the clearly more truck-like Toyota 4Runner. You can even separate the rear second row bench seat in the Highlander into two Captain’s Chairs if your kids can’t manage to get along back there. You do this by detaching the middle connecting portion of the seat then slide it under a handily placed second row center console cubby. Older drivers will appreciate the low lift over height to get cargo or luggage into the back of the Highlander as well as how easily all of the seats fold.

What’s Not to Like

Our Limited model with all of the bells and whistles like rear seat DVD entertainment, navigation, tri-zone climate control, JBL audio is stickered over $40,000 even without standard all-wheel-drive which might be a necessity depending on where you live. But the Highlander battles back with class leading residual values, the lowest insurance rates in its class and top notch safety reports.

Review: 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited V6

Tow and Haul

Every 2013 Toyota Highlander with the 3.5 liter 270 horsepower/248 lb.-ft. of torque V6 comes standard with a heavy-duty radiator with engine oil cooler, a 200-watt fan coupling and supplemental transmission oil cooler to afford this SUV a 5,000 lb. tow capacity. The hybrid version of the Highlander can tow up to 3,500 pounds while the 4-cylinder base variant is a relative weakling with a 1,500 lb. limit.

Review: 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited V6
The 3.5 liter V6.

Engine and Drivetrain

The standard the 3.5 liter 270 horsepower/248 lb.feet of torque V6 and the undetectable 5-speed automatic gearbox may not be the newest powertrains on the block but they serve their purpose well and have proven to be unfailingly reliable. Toyota’s tried and true 3.5 liter 6-cylinder is under rated in the industry thanks to its snarly growl and an ability to always give the driver just enough power. Then, at cruising speeds, it hushes itself up like a comatose librarian for serene cruising.

Interesting Vehicle Features

We tend to prefer the interiors of our SUVs and pick-up trucks on the “Dark Side” so to speak so we were thrilled to find that Toyota now offers a black interior option with the Highlander. You’ll notice a few years back it was hard to find a black interior in many Toyotas but now you can even find one in the Camry SE.

Gas Mileage

According to the EPA the 3.5 liter V6 we tested should return 18 city/24 highway with the hybrid returning 28 city/28 highway and lastly the 2.7 liter 4-cyllinder engine option should return 20 city/25 highway.

Review: 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited V6
Driver's view of the interior.

Interior and Exterior

As for cargo hauling, the Highlander is mighty impressive as it even affords 10.3 cubic feet of cargo room with all three rows upright and being used. Fold down the third row and the number grows to 42.3 cubic feet and should you need your own personal hauler then the Highlander can accommodate you with 95.4 cubic feet of space.


If you buy a base model Highlander with the 4-cylinder engine then you can squeeze in under $30,000 but we would recommend the 3.5 liter V6 because in base trim it comes to only $30,350. If you don’t need all of the luxuries that the Limited commands we would probably recommend the SE model as it comes to just over $34,000 yet still has a power liftgate, backup camera, leather front seats, a power moonroof, and more. Limited trim brings uprated leather all around, navigation, upgraded audio and allows you to order a rear seat DVD entertainment system.

Review: 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited V6
The 2013 Toyota Highlander.

The Verdict

The 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited with its surprisingly burly 3.5 liter 270 horsepower/248 lb.-ft. of torque and standard towing capability up to 5,000 pounds, so you could easily haul a couple of bikes if needed.

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