We drive a lot of cars, and sometimes, redesigned aren’t always much better than outgoing models, but that’s not the case with the 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited 4WD. The first-generation Highlander pioneered the midsize crossover utility vehicle segment, ushering in car-like performance, comfort and fuel efficiency with SUV-like roominess and versatility. The current, second-generation Highlander amplifies those attributes and is among the leaders in the segment in standard active and passive safety features. Toyota has really taken serious steps forward with the Highlander as this is one very impressive vehicle.
The Highlander now has that wow factor that you don’t regularly see in an SUV, but it’s real. Designed at Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, Calif., the second-generation Highlander conveys a contemporary, dynamic presence via clean, sculpted lines, a wide, stable stance and muscular contours. The Highlander grade could be mistaken for an upgrade model with its six-spoke, 17-inch alloy wheels, color-keyed power outside mirrors and silver-painted front grille.
The Highlander Limited as tested has a luxurious appearance with sporty 19-inch alloy wheels, chrome door handles and roof rails, puddle lamps and rear spoiler. The 2013 Highlander Hybrid is distinguished from the gasoline model by its own unique grille and bumper design, color-keyed rockers with chrome accents, plus vertically stacked fog lamps. The projector-beam headlights and taillights feature blue lens covers. Our classic silver metallic test model looked refined and upscale with an overall sleek look.
Continuing with that upscale feel, the 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited really hit a homerun with the cabin quality, design and fit and finish. All Highlander models feature a standard 50/50 split third-row seat and rear climate control. Generous standard features on the Highlander grade include front and rear air conditioning; eight-way adjustable driver’s seat; power door locks and windows with driver’s window jam protection and auto-up/down feature; manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel; cruise control; multi-function keyless entry system; UV-reduction windshield and rear privacy glass; digital clock; conversation mirror; illuminated entry system; scheduled maintenance indicator light; full-size spare tire and more.
The Highlander provides an open, airy and versatile interior with seating for seven or up to 95.4 cubic feet of total cargo capacity (94.1 for Highlander Hybrid). There are numerous storage compartments throughout the cabin, along with 10 cup holders, four bottle holders, two front and one cargo-area 12-volt auxiliary power outlets and cargo area tie-down hooks.
When you move up to the Limited model we tested, things only get better, with perforated leather heated 8-way power drivers seat with power lumbar and 4 way power passenger seat, sliding reclining second row with center stow seat, Bluetooth phone and streaming music, wood-grained style trim, smart key system with push button start, 3-zone auto-climate control, leather steering wheel with audio, climate, phone, voice controls, rear seat DVD entertainment system with 9-inch display, RCA jacks, 120V AC power outlet, remote and two wireless headphones.
Toyota built this Highlander to impress, and that’s exactly how we felt after testing the 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited 4WD for a week. The available 3.5-liter V6 (standard on SE and Limited) produces 270 horsepower at 6,200 RPM and 248 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,700 RPM. The V6 is also equipped with dual VVT-i and a variable intake manifold. A five-speed, electronically controlled automatic transmission (ECT) offers selectable manual sequential shifting. The Toyota Highlander continues to build on its strength of delivering one of the most capable, smooth and quiet rides in the segment. Four-wheel independent suspension is via MacPherson struts in front and a dual-link strut rear suspension system. Highlander comes standard with Toyota’s Star Safety System, which integrates operation of enhanced Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC), Electric Power Steering (EPS) and the anti-lock brake system (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA), and Smart Stop Technology (SST).
Enhanced VSC helps the driver maintain control by automatically adjusting engine output and braking force at each wheel under certain conditions, while also providing steering assistance in the appropriate direction through EPS. Gasoline Highlander models are also equipped with a straight-line steering feature. When varying traction causes ABS to apply different left/right braking force, the system can apply steering torque to help offset left/right pull.
All Highlander models incorporate a corner-braking feature. Harnessing the integration of the vehicle’s dynamic control systems, this feature limits brake pressure on inside wheels during cornering to help enhance control through the turn. Standard on all models, Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) helps prevent the vehicle from rolling backward from a stop by applying braking pressure for approximately two seconds.
Downhill Assist Control (DAC) is standard equipment on all Highlander gasoline 4WD models. The DAC feature is designed to maintain a constant speed and maintain handling and steering control by reducing wheel lock under braking even at slow speeds on slippery descents. The V6 package, enabling up to 5,000-pound maximum towing capacity, is now standard on all V6 models. Fuel economy on our 4WD Limited is fair, coming in at 17 mpg in the city and 22 mpg on highway driving.
The 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited 4WD really packs a punch with a sleek exterior, upscale but practical cabin and plenty of power under the hood. At a price tested of $41,855, you can get a whole of comfort and muscle together in a very good looking package. The evolution of the Highlander is real, and we believe many buyers will agree!