in 2013 Affordable Midsize SUVs

Avg. Price Paid: $23,371 - $32,446
Original MSRP: $29,020 - $39,400
MPG: 20 City / 25 Hwy
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2013 Toyota Highlander Performance

This performance review was created when the car was new. Some links may no longer point to an active page.

The 2013 Toyota Highlander isn’t a performance SUV, but critics say it has a reasonable amount of power, especially models with the optional V6. Reviewers say that the Highlander is a comfortable SUV to ride in. It may not be ideally suited for tackling a mountain, but it serves its job of keeping occupants isolated from road imperfections. Its fuel economy figures are about average for the class. Reviewers also say that the Highlander is fairly easy to maneuver in parking lots.

  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The 4-cylinder engine is a bit underwhelming, but it delivers good fuel economy for a midsize SUV." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Once you're on the road, the not-too-big, not-too-small Highlander is easygoing, and it can even be spirited if you opt for the powerful V6." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

Powering the 2013 Highlander is a 187-horsepower four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. SE and Limited trims come standard with a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower and is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive, available on all trims, is only available with the V6. According to the EPA, a front-wheel drive, four-cylinder Highlander achieves 20/25 mpg city/highway, which is decent for the class. V6 and AWD models get slightly lower fuel economy, but their ratings are still on par for the class.

Reviewers say that the base engine is okay for most daily driving, but feels a little underpowered in passing maneuvers on the freeway. They prefer the V6, saying it feels more robust, and has a much easier time moving the Highlander. Few comments are offered on the transmission.

  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "4-cylinder Highlanders accelerate adequately, though not surprisingly, passing punch is on the weak side. The conventional V6 is much stronger in all situations, and it's the way we'd go. It's peppy off the line and has plenty of reserve punch." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Highlander grows even more appealing with the 3.5-liter V6, thanks to that engine's strong acceleration. This muscular V6 moves the 4,000-pound crossover with a briskness that makes this Toyota seem smaller than it is." -- Edmunds

Handling and Braking

The 2013 Highlander is available with either front- or all-wheel drive. Reviewers say the AWD system inspires confidence on slippery roads. Overall, critics say the Highlander has a fairly comfortable ride, but are mixed on how well-controlled body motions are through turns. One reviewer points out that the Highlander is a bit smaller than some of its rivals, which makes it easy to maneuver. Critics aren’t especially inspired by the steering. They say that while its light feel aids in low-speed maneuverability, it doesn’t respond all that well at higher speeds, and doesn’t give a lot of feedback. The brakes receive little comment.

  • "You get decent handling from the fully independent suspension, and the ride quality is surprisingly smooth. Being a bit smaller than other larger crossovers, the Highlander is easier to maneuver, particularly in tight parking lots. The light-effort steering also helps here, though it is rather numb and uninspiring on the open road compared to some of its rivals." -- Edmunds
  • "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." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Pleasant to drive, but Highlander lacks the car-like agility of its similarly sized (and even larger) rivals. Steering response is slow. Body lean is prevalent even when taking corners at moderate speeds. Braking control is fine." -- Consumer Guide

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