Monday, February 26

2023 Toyota Highlander: Fewer Cylinders, New Entertainment

The Toyota Highlander is often America’s best-selling midsize SUV (it lost its crown by a nose to the Jeep Grand Cherokee last year in our calculations, though Toyota continues to advertise it as the best-seller in its class). So, it isn’t broke. It doesn’t need much fixing. All the same, Toyota will tweak the Highlander for the 2023 model year.

The headline change is a new engine, and it’s a bit of a head-scratcher.

Toyota has dropped the popular V6 from the Highlander lineup in favor of a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. It offers 265 horsepower – 30 fewer than the outgoing 6-cylinder.

If you drove the two back to back, you probably wouldn’t care. The new engine offers 309 lb-ft of torque, so it should feel slightly more powerful at neighborhood speeds. But, strangely, it’s not more fuel-efficient. The new engine gets exactly the same 24 mpg combined as the old one, Toyota says.

Highlander Hybrid models get the same 243-horsepower powertrain as what is currently offered. The Highlander Hybrid returns 36 mpg combined in front-wheel drive (FWD) and 35 mpg with all-wheel drive (AWD).

There are no significant exterior changes. Inside, it’s a different story.

Every trim level gets a bigger driver’s instrument display. It’s still small on the L and LE trims, at 7 inches. But the tiny 4.2-inch screen of prior years is gone. Higher trims get a 12.3-inch display.

All Highlanders get a new infotainment system. It’s still just 8 inches on L and LE models, but a 12.3-inch version is optional for those two and standard on higher trims. It runs the same operating system as the latest Lexus NX, adding natural language recognition, over-the-air updates, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality.

Designers also came to their senses and moved the optional wireless phone charging pad to a shelf in easy reach, rather than hiding it in the center console.

Other changes include a foot-activated power liftgate on XLE and XSE models and power-folding mirrors on Limited and Platinum editions.

Toyota hasn’t announced pricing for the 2023 Highlander. We don’t expect a significant change from 2022’s $35,855 starting price.

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