What do most families want in a new SUV? Plenty of passenger room, cargo carrying ability and a car like ride. Enter the 2013 Toyota Highlander. Families across America want a crossover SUV with these attributes. Throw in a little luxury and you have the Toyota Highlander Limited ($39,400) which we’ll be reviewing this week. If you are looking for an SUV to take into the back country, you will want to look elsewhere. But for many families, the 2013 Highlander has just about everything you’ll need.
It starts underneath where the Toyota Highlander crossover SUV gets a platform based on the Toyota Camry sedan. The mid-size Highlander is a great family hauler that rides more like a car. Most people will never take their SUV off-road anyway, so why bother with a stiff ride. Highlander has a big SUV feel, but without the harsh ride. It has a nice roomy cabin and can seat up to seven passengers.
Good for hauling people and cargo
Inside, Highlander is comparable to the Honda Pilot. It sports 95.4 cubic feet of cargo room and that’s more than all but a handful of competitors in the popular midsize class. Once inside, the cabin has a roomy and quality upscale feel. Fit and finish are excellent and it has an attractive design. There are a few hard plastics throughout, but they are nicely grained.
It’s a great people mover with a second row that slides forward and back, and the third-row seat is good for children and capable of carrying adults for shorter jaunts. Access to the first two rows is easy, and Highlander features both a walk-through and a fold-and-slide-forward second-row seat to ease access to the third row. This tester came with the optional Rear-Seat DVD Entertainment System ($1,760) that kept our grandkids occupied on a long trip to Glenwood Springs.
Generous head and legroom
Underway, the elevated ride height gives the driver a high sitting position offering good forward visibility. The seats are comfortable on longer trips, but could use a little more body contour. Head and leg room are generous in the first and second rows. The tri-zone automatic climate control kept things comfortable both in front and back.
The Highlander Limited model we tested upgraded with 10-way power driver’s seat; four-way power front passenger’s seat; Smart Entry; and interior wood trim. The Limited models also feature more chrome and bright trim than other models. Outside they get larger 19-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels wrapped in 245/55R19 rubber.
V6 option is a good choice
If a family does much driving on the highway, hauling cargo or people, they might want to opt for the optional 3.5-liter V6. The base 2.7-liter four-cylinder only makes 187 horsepower. This tester came with the more powerful V6 that delivers 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. It came mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission that was smooth and downshifts were seamless to provide ample punch for passing and driving over Vail Pass at altitude.
This Highlander Limited came with 4WD that is only designed for navigating wet pavement and wintry conditions, not for off-road adventures climbing rocks and traversing rough terrain. But most families aren’t looking for a rock-climbing beast, so the Highlander is ideal as a family hauler in cold climates. An early Denver snowfall gave us opportunity to test it out in snowy conditions.
4WD full-time all-wheel drive
The 4WD system worked good for the 3-inch snowfall that covered the dirt road leading to our house west of Denver. The all-wheel-drive system provides a full-time 50/50 front/rear torque split. Highlanders equipped with the system will help you get the kids to school on snowy days or a safe commute to work. Highlander 4WD models are rated 17/22 city/highway mpg.
Families looking for a pleasant vehicle to drive, will appreciate the Highlander. The ride is more luxurious and soft than many mid-size SUVs. It may be too soft for those who live in the country or in mountainous regions. But for hauling kids and cargo in city and highway commutes, the Toyota crossover is superb.
The 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited offers generous room for people and cargo, good performance when equipped with the V6 option, and decent fuel mileage. The V6 with 5-speed automatic is extremely smooth, has a comfortable ride and the cabin is quiet. The versatile cabin adds to its attractiveness as a family hauler and makes sense for families with active lifestyles.