Review: 2013 Toyota HighLander Limited 4WD – Luxurious and Quick

2013 toyota highlander limited 4wd

The three row crossover segment is hotly contested.  The 2013 Toyota Highlander is in the fray for the second spot on the sales chart in United States.  This second generation CUV has been around for six years with a minor facelift.  What makes this crossover stay relevant after all these years?  Read on to find out.

STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2013 Toyota Highlander Limited 4WD $39,400 $42,514 270 / 248
EPA Rating MPG As Tested MPG
Rating: BUY IT! 17 / 22 Combined 19 Combined 20.8

First Impressions

The 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited 4WD is a luxurious machine.  The interior is nice enough to adorn some of the recent Lexus crossovers.  The leather is nice to the touch and the dashboard is still functional and fresh.  The front-end (face lifted in 2011) adds a bit of aggressive personality.

toyota highlander rear glass hatch


The exterior design of the 2013 Toyota Highlander is on a conservative side.  There is nothing wrong with it, but it also does not jump out of the crowd.  Highlander’s rear hatch has a feature, which is nearly extinct, a separately opening rear glass.

The Highlander has a functional and family friendly interior. It can be configured for seven or six people.  The third row is meant to be more easily accessed from the passenger side, where the middle-row seat slides further forward. With all seats in place, the middle-row slides fore-and-aft to allow decent leg room for third row.  I am a little over 6’2” and was able to fit in the way-back, although my head was hitting the ceiling.  I could spend a short trip back there. Unfortunately, the cargo space is very minimal with the third row deployed.

2013 toyota highlander limited interior dash

There is a ton of cup holders (the driver has access to five), and plenty of little cubby holes and storage spaces for smaller items.  There is also a feature, where you can remove the center seat in the middle row and stow in underneath the center console.  The Limited model can be ordered with a DVD player that folds down from the ceiling.


The 3.5-liter V6 in the Highlander needs no introduction. You can find it in many Toyota or Lexus vehicles in various tunes.  In this case, it’s making 270 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque.  These numbers do not look very high on paper, but this motor likes to rev and is willing to accelerate at moments notice.  It’s able to propel all 4,500 lbs of Highlander’s curb weight with authority (see video at the end to find out the 0-60 MPH time).  The engine is hooked up to a 5-speed automatic transmission.  That’s correct – a five speed.  It appears old-fashioned in the current world of 8 and 9-speeds, but once again – this transmission is very good at what it does.  It shifts quickly and feels well matched to the V6.

2013 toyota highlander rear tail video

You might think that this combination is awfully wasteful on fuel, but the Highlander has this covered as well.  After 230 miles of mixed city and highway driving, I averaged 20.8 MPG (according to the computer).  This is still a very respectable number.  The efficiency goes down to around 17 MPG is slow city traffic, but it makes up for it on the highway with efficient and smooth cruising.

The Highlander V6 is rated at 5,000 lbs of maximum towing, but I would not recommend getting close to that limit.  If you need to tow something that heavy, you should consider an SUV with a higher limit.


Highlander’s ride is compliant and comfortable, but it is not meant to carve corners.  There is more body roll than some of the newer competitors in the class.  The front seats do not have adequate side bolstering for spirited driving, with the driver and passengers sliding around too much.  The steering feel and weighting reminds a lot of a Camry, which is pretty good.  However, it does feel over-boosted at times, where the steering wheel is too light and easy to turn.  This crossover is not meant to be sporty, but it would make for an excellent long distance highway cruiser.



Starting Retail Price City/Hwy MPG HP / Lb-Ft Towing Lbs Cargo Cu-Ft, Ground Clear. In
2013 Toyota Highlander SE $35,860 17/22 270/248 5,000 95.4, 8
2013 Chevrolet Traverse 1LT $35,725 16/23 281/266 5,200 116, 7.2
2013 Dodge Durango $38,745 13/20 290/260 7,200 84.5, 8.1
2013 Ford Explorer $40,780 16/22 290/255 5,000 80.7, 7.6
2013 GMC Acadia SLT1 $41,780 16/23 288/270 5,200 116.1, 7.6
2013 Honda Pilot EX-L $36,620 17/24 250/253 4,500 87, 8
2013 Hyundai SantaFe GLS $30,100 18/24 290/252 5,000 80, ?
2013 Mazda CX-9 Touring $33,820 16/22 273/270 3,500 100.7, 8
2013 Nissan Pathfinder SL $36,450 19/25 260/240 5,000 79.8, 6.5

The Highlander is locked in tight battle with the Honda Pilot for the second sport in the segment in terms of sales.  The Ford Explorer has a significant lead.  The Toyota is getting a full redesign for the 2014 year, and the Highlander is coming for sale early next year.  This 2013 model shows that a comfortable ride and clever interior design can go a long way and keep it popular through the years.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited 4WD a Buy It!

The test crossover stickered at $42,514 and included the DVD entertainment system along with a long list of Limited feature (including a sunroof).  Considering all the features that are included, this is a competitive price.  I give this crossover a Buy It! if you are looking for family hauler and do not care as much about sporty characteristics.  If you are looking for sport, you should look elsewhere.

Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, reporter, and software engineer. He has been a contributor at TFL since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or simply ‘going for a drive’.