After laboring away beneath the hood of numerous Camrys, Siennas, Highlanders, and plenty of different fashions, Toyota’s 3.5-liter V-6 is slowly being ushered off stage. In a transfer widespread all through the trade, a turbocharged 4 is supplanting the naturally aspirated V-6. With the 2023 mannequin 12 months, the Highlander joins the four-cylinder membership, however it’s a change that Toyota is making as invisible as potential.
With a drop in cylinder rely comes a drop in horsepower, now 265 ponies versus 295 earlier than. However the turbocharger delivers a compensating enhance in torque, which rises to 310 pound-feet from 263. Nonetheless, with 4529 kilos to maneuver, the turbo 4 strains at instances, holding decrease gears when a burlier V-6 may confidently upshift. That impression of a hard-working turbo 4 is born out in our testing of an all-wheel-drive Platinum. The smaller engine’s 7.2-second 60-mph time lags 0.5 behind the quantity for the all-wheel-drive V-6, and the identical was true with a rolling begin in our 5-to-60-mph check.
Within the Highlander, the step-up powertrain providing (at a price of $1400 in most trim ranges) is a four-cylinder hybrid. With a complete of 243 horsepower, the gas-electric combo practically matched the acceleration efficiency of the turbo 4 within the run to 60 mph. The Highlander hybrid (once more with all-wheel drive) was only a tick behind the two.4T to 60 mph at 7.3 seconds, however it fell additional behind within the 50-to-70-mph passing check, taking 5.2 seconds to the turbo 4’s 4.7.
So, the two.4 turbo cannot fairly match the V-6 in acceleration however stays (simply barely) forward of the hybrid. The brand new engine’s drivability, although, is above reproach. The turbo’s enhance is easily built-in, and response is kind of linear for a boosted 4. At low speeds on rolling terrain while you’re simply grazing the throttle, some turbocharged engines can surge inconsistently, however not this one. It helps that Toyota pairs the boosted engine with a well-behaved eight-speed automated somewhat than a CVT as in the Subaru Ascent. Moreover, Toyota claims the brand new engine is sweet for a similar 5000-pound towing capability because the V-6.
We simply want the engine sounded happier in its work. As soon as the engine reaches 3000 rpm or so, the four-banger’s machinations are lower than melodious. It quiets proper down when cruising, although, and we recorded 68 decibels at a gentle 70 mph, marginally higher than the V-6.
The profit you’d anticipate from engine downsizing is improved gasoline economic system, and the 2023 Highlander’s fuel mileage does enhance, simply not by so much. With all-wheel drive, the Highlander 2.4T’s EPA estimates are 24 mpg mixed, 21 metropolis, and 28 freeway, which quantities to only 1 mpg higher than the earlier V-6 throughout the board. (The front-wheel-drive model ekes out one other 1 mpg in all three measures.) The Highlander hybrid is the actual gas-mileage champ, with EPA mixed estimates of 35 mpg for all-wheel drive and 36 mpg for front-wheel drive, numbers that lead the sphere.
Except for the engine swap, the Highlander’s driving expertise is basically unchanged. The journey consists, and the physique construction feels stable even while you thwack right into a pothole that reveals itself on the final minute. The steering, although, would not really feel linked to something past the firewall (and switching to Sport mode would not assist, as that solely impacts the powertrain). We perceive this is not the kind of machine that is more likely to be chosen for Sunday-morning canyon carving, however a better-tuned helm can be welcome even in additional mundane commuting, corresponding to while you’re using near the concrete limitations in construction-narrowed lanes. Dealing with is neither notably sporty nor clumsy—about what you’d anticipate from a family-size SUV—and skidpad grip at 0.84 g is consistent with rivals. Hit the brakes, and the Highlander hauls itself down from 70 mph in 170 ft, a stable efficiency (though not fairly pretty much as good as what we recorded with the 2023 Hyundai Palisade).
Contained in the well-finished cabin, the 2023 mannequin 12 months brings a couple of tech updates. The Restricted and Platinum get a digital instrument cluster, and Toyota’s newest infotainment system makes its debut right here. Normal on the Restricted and Platinum and elective on the XSE and XLE, the broad, 12.3-inch touchscreen is perched excessive on the middle sprint and boasts a lag-free processor and sharp graphics. The quantity knob is a far attain, and we miss having a tuning knob, however that is a fast-disappearing amenity today. The driving force as an alternative interacts with the audio system through the steering-wheel buttons. With a lot display actual property, we would additionally wish to have the flexibility to point out a number of features without delay, however that is solely potential when utilizing Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, each of that are wi-fi.
Beneath the display, the bodily local weather controls have a superb separation of perform, making the system straightforward to make use of. And under that could be a shelf on your telephone, which now presents wi-fi charging (beforehand the wi-fi charger was awkwardly situated within the console storage field). As earlier than, there’s one other helpful shelf on the passenger’s aspect of the sprint.
As in all mid-size SUVs, the Highlander’s second-row captain’s chairs are lots roomy for adults, and patrons alternately may also select a middle-row bench seat in 4 of the six trim ranges. The image is much less rosy within the rearmost seat, the place the low cushion forces a knees-up seating place, whereas legroom ranges from tolerable to virtually nonexistent, relying on the place of the middle-row seats. And do not anticipate to hold a lot baggage with the third row in use. In the event you recurrently use the third row, there are roomier decisions on this phase—the Chevrolet Traverse and the Volkswagen Atlas, to call simply two. Toyota clearly is cognizant of this shortcoming, because it’s introducing the longer and roomier Grand Highlander for many who recurrently carry a crowd.
This 12 months’s engine swap hasn’t altered our opinion of the Highlander by an entire lot. The V-6 was a stronger performer, however the turbo 4 is ample. The two.4T will get higher mileage, however not a lot better. We proceed to assume that the Highlander hybrid, with its stellar fuel mileage, is the best way to go. And of the Highlander’s plethora of trim ranges, all however two of them provide you with that selection.
2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD
Car Kind: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon
Base/As Examined: $52,560/$54,372
Choices: Operating boards, $599; dashcam, $375; carpeted flooring and cargo mats, $358; roof-rack cross bars, $350; door edge guards, $130
Turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, aluminum block and head, port and direct gasoline injection
Displacement: 146 in3, 2393 cm3
Energy: 265 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 310 lb-ft @ 1700 rpm
Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink
Brakes, F/R: 13.3-in vented disc/13.3-in disc
Tires: Goodyear Eagle Touring
235/55R-20 102V M+S
Wheelbase: 112.2 in
Size: 194.9 in
Width: 76.0 in
Top: 68.1 in
Passenger Quantity, F/M/R: 55/49/31 ft3
Cargo Quantity, Behind F/M/R: 84/48/16 ft3
Curb Weight: 4529 lb
C/D TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 7.2 sec
1/4-Mile: 15.5 sec @ 92 mph
100 mph: 18.5 sec
Outcomes above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.
Rolling Begin, 5–60 mph: 7.7 sec
High Gear, 30–50 mph: 3.5 sec
High Gear, 50–70 mph: 4.7 sec
High Pace (gov ltd): 113 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 170 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.84 g
C/D FUEL ECONOMY
Noticed: 21 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Mixed/Metropolis/Freeway: 24/21/28 mpg
Deputy Editor, Evaluations and Options
Joe Lorio has been obsessive about automobiles since his Matchbox days, and he obtained his first subscription to Automobile and Driver at age 11. Joe began his profession at Car Journal beneath David E. Davis Jr., and his work has additionally appeared on web sites together with Amazon Autos, Autoblog, AutoTrader, Hagerty, Hemmings, KBB, and TrueCar.