2013 Toyota Highlander 4WD V6
2013 Toyota Highlander 4WD V6
2013 Toyota Highlander 4WD V6
2013 Toyota Highlander 4WD V6. Click image to enlarge

Review by Tom Sedens, photos courtesy of Toyota Canada and by Tom Sedens

During my week with it, I tried desperately to figure out how Toyota determined this was the right name for its SUV. Remember those awful Highlander movies? What was the line in them again? “There can be only one!”

Anyway, the Highlander slots in above the smaller RAV4, somewhere near the truck-based 4Runner, and below the completely ludicrous Sequoia.

I reviewed a relatively base version of the Highlander – the 4WD V6. If you want to spend a few grand less, there’s the four-cylinder version. If you want more goodies than what I describe here, you’ll need to step up to the Limited. There’s also the Hybrid for those that want to feel better about themselves.

The exterior looked pretty fresh a few years ago when it came out. Although it’s not as tired as some other designs out there, it is getting a bit long in the tooth. The Highlander has a way of blending into the landscape, and looking decent while doing it. It also has a way of surprising you by its size once you get up close – it’s not a small SUV.

There’s nothing exciting here – it’s a smooth design and nothing stands out. Slab sides, boxed out fenders, a grille that looks like it’s trying to mean business. A pretty boring shape, all in all. The just-unveiled 2014 Highlander certainly brings a fresher, modern look to the table, visually stretching things out a bit and adding some muscle with flared fenders and a new gaping grille.

I did like the chunky 245-sized rubber, but the 17-inch rims don’t look nearly as nice as the 19s on the Limited model.

There are no shocking twists or surprises under the hood either. Toyota’s tried and true 3.5L V6 sits there. The numbers are pretty familiar already: 270 horsepower at 6,200 rpm and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4700 rpm.

That power makes its way through a five-speed automatic (an insulting number of gear ratios these days) and to all four corners via an all-wheel drive system.

The Highlander is surprisingly svelte for this class, tipping the scales at 1,895 kg (4,178 lb) in this configuration.

Fuel economy is rated at 12.6 L/100 km in the city and 8.7 L/100 km on the highway. During my week with it, I commuted in the city, often driving with a heavy foot and through a fresh, heavy snowfall over the course of a few days, and made it onto the freeway a couple of times. I averaged 14.5 L/100 km – not great, not a surprise. I like that the fuel tank is big – it holds 72.5 litres.

Inside, the Highlander seems a bit dated too. The design has aged gracefully, but it’s time for an update.

2013 Toyota Highlander 4WD V62013 Toyota Highlander 4WD V62013 Toyota Highlander 4WD V6
2013 Toyota Highlander 4WD V6. Click image to enlarge

The materials aren’t great. There isn’t a shred of soft-touch plastic to be found here, short of the armrest lid. The hard dash plastic looks great, texture-wise, but it collects dust like crazy. The whole interior comes across as bland, grey and boring.

Speaking of cheap-feeling materials, the grey fabric seats (power adjustable, not heated) reminded me of rental cars from a long-gone era. They don’t feel expensive or luxurious. They aren’t very comfortable either, and more than one passenger commented on that.

The steering wheel has controls for media, phone, driver information screen and hands-free functions.

The centre of the dash houses a comically small screen. It serves as the driver information screen, offering fuel economy information (average, instant, since refueling, range), a clock and outside temperature. The size isn’t as much of an issue for this data, but when the rearview camera picture comes on the screen, you’ll have a tough time seeing what’s going on behind you. Think of having an old iPod screen in the center of your dash, and you’ll get the idea.

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