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A white 2023 Toyota Highlander XLE is shown towing a boat through a forest after visiting a Toyota dealer in the city.

It’s Time to Get to Know the 2023 Toyota Highlander

Just a century ago, in 1920, at the age of 55, George V, as King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India, became the ruler of the largest empire the world had and has ever seen—more than 26% of the world’s land area was under his rule. And yet, despite attaining a feat that far surpassed the efforts of the most aggressive conquerors in history, King George never knew the comfort of three-zone climate control or the ease of use that comes with a 12.3-inch infotainment display. I mention this because when shopping for a vehicle, it’s easy to forget that the incredible types of luxury and technology you find today would be an unthinkable extravagance to even the greatest of historical kings and emperors.

That kind of luxury and technology is exactly what you’ll find at the Toyota dealer near you, particularly when you’re checking out amazing vehicles like the midsize Toyota Highlander. This is an SUV for people who demand the best in their vehicle and expect it to be able to deliver a fantastic driving experience. The catch, however, is that you have some important decisions to make when looking at the Highlander and everything it has to offer. Let’s take a good look at this impressive machine and figure out what it can do for you.

Two Main Options: Highlander and Highlander Hybrid

If you’re interested in the Toyota Highlander, then the first thing you have to decide on is which engine you want. You have two main options available to you: either a conventional gas engine or a hybrid that gives you superior fuel efficiency. Standard Highlander models come with a 2.4L 4-cylinder engine that offers 265 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, which comes paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. You can get this engine with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD); Highlander models with this powertrain and FWD can get an estimated 22 MPG in the city, 29 MPG on the highway, and 25 MPG of combined fuel economy.

If you want boosted gas mileage, you should check out a Highlander Hybrid model with a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine featuring an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission. You can also get this engine with either FWD or AWD, which gives you the freedom to get the driving experience you prefer; plus, it delivers 243 hp to ensure you have a good time on the road. Excellent efficiency is the name of the game with this one since Hybrid models with FWD get an estimated 36 MPG in the city, 35 MPG on the highway, and 36 MPG of combined fuel economy. The boosted power of the standard engine gives it greater towing capacity (5,000 lbs compared to 3,500 lbs), but the hybrid engine is far more economical.

The Highlander L

Kicking things off, we have the starting trim for the 2023 Toyota Highlander, which gives us all of its standard features. These include three rows of seating for up to eight passengers, heated power outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, and a standard rear liftgate. Inside the L trim, you’ll find fabric seating with an eight-way power driver’s seat and four-way front-passenger seat, plus Three-Zone Automatic Climate Control, an 8.0-inch infotainment system, a 7-inch LCD Multi-Information Display, and a six-speaker sound system. The standard Highlander also comes with Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, including a Pre-Collision System, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, and Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control to ensure you have a safe drive that you’ll look forward to each day.

The Highlander LE

Moving up to the second trim for the Highlander, we find a number of improvements—it’s worth noting this is the starting option for the Hybrid since there’s no L available for it. The LE comes with a height-adjustable power liftgate to make loading and unloading your stuff easier, as well as LED fog lights and advanced safety features, including a Blind Spot Monitor with indicators on the side mirrors. Inside, the LE is much like the L though you’ll find a few upgrades, like a leather-trimmed shift knob and steering wheel.

The Highlander XLE

Up next, we have the Highlander XLE, which is a great choice if you want some luxury upgrades without going overboard. You get a power tilt/slide moonroof with one-touch open/close on the XLE, along with silver-painted roof rails that look great while giving you excellent functionality. The XLE has seven-passenger seating thanks to second-row captain’s chairs rather than a bench, along with SofTex-trimmed seats with heated front seats, a 10-way power driver’s seat, and an eight-way power front-passenger seat. You’ll get a Qi-compatible wireless charging pad in the XLE, plus more available options for added tech that you can’t get on the previous trims.

A white 2023 Toyota Highlander XSE is shown driving in a desert.

The Highlander XSE

The XSE is the second trim you won’t find with Highlander Hybrid models—they have an exclusive Bronze Edition available instead—though both work as upgrades from the XLE. With the Highlander XSE, you get a twin-tip exhaust for added flair and improved performance, larger 20-inch wheels, and other unique styling touches across the exterior. Inside, the XSE has leather-trimmed seating available, with ambient interior lighting to provide you with a nicer experience within your vehicle; an improved sound system is offered on this model, but not standard, and otherwise, this one is much like the previous XLE.

The Highlander Limited

The second-highest trim for the Toyota Highlander, the Limited is a fantastic option if you’re looking for improvements inside and out. You’ll find acoustic noise-reducing front side windows on the Limited, along with power-folding side mirrors featuring puddle lights with the Highlander logo integrated into them. This model comes with a hands-free power liftgate that’s perfect for loading and unloading your SUV with your hands full, along with LED projector headlights and LED-strip daytime running lights. Inside, the Limited comes with leather-trimmed front and second-row seats, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, and a 12.3-inch LCD Multi-Information Display. This model also has a 12.3-inch Multimedia system with an 11-speaker JBL premium audio system.

The Highlander Platinum

Finally, we come to the Platinum, which is the pinnacle trim for both Highlander models and an amazing choice if you want the most sophisticated ride possible for this SUV. The Platinum features unique exterior details like silver finish for the front and rear lower bumpers, a black front grille with a chrome-plated surround, and rain-sensing intermittent windshield wipers. You’ll find an illuminated front doorsill metal scuff plate inside the Platinum, along with heated second-row seating, a 10-inch color head-up display, and a digital rearview mirror. The Platinum also has a Panoramic View Monitor that gives you a virtual 360-degree overhead view around your vehicle while driving at low speeds, making maneuvering in tight spaces even easier.

A white 2023 Toyota Highlander XSE Hybrid and a blue 2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum are shown parked together near a house.

How to Find the Right Toyota Highlander

To me, this number and arrangement of trim levels is pretty much perfect for a vehicle; it gives you plenty of options without overwhelming you or coming up short in any way. Honestly, even the standard features are fantastic and a great place to start if you’re shopping on a budget or don’t think you’ll take advantage of most of what you’ll find in the higher-end trims. Moving up from one model to another is typically a pretty minimal price increase, so if a few features in one trim catch your eye, upgrading to get a better driving experience could be worth it. Start off by deciding on whether you need the power of the standard engine or prefer excellent fuel economy, then go from there and look at what each trim has to offer—that way, you can drive away in the perfect Toyota Highlander.