2023 Toyota Highlander Gets a Turbocharged Engine, New Screens, New Liftgate

For the 2023 model year, Toyota announced that its midsize Highlander SUV would be getting a number of upgrades, most notably a new turbocharged engine that makes more power than the outgoing V6. It also gets new touchscreens and a hands-free power liftgate option.

In its fourth generation since 2019, the Toyota Highlander has been a popular choice in the three-row SUV segment since it went on sale in 2001.

Not much changes on the styling front. The XSE trim is differentiated with black roof rails, mirror caps and window moldings. The hybrid Bronze Edition, added to the lineup last year, gets the Cement color as an exclusive. It's also available in Wind Chill Pearl or Midnight Black Metallic.

But the most significant change coming to the 2023 Toyota Highlander is the new standard turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, which combines with an eight-speed automatic transmission for 265 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque.

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That replaces last year's 3.5-liter V6, though the company estimates that the gas SUV will retain its fuel economy rating of 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway.

The Highlander Hybrid sees the eight-speed is swapped out for a continuously variable transmission. With the electric motor, Toyota says that it will get 243 horsepower. It also returns an impressive 36 miles per gallon combined and can tow 3,500 pounds.

Front-wheel drive is standard, with two types of all-wheel drive (AWD) available as options. A simple AWD system available on the gas-powered L, LE and XLE splits available torque between the front and rear equally.

The XSE, Limited and Platinum trims are upgraded with Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD that takes a more active role in deciding what wheels need power and when.

Inside, the cabin remains stalwart with not many changes to the appointments. Woven cloth seats are standard while customers can find SofTex and perforated leather trims as they move up the trim line.

The Limited and Platinum variants afford passengers ambient LED cabin lighting.

On the tech front, the Highlander comes standard with dual 12.3-inch screens for the gauge cluster and infotainment display on Limited and Platinum trims. The gauge cluster comes with four different visual modes: Casual, Smart, Tough and Sporty.

Toyota has also changed the location of the wireless charging pad that comes with the XLE trim and higher, shifting it from the center console box to the instrument panel shelf, and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.

Previously only accessible on the Limited and Platinum models, a hands-free power liftgate has been added to the XLE and XSE grades.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ is standard across the trim line, which comes with the company's latest array of safety features including lane tracing assist, pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and lane departure alert.

The company didn't release a timeline or pricing details for the 2023 Highlander. A 2022 gas-powered model starts at $38,055, while the hybrid edition begins at $39,555.

Other options to consider when looking at a Highlander include a 2022 Kia Telluride, a best-seller in the segment which has an opening MSRP of $33,390. For those looking for hybrid competitors, a 2022 Ford Explorer utilizes a hybrid engine on its Limited trim, which starts at $51,545.