Now the eighth year for the Highlander, and a year following a rather substantial “mid-cycle refresh” for the 2012 model, Toyota’s 2013 Highlander Hybrid carries forward with some updates and mild price uptick in the same basic form.

The versatile, family friendly six-cylinder hybrid promises more equipment standard including Display Audio with Navigation and the Entune™ multimedia package, and offers an optional multi-media system.

The Highlander Hybrid – available in two trim levels – offers fuel savings of nine miles per gallon on average over its regular version, and the best fuel efficiency for any seven-passenger SUV sold. Its EPA-rated economy of 28 combined is a healthy improvement over the 19 mpg combined for the regular gas-powered 2013 Highlander four-wheel drive.


To provide enough get-up-and-go for a medium-sized, civilized, truck with a third-row seat, Toyota equips the Highlander Hybrid with a 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle engine, itself packing 231 horsepower. That could be enough, but the gas-electric system makes use of two electric motors contributing more horsepower and torque for a combined 280 system horsepower.


As is customary for hybrids, a continuously variable transmission feeds the power to the wheels. An EV and Econ mode are included.


The exterior of he Highlander Hybrid is not a lot different than the regular Highlander. It does get a unique grille and badges though. Other distinctions are color-keyed rocker panels with chrome accents and vertically stacked fog lamps. Its projector beam headlights and taillights stand out with blue lens covers. The base model gets 17-inch alloy wheels, and the Limited is upgraded to 19-inchers along with a power lift gate.


Inside the SUV, quality and attention to detail and function are evident throughout. All controls are spaced and positioned for ease of use, and materials are of a suitably high grade.

Seating is clever too. The second row bench seat splits 40/20/20 and you won’t miss your minivan’s seats with these. It reclines, slides fore and aft and the center section can be removed and stowed away, leaving an open center aisle. This configuration results in a pair of second-row captain’s chairs with fold-down armrests. The third row seat is also a splitting type, this being 50/50.


In all, there’s 9.1 cubic feet of total cargo space possible. The vehicle has many storage compartments throughout and 10 cup holders, four bottle holders, two front and one cargo-area 12-volt auxiliary power outlets and cargo area tie-down hooks.
Rather than summarize all the data in long form, following is a list direct from Toyota of what to expect from the two Highlander Hybrid packages:

Highlander Hybrid Base
• 3.5-inch Multi-information Display: includes clock, outside temperature, cruiser information (average
fuel economy, average speed, distance to empty, current fuel economy, and trip timer), and warning
• 6.1-inch Display Audio with back-up camera monitor display
• Front and rear air conditioning system with filter and vents for second and third-row seats
• Up to seven passenger seating capacity
• Easy-clean fabric-trimmed 40/20/40 2nd row seat w/armrests on outboard seats, fold flat, recline, fore
and aft slide adjustment, one-touch right-hand walk-in function, plus Center Stow™ seat, and Center
Stow™ console
• 50/50 split fabric-trimmed 3rd tow seat with fold down headrests and fold-flat-into-floor capability, two
cup holders
• Height adjustable headrests (1st and 2nd row only)
• Front center console w/six cup holders, console box, and storage area for 2nd row Center Stow seat or
Center Stow center console
• Optitron meters w/red graphics
• Power door locks and windows with driver’s auto up/down with jam protection
• Auto door lock/unlock with shifter activation
• Cruiser control
• Dual sun visors with illuminated vanity mirrors and sliding extensions
• Overhead console with conversation mirror, map lights and sunglasses holder
• Illuminated entry system includes interior lights
• Manual tilt and telescopic urethane shift knob and steering wheel with audio, phone & Multiinformation
Display and voice control buttons
• Door panels with integrated speakers, storage pocket and ten cupholders/four bottles
• Two front and one cargo area 12-volt auxiliary power outlets
• Cargo tie down hooks
• Scheduled maintenance indicator light
• Six assist grips
• Under floor storage in rear cargo area
• Color-keyed interior door handles and door grips
• Remote hood and fuel-filler door releases
• Cargo area second-row-seat one-touch fold-flat levers
• Second-row personal reading lamps

Highlander Hybrid Limited (In addition to or replaces standard features on Highlander Hybrid Base model)
• Perforated leather-trimmed eight-way power adjustable driver seat with power lumbar support and
adjustable thigh support; four-way power adjustable passenger seat, adjustable headrests and
seatback pockets
• Multi-stage heated front seats
• Perforated leather-trimmed 40/20/40 second-row seat with fore/aft slide adjustment, recline
adjustment, right-hand walk-in feature, plus Center Stow console
• Leatherette 50/50 split third-row seat with fold-flat capability and folding headrests
• Three-zone automatic climate control system with air filter, rear multi-function display, rear vents for
second-and-third-row seats
• Smart Key System with push button start and remote illuminated entry
• Wood-grain-style interior trim with chrome interior door handles
• Leather-trimmed steering wheel with audio, climate, phone and voice control buttons

Driving Dynamics

The Highlander Hybrid is based on a car’s chassis, and its underpinnings are very similar to those of the Camry.

Its four-wheel independent suspension gives a soft-enough ride and handles well for an SUV.
It’s no sports car, to be sure, and rides with high center of gravity, but it corners, handles rough roads, and brakes acceptably well.

Pricing and Warranty

The four-wheel-drive hybrid vehicle is fairly unique in with little in the way of apple-to-apple competition. The Lexus RX 450h does compete with it, utilizing the same essential underpinning sand powertrain, and comes in at about $6,000 more.

As you may have surmised, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is well equipped. Its starting price of just less than $40,000 is $720 more than the most feature-laden Highlander Limited V6 4WD. Toyota also offers lesser-equipped V6 Highlanders for less, with the lowest priced of several possible trim packages starting at $31,695 plus destination fees.
Highlander Hybrid prices range from $40,170 for base model to $46,370 for the Limited. This is an increase from 2012’s pricing of $200, or 0.4 percent.


The vehicle gets Toyota’s standard 36-month/36,000 mile warranty. It also gets a 60-month warranty to cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and corrosion with no mileage limitation.
Hybrid-related components, including the battery, battery control module, hybrid control module and inverter with converter, are covered for eight years/100,000 miles.

Also standard is Toyota Care, a plan covering normal factory-scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first.