2013 Toyota Highlander Limited

2013 Toyota Highlander Limited

If it looks and drives like a minivan, it must be a crossover.

By: David Merline

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: February 12th, 2014

We Americans are a fickle bunch. First we all want minivans, then we all want SUVs, then we all want crossovers. Of course what we really want are station wagons, we just can't bring ourselves to admit that, because for some reason America has deemed wagons to be terminally unhip, despite their superiority to SUVs and crossovers in terms of gas mileage, cargo space, and handling.

The Highlander is considered a "small SUV," although it still seems ridiculous to call anything with a third-row seat small. This is a family-vacation-mobile, complete with a rear-seat DVD system to keep the horsing around to a minimum.

  • On the Road

    Driving the Highlander, you really can't help feeling like a bus driver, even though it's obviously a much more luxurious experience than driving a bus. There's heated seats and a nice sound system and no screaming kids in the back (those are optional). But you're always aware that you're at the wheel of a very big vehicle, and if you do somehow forget this, you're quickly reminded every time you need to park, or round a tight corner.

    But the Highlander is, as we've said, a family road-tripper, and as far as those are concerned, there's little to complain about. It's sufficiently powered, the brakes do their thing, and it has every interventionist safety feature under the sun.

    The Limited trim features the V6, which gives it sufficient power that other trims might lack, but of course, you pay for that extra bit of not-going-as-slow-as-a-car-this-big-should at the gas pump.

  • Exterior

    The thing that's hard to understand about crossovers is that they even look like station wagons, in a way. Just as all minivans look more or less identical, the same problem affects crossovers. To this reviewer's eye, the Highlander (and most of its competitors) look like wagons that have gone a bit crazy with whatever the automotive equivalent of human growth hormone is.

    But despite its roided-out bulk, the Highlander is fine looking. This isn't a car anyone buys to impress the neighbors, but it won't send you speeding into the garage in shame either.

  • Interior

    The Highlander's interior is likewise uninspired - but when it comes to a not-minivan like this, that's to be expected, and here again the Highlander proves more than sufficient. The seats are plain-looking but comfortable enough to be able to abide during long sojourns, and the Toyota Entune system is one of the better performing infotainment systems (and that's saying, well, nothing).

    The rear seat is roomy (with a car this size, it damn sure better be), and the third row seat will do for the very little ones, but isn't fit for an adult of normal stature.

    The wood trim adds a slight touch of upscale charm to the Limited's interior, but elsewhere it's all cheap molded plastic and beige for days. That's little matter, though. You'll be keeping your eyes on the road and the family will be watching DVDs.

  • Conclusion

    It's hard to recommend a "small SUV"/minivan-but-don't-tell without a certain sense of sadness. I'm sorry you need a car like this, I want to say, but children are our future. Raise 'em right and all that. You've done well by them with this vehicle. They'll be kept safe, they'll be comfortable, and as long as you keep a healthy stock of videos on hand, they'll never be bored. They may even be quiet for a bit, and really, that's all you can ask of a car like this.

  • Specs & Price

    Engine: 3.5-liter V6 with VVT-i

    Transmission: 5-speed automatic

    Power Output: 270 horsepower / 248 lb.-ft. of torque

    Fuel Economy: 17 mpg (city) / 22 mpg (hyw)

    Price: $43,045 (as tested)

    Features: Windshield wiper de-icer; Etune; backup camera; audio jack; Bluetooth; wood-grain-style trim; rear-seat DVD system

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