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  • 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited V6 4WD

    Posted on October 28th, 2013 ninarussin

    Midsized crossover gets enhanced infotainment features

    By Nina Russin

    2013 Toyota Highlander

    To say that the original Toyota Highlander was the right car at the right time is sort of like posturing that the Pope is Catholic. Originally intended as the on-road counterpart to the 4Runner, the Highlander resonated with buyers looking for a seven-passenger vehicle that combined cargo versatility with a car-like ride.

    The Highlander quickly became one of Toyota’s best selling models, and has continued in that leadership position to this day. The 2013 car is basically a carry-over from 2012, with some infotainment enhancements prior to a new generation that emerges in 2014.

    Buyers can choose between a 2.7-liter four-cylinder engine and 3.5-liter V-6 with front or all-wheel drive. A new Plus trim level replaces the former Technology package and includes a rear backup camera as standard equipment.

    The test is the upscale Limited V-6 with all-wheel drive, priced from $39,400. Standard convenience features include leather upholstery with a heated power eight-way driver’s seat, four-way power passenger seat, folding and sliding second-row seats, folding third-row seats, navigation, Entune, Bluetooth, rear backup camera, push-button start and tri-zone climate control.

    Optional cross bars, carpeted cargo mats and door edge guards, plus the $845 delivery charge bring the final MSRP to $40,863.

    Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona

    2013 Toyota Highlander

    This week I had the chance to put the Highlander through its paces in my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. The test drive coincided with our tenth annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year finals: a two-day program that involves over 100 athletes and biblical amounts of food. In addition to driving the car on my typical test routes, I spent quite a bit of time in rush-hour traffic shuttling to and from the airport, as well as transporting both participants and supplies to the event.

    As a result, I can comfortably say that the Highlander holds seven passengers, enough bagels, coffee and cream cheese to feed a small army, bicycles, traffic barricades, six-foot tall banner signs, luggage, video and camera equipment. Having said that, I don’t think skis, golf bags, snowboards or kayaks would be a problem.

    What I love about the Highlander is that it’s an easy car to live in. The 270-horsepower V-6 engine produces 248 foot-pounds of peak torque for excellent acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use on freeway entrance ramps. The five-speed automatic transmission doesn’t offer the fuel economy of the six-speed unit in the four-cylinder version, but it is well matched to the engine, progressing smoothly through the gears. There is no obvious shift shock during normal driving conditions.

    2013 Toyota Highlander

    All-wheel drive automatically sends engine power to the wheels with the best traction, enhancing wet weather performance. A four-wheel independent suspension consists of MacPherson struts in front and a dual-link strut setup in the back for a car-like ride.

    The electric power steering system produces plenty of assist at low speeds for maneuverability with a pleasantly heavy feel on the highway. The Highlander’s 38.7-foot turning circle is pretty good for a car with a 109.8-inch wheelbase.

    Nineteen-inch wheels dress up the exterior and give the car a good footprint for high-speed maneuverability. I like the fact that Toyota has included a full-sized spare. Undersized spares not only limit driving distance but speed as well. Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Highlander in firm, linear fashion.

    Visibility around the car is good. I had no problems adjusting the driver’s seat for a good forward view and found it easy to monitor traffic in adjacent lanes on the highway. The rearview camera eliminates blind spots beneath the rear glass and in the back corners. It also makes it easier for the driver to monitor cross traffic when backing out of a perpendicular space in a crowded parking lot.

    Toyota is known for its quiet interiors and the Highlander is no exception. Passengers in all three rows can converse with ease or listen to the audio system.

    Spacious interior

    Keyless entry and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. Equally valuable is the power liftgate on the test car, which I was extremely grateful for when I was loading hundreds of bagels into the cargo area.

    Second-row seats slide fold flat in a 40/20/40 pattern, which is important for families carrying long cargo such as skis and snowboards on road trips. The seats slide forward to ease access and egress to the third row, and also recline for added comfort.

    Tri-zone climate controls are important in areas such as Phoenix, where the back of the car can become uncomfortable on hot summer days.

    Entune is Toyota’s voice-activated infotainment system, giving owners access to smart phone apps including Pandora, Bing, OpenTable, MovieTickets and iHeartRadio. Center stack controls are easy to reach from either front seating position and intuitive to operate. A hood over the screen keeps it from washing out in bright sunlight.

    Roof rails and crossbars on the test car enable owners to add a cargo area on top. With the towing prep package, the Highlander tows up to 5,000 pounds, exceeding out 3,500-pound ALV minimum standard.

    Standard safety

    The Toyota Highlander comes with front, side, side curtain and driver’s knee airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, hill start assist, hill descent control and tire pressure monitoring. The Entune system automatically notifies police and emergency medical personnel in the event of a serious collision.

    Toyota builds the Highlander in its Princeton, Indiana assembly plant.

    Like: A versatile crossover with all-season capability and car-like ride and handling.

    Dislike: Five-speed automatic transmission hurts overall fuel economy on the V-6 model.

    Quick facts:

    Make: Toyota
    Model: Highlander Limited V-6 4WD
    Year: 2013
    Base price: $39,400
    As tested: $40,863
    Horsepower: 270 Hp @ 6200 rpm
    Torque: 248 lbs.-ft. @ 4700 rpm
    Zero-to-sixty: N/A
    Antilock brakes: Standard
    Side curtain airbags: Standard
    First aid kit: N/A
    Bicycle friendly: Yes
    Towing: Yes
    Off-road: No
    Fuel economy: 17/22 mpg city/highway



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