2023 Toyota Highlander Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons.
As part of the fourth generation of the Highlander line released in 2020, the 2023 Toyota Highlander has a big reputation to live up to. This third-row SUV is built to be family-friendly and serves as an alternative to the Sienna minivan. Those with families that are expanding in number might be eyeballing the new Highlander given its number of seats. But there is more to the Highlander than just an extra row of seats.
The Highlander offers a comfortable and quiet ride quality that places it above some of the other mid-size third-row SUVs out there on the market right now. This is the type of SUV that provides you with a commanding view rather than a restricted one. Fore and aft, you get a clear view thanks to wide glass window panes and slender roof pillars that will not obstruct your view.
What's more, for a vehicle in this segment, the Highlander gets a good fuel economy, thanks to the brand-new turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This four-cylinder replaces the old V6, which trades off some horsepower for more toque. And that leads to an enhanced fuel economy this model year.
There are a few key downsides to owning the 2023 Highlander though, and they are all to do with how space is utilized inside of the back half of the vehicle. Unfortunately, the Highlander suffers the same fate as many other mid-size third-row SUVs - a clear lack of space in the third row. That row of seats is definitely built only for children. Adults will not be able to squish in back there and find a shred of comfort. Also, the cargo area lacks the amount of volume we would expect from a vehicle of this size, thereby reducing its degree of utility.
This year marks a nice mid-cycle refresh for the 2023 Toyota Highlander. In addition to the new, more fuel-friendly four-cylinder, there are a few other changes worthy of note. Starting on the XLE trim level, there is a standard hands-free power liftgate. On top of that, the top-tier trim levels gain power-folding side mirrors and a digital instrumentation panel.
So, which of the Highlander's six trim levels is going to be the right one for you this year? Will it be the base L, the line-topping Platinum, or something somewhere in between? Each one builds well off the other, adding more creature comforts and options as you go. Let's take a look at what each of the 2023 Toyota Highlander's trim levels has to offer and which one serves up the most value for an average buyer in this segment.
Compare the L vs LE Trims. What is the difference?
First up, we have the 2023 Toyota Highlander's base trim, which is named the L. Like all of the other trim levels above it, the L is powered by the Highlander's new turbo 2.4-L four-cylinder engine. This engine generates a max power output of 265 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque and is matched up to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Power is thereby delivered to the front wheels via a front-wheel drive system; you can, however, opt for all-wheel drive if you want it, regardless of trim level.
If the gas-powered engine does not suit you, you might wish to look into the Highlander Hybrid option. The L comes with a standard second-row bench seat, but mid-tier and higher trim levels do switch you over to a set of captain's chairs, which will trim the seating capacity down by one to seven seats.
On the base L trim level, there are 18-inch wheels made from alloy and LED headlights up on the front fascia. The side mirrors have a heating function built into them to clear ice off on cold mornings. Keyless ignition and entry make it easy for you to start the Highlander up, and with the driver's seat being power adjustable, it will likely not take too long for you to find a comfortable position behind the wheel.
A tri-zone automatic climate control lets you individually set desired temperatures for each of the three zones, and it will automatically adjust itself to maintain those set temperatures. Both second- and third-row bench seats have a 60/40-split folding design, creating pass-through room for bulkier cargo items that need to be slid through.
When it comes to technology, Toyota equips the base Highlander with a reasonable amount of gadgets. An 8-inch infotainment touchscreen display is standard issue, and you can use it in conjunction with smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - both of which are wireless, thereby reducing cord clutter up front. A 7-inch digital instrumentation panel gives clear readouts of important vehicle data, and you even get smartphone integration for Amazon Alexa. You will find four USB-C charging ports and one USB-A media port throughout the vehicle, making it easy for everyone to connect their devices and charge them up. You can also use the onboard WIFI hot-spot in order to connect to the Internet.
In addition to Toyota's Safety Connect (which contains all of its emergency communication features), Toyota outfits the base Highlander (and all of its trims) with a suite of advanced driver aids known as Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+. This includes a traffic sign reader, automatic high beam headlights, and forward collision mitigation, which will detect potential front-end crashes and apply the brakes in order to avoid them.
You also get a lane keeping system (which will steer the Highlander back center into its driving lane if the wheels start to stray) and adaptive cruise control (which lets you set a safe following distance from the vehicle in front of you and will adjust itself to the flow of traffic) as part of this bundle.
Maybe that is not going to be enough to meet your family's unique needs. If not, the next trim level up - the LE - might be more up your alley with everything it tacks on. The LE trim level is more focused on adding convenience features. This trim level gives you LED fog lights on the front of the vehicle for enhanced visibility in the fog. The power liftgate in the back is able to be adjusted by height.
Inside of the XLE, there are a gear shift knob and multi-functional steering wheel that are wrapped in leather material. There is also a blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert which work together to warn you if another vehicle is driving in the Highlander's blind spot while you are putting it into reverse or trying to change lanes.
Compare the LE vs XLE Trim Levels. What is the difference?
The XLE is where the second-row bench seat ends and the captain's chairs begin. That is probably the most obvious difference between it and the LE, but there are plenty more noteworthy alterations between them. For one thing, the XLE features roof rails on top of the vehicle. There is also a sunroof for allowing in more sunshine and airflow on those pleasantly warm days. In the back, the liftgate becomes hands-free for even easier access into the cargo area.
There are quite a few upgrades inside of the cabin, too. The second row gets a set of sun shades, and the front passenger's seat gains power adjustability. Up front, there is an automatically dimming rearview mirror, and both front seats have a heating function integrated into them to help you out on colder days. Toyota's synethetic leather upholstery - which they named SofTex - adorns the seats.
The XLE lets you opt for a couple of extra features. A navigation system can be added, and, at no extra charge to you, you can ask for the second-row bench seat instead of the captain's chairs.
Compare the XLE vs XSE Trims. What is the difference?
Next up in the line is the XSE. It takes everything you get on the XLE but adds an element of sport to the Highlander. The wheel size gets upped to 20 inches, and there are special sporty styling elements inside and out. The cabin comes with ambient interior lighting, and the exterior trim is done in chrome.
In the back end, you will notice two exhaust tips. There is also a sport-tuned suspension that delivers a firmer (and ultimately sportier) ride quality.
A 12.3-inch touchscreen display and leather upholstery are optional add-ons for the XSE.
Compare the XSE vs Limited. What is the difference?
Stepping it up one more trim level to the Limited garners you more luxury-oriented creature comforts. The front fascia gains enhanced fog lights, and on each front door is a power-folding side mirror. In the cockpit, you get a digital instrumentation panel.
The front seats come with a ventilation function, and the optional leather upholstery from the XSE comes standard on the Limited trim. The steering wheel can be heated up, and the driver's seat comes with memory settings. A household power outlet is also added into the Limited trim level.
The Limited comes with a slew of tech upgrades too. The previously optional 12.3-inch multimedia touchscreen becomes standard issue on the Limited, and there is an intercom system that allows you to broadcast your voice to all of your backseat passengers. For parents with small children, this can definitely come in handy. And regardless of whether you're toting kids around or riding solo, the 11-speaker JBL audio system makes for a nice upgrade with its crisp sound quality oozing throughout the cabin.
There aren't too many advanced driver aids that get added on, but there are parking sensors for the front and rear of the vehicle. These will let you know if there is an object sitting below your bumper that you otherwise would not be able to see.
Optional at no added cost is a second-row bench seat, but that's about it for options.
Compare the Limited vs Platinum Trims. What is the difference?
At the top of the 2023 Toyota Highlander line-up is the Platinum trim level. It includes everything you get on the Limited and more. It does switch you over to 20-inch wheels forged from alloy and tacks on adaptive headlights that will swivel as you round through turns in order to enhance visibility while cornering. A panoramic sunroof and automatic windshield wipers round out the list of exterior additions.
Inside, the Platinum beefs things up with more advanced driver aids and safety features. There is a 360-degree surround-view camera that provides you with a top-down view all around the vehicle. The head-up display is neat since it projects helpful driving info onto the windshield in front of your eyes, allowing you to keep your eyes on the road ahead of you. A digital rearview mirror helps you see out the back even when the cargo area is loaded to the brim with items.
On top of all that, the second row has heated seats for additional comfort.
The 2023 Toyota Highlander has multiple trim levels that deliver on value. Since they all come with the same powertrain, you won't see any changes in performance, aside from the XSE's slightly sportier ride quality. The real emphasis here is on features.
With that being said, buyers looking to get the most value from this line-up ought to consider getting the mid-tier XLE trim level. It gives you a good amount of features for the price. The creature comforts it tacks on are all desirable, and you still get the option of having a second-row bench seat put in at no extra cost to you. This makes for a great option for families with multiple children who need that crucial eighth seat.
All in all, it is hard to go wrong with the Highlander. What it lacks in third-row and cargo space, it makes up for in terms of features offered.
• 2022 Toyota Highlander Trim Levels