How does the Highlander drive?

The new 2.4-liter turbocharged engine produces 265 horsepower and 309 lb-ft of torque. Compare that to the 295 hp. and 263 lb-ft of the old V6, and you’ll find that the turbo four makes less horsepower but more torque. While Toyota hasn’t yet released a launch time, we expect the 2023 Highlander’s 0-60 mph time won’t be too far off from the previous model’s 7.5 seconds.

Don’t expect fuel economy to be much different either, with the new powerplant getting roughly 24 mpg combined with all-wheel drive (25 mpg combined with front-wheel drive). That’s the same number achieved by the current front-wheel-drive Highlander. Toyota says NO to the four-cylinderx and CO2 emissions are down compared to the old V6, but don’t expect huge savings at the pump.

Like this engine in its Lexus counterparts, it feels heavier than you’d expect from a smaller four-cylinder engine in such a large car. Power delivery is very smooth at all speeds thanks to the extra torque. From a standstill, during acceleration to highway speeds or when performing highway maneuvers, the engine and eight-speed automatic transmission work in harmony to respond quickly to throttle inputs and easily pick up SUV speed. It’s not a leap in performance over the V6, but it’s an overall improvement – except in one area: noise.

Turbo fours really don’t make nice sounds, and this one is no exception. ​​​​​​While the speed noise you get from the CVT is somewhat tamed, the cabin gets very noisy under acceleration once the engine reaches around 3,000 rpm. And on descents, the transmission likes to keep the revs a little higher so you don’t have to press on the brakes (and with the adaptive cruise control activated), but unfortunately this makes the engine whine again. I had to turn on the podcast to be able to hear it on occasions like this.

Otherwise, the Highlander drives well enough. In our review of the 2022 Highlander, we wrote that “the Highlander makes everyday driving a breeze,” and that’s certainly true of the 2023 model. A little less front-wheel weight makes for livelier handling, but these improvements are incremental and enough to make the Highlander a little above average compared to the rest of the class.