Rising prices have transformed the auto industry in the past three years, transforming mainstream cars, cross over and SUVs into luxury vehicles. Manufacturers, to justify the price increases, also have moved to add features and technology to mainstream vehicles with new trim packages.
The Toyota Highlander is one of the most popular utility vehicles sold in the U.S. these days, offering plenty of features as well as the automaker’s reputation for quality and durability. It is also versatile and comes with modern safety features.
But to justify the $54,000 price tag for the Platinum version of the Highlander I drove, it now comes with flourishes such as 20-inch wheels, puddle lights and a panoramic moonroof. The extra features help move the Highlander into a more expensive segment even for consumers, who might consider themselves too practical and too thrifty to purchase a luxury vehicle.
As a midsize three-row SUV, the Highlander can seat up to seven passengers, dictating the squared off look of the exterior design, which Toyota stylists have worked on the details to give it an imposing presence at the curb or in traffic. Toyota’s stylists also have endowed the Highlander Platinum with an imposing grille and distinctively shaped light fixtures.
The imposing front fascia carries over to the rear liftgate, which has been tailored to give it a contemporary and practical appearance. The exterior also has been dressed up with touches of chrome, roof rails and bold 20-inch wheels for the Platinum to dress up the Highlander’s exterior appearance.
Toyota’s designers, in keeping with luxury-vehicle price tag attached to the Highlander Platinum, has furnished the interior with quality materials, careful stitching, comfortable seats, a substantial, center-stack screen and plenty of storage.
The gauges are easy to read, and the technology is nicely integrated into the cabin’s layout. I also was impressed with the quality of the sound from the JBL entertainment system, which seemed to pick up every note from complex classical compositions. The cabin also was quiet with minimal intrusion by road noise, while the all-round visibility from the driver’s seat was excellent.
The 2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum is powered by a 2.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine, which is matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission, and a multi-terrain selector. The Highlander is also equipped with all-wheel drive with dynamic torque vectoring.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has given the 2023 Toyota Highlander combined fuel-economy rating of 24 mpg, including 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The Highlander also can tow up to 5,000 pounds, according to Toyota.
Safety and Technology
The safety technology deployed on the 2023 Highlander Platinum includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection and automatic braking. It is also equipped with dynamic, radar-based cruise control. It is also equipped with multiple airbags, lane-keeping assistance, blind-spot detection, high-beam assistance and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Other equipment includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. JBL Sound System with 11 speakers, satellite radio connection, 12.3-inch center stack screen, 10-inch head-up display, surround-view camera and heated second-row seats. There is also a wireless smart phone charging and memory seats.
Today’s midsized crossover or SUV is a relatively big vehicle. But the Highlander remains faithful to it crossover origins and is surprisingly easy to handle in crowded urban or suburban areas. The 2.4-liter engine put out adequate power and torque to handle the demands of every day driving and to join traffic on the freeway or pull-away from a standing stop.
The steering is crisp and accurate, and the brakes are solid and the Highlander Platinum I drove delivered a nice, smooth ride thanks to the vehicle’s well-tuned suspension, which was one of its best features.
2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD Specifications
|Dimensions: L: 194.9 inches/W: 76 inches/H: 68.1 inches/Wheelbase: 112.2 inches
|2.4-liter 4-cylinder; 8-speed automatic transmission, AWD
|21 mpg city/28 mpg highway/24 mpg combined
|265 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque
|Base price: $36,620; As tested: $54,372 including $1,335 destination charge
The Highlander traditionally has been one of Toyota’s most popular vehicles because it’s roomy, practical, and comfortable to drive, and it now comes with eight inches of ground clearance, meaning it could handle snow and dirt or gravel roads.
While it was hardly cheap — the base price is nearly $37,000, the Highlander also relatively affordable when Toyota’s reputation for quality and reliability are factored into the purchase decision. But Platinum version of the Highlander with a price tag of almost $55,000 is another category or segment altogether and ought to be compared with luxury vehicles.
2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD - Frequently Asked Questions
What is included in the Platinum package on a Toyota Highlander?
The differences become more apparent when it comes to the interior of the Toyota Highlander Platinum vs. Limited. The Highlander Platinum boasts a luxurious cabin with high-end features, including heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, a panoramic moonroof and a 12.3-inch touchscreen display.
Does the 2023 Highlander have 360 cameras?
Offering no options, the Platinum builds off the Limited with heated second-row seats, adaptive headlights that swivel in the direction of the steering wheel, a panoramic sunroof, and the 360-degree Bird’s-Eye View Camera.
What changes did Toyota make to the 2023 Highlander?
For the 2023 model year, the Highlander is swapping the V6 for a turbocharged 2.4-liter I4 and a new base price. The 2.4-liter turbocharged I-4 in this combustion-only 2023 Highlander makes 265 hp and 310 lb.-ft of torque.