HomeGarageReview: 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWDe

Review: 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWDe

Great fuel economy with 14 cup holders


The Toyota Highlander has proved itself in the North American market since its introduction in 2001. Sales pushed past 222,000 units for 2022 and, for 2023, Toyota thinks it has improved on a good thing by nixing the V6 and updating the interior based on customer feedback. The Highlander starts at $37,755, with 11 trim models to choose from. Our $53,760 Hybrid Platinum sits at the top and features luxury that could be at home on a Lexus. 


2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum Edition (Photo by Dustin W. Johnson)

Our 2023 Highlander was finished in Blueprint, a dark blue with a metallic sheen. Silver accents specific to the Platinum adorn all four sides, including the 20-inch alloy wheels. While the 2020 redesign broke little ground in terms of SUV styling, it was a welcome improvement and has added more value to its proposition especially with the flared rear fenders that have become a staple of Toyota design, from the Supra to the Sienna. The Platinum trim level includes LED headlights and fog lamps, folding heated mirrors, hands-free power liftgate and more. The lights in particular are great, and the lift gate comes in handy when your hands are full.


2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum Edition (Photo by Dustin W. Johnson)

The Highlander’s black leather interior has three-row seating, with Platinum trim featuring captain chairs in the second row for room for seven in total. If your tribe is larger, lower levels are available with a bench seat with room for eight. The interior is quite spacious, with the Platinum’s panoramic roof making it feel even more so should things get stuffy. The second row offers a ton of space and luxury that would make a full-grown human comfortable on long trips thanks to built-in sunshades, heated seats, climate control and a whopping 14 cupholders. The third row is best suited for little ones as it is quite optimistic to try and fit three adults, not to mention the space lost when the third row is not folded down. The Highlander features full digital displays for the gauge cluster and center console. The massive 12.3-inch central touchscreen that is included with Platinum trim has the volume knob to the right of the screen instead of the left, which is awkward if you prefer to adjust volume from the radio instead of the steering wheel. Nonetheless, the buttons and touchscreen features work great, including the new 2023 placement of the Qi wireless charger, which was moved to the lower front of the center console and had no trouble recognizing my devices.       


2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum Edition (Photo by Dustin W. Johnson)

The Hybrid Highlander is powered by a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter Atkinson-cycle inline-four assisted by two magnet synchronous motors. They give our Highlander a combined output of 243 horsepower. Though the Highlander is equipped with AWDe, an on-demand electric all-wheel drive system that uses a third permanent magnet synchronous motor out back to drive the rear wheels. In normal operation, the Highlander runs on front-wheel drive until the computer decides it is necessary to activate the rear motor and deliver power to all four wheels. I found the AWDe system tends to activate when starting from a stop, under heavy acceleration, in trail mode and, of course, loss of traction. One of the neat things about using an electric motor to power the rear axle is the absence of a driveshaft, which allows for some weight savings to offset the added weight of the hybrid battery system, bringing the curb weight to 4,595 pounds.

Real-World Fuel Economy   

The Highlander Hybrid has an estimated mpg rating of 35 city/34 highway/35 combined. For the sake of maximizing fuel economy, I drove the Highlander in Eco mode, which helps manage throttle input and vehicle accessories to make even the heaviest of lead feet more fuel-friendly. While commuting in this SUV with a blend of metro Phoenix streets and highways, the Highlander’s computer indicated an average of 29.8 mpg. I also drove up the hill to Wickenburg, where I managed to break into the 30+ mpg range and maintain that until returning the vehicle to Toyota. I chose to keep up with the flow of traffic for our tests, so someone driving more passively could potentially eke out more mpg should one feel so inclined, but these numbers still make the Highlander one of the most efficient mid-size SUVs on sale today.            


2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum Edition (Photo by Dustin W. Johnson)

The driving experience for this Highlander is similar to what you would find in other Toyota/Lexus SUVs: the power steering is over-boosted to provide a noticeably light and easy steering feel, impressive suspension dampening to make most bumps unnoticeable, solid build quality and the up-high seating advantage of an SUV. The Highlander offers five drive modes to adjust the driving characteristics: Normal, Eco, Sport, Trail mode, and EV mode. Normal is recommended for regular driving and is where I most enjoyed driving the vehicle; Eco was explained above); Sport is intended for curvy roads and increases steering wheel resistance to feel more dynamic (though not in a way I enjoyed — it’s not a sports car so it gets a pass); and Trail mode, which is intended for off-road use and actively utilizes more of the AWDe system. The EV mode is more so a gimmick than anything else. Its not readily usable for driving with a limited range and speed. I found the Normal mode to be the best for me personally as I was able to maintain excellent gas mileage and the vehicle felt responsive. Though Eco mode was fine, I am personally not a fan of having my throttle inputs restricted for the sake of economy. I felt the power and the overall driving experience was fine and will be easily utilized for commuting and road trips.     

Final Thoughts

The 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum is a fuel-efficient quasi-luxury SUV with tons of cupholders and excellent ride quality that is perfect for traversing the suburban landscape. I couldn’t recreate the economy numbers stated by the EPA (neither did Car and Driver magazine, for what it’s worth), but you may get better results with a lighter foot. This is the top-of-the-line 2023 Highlander but you can also seek out cheaper hybrid and non-hybrid Highlanders with different seat configurations and interior options. Ultimately, I recommend you head to your local Toyota dealership and take a test drive to make sure it is the vehicle to suit your needs.

Price as Tested: $53,760

Want to see more of the 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum? Check out our full YouTube review below.

Jeff Sutton
Jeff Sutton
Jeff Sutton, also known as Jalopy Jeff, is a Content Creator for ClassicCars.com and AutoHunter.com. He grew up in a small Californian town working on classic American and British cars. Jeff moved to Flagstaff, AZ for college and worked as an auto parts store manager. Now residing in Phoenix, he has an affinity for everything automotive and can regularly be found at car shows, rallies, and events. Jeff has owned and experienced many collector cars however, as others come and go, he continues to hold on to his first collector car, his 1984 Porsche 944.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts