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2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

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2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Review

Reviewed by Automotive on

The Toyota Highlander broke new ground when it was introduced, becoming the first successful car-based crossover vehicle. Early on, Toyota attempted to get in on the push for hybrid vehicles, introducing the Highlander Hybrid in 2005. The 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid represents the evolving ideas behind hybrid vehicles, and its capabilities show just how far Toyota has come in developing this forward-thinking technology. The Hybrid comes in the base format as well as the Hybrid Limited version, but both trim levels are fairly well-equipped.

New For 2013

The 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid receives only minor revisions for the new model year, and both of them are focused on the cabin:

  • Standard navigation system
  • Entune multimedia system


The outside of the 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is nearly identical to the regular Highlander. The only real differences in exterior styling are found at the front end. The Hybrid is fitted with a unique grille and bumper that differentiates it from the gas-powered Highlander, a styling difference that is very clear from a distance. The fog lights are vertical in the Hybrid instead of horizontal, and the headlights and taillights have been tinted blue. Blue badges have also been added to the body. Toyota has also made it easy to differentiate between the two Hybrid trim levels based on the following changes: the base Hybrid gets 17-inch wheels, color-keyed outside door handles, and black roof rails, while the Hybrid Limited gets 19-inch wheels, chrome door handles, and chrome roof rails with black end caps. A power moon roof is standard on the Limited and optional on the base trim. A power lift gate is standard on the Limited, but is unavailable even as an option on the base trim.

Interior & Cargo

While adults can fit nicely into the front seats and second row of the 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the third row is really only suitable for children. The second row is adjustable, and provides a surprising amount of legroom. With all rows in the upright position, cargo space is rather limited at a meager 10.3 cubic feet of space behind the third row seats. With the third row folded, this space expands to 42.4 cubic feet, and when the second row is also dropped, the Highlander boasts an impressive 94.1 cubic feet of cargo space.

The inside of the 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is comfortable, with supportive seats and lots of standard and optional features. The base Hybrid gets standard fabric seating with an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat and four-way adjustable passenger seat. The seating can be changed to leather, and multi-stage heating can be added to the front seats – a standard option in the Limited. A leather-wrapped steering wheel is standard in both trims. The base model is fitted with a metallic and leather interior trim, while the Limited gets a wood-grain, leather, and chrome trim. The base Hybrid provides dual-zone front and rear climate control, while the Limited has standard tri-zone climate control. Both trims get a six-inch voice-activated touchscreen that controls an integrated backup camera, navigation system, Entune multimedia system, stereo, and CD player with iPod connectivity and satellite radio capabilities. The only difference in the two systems is that the base model gets six speakers while the Limited comes with nine. Both trims have the option of a rear-seat DVD-entertainment system with a nine-inch screen.


The 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid has not yet been crash-tested, although it is structurally identical to the gas-powered Highlander, so future crash test ratings will apply to both. The Highlander Hybrid has plenty of safety features, with Toyota’s Star Safety System leading at the forefront. This patented system includes Vehicle Dynamic Integrated Management, Smart Stop Technology that helps the driver bring the vehicle to the stop promptly, stability control, traction control, and anti-lock brakes that are aided by braking assist and electronic brake force distribution. In the case of an accident, the Highlander Hybrid includes front airbags, driver and front passenger seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags for all rows, and a driver knee airbag. A back-up camera is standard equipment in both trim levels.

Driving Experience

The hybrid system in the 2013 Toyota Highlander Hybrid consists of a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that is assisted by an electronic motor at each axle, providing limited drive power and regeneration through braking. This set-up provides a combined 280 net hybrid horsepower (hp), which can get the bulky Highlander moving and keep it rolling at an adequate speed. The engine runs through an electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission that improves the fuel economy. On-demand four-wheel drive is available on both trims, and the independent suspension does a good job of smoothing over minor road imperfections. The steering is precise and provides a nice, tight turning radius. All together, the Highlander Hybrid handles and performs like a rather average SUV meant for daily on-road driving. It does not offer anything particularly unique or interesting, but it is a steady and reliable vehicle.

Key Competitors For The 2013 Toyota Highlander-Hybrid

  • GMC Yukon Hybrid
  • Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid
  • Ford Escape Hybrid

See the New 2015 Highlander Hybrid.

Front & Driver Side View