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2003 Toyota Highlander

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2003 Toyota Highlander Review

A reliable SUV with a powerful V-6 option in an easy-to-drive size.

Reviewed by Automotive on

Overview

The 2003 Toyota Highlander is a midsize SUV or crossover SUV in production since 2000 and still part of the Toyota lineup. It shares a range of features with the RX 300 and for several model years, it shares and engine with the Toyota Camry. All models have a four-door SUV body style with a rear liftgate and are built on either a front-engine front-drive or front-engine all-wheel-drive layout. The first generation models include those in production from 2000 to 2007 for the 2001 through 2007 model years. These were given a 2.4-liter four-cylinder or a 3.0-liter V-6 engine and a four-speed automatic transmission for the first half of this generation, and later a five-speed automatic transmission. The second generation included models from 2008 to the present. It was given a moderate redesign, trading angular lines for smoother curves for the most part, larger headlights, a revamped grille, and other modest changes. Engines included a similar 2.7-liter four-cylinder, a 3.5-liter V-6, plus 3.3 and 3.5-liter V-6 hybrid options. All models get a five-speed automatic transmission.

The Toyota Highlander has been a high-selling SUV in the U.S. since its introduction, most years exceeding 100,000 units sold. It is known for its drivable dimensions, reliable engine, V-6 engine performance, and recently fuel economy for an SUV with the hybrid models. There were no significant changes to the 2003 models.

The Range

Body Styles: SUV
Engines: 155-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder, 220-hp 3.0-liter V-6
Transmissions: four-speed automatic
Models: Toyota Highlander, Toyota Highlander Limited

What's New

The 2003 Toyota Highlander didn't make any significant changes.

Exterior

The 2003 Highlander is a midsize four-door SUV, very similar in style to the RX300 with squared-off edges, protruding front bumper and other details, but a little bit larger and without the slanted roof pillars. It is 184.4 inches long total with a 106.9-inch wheelbase, 71.9 inches wide and 69 inches tall. Exterior features include body-color bumpers and moldings, a rear step bumper, rear windshield wiper, and rear defroster.

Interior

The 2003 Toyota Highlander seats five people with two front bucket seats and a rear folding bench seat for three. With the rear seats up, it has 38.5 cubic feet of cargo space, and when folded down this increases to 81.4 cubic feet. It also has roomy front seats but the rear can be crowded with three adults. Some standard and available features include a day-night rearview mirror, adjustable head restraints, adjustable drive rand passenger seats, six-speaker sound system with CD and cassette player, tilt steering, and power windows and locks.

Performance & Handling

The 2003 Toyota Highlander base models have a 155-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with a four-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration is not lacking, but there is sometimes engine noise when pushing it at higher speeds. Drivers can opt for the more powerful 220-hp 3.0-liter V-6, also with a four-speed automatic, and performance is noticeably more spirited and acceleration at higher speeds is less taxing from the sound of the engine. Both handle exceptionally well for an SUV and the ride remains comfortable on most surfaces. Each model trim is available with either front drive or all-wheel drive. The AWD is permanently engaged and there is no Low range. Limited-slip differential is only optional. Other mechanical features include front strut suspension and strut rear suspension, coil front springs, a front and rear anti-roll bar, gas-pressurized shocks, and rack and pinion steering.

Safety

The 2003 Toyota Highlander requires front-impact airbags, anti-lock brakes, and brake assist to be standard. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags are optional. Other options include vehicle skid control and an electronic stability system.

EPA Fuel Economy

Toyota Highlander: 18/22 mpg city/highway

You'll Like

  • Drivable dimension
  • Interior room
  • V-6 performance
  • Reliable
  • Handling

You Won't Like

  • Fuel economy
  • Base model standard features

Sum Up

A reliable SUV with a powerful V-6 option in an easy-to-drive size.

If You Like This Vehicle

  • Buick Rendezvous
  • Ford Explorer
  • GMC Envoy

See the New 2014 Highlander.

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