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The Toyota Highlander is a great SUV; it sells well, and holds seven people in comfort. But, we get it; it’s a bit, well, plain. It’s plain, that is, until you step up to the $49,075 Platinum trim. The big question to ask yourself, however, should be; Is the Highlander Platinum a $50,000 experience?

What is the 2023 Highlander Platinum trim?

Red Toyota Highlander driving down the road trees visible in the background.
2022 Toyota Highlander Platinum Hybrid | Toyota

The 2023 Highlander Platinum should be called the “everything package,” because it adds every option Toyota can to this SUV. Sure, it comes with the fancy stereo, leather-trimmed seats and 20-inch wheels, and all-wheel drive you expect in a luxury SUV. But it adds a modicum of luxury trim that could make it a competitor for its Lexus cousin, the RX 350, but with a third row. It also adds LED headlights, a power liftgate, and more.

Every Highlander that’s not a Hybrid gets Toyota’s new 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that makes 265 horsepower. While that’s down on power from last year’s V6, it makes up for it with 309 lb-ft of torque, compared to 263 last year. You can order the Platinum trim with the Hybrid all-wheel drive motor, too, but that boosts the price to $52,010, but drops the horsepower to 243.

Is the 2023 Highlander Platinum that much better?

In Platinum trim, the Toyota does a good job of impersonating a Lexus. The noise-reducing glass does quiet the cabin, and it comes with a giant touchscreen and a large digital gauge cluster. Almost every tech upgrade you’d want is standard, too, including a 4G wi-fi hotspot and Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa. But, it still has the same door panels, console, and hard plastic in many places that show its mid-price roots, even if they are covered in fancy wood trim, carbon fiber, or soft-touch leather that you don’t see in a $50,000 Lexus.

The Platinum also comes with the newest version of Toyota Safety Sense, which includes a host of drivers aid such as dynamic radar cruise and the lane departure alert with steering assist. It also has the latest Toyota Audio Multimedia system that adds a lot of phone capability options. But, both of these systems are also available on the $42,000 XLE version of the Highlander.

For $50,000, a Lexus RX 350 or a Palisade Calligraphy could be great alternatives

White 2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD
2023 Lexus RX 500h F Sport Performance AWD | Lexus

How Reliable Is the Toyota Highlander?

However, if you look down the street at the Hyundai dealership, you’ll see that the Calligraphy version of the Palisade at $49,200 could offer some more. In the Hyundai, you get a more powerful 290-horsepower V6, and many of the same features. It also comes with a head-up display, a large digital gauge cluster, and Hyundai’s Remote Smart Parking Assist, which helps you park hands-free. It also has Hyundai’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

The base 2023 Lexus RX 350 starts at $48,550, or $50,150 for an all-wheel drive version. It has a 275-horsepower engine, and it also includes the Lexus Safety System, which is similar to the premium version of Toyota’s system. The Lexus RX also has an interior that, even in base trim, shows that it’s a Luxury SUV, and generally has higher-quality leather on the doors, a sleeker dash, and upscale trim that the 2023 Highlander Platinum is lacking. However, the RX only has seats for five. According to J.D. Power, the RX also has a better reliability score than the already-exceptional Highlander.

But, of course, the Toyota nameplate says something about a buyer that a giant Lexus grille never will. And, while the Hyundai may not impress the neighbors with its badge, you’d know sitting in it that it, too, is a Platinum competitor. The Highlander last got an update for 2020, while the RX is all new for 2023, and the Hyundai Palisade just saw a major refresh, which should keep them looking fresher for longer.