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Family hauler – crossover – minivan alternative – the Toyota Highlander has collected many years over its two-decade run. But its core formula as a three-row unibody SUV has always remained the same. However, there has been a recent change under the hood. Toyota now offers two engines in the 2023 Highlander after it left an old one behind. Does one Highlander engine stand above the other? Let’s find out. 

What kind of engine does the Highlander have?

According to Car and Driver, Toyota currently offers two engine options for the 2023 Highlander. The SUV has moved past its old days of naturally-aspirated gas engines and now offers either a small-displacement turbocharged unit or a hybrid-electric system. 

  • 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 265 horsepower 
  • Hybrid system with 2.5-liter four-cylinder and electric motors producing 243 horsepower 

Does the 2023 Toyota Highlander have a V6?

Previous generations – and even the initial model years of the current generation – had an optional V6 engine. Toyota used that 3.5-liter V6 engine in everything from the Camry to the Tacoma. It even made its way into the Lotus Evora and Emira (in highly modified variations). While it remains available in other new Toyota models, the 3.5-liter V6 is gone for the Highlander. 2022 was the final year that buyers could get the model with a naturally-aspirated engine, non-hybrid engine. 

2.4-Liter turbo four-cylinder comes standard 

A green Toyota Highlander drives in front of a limestone building.
2023 Toyota Highlander | Highlander

The 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is the new kid on the block for the Highlander. It replaces the outgoing V6 and keeps with the segment’s downsizing and turbocharging trend. The idea for these kinds of engines is to get the fuel economy advantages of smaller engines while getting the power of a larger engine. 

The new Toyota Highlander turbo engine offers a robust 265 horsepower and more than 300 pound-feet of torque. That’s pretty good for a family SUV. 

On the fuel efficiency front, the turbo Toyota Highlander fares only slightly better than the old V6 models. According to Car and Driver, the turbo engine does about 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway in front-wheel drive models. All-wheel drive models dip to 21 mpg city/28 mpg highway. Car and Driver also points out that the average fuel economy for the turbo engine matches the old V6 exactly. 

A hybrid powertrain boosts the Highlander’s efficiency 

The 2023 Highlander Hybrid engine is down slightly on power compared to the turbo powertrain. But its efficiency gains are considerable. 

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine works together with two electric motors to produce 243 horsepower. It’s enough to offer plenty of confidence for long highway drives. On those highway drives, you can expect to see efficiency in the range of 35 mpg – quite a feat for a three-row SUV. 

How to pick the best Toyota Highlander engine

There’s no wrong choice here. By the numbers, the Highlander Hybrid appears to be the stronger of the model’s engine/powertrain options. It offers slightly less power than the turbo engine while producing far better fuel efficiency. However, some drivers may find the driving experience of the turbocharged engine to be a little more engaging than the hybrid. Plus, the Highlander Hybrid has a higher starting price. It’s all about finding the right balance of performance and value for the individual driver. 


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