2013 Toyota Highlander Limited road test: Family friendly, capable and comfortable

2013 Toyota Highlander Limited

2013 Toyota Highlander Limited

Searching for a vehicle with comfort, utility, a dose of luxury and a place to put those 2.3 kids and all their associated paraphernalia? The 2013 Toyota Highlander might be just what you are looking for.

But don’t tell the salesman you want a new car. And don’t even think of  calling your choice a station wagon. That term fell out of favor 30 years ago.

Toyota Highlander instruments

Toyota Highlander instruments

These days, sport-utility vehicle is not heard nearly as much, either. That one-time favorite still fills the bill for those who want lots of practicality plus the off-road ruggedness of a four-wheel-drive truck. But it has lost favor as a family transporter.

What we have now is a softer, gentler version of an SUV which has been given the awkward title of crossover utility vehicle. It retains all of the SUV practicality, including the availability of all-wheel drive,  but it sits on a car-like platform.

Which brings us back to the 2013 Toyota Highlander. It will hold up to seven passengers in comfort, assuming the third-row denizens are two children who have no trouble hopping past the opening behind the second row and plopping into their seats. Grandparents need not attempt this maneuver.

To be honest, though, the Highlander, like most mid-size crossovers, actually functions best a as a five-passenger vehicle. Fill up the first two rows with people and leave the third row folded into the floor. Then you have a 42.3-cubic-foot cargo area generous enough for most needs.

Toyota Highlander front seats

Toyota Highlander front seats

And, for the days you head out to buy that giant flat-screen tv, or a season’s worth of gardening supplies, you can fold the second row seats into the floor and enlarge the cargo space to 95.4 cubic feet of space.

If you need to fill all of the seats, you will be left with only 10.3 cubic feet of space for groceries, or whatever.

The top-of-the-line Limited I tested had room for only two in the second row with a console separating them. In my opinion, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in a vehicle designed for function over form.

Now, on to the basics.

Power for the Highlander Limited is provided by a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability routes the test car’s power to the front wheels or, on many models, all four wheels as needed.