2023 Highlander 4WD vs 2WD Review and Comparison

August 20th, 2023 by

Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander> is a mid-size crossover that isn’t a very old nameplate, but it has seen a lot of success amongst consumers for its functionality. The following piece looks at its latest model – the 2023 Highlander – while also pointing out any differences between the Highlander 4WD and 2WD.


The Highlander is currently in its 3rd generation and was facelifted in 2016. It offers 6 trim levels and a single powertrain option, which is an all-new 4-cylinder engine.

Powertrain and Numbers

Both the Highlander models feature a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine that produces 265 hp and 310 lb-ft. The transmission is the same as well, an 8-speed automatic gearbox. But as their names suggest, one receives power in all four wheels while the other gets it in its front wheels.

Due to the distribution of power, the 2023 Highlander 4WD is quicker. It can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in just about 7 seconds, while the Highlander 2WD should take a second longer. The towing capacities are the same though, maxing out at 5000 lbs.

Naturally, there are differences in the fuel economies as well. The 2023 Highlander 2WD leads here, as it can do up to 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. The 4WD model is not bad either, as it can provide up to 21/28 mpg city/highway.

But maybe you want to save even more fuel – in this case the 2023 Highlander Hybrid will do the trick. Its front-wheel drive model is good for 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. Its 4WD variant is also spectacular at 35 mpg city and 35 mpg highway.

Toyota Highlander Interior
Toyota Highlander Interior

Interior and Technology

All the current Highlander’s testers have praised its attractive interior design and superb build quality. It is especially roomy for a mid-size crossover SUV and can seat up to 8 occupants (7 on some models) in its 3 rows of seating.

Then there’s the cargo space, which is decent for the class and for the fact that it has 3 rows of seats. The seats can be lowered if you want to increase the trunk space. The lift over height is also respectable for the segment, and so is the interior cubby storage.

The attributes remain the same for both drivetrains. The following compares them by their trim levels:

2023 Highlander L
Both models come with tri-zone climate control, push-button ignition, keyless entry, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and an instrumentation screen. There’s an 8-inch touchscreen compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, 5 USB ports, and a 6-speaker stereo.

The safety systems are almost similar. They both come with automated emergency braking (w/pedestrian detection), and lane-departure warning (w/lane-keeping assist), but only the 4WD model has downhill assist control.

2023 Highlander LE
You get some external changes on this trim along with the addition of a leather-trimmed steering wheel and blind-spot monitoring (w/rear-cross-traffic alert).

2023 Highlander XLE
This trim adds luxurious captain’s chairs in the second row. It also gets you SofTex-trimmed seats, with the front ones being heated. The driver and front passenger get 10- and 8-way adjustable seats respectively. Other niceties include a leather-trimmed shifter, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, wireless charging for your phone, a moonroof, and some new options.

2023 Highlander XSE
More options are available on this trim plus standard additions like ambient mood lighting. The 2023 Highlander 4WD also includes dynamic torque vectoring for better power distribution.

2023 Highlander Limited
The Platinum model gets you the very best of the 2023 Ford Lightning. It adds “End cut Oak” wood trimmings, and multi-contour premium nirvana leather-seats. You also get heated seats in the back, HD Radio, various trailering assist systems, and even handsfree autonomous driving.

2023 Highlander Platinum
The top trim adds more upgrades such as a digital rearview mirror, a heated second row of seats, a 10-inch head-up display, and a panoramic view monitor.

Exterior and Driving

The 2023 Highlander is a stylish crossover with LED lighting and a variety of front grilles and other features differing across its trim levels. The only difference you’ll find between these two drivetrains is that the 4WD models come with a set of front and rear mudguards.

The following are the exterior colors available on the 2023 Highlander 4WD and 2WD:

  • Wind Chill Pearl
  • Midnight Black Metallic
  • Celestial Silver Metallic
  • Magnetic Gray Metallic
  • Cypress
  • Blueprint
  • Ruby Flare Pearl
  • Moon Dust
  • Cement

Be sure to check out which ones are available on your choice of trim.

Both the 2023 Highlander models drive well due to the athleticism provided by the engine and the lightness of the steering. The ride quality is also solid. The Highlander 4WD is more oriented towards off-tarmac driving thanks to its drivetrain and multi-terrain modes.

Toyota Highlander EXTERIOR
Toyota Highlander EXTERIOR

Reliability and Warranty

JD Power gives the 2023 Highlander models a score of 81 out of 100, making it ‘Great’. Consumer Reports also expects it to be more reliable than its peers. The reviews from its current owners are also largely positive in this regard.

Moreover, Toyota offers excellent aftersales. Toyota offers you a limited warranty of 3 years/36k miles, a powertrain warranty of 5 years/60k miles, and complimentary maintenance for 2 years/25k miles.


So, the 2023 Highlander 4WD and 2WD are both quick and efficient powerhouses that are comfortable with stellar driving dynamics. You get aestheticism everywhere you look along with solid build quality and standard features. Both models are reliable as well.

They’re pretty much the same vehicle apart from the powertrain (drivetrain and fuel economy) and some exterior bits. You’ll notice the differences when you drive them, especially off-road. Either way, they’re both capable and everything depends on personal preference.

To get the 2023 Highlander 4WD and 2WD in Woods Cross, North Salt Lake UT, Centerville UT, and Bountiful UT, check out Performance Toyota Bountiful here.