A popular Toyota Highlander Hybrid for sale, a blue 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum, is shown parked.

Ranking the 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

It’s no surprise that automakers are investing resources like crazy to build tech-forward, fuel-efficient SUVs. Today’s drivers have high expectations, wanting value, features, fuel efficiency, and performance all rolled into one vehicle large enough to accommodate their growing families. The rise of three-row SUVs has shown us that size matters, as few brands can deliver on seven- or eight-passenger vehicles that are affordable and easy to maintain. There are a handful of options for hybrid three-row SUVs in a comparable price range—so the question begs, which one is right for you?

The first step to selecting your next vehicle is to choose a brand you trust. Toyota has been at the helm of building reliable and easy-to-maintain models for decades, which is why they’re notoriously one of the best brands for value retention and longevity. Toyota has also been a pioneer in hybrid technology, with the Prius exploding onto the scene two decades back to become the top-selling vehicle for anyone looking to pay less at the pump. With the success of the Prius established, Toyota moved on to implementing a hybrid powertrain into other highly sought-after models in their lineup; in 2005, they released the Highlander Hybrid, marking the debut of the world’s first-ever three-row hybrid SUV. Since then, other brands have designed models to compete in this arena—but the majority of drivers still seek out a Toyota Highlander Hybrid for sale when they want an eco-friendly SUV. Why is that? Well…

A Hybrid SUV Unlike Any Other

When the first-ever Highlander Hybrid rolled off the assembly line, it showed the automotive world that a fuel-efficient vehicle doesn’t have to be compact. As the first seven-passenger vehicle to sit atop a hybrid powertrain, the Highlander Hybrid revolutionized how automakers think about SUVs. This SUV has evolved with each model year and every generation; for 2023, Toyota released a Highlander Hybrid that embraces all the best elements of previous models while incorporating a new powertrain for even more performance and efficiency.

The 2023 Highlander Hybrid offers two trim levels, the Hybrid LE and the Hybrid XLE. A peek under the hood reveals a 2.5L DOHC four-cylinder engine that works with an electric motor. It uses Variable Valve Timing-intelligent (VVT-iE) technology to net 243 hp; the results are an EPA-estimated 36 MPG combined fuel rating—a rare find in the three-row SUV segment. It also comes with selectable drive modes like Sport, Eco, Normal, EV, and Trail to optimize every drive. The Hybrid LE offers electronic on-demand AWD (AWD-e), while the Hybrid XLE comes with front-wheel drive (FWD).

Aside from stellar performance and pushing the envelope on efficiency, the latest Highlander Hybrid also includes convenience features and technology to make it the perfect vehicle for a busy family. The latest Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) driver assistance suite is standard for every model and is flush with features that help drivers feel confident. These features include a Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert, Blind Spot Monitor, and much more. The 2023 Highlander Hybrid also earns a five-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA). Upscale extras like available heated and ventilated seats deliver year-round comfort for you and your passengers, and a hands-free power-operated rear liftgate simplifies traveling with luggage, sporting equipment, and big grocery hauls.

The Competition

Indeed, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is not the only three-row hybrid SUV in production. There are versions from competitors like Kia, Mazda, Ford, and others. Depending on your criteria, there are probably many desirable features present in these competing SUV models. However, let’s break down some of the specs of these other brands and see how they stack up to the Highlander Hybrid.

2023 Kia Sorento vs 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Kia’s answer to a hybrid three-row SUV is the 2023 Sorento. It has a lot in common with the Highlander Hybrid but falls short regarding seating and the infotainment center. While the Highlander Hybrid has a seating capacity of up to eight—or seven if you opt for the second-row captain’s chairs—the Sorento has a seating capacity of six, with a more cramped third row. The Highlander Hybrid is taller and has a slightly wider wheelbase, making for an overall larger cargo capacity. The largest available touchscreen for the Sorento is sized at 10.25 inches, whereas the largest available option on the Highlander Hybrid is 12.3 inches. Finally, the Highlander can tow more than twice as much as the Sorento; the Kia’s maximum towing capacity is 1,654 lbs, while the Highlander Hybrid can handle up to 3,500 lbs.

2023 Ford Explorer Hybrid vs 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The latest Ford Explorer Hybrid has its set of great qualities; it’s roomy, safe, and affordable. However, the Explorer has a hybrid powertrain option, as opposed to being a model solely focused on hybrid technology. In that regard, the hybrid trim level falls short of Toyota’s two available Highlander Hybrids. For starters, even the powertrain on the Ford fails to impress. The hybrid engine on the Explorer earns an EPA-estimated 27 MPG combined, significantly lower than the EPA-estimated 36 MPG combined rating of the Highlander Hybrid. However, both have five-star overall safety ratings from the NHTSA. Both offer quality upholstery that can be either cloth or leather-appointed, depending on trim, and they both offer upscale touches like available Wi-Fi hotspots and panoramic moonroof upgrades. The Ford Explorer has seating for six and can accommodate up to seven. In contrast, the Highlander Hybrid has seating for either seven or eight passengers.

2023 Volvo XC90 vs 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

If comparisons are to be made, why not stretch the imagination and choose a three-row hybrid SUV from a more expensive class? The 2023 Volvo XC90 features many high-end features like massaging front seats, a Bowers & Wilkens premium audio system, a head-up display, and a towing capacity of up to 5,000 lbs. Both available engines produce more horsepower than the Toyota, but it’ll cost you some efficiency; the better of the two Volvo hybrid powertrains only gets an EPA-estimated 29 MPGe, so it’ll have you going to the gas station more often. As you might suspect, the biggest difference between these two vehicles is the stark difference in MSRP. While the Toyota Highlander Hybrid starts at $40,620, the Volvo comes in at a price of $66,895 for its base-level trim. It may have more features, sure, but it will cost you dearly.

There Can Only Be One

Toyota has mastered the art of implementing a hybrid powertrain into its lineup and doing so with moxie. From popularizing the Prius to expanding fuel-efficient technology into the three-row SUV segment, the Toyota brand has been a leader in the automotive industry. With each new model year of the Highlander Hybrid advancing technology across the board, it’s easy to see how this SUV would add tons of value to any busy household. It’s spacious, safe, and incredibly comfortable, whether you’re doing the daily commute or exploring beyond your usual drives. Its powertrain maintains performance while still delivering the fuel economy that makes this vehicle a standout in Toyota’s lineup. The 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid may not be the only three-row hybrid SUV on the market, but it has all the makings of a crowd favorite.