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2003 Toyota Highlander

2003 Toyota Highlander

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$2,494 — $8,326 USED
9
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Sport Utility
5 Seats
20-24 MPG
(Combined)
Key specs of the base trim
 — 
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2003 Toyota Highlander Review

from the Cars.com expert editorial team

Vehicle Overview
Introduced early in the 2001 model year, the car-based Highlander is the fifth — and newest — member of Toyota’s sport utility vehicle lineup. It is structurally related to the Lexus RX 300, but the Highlander is a little larger and has a different squared-off appearance. Fender creases are prominent on the Highlander, and fewer features are standard than on the RX 300, which is considerably more expensive. Both models are offered with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), but the Highlander may be equipped with a four-cylinder engine or a V-6.

The Highlander is slightly longer and 5 inches wider than the truck-based 4Runner. It promises SUV versatility with carlike ride and handling. Like the RX 300, the Highlander uses an unconventional gear selector for the automatic transmission, which protrudes from the lower dashboard. Toyota expected to sell about 70,000 units annually, but Automotive News reports sales of 86,699 Highlanders during 2001 — that signifies quite an impressive debut season. Little is likely to change for 2003, but Toyota has not yet released details about the upcoming model year.

Exterior
Despite styling differences between the Highlander and RX 300, the two models share the same basic design. The Highlander rides a 106.9-inch wheelbase and stretches 184.4 inches long overall — that’s 4 inches longer in both dimensions than the RX 300. The four-door SUV is fitted with a rear liftgate and measures 71.9 inches wide and nearly 68...

Vehicle Overview
Introduced early in the 2001 model year, the car-based Highlander is the fifth — and newest — member of Toyota’s sport utility vehicle lineup. It is structurally related to the Lexus RX 300, but the Highlander is a little larger and has a different squared-off appearance. Fender creases are prominent on the Highlander, and fewer features are standard than on the RX 300, which is considerably more expensive. Both models are offered with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD), but the Highlander may be equipped with a four-cylinder engine or a V-6.

The Highlander is slightly longer and 5 inches wider than the truck-based 4Runner. It promises SUV versatility with carlike ride and handling. Like the RX 300, the Highlander uses an unconventional gear selector for the automatic transmission, which protrudes from the lower dashboard. Toyota expected to sell about 70,000 units annually, but Automotive News reports sales of 86,699 Highlanders during 2001 — that signifies quite an impressive debut season. Little is likely to change for 2003, but Toyota has not yet released details about the upcoming model year.

Exterior
Despite styling differences between the Highlander and RX 300, the two models share the same basic design. The Highlander rides a 106.9-inch wheelbase and stretches 184.4 inches long overall — that’s 4 inches longer in both dimensions than the RX 300. The four-door SUV is fitted with a rear liftgate and measures 71.9 inches wide and nearly 68 inches tall. In addition to prominent fender creases, the Highlander features squared-off styling instead of slanted roof pillars like those found on the RX 300.

Interior
Seating for five occupants includes two front bucket seats and a split, folding rear bench that holds three. The automatic-transmission lever mounts at an odd angle below the dashboard, which is actually a convenient location. The Highlander and RX 300 dashboards have similar layouts, but the Toyota design has different audio and climate controls.

Under the Hood
Both the 155-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and the 220-hp, 3.0-liter V-6 were borrowed from the Camry sedan and team with a four-speed-automatic transmission. The Highlander is available with FWD or permanently engaged AWD, which has no Low range. A limited-slip rear differential is optional.

Safety
Antilock brakes and Brake Assist are standard. Options include seat-mounted side-impact airbags and Vehicle Skid Control, Toyota’s electronic stability system.

Driving Impressions
An exceptionally smooth ride coupled with confident and capable handling are the high points of the Highlander picture. Seldom does this SUV lose its composure, even when the pavement gets somewhat rough. Body roll is minimal in fairly tight curves — within reason. The Highlander is extremely easy to drive, and it has just the right steering feel and a balanced sensation on the highway.

Acceleration is strong from a standstill, but an extra push on the pedal may be necessary at midrange speeds, which can produce some awkwardness or unpleasant noise at times. Similarities to the RX 300 are more evident on the Highlander’s interior, which is led by the distinctively positioned gearshift lever.

 

Reported by Jim Flammang  for cars.com
From the cars.com 2003 Buying Guide
Posted on 9/30/02

Consumer Reviews

What drivers are saying

4.7
43 reviews — Read All reviews
Exterior Styling
(4.5)
Performance
(4.6)
Interior Design
(4.3)
Comfort
(4.7)
Reliability
(4.8)
Value For The Money
(4.8)

Read reviews that mention:

(4.0)

Great car

by 🥰 from Tacoma,WA on May 25, 2020

This car lasted us a long enough time but it did have a minor/ majorish problem that we couldn’t really ever fix without it breaking again. That would be he head gasket. It blew multiple times around ... Read full review

(5.0)

Most reliable car I have owned and extremely safe

by Brewster from Carlsbad, CA on February 9, 2020

This car has been a wonderful car to me and my family. Tons of room, great comfort and drives very smoothly. This car will go for another 100K miles. Highly recommend purchasing this car or a like it.... Read full review

Safety

Recalls and crash tests

Recalls

The 2003 Toyota Highlander currently has 2 recalls


Crash and Rollover Test Ratings

The 2003 Toyota Highlander has not been tested.

Latest 2003 Highlander Stories

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Cars.com Car Seat Check

Certified child passenger safety technicians conduct hands-on tests of a car’s Latch system and check the vehicle’s ability to accommodate different types of car seats. The Highlander received the following grades on a scale of A-F.*
* This score may not apply to all trims, especially for vehicles with multiple body styles that affect the space and design of the seating.

Warranty FAQs

What is a Bumper-to-Bumper warranty?

Often called a basic warranty or new-vehicle warranty, a bumper-to-bumper policy covers components like air conditioning, audio systems, vehicle sensors, fuel systems and major electrical components. Most policies exclude regular maintenance like fluid top offs and oil changes, but a few brands have separate free-maintenance provisions, and those that do offer them is slowly rising. Bumper-to-bumper warranties typically expire faster than powertrain warranties.

What is a Powertrain warranty?

Don't be misled a 10-year or 100,000-mile powertrain warranty doesn't promise a decade of free repairs for your car. It typically covers just the engine and transmission, along with any other moving parts that lead to the wheels, like the driveshaft and constant velocity joints. Some automakers also bundle seat belts and airbags into their powertrain warranties. With a few exceptions, powertrain warranties don't cover regular maintenance like engine tuneups and tire rotations.

What is included in Roadside Assistance?

Some automakers include roadside assistance with their bumper-to-bumper or powertrain warranties, while others have separate policies. These programs cover anything from flat-tire changes and locksmith services to jump-starts and towing. Few reimburse incidental costs like motel rooms (if you have to wait for repairs).

What other services could be included in a warranty?

Some automakers include free scheduled maintenance for items such as oil changes, air filters and tire rotations. Some include consumables including brake pads and windshield wipers; others do not. They are typically for the first couple of years of ownership of a new car.

What does CPO mean?

A certified pre-owned or CPO car has been inspected to meet minimum quality standards and typically includes some type of warranty. While dealers and third parties certify cars, the gold standard is an automaker-certified vehicle that provides a factory-backed warranty, often extending the original coverage. Vehicles must be in excellent condition and have low miles and wear to be certified, which is why off-lease vehicles feed many CPO programs.

See also the latest CPO incentives by automaker

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