When considering a compact SUV, it’s essential to compare offerings from both domestic and international car manufacturers. This helps make a well-informed choice, striking the right balance between performance, space, efficiency and value. Today, we compare the 2024 Chevrolet Equinox, 2023 Ford Escape, 2023 Toyota RAV4 and the 2024 Honda CR-V.
Performance and Efficiency
2024 Chevrolet Equinox:
Engine: Turbocharged Gas I4, producing 175 hp @ 5800 RPM and 203 lb-ft torque between 2000-4000 RPM.
Fuel Efficiency: EnerGuide Estimate for the highway is 7.9 L/100 km.
Emissions: 207 G/km of CO2.
Transmission: 6-speed automatic.
2023 Ford Escape:
Engine: Intercooled Turbo Premium Unleaded I-3, delivering 180 hp @ 6000 RPM and 199 lb-ft torque @ 3000 RPM.
Fuel Efficiency: EnerGuide Estimate for the highway is 6.9 l/100 km.
Emissions: 197 G/km of CO2.
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with OD.
2023 Toyota RAV4:
Engine: 2.5 Litre, 4-Cylinder, DOHC with Dual Variable Valve Timing, generating 203 hp @ 6,600 rpm and 184 lb-ft torque.
Fuel Efficiency: EnerGuide Estimate for the highway is 6.3 L/100 km.
Emissions: Not Available.
Transmission: CVT with OD.
2024 Honda CR-V:
Engine: Intercooled Turbo Regular Unleaded I-4, 190 hp @ 6000 RPM and 179 lb-ft torque @ 1700 RPM.
Fuel Efficiency: EnerGuide Estimate for the highway is 7.6 L/100 km (estimated).
Emissions: Not Available.
Transmission: CVT with OD.
Interior and Comfort
Both the Ford Escape and Chevrolet Equinox impress with their spacious interiors, boasting passenger volumes of 104 ft³ and 103.5 ft³, respectively. On the other hand, the Toyota RAV4 provides a slightly more compact ambiance with 98.9 ft³, while the Honda CR-V matches the Equinox and the Escape with 103.5 ft³.
Cargo and Utility
Regarding space, the Honda CR-V leads the pack with a sizable cargo volume of 39.3 ft³ up to the second seat. Following closely are the Ford Escape at 37.5 ft³ and the Toyota RAV4 at 37.4 ft³. The Chevrolet Equinox offers slightly lesser space at 29.9 ft³.
As for towing capacities, the Ford Escape comes out on top with a capacity of 2000 lbs. The RAV4 and CR-V follow with 1750 lbs and 1499 lbs, respectively. The Equinox’s towing capacity remains unspecified.
Incentives & Financing
Incentives and financing options can make a significant difference in your purchasing decision:
2024 Chevrolet Equinox: Finance incentives range between 5.49%-6.19% for 36 to 84 months. Lease incentives are at 8.9% for 24 to 60 months.
2023 Ford Escape: Finance incentives span from 1.99% to 3.99% for 36 to 84 months, and lease incentives are set at 3.99% for 24 to 60 months.
2023 Toyota RAV4: Finance incentives begin at 7.29%, going up to 7.79% for 24 to 84 months. Lease incentives range from 6.29%-8.39% for 24 to 60 months.
It should be obvious that the interest rate assigned to your finance or lease agreement is going to impact your monthly payments in a very significant way. Click on the name of each of these vehicles to check out the latest offers available at CarCostCanada®.
Each SUV in this comparison brings a unique set of attributes. While the Chevrolet Equinox and Ford Escape shine with their spacious interiors and robust performance, the Toyota RAV4 stands out for its unmatched fuel efficiency. The Honda CR-V, on the other hand, offers a harmonious blend of performance and space.
Your final choice should reflect which attributes align best with your needs and preferences.
It’s been about a year since I got back behind the wheel of Toyota’s completely rethought Venza, and I have to say its styling has grown on me. From seeming to pull inspiration from the previous-generation…
It’s been about a year since I got back behind the wheel of Toyota’s completely rethought Venza, and I have to say its styling has grown on me. From seeming to pull inspiration from the previous-generation RAV4, at least to my mind’s eye, I now see it has having a unique, modern, advanced look all of its own. Funny how taste’s change with familiarity, as there are now plenty more on the road than when initially driven.
It should be said that I normally prefer more truck-like crossover SUV designs, such as Toyota’s current RAV4 and Highlander. These pull a number of heritage design cues from Toyota’s storied 4×4 past, as well as styling influences from the Japanese brand’s more rugged, off-road-ready present-day SUV and pickup truck models, with the current RAV4’s overall look paying homage to the fabulous FJ Cruiser that itself was inspired by the brand’s original Willys/Jeep Wrangler-competitive FJ40, while both the RAV4 and Highlander share the basic shape of their grille designs with the current-generation Tacoma, which most truck fans will agree is one of the best-looking mid-size pickups ever.
Smooth, refined, sophisticated shape and execution
By comparison, the Venza’s smooth, wind-cheating shape seems designed for an altogether different purpose, even though it targets a similar audience to the Highlander, albeit one that doesn’t need as much passenger and cargo space. To be crystal clear, the Venza seats five comfortably in two rows, while the Highlander is good for seven over three rows; the third-most twosome best dedicated to children.
As for the Venza’s cargo capacity, it’s not only considerably less commodious than the Highlander’s, it’s surprisingly down on the RAV4’s too, by a significant 211 litres (7.4 cu ft) with its second row upright, and 417 litres (14.7 cu ft) when laid flat. Specifically, the Venza measures just 816 litres (28.8 cu ft) behind the rear seats and 1,560 litres (55.1 cu ft) when its 60/40-split back row is tumbled forward (and fractionally less¬–0.2 litres (0.007 cu ft)–when its optional Star Gaze roof is included). And yes, Toyota doesn’t offer a centre pass-through either, so rear row/cargo flexibility is limited.
Stacking up against siblings and competitors
So why move up from a RAV4? Sales will indicate not many Canadians do, with Toyota Canada having sold a whopping 67,977 RAV4s last year (resulting in the number one spot in light vehicle deliveries overall, let alone within its own segment; number-two was Honda’s CR-V with just 50,135 deliveries). This compares to a mere 6,249 Venzas, or less than 10 percent. Of note, 19,885 Highlanders were sold in Canada throughout 2021, making it number-one in the entire mid-size SUV segment. Despite being a new model for 2021, the Venza also had the entire year to make its mark, having been introduced in the latter part of 2020, so while sort of holding its own, it didn’t exactly burn up the sales charts.
It’s not too difficult to figure out why Toyota’s mid-size, two-row crossover SUV entry lags behind many competitors, pricing. A base 2022 Venza LE starts at $39,150, which incidentally is up $660 from last year’s starting point. That makes it more expensive than a $33,699 base 2022 Hyundai Santa Fe Essential AWD, a non-hybrid model that doesn’t manage fuel as thriftily as this miserly Japanese contender, but you can buy a lot of gas for almost $5,500, plus the more affordable Korean simply fits within more peoples’ budgetary and therefore lending restraints.
On the positive for Toyota, last year’s Santa Fe to Venza price gap was a whopping $7,091, so the step up to this hybrid is no longer as steep. It should be noted that Hyundai offers a Santa Fe Hybrid in this class too, but it starts $2,549 higher at $41,699 than the base Venza, while those wanting a Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid (Toyota doesn’t offer one in this class) can ante up $49,699 for a bit more fuel savings and the benefit of traveling in the HOV lane, depending on local regulations.
Of note, additional electrified models in the two-row, mid-size SUV class include the new Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe Plug-In Hybrid, but at $71,005, and sporting serious off-road credentials it’s really targeting the luxury 4×4 crowd, while the electrified mid-size crossover SUV segment’s most affordable $36,695 Kia Sorento Hybrid, as well as the $44,995 Sorento Plug-in Hybrid, which is priced best as far as plug-ins go, come with seating for six via three-rows including second-row captain’s chairs, but deserve a mention due to their value proposition. If you feel the pull to a full-electric EV you may want to consider the competitively priced $51,495 Ford Mustang Mach-E and potentially Chevy’s even better looking (in this author’s humble opinion) and equally nameplate-offending (to classic 4×4 fans) upcoming 2024 Blazer EV.
Dedicated to aerodynamics and hybrid efficiency
Of course, Toyota has its own long-awaited all-electric model coming out too, the 2023 BZ4X. It’s a largish compact crossover, being 94 mm (3.7 in) longer and 5 mm (0.2 in) wider than a RAV4. While we can expect more EVs to come, nobody offers more hybrids than the originator of the species (as far as practical four-door models go). Toyota currently offers no less than nine hybridized models, which is pretty amazing. And that’s only in North America. Toyota makes other hybrid models in other markets, particularly Japan, where this Venza is sold under the Harrier nameplate.
That last point may be why this new mid-size crossover SUV appears so different from its more rugged-looking stable mates. Rather than give the Harrier a makeover for its new Venza role, it was merely rebadged for our market, and does what it needs to do for the most part. Still, I can only imagine it would appeal to even more buyers if it pulled more of the brand’s North American styling influence onto its front fascia, at least. Sure, the RAV4 is more or less the same in Japan as it is here, but Toyota’s domestic market doesn’t get our Highlander, 4Runner, Sequoia, Tacoma or Tundra. Alternatively, their Fortuner (GR) and Land Cruiser series (including the 4Runner-sized Prado) take care of mid- and full-size SUV duties in Asia, while the Tacoma-sized Hilux oversees all truck responsibilities. These are looking a lot bolder than they did in the past, but still not as aggressive as their North American counterparts (new LC aside).
Refined style and luxe interior appeal to plenty of new buyers
To this latest Venza’s credit, it had plenty of admirers throughout my test week. Whether viewed from up front, where its wind-cheating design once again reminds me of the old RAV4, or taken in at the rear, which I particularly like thanks to its sliver-thin taillight clusters and connecting centre reflector, the latter giving it a unique character when put side-by-side to its myriad mid-size competitors, the new Venza is an attractive mid-size crossover. If the overall design had sharper edges, those taillights could even be mistaken for Lexus’ latest tail lamp designs, but the Venza’s are more organically shaped like the rest of the SUV, so its rear styling is more visually comparable to luxury utilities from Lincoln, Infiniti and even Porsche, albeit once again it provides enough uniqueness to stand out on its own.
Step inside and that premium-brand cache continues. Yes, this new iteration is much more luxurious than the first-generation Venza, which is important in a segment that’s steadily refining new model after new model. Likewise, for the Highlander, which provides similar levels of luxury as you go up through the trim lines, such as more soft-touch surface areas, fabric-wrapped roof pillars, and the list goes on, resulting in a very pleasing cabin.
Interestingly, there are no simulated or genuine wood inserts, but instead Toyota covers much of the instrument panel in a soft-touch padded leatherette, featuring a thin grey corded strip with attractive metal ends. This can be found to the left of the driver and ahead of the front passenger, plus across the front two-thirds of each door upper. Following this pampering theme, an angled piece of padded leatherette folds down into comfortable armrests just behind, at which point some decorative trim might possibly be mistaken for the just-noted missing wood inlays when glanced at quickly. This trim piece supports the window switches, power locking buttons, and on the driver’s side, power mirror controls.
Easy to navigate digital interfaces set the Venza apart
Framed by a comfortably padded leather steering wheel is a semi-digital gauge cluster complete with two analogue dials. The left side is for hybrid info, including Eco, Power and Charging gauges, plus one for the engine temperature, while the right side is filled with a speedometer with a fuel gauge. At centre is a large 7.0-inch multi-information display that includes hybrid info as well as most other features found on the infotainment system.
Speaking of that large centre touchscreen, the high-resolution display measures a significant 12.3 inches. In default mode, it’s split into a larger two-thirds section on the left and a smaller one-third section to the right, but you can push a set of double arrows on the far right to reverse the layout if desired. The system comes stock full of features too, with the default main page incorporating climate control, audio functions, and quick calling pre-sets to the left, these divided in half so they look like three separate tiles, while the rightmost third displayed the navigation map as a default. Again, this section can be reconfigured depending on what you need or prefer, with a long list of variables.
You can access Home, a menu page, an audio page, or the map with navigation controls via touch-sensitive quick-access buttons just below the screen on a separate section of the centre stack. This interface also incorporates a touch-sensitive audio volume controller and a similar tool for tuning radio stations or tracks. A separate panel is dedicated to the dual-zone automatic climate control system, and was as easy to operate as it was attractive to look at.
Well-organized centre stack and console aid in driving experience
All of the above features hover over a carved-out section of the lower console, which integrates a sideways-mounted wireless phone charger, separate USB-A ports, and an auxiliary port for powering devices. Additionally, Toyota hangs its ignition button just below the upper centre stack. Being this is in a different place than usual, I kept pressing the odometer trip reset button instead, which is where most vehicles have their ignition switch, although it’s completely hidden by the right side of the steering wheel spoke, so it makes sense why Toyota would place the start/stop button within eyesight on the centre stack. I eventually familiarized myself to the new location.
Moving downward, the lower centre console gets a traditional shift lever with manual mode, but that comes after an electronic parking brake with a hold function, plus an EV mode switch for driving under pure-electric power over short distances at low speeds, and lastly a drive mode selector that can be swapped between Eco, Normal and Sport settings.
I quickly learned that I didn’t need Sport mode to get it off the line quickly. When wanting to accelerate fast out of my local side street, due to a near constant four-lane stream of traffic, the Venza jumped forward with an immediacy I didn’t expect when in set an Eco mode. This said, Sport makes it all that much more energetic when taking off or passing, giving the SUV more zip all-round. More often than not I drive vehicles like the Venza in a calm and relaxed fashion, so I kept it in Eco or Normal mode throughout the week. This still allowed for all the performance I needed when called upon, plus all the fuel-efficiency I could want. Comfort for five aside, that’s really what the Venza is all about.
Hybrids are still the value leaders initially and over the long haul
In fact, at $1.82.9 per litre when needing to fill it up, a busier than average week behind the wheel only cost me $55. This is a great deal less than in any other vehicle I’ve driven recently, even including compact four-cylinder economy cars. Toyota claims a fuel economy rating of 5.9 L/100km in the city, 6.4 on the highway and 6.1 combined, which is mind-blowingly good for the Venza’s size and weight, so this SUV makes sense for those wanting to save money on fuel, even if they’re considering an all-electric SUV like Tesla’s smaller Model Y or similarly sized (to the Venza) Model X.
After all, you can drive a long way with savings of about $46k and $117k respectively when compared to the Venza’s base starting price of $39,150 (plus freight and fees). Even fully loaded in Limited trim with a window sticker showing $48,550 like my tester, it’s a relative bargain. Of course, Hyundai and Kia offer similar sized electrics in the $45k to $60k range, while Cadillac’s upcoming Lyriq will provide luxury SUV duds for not much more at a base of less than $67k, but once again the overall frugality price would go to Toyota’s Venza.
Fortunately, along with its forward thrust, which granted, isn’t anywhere near as jaw-dropping as those just-noted all-electric crossovers, the Venza is a commendable handler, but as capable as it is through a curving canyon road, it’s primarily been set up for comfort and ride quality. Smooth is the name of the Venza’s game, to the point that I’m willing to bet that its ride is one of the best in its class.
Venza Limited makes it easy to get comfortable
It helps that the driver’s seat is comfortable too, with plenty of adjustment. I found it pleasantly surprising that this top-line Venza Limited provides four-way lumbar support, plus the three-way heatable and cooling seats worked as needed. The single-temperature heated steering wheel didn’t warm all the way around like some others, but it kept hands toasty from the two o’clock to four o’clock positions on the right side, and the eight to 10 o’clock positions on the left, with some heat bleeding off towards the centres to eliminate any early morning icy chill. Good enough.
The just-mentioned seat ventilation gets forced through perforated SofTex pleather centre front seat panels, incidentally, while solid SofTex covers each bolster and headrest. SofTex is Toyota-speak for breathable man-made leatherette, by the way, looking and feeling so much like the real deal that I needed to verify whether or not it was genuine leather on the automaker’s website.
The three rear seating positions are very accommodating as well, especially the two outboard window seats, which also boast heatable cushions. Additional rear passenger equipment includes air vents on the backside of the front console, plus two USB-A ports for connecting devices. A large centre armrest folds down in the middle, revealing two integrated cupholders.
Cargo flexibility isn’t the Venza’s strongest suit
A powered rear liftgate opens up to a large cargo area, including a sizeable spot to stow items below the cargo floor, next to the compact spare tire. As noted earlier, the rear seatbacks fold down in the usual 60/40 configuration, which once again is my only complaint, being that I prefer a 40/20/40 split so that skis can be laid down the middle and rear passengers more comfortably placed by the window seats, an important issue if you’re a parent and have to coax one less comfortable child into the centre position without heat on the way home from the slopes.
A good way to deal with any backseat complaints is to crank the excellent JBL audio system, something I did regularly despite mostly driving alone, albeit the interior’s pièce de résistance is the fabulously large, slightly opaque powered panoramic sunroof overhead, which features a nifty powered cloth sunshade. Then again, the digital rearview mirror is pretty trick too. I’m seeing more and more of these handy devices on upscale Toyotas, plus with some other brands. It allows you to see past any heads popping up from the rear seating area, not to mention cargo piled behind, resulting in a much clearer view of the rearward road. Just be careful to also use the regular rearview camera in the infotainment system when backing up, as objects in the digital mirror appear closer than they really are, plus low sports cars can disappear altogether. Also, the digital mirror can get overwhelmed by headlights at night, so I switched back to its conventional auto-dimming function when the sun went down.
As you can probably tell, I couldn’t find much fault with the latest 2022 Venza, and like last year’s version, I highly recommend it for those that prioritize comfort, refinement, reliability and fuel economy. That Toyota’s digital interfaces are well designed and easy to use is just another bonus. The Japanese automaker should truly be selling more of these than they do.
Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann
The Goodwood Festival of Speed, based in Chichester, West Sussex, has become the U.K.’s must-go annual event for everything automotive. This year’s weekend extravaganza, held from June 23-26, provided…
The Goodwood Festival of Speed, based in Chichester, West Sussex, has become the U.K.’s must-go annual event for everything automotive. This year’s weekend extravaganza, held from June 23-26, provided the perfect opportunity for Porsche to release its sensational new LMDh class race car as well.
The new LMDh class, which was co-created by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) in the U.S., Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) in France, and the Paris-based motorsports regulating and sanctioning body Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), will hit the track next year as part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (U.S.) and the FIA World Endurance Championship (Europe), with Porsche’s new 963 joining LMDh competitors from Acura, Alpine, BMW, Cadillac, and Lamborghini.
963 project an international affair thanks to American and Canadian ties
The new 963 will be fielded by Mooresville, N.C.’s Penske Motorsport, one of the best-known names in motorsport. Porsche and Penske previously partnered up from 2005 to 2008, driving the Stuttgart-brand’s RS Spyder in bright yellow DHL colours as part of the LMP2 sports car class. This time, however, the 963 will wear Porsche Motorsport’s traditional red, white, and black livery.
The new 963’s chassis comes from Multimatic in Markham, Ontario, Canada, while the power unit destined to hit top speeds on Le Mans’ Mulsanne Straight or around turn 12 and past the finish line of the Daytona International Speedway will be 100-percent pure Porsche, making the new 963 an international project.
That hybrid power unit is an in-house-produced electrified V8, boasting a lineage that goes back to Porsche’s 918 Spyder hybrid supercar, which itself is based on the aforementioned RS Spyder. The 918 saw the internal combustion (ICE) portion of its power unit grow from 3.4 litres (in the RS) to 4.6 litres, which is exactly the same displacement as found in the new 963, although the updated V8 ups the performance ante with twin turbos instead of the street car’s natural aspiration. The end result is 670 horsepower, which makes it slightly less potent than the maximum allowed output in the new LMDh class.
Strong lineup of Porsche works drivers to target victories and championship
Development driver Frédéric Makowiecki has already driven the 963 some 8,000 test kilometres (4,900 miles), and now Penske Motorsport utilize a team of eight Porsche works drivers for sim and track testing, which will include Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell, Michael Christensen, Kévin Estre, Mathieu Jaminet, André Lotterer, Felipe Nasr, and Laurens Vanthoor. After testing is complete, Team Penske will see how it holds up in a non-competitive outing at the 8 Hours of Bahrain in November, thanks to the FIA allowing 2023 entries to run non-ranked races at 2022 events.
The Bahrain race will no doubt be critical for real world testing purposes and important for team building too, but Team Penske will need to wait until January 21 to 23 at the 24 Hours of Daytona for the 963’s first opportunity to achieve points, at which time Porsche has also promised to offer 963 customer cars.
To clarify, the customers in question are independent racing teams capable of competing in the same FIA-sanctioned events, not Porsche enthusiasts hoping for a modified 963 road car.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Porsche
Toyota’s Highlander will be saying sayonara to its V6 for 2023, and hello to the same 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder currently found in Lexus’ NX 350 and other performance-oriented compacts…
Toyota’s Highlander will be saying sayonara to its V6 for 2023, and hello to the same 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder currently found in Lexus’ NX 350 and other performance-oriented compacts from the Japanese luxury brand. Lexus announced the same engine swap for its larger mid-size 2023 RX 350 as well, so it’s quite possible we’re witnessing the dying days of Toyota’s venerable 3.5-litre “GR” V6.
In Lexus tune, the 2.4-litre puts out 275 horsepower and 317 lb-ft of torque, which is 20 hp less and 50 lb-ft stronger than the outgoing RX’ V6, a fair trade-off that should satisfy the majority of customers when fuel economy savings are factored in. The new Highlander version loses 10 horsepower from the Lexus, understandably, but just eight lb-ft of torque, for maximum thrust and twist numbers of 265 and 309 respectively.
Likewise, the new 2023 Highlander is down on horsepower when compared to the 2022 model’s V6, albeit the former is a significant 30-hp less. Fortunately, torque is up by 17 percent and 46 lb-ft, so therefore, with the right gearing it should perform similarly to the 900 cc larger lump. In a press release, Toyota is saying the new engine’s increased torque actually makes for “better everyday responsiveness,” “especially when taking advantage of the Highlander’s 7- or 8-person seating and generous cargo capacity,” while the updated model’s tailpipe emissions are also cleaner, with more than a 50-percent reduction in NOx and NMOG, plus less CO2.
Fuel economy should cause most 2023 Highlander buyers to smile
Aside from Highlander owners who love the outgoing model’s 295 horsepower and are willing to pay more despite today’s unprecedented fuel prices, most consumers will be happy to hear about an estimated rating of 9.8 L/100km combined city/highway. This compares well against the current V6-powered model’s 10.3 L/100km rating, while also using standard auto idle stop/start to minimize fuel use and reduce emissions when at standstill.
The new engine is once again joined up to Toyota’s eight-speed automatic transmission and standard all-wheel drive, a combination that provides ample efficiency and smooth daily operation with performance-focused gear changes when pushed hard, plus excellent traction in the majority of road conditions, plus most light-duty off-road situations.
Towing capacity remains a Highlander strong point
All the extra torque doesn’t translate into more towing capacity, but the 2023 Highlander will still haul up to 5,000 lbs (2,268 kg) of trailer, making it ideal for a small boat or camper. It features standard Trailer Sway Control (TSC) too, which utilizes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) to minimize side-to-side trailer movement.
Of course, the Highlander’s best pump gains will be from its carryover hybrid powertrain, which continues forward with the current 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and dual electric motor-generator set-up. Toyota hasn’t mentioned any 2023 fuel economy estimates for the Highlander Hybrid, but it will likely be similar if not identical to the 2022 model’s rating of 6.7 L/100km combined city/highway, while its trailering capacity is reduced to 3,500 lbs (1,588 kg).
Of note, Lexus will be introducing the new RX 450h+ later this year, the plus referring to a new plug-in hybrid version of Toyota’s well-proven electrified drivetrain, so it only makes sense that a version of this powertrain will eventually find its way over to the Highlander, making it capable of going up against the Hyundai Santa Fe Plug-in Hybrid and Kia Sorento Plug-in Hybrid, amongst others.
Dual 12.3-inch displays come standard in 2023 Limited and Platinum trims
While the Highlander’s engine is getting smaller, the standard infotainment touchscreen in upper-crust Limited and Platinum trims will grow by more than four inches for 2023. These models adopt the previously optional, and Platinum-exclusive 12.3-inch display, which is a move up from the regular 8.0-inch colour touchscreen that remains the only centre display available in LE and XLE trims.
Toyota also promises quicker response times to infotainment system inputs and a more intuitive interface layout, with more features as well, such as an intelligent voice assistant, a number of cloud-based functions and services, over-the-air software updates, plus the ability to pair two different smartphones via Bluetooth simultaneously, while content reportedly utilizes the entire 12.3-inch screen, unlike the outgoing version.
Wireless smartphone integration makes better use of improved wireless charging
Additionally, the updated infotainment system allows for wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which means the available Qi-compatible wireless charging tray (currently standard on XSE and above) can now be used together with full smartphone integration. Toyota also made the intelligent decision to move that wireless charging pad from the lower centre console to a device shelf that’s long been a clever addition to the Highlander’s instrument panel.
Refocusing ahead of the driver, Toyota will be doing away with the 2022 base Highlander LE’s remedial 4.2-inch multi-information display when the 2023 model arrives, and replacing it with the 7.0-inch display currently available in XLE and XSE trims. Even better, Limited and Platinum trims will now get a fully digital 12.3-inch driver display as standard equipment, with four visual themes no less, including Casual, Smart, Tough and Sporty.
Additional upgrades round out the 2023 improvements
Other upgrades include a standard foot-actuated hands-free power liftgate for XLE models and above, while the sportiest XSE trim now boasts black-painted 20-inch alloy rims inside 235/55R20 all-season rubber, these bolted to the same sport-tuned suspension system from the 2022 model, which still features high-rate springs and a stiffer rear stabilizer bar plus low-friction dampers working together with a specially-tuned electric power steering system.
Once again, the sporty XSE receives an exclusive front fascia design, incorporating a unique grille, an air splitter down below, and modified headlamp clusters, while a special set of rocker panels add more flair to the Highlander’s sweptback look. Blackened mirror caps, window moldings and roof rails add to the XSE’s performance-first appearance, while the rear design is capped off with dual exhaust tips.
XSE trim also adds a sportier theme inside, where black SofTex seat surfaces with cloth inserts combine with carbon-fibre-look inlays and cool ambient lighting. Additionally, Toyota makes an even more performance-oriented two-tone red and black leather-trimmed cabin available at no additional cost, featuring a red-stitched instrument panel bolster.
Hybrid Bronze Edition makes a return with exclusive Cement paint
Moving up through the 2023 Highlander line, Limited and Platinum models will receive power-folding side mirrors for 2023, and lastly new Cypress green exterior paint will be available, as will Harvest Beige and Glazed Caramel interior colour themes that now feature Black as the accent colour, instead of Noble Brown.
Last year’s XLE Hybrid Bronze Edition makes a return to the electrified Highlander for 2023, along with exclusive Cement, and Wind Chill Pearl exterior colours. The Bronze Edition gets special bronze-coloured accents from front to back, as well as bronze-tone 18-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the Bronze Edition features “mid-century modern-inspired” SofTex-trimmed seats with fabric inserts and bronze-coloured stitching that Toyota says are “like something from a concept car,” which is “amplified by the Captain’s Chair’s layout.” Illuminated bronze door sills and special floor and cargo mats embroidered with a unique bronze-stitched logo enhance the “designer look.”
Bronze Edition upgrades include rain-sensing wipers, two 120V/1,500-watt power outlets, a hands-free power liftgate, and the list goes on.
New updates should keep the Highlander number one in its mid-size SUV class
Toyota Canada will release 2023 Toyota Highlander and 2023 Highlander Hybrid pricing closer to the model’s availability this fall, at which point the order books will be open. Due to its many improvements, it should remain as Canada’s most popular mid-size SUV.
It’s held the position of best-selling three-row mid-size SUV for six year running as well, which is an impressive feat considering just how competitive its market segment is. Last year Toyota sold 19,885 Highlanders in Canada, resulting in its best year by a long shot, improving on its second-best sales year of 2020 by almost 21 percent.
The next-best selling Ford Explorer didn’t achieve anywhere near the same year-over-year (YoY) growth with sales of just 16,388 units in 2021, while Volkswagen’s Atlas came third with 13,491 deliveries last year, although this number also included the German automaker’s new five-seat Atlas Cross Sport model, which would be the equivalent of combining Highlander and Venza sales into one, that number being 26,134 units for an even more impressive total.
Competition is heated in the mid-size three-row SUV category
To be fair to Ford, its Explorer and Edge twosome combine for yet more mid-size SUV deliveries at 28,218 units, so the blue oval isn’t exactly hurting, and that tally doesn’t even include new Bronco sales that totaled 10,204 units last year, compared to 8,293 deliveries for Toyota’s increasingly popular 4Runner, which incidentally saw a YoY bump of six percent after its best-ever calendar year.
Three-row SUV alternatives keep getting added to the mix
On that note, the Grand Wagoneer and its less luxurious Wagoneer sibling are much larger utilities based on the full-size Ram 1500 pickup truck, so maybe shouldn’t be included on this list. Either way, it will be interesting to see how these big three-row prospects fare, not to mention the Jeep Grand Cherokee L, plus the new extended Wagoneer L/Grand Wagoneer L models, just introduced for 2023 a couple of months ago.
The just-noted Jeeps more directly go up against Toyota’s Sequoia and Chevy’s Tahoe/Suburban, et al, but Toyota is reportedly preparing a larger Grand Highlander to slot in between the current model and just-noted Sequoia, which should more directly take on Hyundai and Kia’s respective Palisade and Telluride models. Stay tuned for an update on this new model when Toyota reveals its plans.
Lastly, it should be noted that Dodge’s Canadian division sold off its final allotment of 2020 Journey crossovers last year too, that total being 90 units. We can expect something new from Dodge in the mid-size crossover categories soon, not to mention all of the Stellantis brands not yet mentioned, all of which will take their bites out of the total market. Certainly, Toyota’s Highlander should continue to do well, but staying number is no easy feat and hardly happens by chance.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann
Photo credits: Toyota
Think back to 2008. It’s not a year everyone will remember fondly, due to the housing crisis that was followed up by a short-erm financial freeze, plus numerous banking bailouts, and reasonable fear…
Think back to 2008. It’s not a year everyone will remember fondly, due to the housing crisis that was followed up by a short-erm financial freeze, plus numerous banking bailouts, and reasonable fear of economic woes ahead, but on the positive it was also an Summer Olympic year, held in Beijing, China (déjà vu all over again), and while that subject might be too political for some to dwell upon in an automotive story, 2008 was also the year that Conservative leader Stephen Harper eked out a minority up here in Canada, and Barack Obama was victorious south of the 49th. Even more momentous, it would take another month for Bitcoin to be introduced in January of 2009.
Why all the references to a past that’s now hardly recognizable from today’s world? Because that’s when Toyota’s full-size Sequoia SUV received its last major update. The first-generation Sequoia lasted a rather lengthy seven years, incidentally, and received its redesign with the advent of the second-gen Tundra, but today’s model, which will be replaced later this year, needed to wait a lot longer for its redesigned Tundra donor platform to arrive.
Amazingly, the first-generation Venza was new that year too, as was the tiny Scion iQ (remember Scion?). The iQ’s been off the market for seven years already, and, after a three-year hiatus the Venza was wholly renewed for 2020, but the Sequoia soldiered on unchanged. It’ll be 14 years old when it arrives later this year as a 2023 model, but from what we can see here, the long wait has not been in vain.
After all, it looks similar to the new Tundra that’s received plenty of praise for its brash, bold styling, or at least its headlamps and the basic outline of its grille do. The new Sequoia’s grille is more restrained, and I think the better for it. It pulls cues from the Tacoma, of course, as well as the latest RAV4, no bad thing either, while sharing visual ties to the Highlander and new Corolla Cross as well. We can guess this look hints at the new 4Runner’s design approach too, an even more important SUV from a sales perspective, and one we’ll see in redesigned form soon.
This said there’s nothing radically unexpected about the new Sequoia’s styling. It appears rugged and tough, yet clean and refined, while all the time being respectful of Toyota’s SUV lineage. The hood domes nicely at centre, and either features cool looking matte plastic, vent-like garnishes on its outer rear edges when upgraded to “TRD PRO” trim, complete with trim designation, or gets a smaller chromed “i FORCE MAX” engine plaque in the same spot for other models. Additional visual separation includes some chrome embellishment down each side of the new top-tier Capstone trim line, brightening the new Sequoia’s deeply sculpted flanks, while the SUV’s upright rear design certainly shouldn’t offend any traditional SUV lover’s tastes.
Speaking of the trims, a total of five include TRD Off-Road, Limited, Platinum, TRD Pro and just-noted Capstone, the latter initially introduced with the new Tundra, and representing a more luxurious level above Platinum. First, congrats to Toyota for coming up with something more original than Limited and Platinum to designate fanciest trim, and second, this model really does appear to deliver on its near-premium promise.
The Sequoia Capstone provides a black and white motif inside, with plenty of higher-quality semi-aniline leather throughout, while Toyota has even improved soundproofing. Those familiar with the outgoing Sequoia will already know its most luxurious Platinum variant lacked some its rivals’ refinements, especially for an SUV in the $80k range. Pampering won’t be a problem in the new 2023 version, however, even in lesser trims that will likely go up in price from their current model’s $70k starting point.
In the U.S., this new Sequoia effectively replaces the full-size Land Cruiser that was discontinued, so it had better deliver at a high level and be fully capable off-road. Certainly, Lexus’ redesigned LX, which once again is based on the Land Cruiser, will toe the line as far as full-size luxury utes go, but just like some wristwatch buyers would rather wear a dive watch bearing the famed Seiko name than lesser-known Grand Seiko (which is respected more for dressier timepieces), yet still want similar levels of finishing and movement accuracy/quality and are willing to pay premium prices for it, there are SUV buyers who’d more proudly own a Toyota-badged utility than one gussied up in Lexus duds. To that end, the off-road-oriented SUV industry is as much about heritage and respect as it is utility, but isn’t necessarily turned on by premium badging.
The i-Force Max engine noted a moment ago was also introduced with the Tundra, but in the pickup truck it’s an option, and with the Sequoia it comes standard. Interestingly, it’s a 3.5-litre V6 hybrid drivetrain, so, just like Toyota did with the aforementioned Venza and their newest Sienna minivan, it’s hybrid or the highway, so to speak. Of course, there may be additional options moving forward, but more likely a pure electric variant than anything without electrification. As it is, the Sequoia’s mill makes a substantive 437 horsepower and 583 lb-ft of torque, and feeds its power down to all four wheels through a 10-speed automatic transmission, which includes the usual Eco, Normal and Sport drive modes.
The actual hybrid component is a generator motor positioned between the internal combustion portion of the drivetrain and gearbox, a tried and tested solution, so we should expect much improved fuel economy along with Toyota’s already legendary hybrid reliability and longevity.
With each trim basically set up with the same drivetrain capabilities, performance differences will come down to suspension options, whether optimized for handling and comfort or off-road prowess. All should provide enough stability and manoeuvrability to keep the engine power in check on fast-paced curving roadways, however, achievable via a combination of improved chassis design and rigidity, plus a new independent front suspension design and new rack-mounted electronic power steering system, which is said to enhance feel. A more advanced multi-link rear suspension has also been added to the mix, plus Sequoia owners can option their rigs out with an adaptive variable suspension setup, which adds Comfort, Sport S, Sport S+ and Custom settings to the Drive Mode Select system’s menu, and a height-adjustable air suspension with load leveling, which is especially helpful when lifting heavy items into the cargo area.
Also impressive is the new Sequoia’s 9,000-lb (4,080-kg) towing capacity. This is almost 22-percent more than the current model, and therefore allows for much larger camp trailers and boats, which is a key reason that buyers buck up for larger utilities in the first place. Along with its upgraded tow rating, the Sequoia will utilize features shown first with the new Tundra when choosing its Tow Tech Package, such as Trailer Backup Guide that makes it easier to reverse with a trailer, and Straight Path Assist that, via the steering system, helps keep the trailer straight when backing up. Additionally, the power mirrors now include automatic extensions for seeing around the sides of wider loads.
Some additional features include standard heated front seats and a standard heatable steering wheel rim, Toyota’s proprietary breathable Softex leatherette, a panoramic sunroof, 18-inch wheels, and the TSS 2.5 suite of convenience and safety features.
An available 14-inch centre touchscreen improves the Sequoia’s digital experience, including a Panoramic View Monitor that makes parking easier, especially with a trailer, while a digital display rearview mirror is also available, as is a fully digital and very colourful driver’s display.
As for the Sequoia’s cabin layout, it comes with three rows including a bench for the second row, but can be optioned with second-row captain’s chairs. Additionally, the third row can slide back and forth up to 150 mm (6.0 in), plus provides reclining backrests, while Toyota provides a unique parcel shelf in the cargo area that covers those seatbacks when folded down, resulting in a totally flat load floor. For hauling taller items, the parcel shelf can be fitted back into the floor, or alternatively it can be raised higher to act as a cargo cover. Smart.
While it might take some time for the new Sequoia to catch on, Toyota is probably looking to its loyal 4Runner, Highlander, and to some extent, Tacoma owner base to fill order books. While news about the new 2023 Sequoia will create some excitement, the nameplate isn’t strong enough to pull many conquest buyers away from the big three, despite having been around since 2001. Toyota just hasn’t updated it enough to create any kind of long-term growth, and certainly hasn’t marketed much, other than featuring it on its retail website.
The result has been slow, but steady sales. The 418 units sold into Canada through 2021 was less than half of its all-time Canadian high of 912 deliveries in 2010. The numbers remained just above or just below 700 per year until 2018, before dipping downward over the last few years. In case you were wondering, the Nissan Armada, which is the Sequoia’s most obvious challenger, only sold 413 units in 2010, yet, due to a major second-generation redesign (that’s really a global-market Patrol, the full-size Land Cruiser’s main rival in other markets), saw its deliveries rise to a high of 1,435 units in 2018, before falling down to Sequoia levels for the last three years.
Of course, neither set of numbers would cause a carmaker to invest the necessary money to develop and market an all-new model, which should make us Canadians grateful to our friends south of the border that have 10 times the purchasing pool. To be clear, while we were selling just over 400 Sequoias here in Canada, the U.S. market delivered 22,815. Even that number would have to increase to make a business case viable, but there’s a lot of potential upside when looking at the rest of the full-size SUV market.
Last year it totaled 21,999 units in Canada and 388,294 in the U.S., and General Motors walked away with almost three quarters of Canada’s full-size SUV deliveries, at 15,307 units, plus a staggering 275,421 new buyers in the States. GMC’s Yukon was number one in Canada’s market with 8,338 examples sold, its two body-style line beating both the Chevy Tahoe (4,590) and Suburban (2,379) by a wide margin, while Ford’s Expedition ended up second from a model perspective, with 4,878 individual deliveries. While all this is good for GM and Ford, the new Sequoia could slice off a larger section from that lucrative pie.
Helping Toyota’s cause is the highest retained value in the Canadian Black Book’s “Full-size Crossover-SUV” category, plus the top podium in the “Large SUV/Crossover” category for Vincentric’s Best Value in Canada Awards. The Sequoia also topped J.D. Power and Associate’s 2021 Initial Quality Study, which doesn’t hurt matters. It almost makes a person want to buy the outgoing Sequoia, which is still available with factory leasing and financing rates from 2.99 percent. Check out CarCostCanada for details, plus find out how accessing dealer invoice pricing could you save thousands off retail, plus remember to download their free app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store.
The new Sequoia will be available this summer, with orders starting sooner. Contact your local Toyota dealer for more info.
2023 Toyota Sequoia Overview | Toyota (7:07):
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