Toyota Highlander XLE Vs Limited: Which Trim is Right for You?
The Toyota Highlander is a wildly popular mid-size SUV that saw a significant update for the 2023 model year.
Gone is the V6 engine, replaced by a new turbocharged four-cylinder. Other updates have taken place inside and out of the family hauler, but one thing remains mostly the same – the trim lineup. Available in a host of configurations, buyers are left with the same conundrum that has faced them for years. Which model should they get?
To help them make that decision, we are analyzing two of the most popular trim levels available. Neither the base model nor the fully loaded version, these are the sweet spot within the vehicle’s lineup. It’s a head-to-head of the Toyota Highlander XLE vs Limited. We hope this helps with future purchasing decisions.
The 2023 Toyota Highlander features revised styling on the exterior. Up front, there’s a larger, more prominent lower grille and relocated fog lights. In the back the taillights are thinner and stretch across more of the rear hatch, giving the vehicle a wider, sleeker look.
At first glance, not much separates the XLE and the Limited, but there are some small differences. Most noticeable are the wheels, with a set of machine-finished 18-inch alloy wheels equipped to the XLE while larger 20-inch chrome wheels are on the Limited.
Up front, the silver finish around the grille on the XLE is replaced by a chrome strip on the Limited. The Limited also receives LED-strip daytime running lights around the LED headlights. The XLE does not receive the LED daytime running lights, but does have LED headlights. The fog lights on the Limited are also of a slightly different design, labelled as high output.
At the rear, the black lower bumper finish on the XLE switches to grey metallic paint for the Limited. The roof rails also differ, with the XLE having flat silver paint compared to the Limited’s shinier silver finish.
Toyota Highlander XLE vs Limited: Cabin Space
Inside, both trim levels get a 10-way power driver’s seat and 8-way power passenger seat. The seats are covered in a SofTex material in the XLE while the Limited features real leather surfaces. The Limited continues with premium touches such as faux wood door and dash trim, noise-reducing front windows, and front metal scuff plates.
Both trims can be configured for seven passengers with second row captain’s chairs, or for eight passengers with a second-row bench. Dimensionally the two trims are identical inside, with front seat passengers enjoying 39.6-inches of headroom and 42.0-inches of legroom. Those in the second row still receive 39.4-inches of headroom and 38.7-inches of legroom, while the third row is a bit more cramped, with 36.1-inches of headroom and 28.0-inches of legroom.
Powertrain and Fuel Economy
Perhaps the biggest change for the 2023 Toyota Highlander occurs under the hood. Gone is the venerable 3.5-liter V6 engine, replaced by a more modern 2.4-liter turbocharged unit. Although power is down slightly to 265 hp, torque is way up with 310 lb-ft. now on tap.
Power is fed through an 8-speed automatic to the front wheels by default, but all-wheel drive is optional on either the XLE or Limited. For front wheel drive models, fuel economy is listed at 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. All wheel drive versions drop these ratings by 1 mpg, down to 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
The only real difference is the dynamic torque vectoring AWD with driveline disconnect that's featured on the Limited. It also includes Multi-Terrain Select.
Cargo and Towing
The two trims are equal when it comes to capability measures like cargo capacity and towing. Either model can tow upwards of 5,000 lbs. when properly equipped, regardless if the vehicle is front or all-wheel drive. Front wheel drive XLE models weigh in at 4,199 lbs. while the Limited is a bit heavier at 4,265 lbs. Adding all-wheel drive adds around 275 lbs. to either trim level.
Inside, the Highlander can carry 16.0 cu ft. (453 L) of cargo behind the third row of seats. This figure expands to 48.4 cubic feet (1,371 liters) with the third row folded flat, and 84.3 cu ft. (2,387 L) when the second row is folded flat as well.
Toyota Highlander XLE vs Limited: Safety
The Toyota Highlander comes standard with a lot of safety equipment. Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ is included for all trim levels and features items like a pre-collision system, lane departure assist, lane tracing assistant, adaptive cruise control, and more.
The XLE ups the safety quotient by including an anti-theft alarm, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert. The Limited further improves on the Highlander’s safety by also adding dynamic guidelines to the reverse camera, front and rear parking assist, reverse automatic braking, and the option of around view 360-degree cameras.
Tech and Features
Features and technology is where things differ a bit between the Toyota Highlander XLE vs Limited. The XLE comes well equipped with a free trial for Toyota’s Connected Services as well as a 7-inch color multi-information display screen between the gauges. An 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system is standard and includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Optional on the XLE is a larger 12.3-inch infotainment system.
The Limited trim level comes standard with the larger 12.3-inch infotainment system and one-ups the XLE by including an 11-speaker JBL sound system. The color multi-information display screen is also upsized in the Limited, now measuring 12.3-inches to match the infotainment system.
Other enhancements to the Limited include power folding side mirrors, handsfree power liftgate, a tonneau cover, ambient lighting, and a heated steering wheel.
The Toyota Highlander XLE begins at a price of $43,155 after destination charges for front wheel drive models. The second-row bench seat is a no cost option while the 12.3-inch Toyota Audio Multimedia package will set customers back $735. Adding all-wheel drive to the XLE costs an additional $1,175.
The Limited trim level starts at a price of $47,410 (inc. destination) for the front-wheel drive model. Adding all-wheel drive to the Limited is a bit more costly, requiring an additional $1,525. Like the XLE, the second-row bench is a no-cost item. There is one other option package available on the Limited, the $850 Panoramic View Monitor.
Toyota Highlander XLE vs Limited: Verdict
The amount of choice is vast with the Toyota Highlander. There are multiple trims that can be equipped with a choice of drivetrains and various option packages. Then there’s the Hybrid options we didn’t even get into with this comparison.
Circling back specifically to the Toyota Highlander XLE vs Limited, it’s a choice of value for the money. The gap between the two models is large enough to notice, but not unreasonable. Value conscious consumers might prefer a lower L or LE trim while those looking for the ultimate Highlander can step up to the Platinum. For those shopping in the mid-trims, where the XLE and Limited reside, you can’t go wrong with either trim.
If it’s our money though? We’ll gladly spend the extra few thousand for the Limited to receive all the upgrades it includes.
Become an AutoGuide insider. Get the latest from the automotive world first by subscribing to our newsletter here.
A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.
More by Mike Schlee