2003 Toyota Highlander 6 cyl from North America


Reliable to the point of loyalty, and boring


Very little.

General Comments:

This is the most reliable car I have ever owned. It is actually our 2nd Highlander.

The first one we bought new and sold within a year to go traveling for the next year.

This is the second one we have owned. It is a 2003 which we swapped for a 2001 Merc ST because we were about to move from the west to the east coast, winter and 4x4.

We crossed the continent and went all sort of places, we drive it in town and on the highway. We maintain our cars, but this one needs very little.

Right after purchase we did a major service, including the belt, all filters and fluids, rotors and calipers (the rear ones are sliding and they get stuck if not serviced on time) and all other little things.

It is dead stock other than a remote starter.

We have reached about 250,000 km now and all I had to replace was the rear axles, the CV joints were making noise.

Here is the problem.

I am a gear head, I like cars for their engineering content and I do not care if they are valuable or not, as long as they are interesting to me.

I own several Maseratis and Ferraris as well as Alfas and others. Everyone including the Westphalia and the Citroen 2CV are interesting in some way to me.

Our beloved Highlander is boring hopeless. I have been wanting to exchange it for something a little more inspiring, but I just cannot justify another daily driver to replace the HL.

This is a better car than most. It is ideal for east coast commuting and it is dead reliable, sufficiently comfortable and decent on gas. It seats 4 in luxury or 5 a little tight, we are 2 now. Even on sunny days I often go down to the garage and look at the car, Italian mistresses, German school principals and French frogs and all, but in the end I take the good ol' HL.

Maybe I am just old (a Caddy next, maybe not), but this car is like an old mate. We know each other and we need not talk in the morning, we just go to work.

Amazing Japanese engineering and American build.

Surely recommend it.

What can I buy to make my HL interesting, what present should I buy for my HL?

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 5th December, 2015

2003 Toyota Highlander Limited AWD 3.0L V6 gasoline from North America


An exceptionally reliable vehicle, average mileage, ride and noise control, and decent handling


Vehicle skid control - at about 220,000 miles.

Otherwise - no problems other than consumable items (headlights, tires, battery, filters, etc.)

General Comments:

1. Very reliable overall: I've never had a problem that stranded me during a trip, and I was stuck on the road 3 times in my 1999 Mercedes ML320 (an exceptionally unreliable vehicle), which this 2003 Highlander replaced.

2. Value: very high. The exceptional reliability of this vehicle has resulted in an excellent experience over the past 12 years (I have owned this vehicle since it was new). My Highlander has over 277,000 miles as of this writing.

My wife also has a 2003 Highlander V6 Limited AWD with approximately 145,000 miles on it.

3. Long-term comfort: the noise level in my Highlander has been moderate and its ride is average at best (perhaps due to inflating all 4 tires to 35# because most of my driving is on the highway). The air conditioner has performed very well, including in the depths of the summer heat. Heat has also performed very well, but I use it much less often.

4. Handling: average, but adequate for this type of vehicle. All wheel drive probably helps. My Highlander performs very well in snow and I have never been stuck (even in deep snow).

5. Fuel mileage: average at best - around 20 MPG on the highway and roughly 15 MPH city. Big plus - the Highlander uses 87 octane gasoline. This will save lots over the long term (277.000 miles, so far, in my case). One very good sign is that the fuel mileage has been the same since the vehicle was new.

6. Mechanical: very reliable overall except the vehicle's speed control system, which malfunctioned at about 212,000 miles. Important -> I switched to fully synthetic motor oil when the vehicle was new. The engine does not burn oil even to this day.

7. Service: dealer service is average at best, and no bargain. I check the fluids every time before driving off the dealer lot and one time had to add about 1 qt. of transmission fluid. The dealer acted as if I read the dipstick incorrectly. I used to be an auto mechanic (many years ago) and I understand how to read the gauges, dipsticks and how to diagnose problems.

The one bright spot at the dealer was the salesman, who was knowledgeable and honest about the cars he sold.

Important -> I have the Highlander serviced regularly and I check the fluids at least once a week. I am about to have my 3rd timing belt change. I have the major working fluids changed a little more often than is necessary, mainly because it is easier for me to keep track.

8. Towing: I bought the towing package with this vehicle when it was new, and I frequently towed 5x8 enclosed trailers. I never had any problems.

The towing package also includes a transmission fluid heat exchanger (cooler), which helps over the long term. The frequent need to tow trailers was the reason I bought the vehicle with the V6, about which I am now very happy since there were head-bolt problems with the 4 cylinder engine.

9. Overall: I would definitely buy another Toyota, probably a RAV 4 next time since they made the Highlander too large for my needs. I expect to put between 350,000 and 400,000 miles on my Highlander before it is done.

10. Greatest disappointment: I could not get this vehicle with a manual transmission, but the 4 speed automatic has performed adequately over the vehicle's life so far and has had no problems.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 18th May, 2015

24th May 2015, 03:46

277,000 miles. On the original transmission. Kinda says something in a world where your typical transmission rebuild is at $2,500, and they don't do 100,000 miles ;). You don't need that grief.

The cooler might have played a role in this. The more you can keep the transmission fluid at 180 degrees, the longer it lives - and your transmission lives.

The transmission says something about the engineering of the vehicle itself :)