2003 Toyota Highlander SUV Review | Edmunds.com

2003 Toyota Highlander SUV

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Toyota Highlander Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 2.4 L Inline 4-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 4-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 155 hp @ 5600 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 19/25 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats No

Review of the 2003 Toyota Highlander

  • Need SUV utility but don't want any unnecessary bulk or fuel bills? The Highlander could very well suit your needs.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Roomy cabin, carlike ride and handling, clean styling.

  • Cons

    Gets expensive quickly, limited towing and off-road ability.

  • What's New for 2003

    There are no changes for the Highlander this year.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

  Average Consumer Rating (51 total reviews)  |  Write a Review

Huge disappointment

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Fwd 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

We bought this SUV new in 2002. We bought it because we have a 1998 Carolla that's been a very reliable car. But not the Highlander. At just under 200,000 k the old leaky head gasket then the stripped head bolt got us. Last year we thought we would keep the Toyota for a few more years so we put money into the few body chips. Bought new tires, winter and summer and put in a new windshield in the spring. Now we had an engine that was toast. Our local Toyota dealer found us a used motor from another Toyota and installed it. They say it only has 70,000 k but who knows. So we spent $7600.00 so far.

Blown head gasket engine 4cyl

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Fwd 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

Beware of the dreaded code stating leakage in exhaust system, for this is an idication of the head gasket going and leaking coolant. Upon further review it is found thatrear head bolts are stripped due to excessive heat most like caused by foam insulator pad between plastic intake manifold and engine. Some say engine is toast, but the fix rec. is a time sert insert kit (approx $500 helicoil) with drill guide. Mine is to be currently repaired at about a total cost of $2,900.00 as long as the helicoil kit holds the head bolt torque, we will see? It is a design flaw in my opinion as it seems to be a regular issue with the four cylinder Highlanders approx.2001-2005? Failure was at 160,000 mi.

Good car

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Fwd 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

I've had my Toyota highlander for about 5 months now. When I first got it it had almost 216,000 miles. It's a great SUV and pretty reliable with decent gas mileage. At about 218,000 miles the temperature gauge started going up , almost to red. It would go up and then down to normal and repeat. Turned out I blew a head gasket. While it was at the shop being repaired they found that the head bolts were stripped which is a known problem with this year ,make and type of engine my highlander has. Ended up paying $3,700 to get fixed. Despite the major repair I haven't had any other problems with it. I'm at 222,000 miles and it runs great. I'm hoping on making it to 300,000 + miles.

5 of 9 people found this review helpful

2003 highlander engine failure 147,000

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Fwd 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

Just like others I have read on this site, my 2003 run hot and after having it towed for service and repair I was told the engine needs to be replaced. The cost for the re-built engine was $6,400 - $8,500 depending on who you called. Very disappointed in the built strong organization I put so much trust in.

Stripped head-bolts

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Fwd 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

Never had a problem with this vehicle until Jan 25 2011 as I was driving across town. Coolant leak brought me to a dead stop. I discovered a common problem with this engine (2.4L 4cyl). Just Google Highlander stripped head-bolts to see how many of these engines are dying and how expensive the fix is. Mine had only 126,000 miles on it. I am the original owner. The dealer will not help with repair costs even though this is a manufacturing and or design issue.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

Former toyota...stripped head bolts

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Vehicle: 2003 Toyota Highlander Fwd 4dr SUV (2.4L 4cyl 4A)

2003 Toyota Highlander 2.4 L 4-cylinder engine, 108,000 miles, perfect service, until it developed coolant leak on the back side of the top of the engine, adjacent to an insulator pad at the back of the engine block. The back 3 head bolts were completely stripped, allowing coolant to leak into the engine. Toyota dealer says the short block or entire engine must be replaced, with no other option [$5200- $7400+.] Based on the frequency of identical engine failures, faulty factory assembly and/or design assures eventual failure of the engine. 25-year Toyota fan, probably lost forever.

Full 2003 Toyota Highlander Review

What's New for 2003

There are no changes for the Highlander this year.

Talk About The 2003 Highlander

Read more about the 2003 Toyota Highlander

Gas Mileage


  • 19
  • cty
  • 25
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs