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2023 Toyota Highlander Turbo Lag + Acceleration Hesitation

Class Action Investigation

Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

Updated on Author: Sergei Lemberg

Lemberg Law is investigating numerous complaints that the 2023 Toyota Highlander has a major turbo lag problem. Many owners are complaining that their vehicles don’t respond when they accelerate from a stop. Then they experience a power surge that many fear will result in a crash.     

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Are There Turbo Lag Problems with the 2023 Toyota Highlander?

There are serious turbo lag issues with the 2023 Toyota Highlander. Complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) describe the problem as an accident waiting to happen. These are listed as engine, powertrain, fuel/propulsion, and/or unknown or other issues. Most complaints are shown as being a problem that combines one or more of these components or systems.

There are already dozens of complaints, some of which report that dealerships are unable to diagnose the problem, despite the fact that there are numerous complaints.

Members of the Toyota Nation forum are also highlighting the problem. One member with a sense of humor says he’s “the proud owner of a new 2023 Limited Highlander AWD with the 2.4 Turbo.” But his description of what happens doesn’t show pride. “I am getting a lot of herky-jerky while under normal or moderate acceleration. Full throttle and just creeping around off boost is not a problem. It feels like a mass air flow sensor problem or a modified turbo car that has not been tuned. It’s a surging and or bucking feeling. I nicknamed the Highlander Sergio. I’ve nicknamed the engine, Marble Mouth.” Clearly unimpressed, he goes on to say that the “Highlander engine noise is embarrassing in traffic.”

What are Owners Experiencing with Acceleration Hesitation in the Highlander?

Owners are complaining that their 2023 Highlanders hesitate during light to moderate acceleration in all driving modes. Then the SUV surges from a stop, typically to 35-40 mph. A major concern is the safety risk when merging into traffic from a stop light or sign.

Dealers Unable to Help

According to an owner in Texas, Toyota dealerships are well aware of the “horrendous” problem which they describe as “the ‘turbo lag’.” His NHTSA complaint states that the vehicle has extremely poor acceleration from a stop. “It is very dangerous when pulling out into traffic as acceleration falls flat for a second or two until it eventually responds and accelerates.” While he is aware of what he calls this “poor performance,” he feels “ it is a matter of time until something bad happens.”

Imagine his horror when he was told by the dealership that “the vehicle drives as designed. Since there are no faults, the dealership has washed their hands.” He then contacted Toyota headquarters and tried to open a case. But he was told, “Sorry we do not have anything to offer”.

“The complaints are all over the internet from a simple Google search and I believe Toyota will eventually release updated software as this really negatively impacts the performance of a 50K vehicle. Right now they seem to be in a state of denial and I am really disappointed.”

An owner from Georgia states that the dealership technician noticed the hesitation when accelerating. But because there were no diagnostic trouble codes (DTCs) there didn’t seem to be a malfunction.

An owner from North Carolina tells the usual story. “Upon acceleration, (the) car hesitates then surges.” This pattern emerged when the SUV had done about 2,000 miles. The complaint states that it happens mostly from a dead start. However, it continues upon acceleration up to 50 mph, and the Toyota dealer wasn’t able to diagnose the problem. Like many others, this owner is particularly concerned about “pulling out into traffic safely.”

Concern that the Issue will Cause Accidents

There is considerable concern about safety issues. An owner from Florida states that there is a major driveability concern, which is a safety concern. The reality is that hesitation and stutter could happen in traffic which could “cause an accident due to the engine not properly responding to driver input.”

An owner from Texas reports that when his 2023 Highlander “started lagging really bad,” the SUV nearly hit the car in front. “I never know if, when I put my foot on the gas, I’m going to go or not. When pulling out into oncoming traffic I have to make sure the cars are really far away, because again I never know if the car is going to actually get up and go. It lags, (and) shakes like it has no power. Once you get going it’s ok, but to actually get going it’s awful.” Unsurprisingly, this owner is “really nervous” that the SUV will get hit or will hit another vehicle.  But, as others have reported, the “dealership says nothing (is) wrong.”

Another owner from Florida, who bought the SUV for his wife, is majorly concerned. “I do believe this issue, if not resolved, may eventually lead to an accident.”

Toyota Agrees to Replace a 2023 Highlander

This was good news for a Florida owner. But what does it mean in the greater scheme of things when dealerships are saying they can’t do anything to help?

An owner from Florida states how the hesitation and “stutters” were evident from the day he bought the SUV. “This can happen either from a dead stop or while moving in traffic.” Initially, the dealership thought the problem was “related to the transmission learning algorithm.” That changed to a “drivability concern,” which they said had something to do with the fuel used. Then Toyota said several parts associated with the variable valve timing (VVT) needed to be resolved. When this didn’t work, the owner filed a lemon law complaint and Toyota agreed to replace the SUV!

What Should You Do if Your Highlander Has Turbo Lag Issues ?

If your Toyota Highlander has turbo lag issues you may qualify to join our class action investigation. All you have to do is fill out a contact form or call our Helpline. We will evaluate your case to see if you qualify.

There are no costs involved because the law says Toyota must pay the legal bills for all lemon law cases. We value your input.

About the Author:

Sergei Lemberg is an attorney focusing on consumer law, class actions related to automotive issues, and personal injury litigation. With nearly two decades of experience, his areas of practice include Lemon Law (vehicle defects), Debt Collection Harassment, TCPA (illegal robocalls and texts), Fair Credit Reporting Act, Overtime claims, Personal Injury cases, and Class Actions. He has consistently been recognized as the nation's "most active consumer attorney." In 2020, Mr. Lemberg represented Noah Duguid before the United States Supreme Court in the landmark case Duguid v. Facebook. He is also the author of "Defanging Debt Collectors," a guide that empowers consumers to fight back against debt collectors and prevail, as well as "Lemon Law 101: The Laws That Lemon Dealers Don't Want You to Know."

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2 COMMENTS
  • Lonnie O

    I purchased our new 2023 AWD Highlander back in Jan 2023. We now have 19,000 miles and the hesitation when accelerating has only become worse. The other day I needed to merge into traffic and it sputtered so badly with hesitation that it almost caused an accident from traffic behind me. I’ve complained every time during oil changes and of course they say everything is normal. When I requested a tech drive along, his only answer was the vehicle was designed with an engine that lacks power for this size vehicle….my response was…seriously? And here we are after purchasing our first new vehicle at $51, 000 still with this major issue.

  • Mark R

    Same here, 2023 Toyota Highlander Turbo Lag. I feel Tricked into spending $44,000 on this car !!!

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