Here’s How The Toyota Highlander Stacks Up Against The Competition

The current version of the Toyota Highlander was released in 2019 and is the fourth generation of the car. The Highlander remains highly underrated, with broad appeal, catering for the middle mass-market segment, it is primarily designed as a family vehicle. Notable features include a three-row, seven-seat configuration and the option of a hybrid powertrain, which is something that is relatively rare within this segment.

With the ongoing thirst for SUVs seeing no end in sight, many manufacturers have also released competing offerings. The elevated driving position, perceived safety, and bundles of practicality ensure vehicles in this segment remain very desirable propositions. The vehicles on this list mainly cater to the mass market, they are to be viewed less as alternatives to more premium offerings but rather have more focus on utility. These SUVs are the definition of a daily driver, meeting all of the buyer’s needs and more.

The Highlander is available as both a front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive version; there are two different engine options. The first is a 3.5-liter, 295 hp, V6 petrol engine and is the standard offering. Also available, is a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder petrol engine that is combined with two electric motors to produce a 243 hp hybrid powertrain. Both offer relatively comparable performance figures with 0-60 mph times of 7.2 and 8.3 seconds respectively. In the UK, only the hybrid is available to buy, given the price of fuel in that market it is perhaps unsurprising the 3.5-liter V6 is not sold.

The EPA puts the Highlander’s highway rating at 29 mpg for the V6 and 35 mpg for the hybrid when selected in the front-wheel-drive specification. Below are a number of the Highlander’s competitors, let’s see how they stack up.

Related: The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE Is An Odd Choice For A Midsize Family SUV

Ford Explorer

Ford-Explorer_ST-Line Front

Via: NetCarShow

The Ford Explorer is another hybrid offering within the segment. The base engine is a 2.3 liter, 300 hp, turbocharged four-cylinder, a hybrid consisting of a 3.3 liter, 400 hp, twin-turbo V6 is also available. Fuel consumption is further improved through the use of a 10-speed automatic gearbox, combined mpg is rated at 27. The Highlander hybrid is far superior in this respect, achieving a combined 35 mpg.

Ford-Explorer_ST-Line Interior

Via: NetCarShow

Buyers must decide whether they want to prioritize fuel economy from their hybrid, something let’s face it is the point of a hybrid or practicality. The Explorer has a 5000 pound towing capacity versus the Highlander’s much reduced 3500-pound capacity.

Mazda CX-9


Via: MazdaUSA

Arguably the most luxurious and well put together of the cars on this list. The Mazda CX-9 starts at $34,100 for the sport trim and a 2.5 liter, 250 hp, turbocharged 4 cylinder engine. This is an interesting choice given that the majority of the Highlander’s competitors are fitted out with V6s, the 0-60 time is fairly comparable with others though at 7.2 seconds. Interestingly, the power output is reduced quite significantly to 227 hp when used with regular 97 octane fuel, the 250 hp can only be achieved with premium 93 octane fuel. There is only one engine option, it is also only available as a 6-speed automatic, the only choice buyers have is whether to choose front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.


Via: MazdaUSA

The car has several features that enhance the luxurious feel including 3 zone climate control, 2nd-row retractable window blinds, heated seats in the first two rows, a heated steering wheel, and a 12 speaker Bose sound system. Compared to the Highlander, the Mazda is arguably more refined in its ride and handling, this is supported by U.S. NEWS review of the model that describes it as class-leading.

Hyundai Santa Fe

Hyundai-Santa_Fe_US-Version Front

Via: NetCarShow

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a great value offering, the entry-level SE retails for $27,200 and includes a 2.5 liter, 191 hp, 4 cylinder engine. A hybrid option is also available, two, in fact, a regular and a plug-in (PHEV). Both options use a 1.6-liter petrol engine as the internal combustion element in combination with electric motors. The regular hybrid produces 227 bhp while the PHEV produces 261 bhp. There are 7 seats and a much more luxurious and upmarket interior than the previous version. The Highlander by comparison starts at a significantly higher $35,205. The Santa Fe is a good option for those looking to tow as it has a trailer sway control. The system works with the ESC and the car automatically reduces the throttle and applies the brakes to regain control and stability. There are also several other safety features included, making this one of the safest SUVs.

Hyundai-Santa_Fe_ Rear

Via: NetCarShow

Warranty coverage is great providing a 10 year/100,000-mile protection on the powertrain.

Volkswagen Atlas


Via: NetCarShow

The Volkswagen Atlas is perhaps, slightly confusingly, an SUV offering from a European brand but not sold in Europe. VW has instead designed the car primarily to appeal to the North American market. There are 3 rows, providing 7 seats and a 20.6 cubic feet cargo capacity, this can be greatly increased to 96.8 with all rows folded flat. By comparison, the Highlander has a smaller 16.0 cubic feet capacity and 84.3 with the three rows folded. It starts at $33,475 for the SE trim, this has a good level of tech and features as standard including VW Digital Cockpit and heated front seats.

Volkswagen-Atlas-2021 Rear

Via: NetCarShow

Regarding engines, buyers can select either a 234 hp, 2.0-liter 4 cylinder, or a 276 hp, 3.6-liter V6, the V6 is the same great engine used in the Passat R36 albeit with slightly fewer hp.

Related: Last Hurrah: Check Out The 2022 VW Passat Farewell Edition For America

Kia Telluride

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