Toyota Highlander vs Ford Explorer

The Toyota Highlander vs. Ford Explorer head-to-head debate is relevant for a lot of families around Worcester, Auburn, and Shrewsbury. If you want a 3-row SUV with safety, reliability, and maybe even a hybrid engine, these are two of the top models on the market. So, does the Highlander or the Explorer have the edge when it comes to an everyday driver? We’ll make that determination in this comparison.

Our Harr Toyota team understands how important research is to the car-shopping process. Once you know how the Highlander and the Explorer stack up to one another, you can begin considering a test drive!

Better Hybrid Engine

Which SUV Has the Better Hybrid Engine?

Getting the most miles from a single fill-up is easier than ever in the 3-row SUV segment. Both the 2021 Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer can be enjoyed with a hybrid motor. So, which of these hybrids gives you better fuel economy? A look at their specifications shows the Highlander has a noticeable edge.

The Toyota Highlander in front-wheel drive with the hybrid 2.5L motor returns an EPA-estimated 36 city/35 highway MPG.* Ford does what it can to make the hybrid Explorer as efficient as possible, yet the maximum return on fuel economy is an EPA-estimated 27 city MPG/29 highway MPG.

Which SUV Offers More Passenger Room?

Toyota Highlander Passenger Room

The reason you’d want a third row of seats in your SUV is to accommodate as many passengers as possible. So, when we compare the interior passenger room for the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer, an important fact jumps out right away: The Highlander can fit an additional person.

The standard seating capacity for the Highlander is eight people. If you configure the model a certain way, that maximum capacity lowers to seven people. For the Explorer, the maximum seating capacity is seven and in certain configurations, the Ford SUV can only seat six people.


Toyota Highlander Trim Levels

Which SUV Gives You More Trim Options?

Trim levels are the easiest way to create an SUV that’s unique to you. Trims will each come with their own features, technologies, and performance attributes. In addition to packages and accessories, the more trims you have available, the easier it is to customize your Toyota Highlander or Ford Explorer.

Ford offers six trims in total. The standard is simply referred to as the Explorer. You’ll then have the XLT, Limited, ST, King Ranch, and Platinum.

For 2021, Toyota has developed the Highlander with 10 trim options. Feature-rich trims like the L, LE, and Hybrid LE start off the list. You’ll then have the XLE, the Hybrid XLE, and these remaining options:

  • XSE
  • Limited
  • Hybrid Limited
  • Platinum
  • Hybrid Platinum

Toyota Highlander vs Ford Explorer: The 2021 Highlander Is the Superior Family Choice

With more interior passenger room, a better hybrid engine, and more customizability, the Highlander gets the nod over the Explorer. If you want to bring your family along to Harr Toyota and see how everyone fits during a test drive near Worcester, Auburn, and Shrewsbury, we’ll be happy to set up a time that fits your schedule!

* EPA-estimated 21 city/29 hwy/24 combined mpg for 2021 Highlander; 20 city/27 hwy/23 combined for 2021 Highlander AWD; 36 city/35 hwy/36 combined for 2021 Highlander Hybrid. Use for comparison purposes only. Your mileage will vary for many reasons, including your vehicle’s condition and how/where you drive. See

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