Should you’re hoping to get a three-row hybrid, you’re sadly not going to have many decisions. The Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer are actually the one gamers – the Kia Sorento has a 3rd row, but it surely’s extra for infrequent use. There are additionally some luxury-badged plug-in hybrids, however their costs put them nicely past the Highlander and Explorer. So let’s take a better take a look at this pair, however we’ll let you know proper now that they’re extraordinarily completely different. Which is best for you? Check out the solutions to the questions beneath and it needs to be fairly apparent which might be a greater match to your wants.
Learn our full 2023 Ford Explorer Overview
Learn our full 2023 Toyota Highlander Overview
Which will get higher gas economic system?
Since we’re speaking in regards to the Explorer and Highlander hybrids, let’s begin off with gas economic system. Briefly, the Highlander wins by a landslide. It returns 35 mpg metropolis, 35 mpg freeway and 35 mpg mixed with all-wheel drive (front-wheel drive will get 36 mpg). The all-wheel-drive Explorer Hybrid returns 23 mpg metropolis, 26 mpg freeway and 25 mpg mixed (rear-wheel-drive get 27 mpg mixed).
That’s as large of a distinction because it appears. In accordance with EPA annual gas prices estimates, the Highlander Hybrid AWD would value you $1,550 per yr to refill. The Explorer would value you $2,200. Now, it needs to be stated that the Explorer Hybrid is actually higher than the 22-mpg commonplace Explorer engine.
So, what’s the deal right here? Why is the Explorer Hybrid a lot decrease? See the following part.
Which is extra highly effective?
The Highlander Hybrid encompasses a 2.5-liter four-cylinder and electrical motors that mix for 243 horsepower. It may possibly tow 3,500 kilos. The Explorer Hybrid, alternatively, encompasses a 3.3-liter V6 and an electrical motor that collectively produce 318 hp. It may possibly tow 5,000 kilos. In case it’s not apparent, the Explorer’s acceleration is enormously superior and sounds so much higher than Toyota’s droning hybrid powertrain.
Briefly, the Explorer Hybrid affords extra energy and barely higher effectivity than the bottom Explorer engine. The Highlander, in the meantime, sacrifices some efficiency for gas economic system that blows away the competitors.
Which is best to drive?
Due to the superior acceleration produced by its smoother, quieter powertrain, we’d give the nod to the Explorer right here. Neither is without doubt one of the extra participating choices within the section, however additionally they don’t disappoint. This actually isn’t a purpose to decide on or keep away from both.
Which is extra comfy?
The suspensions of each the Highlander and Explorer Hybrid are tuned for consolation (some would argue to their detriment), so we doubt anybody would object to the journey high quality of both. Third-row area apart (see beneath), we haven’t seen something objectionable about seat consolation in both, however that’s an awfully private choice that may solely be absolutely answered by back-to-back check drives.
Which has a nicer inside?
Huge-time victory for the Toyota Highlander right here. Not solely does it have one of many extra spectacular cabins within the section with a good-looking design and above-average supplies high quality (particularly within the high trim degree proven right here), however the Explorer fairly frankly disappoints on each fronts. Issues get spruced up a good bit within the King Ranch and Timberline with their distinctive colour schemes, however they’re not accessible as hybrids, and usually, the Explorer has one of many weakest cabins amongst three-row household SUVs.
Which has higher infotainment expertise?
The Highlander acquired Toyota’s newest touchscreen infotainment system for 2023. Whereas its graphics and processing speeds are high notch, its performance frustrates. Radio performance is odd, the navigation map deletes your zoom and orientation preferences if you transfer away to a different display, and there’s no straightforward manner (like a house button) to rapidly exit Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. The Explorer’s Sync3 touchscreen interfaces share the identical Apple/Android escape difficulty, however is usually the better system to make use of whether or not you get the usual 8-inch display (beneath left) or 10.1-inch vertically oriented display (above left). We’d add the larger display doesn’t actually improve performance such as you may anticipate, however we’d usually quite use it than Toyota’s.
Which has the larger again seat?
Second-row area needs to be comparable between these two, and like most within the section, there’s a alternative of bench and second-row captain’s chairs. The third rows are the place the large variations lie. The Highlander principally has the least spacious third-row within the section (there’s a purpose Toyota is introducing a Grand Highlander), and whereas the Explorer’s is way from class-leading, large children, youngsters and a few adults shall be far happier again there.
Which has extra cargo capability and performance?
One other victory for the Explorer. Because of a detachable ground panel, there’s extra space behind the raised third row than most rivals. The Highlander, against this, has much less area again there than most rivals. The Explorer additionally has extra space when all rows are lowered, however since we’re speaking about such massive areas, the distinction of some cubic-feet is in the end negligible in follow.
Which is safer?
By way of crash assessments and rankings, it’s a tie.
The Insurance coverage Institute for Freeway Security named the Highlander a High Security Choose+ for its best-possible crash safety and crash prevention scores. Its headlight rankings diverse relying on trim degree, and its LATCH anchors obtained a score of “Good” for ease of use. The Nationwide Freeway Visitors Security Administration gave the Highlander 5 out of 5 stars for general crash safety, together with a four-star frontal score and five-star facet score.
The Explorer acquired an ideal 5 stars in all authorities crash assessments carried out, plus a stable four-star rollover score. The Insurance coverage Institute for Freeway Security named it a High Security Choose+ in 2022 attributable to its best-possible efficiency in all crash assessments and high scores for its commonplace accident avoidance tech. Its headlights have been rated “Acceptable,” thus permitting it to get the High Security Choose+ prize.
By way of security tech and driver help options, each include ahead collision warning, automated emergency braking, lane-keeping help and blind-spot warning. The Highlander additionally contains adaptive cruise management; it’s an possibility for the Explorer.
Are there variations that stand out greater than others?
Your entire Ford Explorer lineup affords a higher number of trim ranges that fulfill completely different tastes. There’s the sporty ST-Line and ST, the luxurious Platinum and King Ranch, and the off-road-oriented Timberline. Sadly, the Hybrid can solely be had because the Restricted and Platinum, which not solely limits its selection however raises the price of entry. The Highlander Hybrid, against this, is out there in each Highlander trim degree, save the sportier XSE, however counters with its personal, distinctive trim degree the Bronze Version. That’s principally simply an look package deal with, you guessed it, varied bronze trim items, but it surely’s one thing.
When was the final time they have been redesigned?
The present-generation Ford Explorer dates again to the 2020 mannequin yr, and so far as the Hybrid is worried, has not been up to date since. The Highlander was additionally final redesigned for 2020, however 2023 noticed the noteworthy addition of the newest Toyota tech interface.
Which is cheaper and affords extra tools?
As a result of the Explorer Hybrid isn’t accessible within the gas-only mannequin’s base or XLT trim ranges, the value of entry is a hefty $55,245, together with vacation spot costs. The Highlander Hybrid, which begins off on the LE trim degree (the second within the gas-only vary), has a base value of $41,555. Actually, even the most costly Highlander Hybrid trim degree, the Platinum, prices lower than the entry-level Explorer Hybrid.
Now, this speaks to 2 parts: the Explorer Hybrid being as a lot a efficiency improve as it’s a gas economic system alternative, but additionally Ford’s resolution to restrict the Hybrid to higher trim ranges. That doesn’t change the truth that the Highlander Hybrid is considerably cheaper and contains extra tools for much less cash.