2019 Ford Explorer vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The middle row seatbelts optional on the Explorer inflate when a collision is detected, helping to spread crash forces over a much larger area of the body and limiting head and neck movement. This can help prevent spinal and internal injuries. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer inflatable seatbelts.

Compared to metal, the Explorer’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a metal gas tank.

Both the Explorer and the Highlander Hybrid have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height-adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available all-wheel drive, collision warning systems, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, front and rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH, results indicate that the Ford Explorer is safer than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid:

 

Explorer

Highlander Hybrid

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Hip Force

214 lbs.

348 lbs.

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Spine Acceleration

36 G’s

41 G’s

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

There are over 2 times as many Ford dealers as there are Toyota dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Explorer’s warranty.

Reliability

The Explorer has a standard “limp home system” to keep drivers from being stranded if most or all of the engine’s coolant is lost. The engine will run on only half of its cylinders at a time, reduce its power and light a warning lamp on the dashboard so the driver can get to a service station for repairs. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a lost coolant limp home mode, so a coolant leak could strand you or seriously damage the truck’s engine.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Explorer third among midsize suvs in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The Highlander Hybrid isn’t in the top three.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Ford vehicles are better in initial quality than Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Ford fifth in initial quality, above the industry average. With 15 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 17th, below the industry average.

Engine

The Explorer Sport/Platinum’s standard 3.5 turbo V6 produces 59 more horsepower (365 vs. 306) than the Highlander Hybrid’s 3.5 DOHC V6 hybrid.

Fuel Economy and Range

The Explorer has 1.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the Highlander Hybrid (18.6 vs. 17.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

The Explorer has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Explorer’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Highlander Hybrid:

 

Explorer

Highlander Hybrid

Front Rotors

13.85 inches

12.9 inches

Rear Rotors

13.5 inches

12.2 inches

The Explorer’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Highlander Hybrid are solid, not vented.

The Explorer stops much shorter than the Highlander Hybrid:

 

Explorer

Highlander Hybrid

 

70 to 0 MPH

166 feet

187 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

123 feet

124 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Explorer’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Highlander Hybrid (255/50R20 vs. 245/55R19).

The Explorer’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Highlander Hybrid Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Explorer offers optional 20-inch wheels. The Highlander Hybrid’s largest wheels are only 19-inches.

Suspension and Handling

The Explorer has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Highlander Hybrid’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The Explorer has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Explorer’s wheelbase is 3 inches longer than on the Highlander Hybrid (112.8 inches vs. 109.8 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Explorer is 2.6 inches wider in the front and 2.8 inches wider in the rear than on the Highlander Hybrid.

The Explorer Sport 4WD handles at .83 G’s, while the Highlander Hybrid Limited pulls only .77 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Explorer Limited 4WD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Highlander Hybrid Limited (27.7 seconds @ .63 average G’s vs. 28.2 seconds @ .62 average G’s).

Chassis

The Ford Explorer may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 50 to 450 pounds less than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

The front grille of the Explorer uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

Passenger Space

The Explorer has 6.6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Highlander Hybrid (151.5 vs. 144.9).

The Explorer has .7 inches more front headroom, .1 inches more front hip room, 2.2 inches more front shoulder room, .7 inches more rear headroom, 1.1 inches more rear legroom, 2 inches more rear shoulder room, 1.9 inches more third row headroom and 6.6 inches more third row legroom than the Highlander Hybrid.

Cargo Capacity

The Explorer’s cargo area provides more volume than the Highlander Hybrid.

 

Explorer

Highlander Hybrid

Behind Third Seat

21 cubic feet

13.8 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

43.9 cubic feet

42.3 cubic feet

The Explorer has a standard third row seat which folds flat into the floor. This completely clears a very large cargo area quickly. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer seats that fold into the floor.

Pressing a switch automatically lowers or raises the Explorer Sport/Platinum’s optional second and third row seats, to make changing between cargo and passengers easier. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Explorer’s liftgate can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Towing

Maximum trailer towing in the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is limited to 3500 pounds. The Explorer offers up to a 5000 lbs. towing capacity.

Ergonomics

The Explorer offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Explorer (except Base/XLT)’s optional easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The power windows standard on both the Explorer and the Highlander Hybrid have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Explorer is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Highlander Hybrid prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

On a hot day the Explorer’s driver can lower the front windows from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Highlander Hybrid can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer XLT/Limited/Sport/Platinum’s exterior keypad. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer an exterior keypad entry system.

The Explorer’s standard speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Highlander Hybrid’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

The Explorer offers optional automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Highlander Hybrid offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The Explorer (except Base/XLT/Sport)’s optional Enhanced Active Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Model Availability

The Explorer is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Recommendations

The Ford Explorer outsold the Toyota Highlander by 7% during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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