2019 Ford Flex vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The middle row seatbelts optional on the Flex 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 doesn’t offer inflatable seatbelts.

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

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

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 Flex’s warranty.

Reliability

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Flex has a standard 650-amp battery. The Highlander’s 604-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

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 Flex’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 102 more horsepower (287 vs. 185) and 70 lbs.-ft. more torque (254 vs. 184) than the Highlander’s standard 2.7 DOHC 4 cyl. The Flex Limited’s optional 3.5 turbo V6 produces 70 more horsepower (365 vs. 295) and 87 lbs.-ft. more torque (350 vs. 263) than the Highlander’s optional 3.5 DOHC V6.

As tested in Consumer Reports the Flex Limited is faster than the Toyota Highlander V6:

 

Flex

Highlander

Zero to 30 MPH

2.5 sec

2.8 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

6.5 sec

7.4 sec

45 to 65 MPH Passing

4.5 sec

5.1 sec

Quarter Mile

15 sec

15.8 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

95.5 MPH

92 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

The Flex 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 doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Brakes and Stopping

The Flex’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 are solid, not vented.

The Flex stops shorter than the Highlander:

 

Flex

Highlander

 

70 to 0 MPH

185 feet

186 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

145 feet

146 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Flex’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Highlander (255/45R20 vs. 245/60R18).

The Flex’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Highlander SE/Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.

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

Suspension and Handling

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

The Flex 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 doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

The Flex’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The Highlander doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Flex’s wheelbase is 8.1 inches longer than on the Highlander (117.9 inches vs. 109.8 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Flex is 1 inch wider in the front and 1.2 inches wider in the rear than on the Highlander.

The Flex Limited AWD handles at .81 G’s, while the Highlander AWD pulls only .80 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

Passenger Space

The Flex has 10.9 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Highlander (155.8 vs. 144.9).

The Flex has 1.1 inches more front headroom, .6 inches more rear headroom, 5.9 inches more rear legroom, 2.8 inches more third row headroom and 5.6 inches more third row legroom than the Highlander.

Flexibility is maximized at the game, campground or a drive-in theatre in the Flex Limited when its optional tailgating rear seats are deployed, allowing people to sit facing out of the liftgate. (Do not use while vehicle is in motion.) The Highlander doesn’t offer tailgating seats.

Cargo Capacity

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

 

Flex

Highlander

Behind Third Seat

20 cubic feet

13.8 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

43.2 cubic feet

42.3 cubic feet

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

Pressing a switch automatically lowers the Flex’s second and third row seats, to make changing between passengers and cargo easier. The Highlander doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

Towing

The Flex’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Highlander’s (2000 vs. 1500 pounds).

Servicing Ease

The Flex uses gas struts to support the hood for easier service access. The Highlander uses a prop rod to support its heavy hood. It takes two hands to open the hood and set the prop rod, the prop rod gets in the way during maintenance and service, and the prop rod could be knocked out, causing the heavy hood to fall on the person maintaining or servicing the car.

The Flex has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The Highlander doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

Ergonomics

The Flex 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 doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Flex (except SE)’s optional easy entry system 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 doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

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

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Flex’s exterior PIN entry system. The Highlander doesn’t offer an exterior PIN entry system.

The Flex SE/SEL’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’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

The Flex Limited’s optional 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 doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Flex owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Flex with a number “5” insurance rate while the Highlander is rated higher at a number “8” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Flex is less expensive to operate than the Highlander because typical repairs cost much less on the Flex than the Highlander, including $292 less for a starter, $238 less for fuel injection, $307 less for a fuel pump and $721 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

The Flex was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” for 2 of the last 11 years. The Highlander has never been an “All Star.”

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

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