2019 Lexus RX Series vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Lexus RX Series have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Toyota Highlander doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The RX Series offers optional Auto Brake that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Highlander doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

Both the RX Series and the Highlander have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, around view monitors and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Lexus RX Series is safer than the Toyota Highlander:

 

RX Series

Highlander

 

Driver

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

Neck Injury Risk

42%

47%

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

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 and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Lexus RX Series is safer than the Toyota Highlander:

 

RX Series

Highlander

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

53

54

Hip Force

214 lbs.

348 lbs.

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

14 inches

16 inches

HIC

275

372

Hip Force

685 lbs.

829 lbs.

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

Warranty

The RX Series comes with a full 4-year/50,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Highlander’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 1 year and 14,000 miles sooner.

Lexus’ powertrain warranty covers the RX Series 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than Toyota covers the Highlander. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 6 years or 70,000 miles. Coverage on the Highlander ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

The RX Series’ corrosion warranty is 1 year longer than the Highlander’s (6 vs. 5 years).

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates rated the RX Series second among midsize premium SUVs in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The Highlander isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are better in initial quality than Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus 8th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 12 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 17th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Lexus first in reliability, above the industry average. With 28 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 8th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Lexus vehicles are more reliable than Toyota vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Lexus first in reliability. Toyota is ranked second.

Engine

The RX 350’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 110 more horsepower (295 vs. 185) and 84 lbs.-ft. more torque (268 vs. 184) than the Highlander’s standard 2.7 DOHC 4 cyl. The RX 350’s 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 5 lbs.-ft. more torque (268 vs. 263) than the Highlander’s optional 3.5 DOHC V6. The RX 450h’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6 hybrid produces 13 more horsepower (308 vs. 295) than the Highlander’s optional 3.5 DOHC V6.

As tested in Motor Trend the RX 350 is faster than the Toyota Highlander V6:

 

RX Series

Highlander

Zero to 60 MPH

6.8 sec

7.2 sec

Quarter Mile

15.1 sec

15.5 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

92.7 MPH

92.6 MPH

Environmental Friendliness

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifies the Lexus RX Series at emission levels ranging from “Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (ULEV) to “Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (SULEV). The Toyota Highlander is only certified to “Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (ULEV) standards.

Brakes and Stopping

The RX Series’ 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 RX Series stops shorter than the Highlander:

 

RX Series

Highlander

 

60 to 0 MPH

123 feet

131 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

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

Suspension and Handling

The RX Series 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 RX Series offers an optional driver-adjustable suspension system. It allows the driver to choose between an extra-supple ride, reducing fatigue on long trips, or a sport setting, which allows maximum control for tricky roads or off-road. The Highlander’s suspension doesn’t offer adjustable shock absorbers.

The RX Series 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 RX 350 handles at .79 G’s, while the Highlander LE pulls only .76 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The RX 350 executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.2 seconds quicker than the Highlander LE (27.1 seconds @ .63 average G’s vs. 28.3 seconds @ .64 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the RX Series has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Highlander (8.2 vs. 8 inches), allowing the RX Series to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged.

Chassis

The design of the Lexus RX Series amounts to more than styling. The RX Series has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .33 Cd. That is lower than the Highlander (.33 to .34) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the RX Series get better fuel mileage.

Cargo Capacity

Pressing a switch automatically lowers or raises the RX Series’ optional rear seats, to make changing between cargo and passengers easier. The Highlander doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just holding your hand near the emblem on the trunk can open the RX Series’ available liftgate, leaving your hands completely free. The Highlander doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

The RX Series 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.

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Lexus service is better than Toyota. J.D. Power ranks Lexus third in service department satisfaction. With a 44% lower rating, Toyota is ranked 17th.

Ergonomics

The RX Series has a standard 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 RX Series’ standard easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Highlander doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The RX Series offers an optional heads-up display that projects speed and other key instrumentation readouts in front of the driver’s line of sight, allowing drivers to view information without diverting their eyes from the road. The Highlander doesn’t offer a heads-up display.

The power windows standard on both the RX Series and the Highlander have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the RX Series 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.

The RX Series’ front and rear power windows all open or close fully with one touch of the switches, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Highlander’s standard rear power window switches have to be held the entire time to open or close them fully.

If the windows are left open on the RX Series the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Highlander can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The RX Series’ rain-sensitive wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically based on the amount of rainfall on the windshield. This allows the driver to concentrate on driving without constantly adjusting the wipers. The Highlander’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The RX Series offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Highlander doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the RX Series offers optional cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The Highlander doesn’t offer cornering lights. The RX Series also offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

When the RX Series is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Highlander’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The RX Series 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 offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

The RX Series has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning costs extra on the Highlander.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the RX Series owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the RX Series 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 RX Series is less expensive to operate than the Highlander because typical repairs cost less on the RX Series than the Highlander, including $135 less for fuel injection and $99 less for a fuel pump.

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

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