2019 Volvo XC90 vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

Your buying experience includes...

business_centerProfessional Staff
account_balanceSimple Financing
local_gas_stationFull Tank of Gas
local_car_washFree Car Wash

Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Volvo XC90 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 middle seat belts.

The XC90’s pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Highlander doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

For enhanced safety, the front and middle seat shoulder belts of the Volvo XC90 are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The Toyota Highlander doesn’t offer height-adjustable middle seat belts.

Both the XC90 and Highlander have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The XC90 has power child safety locks, allowing the driver to activate and deactivate them from the driver's seat and to know when they're engaged. The Highlander’s child locks have to be individually engaged at each rear door with a manual switch. The driver can’t know the status of the locks without opening the doors and checking them.

The Volvo XC90 offers an optional built in child booster seat. It’s more crash worthy than an added child seat because of its direct attachment to the seat. Toyota doesn’t offer the convenience and security of a built-in child booster seat in the Highlander. Their owners must carry a heavy booster seat in and out of the vehicle; XC90 owners can just fold their built-in child seat up or down.

Using vehicle speed sensors and seat sensors, smart airbags in the XC90 deploy with different levels of force or don’t deploy at all to help better protect passengers of all sizes in different collisions. The XC90’s side airbags will shut off if a child is leaning against the door. The Highlander’s airbags don’t have smart features and will always deploy full force.

The XC90 has standard Automatic Braking After Collision, which automatically apply the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Highlander doesn’t offer a post collision braking system: in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, more collisions are possible without the protection of airbags that may have already deployed.

Compared to metal, the XC90’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 XC90 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, driver alert monitors and available around view monitors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Volvo XC90 is safer than the Toyota Highlander:

 

XC90

Highlander

OVERALL STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

 

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

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 Volvo XC90 is safer than the Toyota Highlander:

 

XC90

Highlander

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

51

54

Hip Force

255 lbs.

348 lbs.

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

94

111

Spine Acceleration

40 G’s

41 G’s

 

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

12 inches

16 inches

HIC

209

372

Spine Acceleration

29 G’s

43 G’s

Hip Force

383 lbs.

829 lbs.

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

Warranty

The XC90 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.

The XC90’s corrosion warranty is 7 years longer than the Highlander’s (12 vs. 5 years).

Volvo pays for scheduled maintenance on the XC90 for 1 year and 11000 miles longer than Toyota pays for maintenance for the Highlander (3/36,000 vs. 2/25000).

Reliability

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the XC90 has a standard 800-amp battery. The Highlander’s 604-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

The battery on the XC90 is in the trunk, which protects it from hot underhood temperatures that can degrade battery life. By keeping the XC90’s battery 20 to 30 degrees cooler, its life is increased by years. The Highlander’s battery is in the hot engine compartment.

Engine

The XC90 has more powerful engines than the Highlander:

 

Horsepower

Torque

XC90 T5 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

250 HP

258 lbs.-ft.

XC90 T6 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl.

316 HP

295 lbs.-ft.

XC90 T8 2.0 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid

400 HP

472 lbs.-ft.

Highlander 2.7 DOHC 4 cyl.

185 HP

184 lbs.-ft.

Highlander 3.5 DOHC V6

295 HP

263 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Motor Trend the XC90 T6 is faster than the Toyota Highlander V6:

 

XC90

Highlander

Zero to 60 MPH

6.7 sec

7.2 sec

Quarter Mile

15.1 sec

15.5 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander:

 

 

 

MPG

XC90

 

FWD

T5 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

21 city/29 hwy

 

AWD

T5 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

20 city/27 hwy

 

 

T6 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4 cyl.

19 city/26 hwy

Highlander

 

FWD

2.5 DOHC 4 cyl.

20 city/24 hwy

 

 

3.5 DOHC V6 w/Start/Stop

21 city/27 hwy

 

 

3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/27 hwy

 

AWD

LE 3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/27 hwy

 

 

3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/26 hwy

 

 

XLE/SE/Limited 3.5 DOHC V6

19 city/26 hwy

The XC90 T8 can drive on battery power alone for up to 17 miles. The Highlander must run its internal combustion engine to move.

Regenerative brakes improve the XC90 T8’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Highlander doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.

Regardless of its engine, the XC90’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Toyota only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the Highlander LE Plus/XLE/Limited/Platinum.

The XC90 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

For better stopping power the XC90’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Highlander:

 

XC90 T5/T6

XC90 T8

Highlander

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

14.4 inches

12.9 inches

Rear Rotors

12.6 inches

13.4 inches

12.2 inches

The XC90’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 XC90 stops much shorter than the Highlander:

 

XC90

Highlander

 

70 to 0 MPH

167 feet

186 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

113 feet

131 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

137 feet

146 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the XC90’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Highlander (275/45R20 vs. 245/60R18).

The XC90’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 35 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 XC90 offers optional 21-inch wheels. The Highlander’s largest wheels are only 19-inches.

Suspension and Handling

The XC90 offers an available 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 XC90 has a standard automatic front and rear load leveling suspension to keep ride height level with a heavy load or when towing. The XC90’s height leveling suspension allows the driver to raise ride height for better off-road clearance and then lower it again for easier entering and exiting and better on-road handling. The Highlander doesn’t offer a load leveling suspension.

The XC90 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.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the XC90’s wheelbase is 7.7 inches longer than on the Highlander (117.5 inches vs. 109.8 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the XC90 is 1.4 inches wider in the front and 1.5 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Highlander.

The XC90’s front to rear weight distribution is more even (51.7% to 48.3%) than the Highlander’s (53% to 47%). This gives the XC90 more stable handling and braking.

The XC90 T6 AWD handles at .84 G’s, while the Highlander AWD pulls only .80 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The XC90 T6 AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.5 seconds quicker than the Highlander LE (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 28.3 seconds @ .64 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the XC90 has a 1.4 inches greater minimum ground clearance than the Highlander (9.4 vs. 8 inches), allowing the XC90 to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The XC90 w/Air Suspension’s minimum ground clearance is 2.5 inches higher than on the Highlander (10.5 vs. 8 inches).

Chassis

The design of the Volvo XC90 amounts to more than styling. The XC90 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 XC90 get better fuel mileage.

Passenger Space

The XC90 has .4 inches more third row headroom and 4.2 inches more third row legroom than the Highlander.

The front step up height for the XC90 is 3.5 inches lower than the Highlander (15.8” vs. 19.3”). The XC90’s rear step up height is 3.5 inches lower than the Highlander’s (16” vs. 19.5”).

Cargo Capacity

The XC90’s cargo area provides more volume than the Highlander.

 

XC90

Highlander

Behind Third Seat

15.9 cubic feet

13.8 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

85.7 cubic feet

83.7 cubic feet

The XC90’s cargo area is larger than the Highlander’s in almost every dimension:

 

XC90

Highlander

Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)

21.8”/49.6”/80.3”

17.5”/43”/80”

Max Width

54.7”

56”

Min Width

44.5”

45.6”

Height

35”

32.6”

The XC90 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 or raises the XC90’s optional third row 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, the XC90’s liftgate can be opened and closed just by waving your foot, 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.

Towing

The XC90’s minimum standard towing capacity is much higher than the Highlander’s (4000 vs. 1500 pounds).

Servicing Ease

The XC90 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 XC90 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 XC90 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.

Unlike the driver-only memory seat and mirrors in the Highlander Limited/Platinum, the XC90 R-Design/Inscription/Excellence has a passenger memory, so that when drivers switch, the memory setting adjusts the driver’s seat and outside mirror angle and the front passenger seat also adjusts to the new passenger’s preset preferences.

The XC90’s standard Easy Ingress and Egress Seat 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 XC90 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 XC90 and the Highlander have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the XC90 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.

If the windows are left open on the XC90 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 XC90’s 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.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are standard on the XC90 to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Highlander doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

In poor weather, headlights can lose their effectiveness as grime builds up on their lenses. This can reduce visibility without the driver realizing. The XC90 offers available headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Highlander doesn’t offer headlight washers.

To help drivers avoid possible obstacles, the XC90 has standard cornering lights to illuminate around corners when the turn signals are activated. The Highlander doesn’t offer cornering lights. The XC90 also offers optional adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle.

A manual rear sunshade is optional in the XC90 to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Highlander doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

When the XC90 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 XC90 has standard 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 XC90 Inscription/Excellence has standard front air conditioned seats and the XC90 Excellence also has them in the second row. This keeps the passengers comfortable and takes the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Highlander doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats for the second row.

The XC90 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.

The XC90’s optional Park Assist Pilot 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

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the XC90 is less expensive to operate than the Highlander because typical repairs cost much less on the XC90 than the Highlander, including $29 less for fuel injection and $1209 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

Motor Trend selected the XC90 as their 2016 Sport Utility of the Year. The Highlander has never been chosen.

The XC90 was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2016. The Highlander has never been an “All Star.”

A group of representative automotive journalists from North America selected the XC90 as the 2016 North American Truck of the Year. The Highlander has never been chosen.

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

How much is your car worth?

Get the best value for your car from an Asbury dealership.

Featured Videos