2020 Ford Explorer vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/04/06

Both the Explorer and Highlander have child safety locks to prevent children from opening the rear doors. The Explorer 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.

Both the Explorer and the Highlander have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee 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, crash mitigating brakes, post-collision automatic braking systems, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, driver alert monitors, available all wheel drive and around view monitors.

For its top level performance in the IIHS moderate overlap frontal impact, side impact, rear impact, roof-crush crash tests, an “Acceptable” rating in the newer small overlap frontal crash test, and its standard front crash prevention system, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Explorer its highest rating: “Top Pick Plus” for 2015, a rating granted to only 206 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Highlander has not been tested, yet.

Warranty

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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

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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 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’ 2019 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 fourth in initial quality, above the industry average. With 7 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 8th.

Engine

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The Explorer’s standard 2.3 turbo 4-cylinder produces 5 more horsepower (300 vs. 295) and 47 lbs.-ft. more torque (310 vs. 263) than the Highlander’s 3.5 DOHC V6. The Explorer’s optional 3.3 DOHC V6 hybrid produces 23 more horsepower (318 vs. 295) and 59 lbs.-ft. more torque (322 vs. 263) than the Highlander’s 3.5 DOHC V6. The Explorer Platinum’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 70 more horsepower (365 vs. 295) and 117 lbs.-ft. more torque (380 vs. 263) than the Highlander’s 3.5 DOHC V6. The Explorer ST’s standard 3.0 turbo V6 produces 105 more horsepower (400 vs. 295) and 152 lbs.-ft. more torque (415 vs. 263) than the Highlander’s 3.5 DOHC V6.

Fuel Economy and Range

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The Explorer V6 Turbo’s standard fuel tank has 2.3 gallons more fuel capacity than the Highlander (20.2 vs. 17.9 gallons).

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 doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Transmission

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A 10-speed automatic is standard on the Ford Explorer, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only an eight-speed automatic is available for the Highlander.

Brakes and Stopping

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

Explorer

Explorer ST

Highlander

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

14.3 inches

13.3 inches

Rear Rotors

12.4 inches

13.8 inches

13.3 inches

The Explorer ST’s optional 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.

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the Explorer has larger standard tires than the Highlander (255/65R18 vs. 235/65R18). The Explorer ST/Platinum’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Highlander (275/45R21 vs. 235/65R18).

The Explorer ST/Platinum’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 Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Explorer ST/Platinum offers optional 21-inch wheels. The Highlander’s largest wheels are only 20-inches.

Having a flat tire is dangerous, inconvenient and expensive. The self-sealing tires available on the Explorer can automatically seal most punctures up to 3/16 of an inch, effectively preventing most flat tires. The Highlander doesn’t offer self-sealing tires.

Suspension and Handling

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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 doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

The Explorer’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 Explorer’s wheelbase is 6.9 inches longer than on the Highlander (119.1 inches vs. 112.2 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Explorer is 1.6 inches wider in the front and 1.5 inches wider in the rear than on the Highlander.

Chassis

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The front grille of the Explorer (except 3.3 V6 non-Hybrid) 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 doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

The Explorer Hybrid uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Highlander doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

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The Explorer has 11.4 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Highlander (152.7 vs. 141.3).

The Explorer has 1 inch more front legroom, 2 inches more front hip room, 2.8 inches more front shoulder room, 1.1 inches more rear headroom, 2.1 inches more rear hip room, 3.2 inches more rear shoulder room, 2.8 inches more third row headroom and 4.5 inches more third row legroom than the Highlander.

Cargo Capacity

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/04/06

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

Explorer

Highlander

Behind Third Seat

18.2 cubic feet

16 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

87.8 cubic feet

84.3 cubic feet

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

Towing

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Maximum trailer towing in the Toyota Highlander is limited to 5000 pounds. The Explorer offers up to a 5600 lbs. towing capacity.

Servicing Ease

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The engine in the Explorer is mounted longitudinally (North-South), instead of sideways, as in the Highlander. This makes it easier to service and maintain, because there are no rear spark plugs and the accessory belts are in front.

Ergonomics

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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 doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum’s standard 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 doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

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

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer’s exterior PIN entry system. The Highlander doesn’t offer an exterior PIN 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’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

The Explorer Limited/ST/Platinum’s standard rear and side view mirrors have an automatic dimming feature. These mirrors can be set to 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 Explorer ST/Platinum offers optional massaging front seats in order to maximize comfort and eliminate fatigue on long trips. Massaging seats aren’t available in the Highlander.

The Explorer ST/Platinum’s Active Park Assist 2.0 can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, starting, stopping and changing direction automatically. The Highlander doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

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