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In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Highlander Hybrid are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Flex doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.
The Highlander Hybrid has standard Whiplash Injury Lessening Seats, which use a specially designed seat to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Whiplash Injury Lessening Seats system allows the backrest to travel backwards to cushion the occupants and the headrests move forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The Flex doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.
The Highlander Hybrid has standard Pre-Collision System, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Flex offers an available collision warning system without the automated brake feature that would prevent or reduce the collision if the driver fails to react.
The Highlander Hybrid has a standard Secondary Collision Brake, which automatically applies the brakes in the event of a crash to help prevent secondary collisions and prevent further injuries. The Flex 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.
Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Highlander Hybrid Limited/Platinum has standard Automated Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The Flex doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.
When descending a steep, off-road slope, the Highlander Hybrid AWD’s standard Downhill Assist Control allows you to creep down safely. The Flex doesn’t offer Downhill Assist Control.
The Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE/Limited/Platinum has Daytime Running Lights to help keep it more visible under all conditions. Canadian government studies show that driving with lights during the day reduces accidents by 11% by making vehicles more conspicuous. The Flex doesn’t offer Daytime Running Lights.
The Highlander Hybrid’s lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The Flex doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.
The Highlander Hybrid (except LE/XLE) offers an optional Bird’s Eye View Camera to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Flex only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.
The Highlander Hybrid’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Flex doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.
Both the Highlander Hybrid and the Flex 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 and available all wheel drive.
Toyota pays for scheduled maintenance on the Highlander Hybrid for 2 years and 25000 miles. Toyota will pay for oil changes, lubrication and any other required maintenance. Ford doesn’t pay scheduled maintenance for the Flex.
J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Toyota second in reliability, above the industry average. With 38 more problems per 100 vehicles, Ford is ranked 16th.
From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2019 Auto Issue reports that Toyota vehicles are more reliable than Ford vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Toyota third in reliability. Ford is ranked 16th.
On the EPA test cycle the Highlander Hybrid AWD CVT gets better fuel mileage than the Flex with its standard engine AWD (35 city/35 hwy vs. 16 city/22 hwy).
Regenerative brakes improve the Highlander Hybrid’s fuel efficiency by converting inertia back into energy instead of wasting it. The Flex doesn’t offer a regenerative braking system.
In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Highlander Hybrid’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Flex doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.
To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid uses regular unleaded gasoline. The Flex Limited requires premium for maximum efficiency, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.
The Highlander Hybrid has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The Flex doesn’t offer a CVT.
For better stopping power the Highlander Hybrid’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Flex:
For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Highlander Hybrid LE/XLE has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the Flex SE.
For better maneuverability, the Highlander Hybrid’s turning circle is 3.3 feet tighter than the Flex’s (37.4 feet vs.
The Highlander Hybrid is 6.9 inches shorter than the Flex, making the Highlander Hybrid easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.
The front grille of the Highlander 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 Flex doesn’t offer active grille shutters.
The Highlander Hybrid has standard seating for 8 passengers; the Flex can only carry 7.
The Highlander Hybrid has 1.7 inches more front hip room, .6 inches more front shoulder room, 2 inches more rear hip room, .6 inches more rear shoulder room, 4.5 inches more third row hip room and 4.2 inches more third row shoulder room than the Flex.
For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the Highlander Hybrid’s middle and third row seats recline. The Flex’s third row seats don’t recline.
The Highlander Hybrid’s cargo area provides more volume than the Flex.
Third Seat Folded
48.4 cubic feet
43.2 cubic feet
Second Seat Folded
84.3 cubic feet
83.2 cubic feet
To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Highlander Hybrid Limited/Platinum’s liftgate can be opened and closed just by kicking your foot under the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Flex doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.
The Highlander Hybrid’s standard towing capacity is much higher than the Flex’s (3500 vs. 2000 pounds).
The Highlander Hybrid’s power parking brake sets with one touch and releases with one touch or automatically. The Flex’s parking brake has to released manually.
The Highlander Hybrid’s 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 Flex’s 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 Highlander Hybrid 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. (This window function must be activated by your Toyota service department.) The driver of the Flex can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.
While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the Highlander Hybrid detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Flex doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.
To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Highlander Hybrid Platinum has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Flex doesn’t offer cornering lights.
When the Highlander Hybrid Limited/Platinum 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 Flex’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.
The Highlander Hybrid 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 is only available on the Flex SEL/Limited.
The Toyota Highlander outsold the Ford Flex by almost 11 to one during the 2019 model year.
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