2021 Honda Pilot vs. 2020 Toyota Highlander

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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Using vehicle speed sensors and seat sensors, smart airbags in the Pilot deploy with different levels of force or don’t deploy at all to help better protect passengers of all sizes in different collisions. The Pilot’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.

Both the Pilot 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, crash mitigating brakes, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all-wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

Reliability

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The engine in the Pilot has a single overhead cam for simplicity. The engine in the Highlander has dual overhead cams, which add to the number of moving parts and the complexity of the cylinder heads.

Engine

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As tested in Motor Trend the Honda Pilot is faster than the Toyota Highlander:

Pilot

Highlander

Zero to 30 MPH

2.2 sec

2.5 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

6.2 sec

7.2 sec

Zero to 80 MPH

10.7 sec

12.1 sec

Passing 45 to 65 MPH

3.3 sec

3.7 sec

Quarter Mile

14.8 sec

15.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

93.9 MPH

91.5 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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An engine control system that can shut down some of the engine’s cylinders helps improve the Pilot’s fuel efficiency. The Highlander doesn’t offer a system that can shut down part of the engine.

The Pilot has 1.6 gallons more fuel capacity than the Highlander (19.5 vs. 17.9 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

The Pilot 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 nine-speed automatic is standard on the Honda Pilot, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only an eight-speed automatic is available for the Highlander.

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the Pilot has larger tires than the Highlander (245/60R18 vs. 235/65R18).

The Pilot LX/EX/EX-L’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 60 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Highlander L/LE/XLE’s standard 65 series tires. The Pilot SE/Touring/Elite/Black Edition’s tires have a lower 50 series profile than the Highlander Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.

The Pilot has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Highlander doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

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The Pilot 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 Pilot (except LX)’s optional 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.

The Pilot Elite 4WD handles at .83 G’s, while the Highlander XLE AWD pulls only .82 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

Chassis

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The Pilot 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 Pilot has 11.6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Highlander (152.9 vs. 141.3).

The Pilot has 1.9 inches more front hip room, 3 inches more front shoulder room, .8 inches more rear headroom, .3 inches more rear hip room, 3.3 inches more rear shoulder room, 2.8 inches more third row headroom, 4.2 inches more third row legroom and 2.6 inches more third row shoulder room than the Highlander.

Cargo Capacity

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

Pilot

Highlander

Behind Third Seat

18.5 cubic feet

16 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

55.9 cubic feet

48.4 cubic feet

Second Seat Folded

109 cubic feet

84.3 cubic feet

The Pilot 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.

Ergonomics

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The Pilot EX/EX-L/SE/Touring/Elite/Black Edition 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 Pilot EX-L/SE/Touring/Elite/Black Edition’s standard 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 Pilot’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 Pilot EX-L/SE/Touring/Elite/Black Edition’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.

Economic Advantages

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According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Pilot is less expensive to operate than the Highlander because it costs $200 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Pilot than the Highlander, including $5 less for a starter, $172 less for fuel injection and $1360 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

© 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 2020/08/10

The Honda Pilot has won recognition from these important consumer publications:

Pilot

Highlander

Consumer Reports® Recommends

TRUE

TRUE

Car Book “Best Bet”

TRUE

FALSE

Motor Trend performed a comparison test in its May 2020 issue and they ranked the Honda Pilot Black Edition 4WD two places higher than the Toyota Highlander XLE AWD.

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

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