2021 Volvo XC90 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 2020/10/20

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.

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, post-collision automatic braking systems, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, driver alert monitors and available around view monitors.

Warranty

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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

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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

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The XC90 T6’s standard 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4-cylinder produces 21 more horsepower (316 vs. 295) and 32 lbs.-ft. more torque (295 vs. 263) than the Highlander’s 3.5 DOHC V6. The XC90 Recharge’s standard 2.0 turbo/supercharged 4-cylinder hybrid produces 105 more horsepower (400 vs. 295) and 209 lbs.-ft. more torque (472 vs. 263) than the Highlander’s 3.5 DOHC V6.

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

XC90

Highlander

Zero to 30 MPH

2.3 sec

2.5 sec

Zero to 60 MPH

6.7 sec

7.2 sec

Zero to 80 MPH

11.2 sec

12.1 sec

Passing 45 to 65 MPH

3.5 sec

3.7 sec

Quarter Mile

15.1 sec

15.6 sec

Fuel Economy and Range

© 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 2020/10/20

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 Recharge running on electricity gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander V6 AWD (58 city/53 hwy MPGe vs. 20 city/27 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the XC90 running its gasoline engine gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander:

MPG

XC90

FWD

T5 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

21 city/30 hwy

AWD

T8 2.0 turbo/SC 4-cyl. Hybrid

26 city/28 hwy

T5 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

20 city/28 hwy

T6 2.0 turbo/SC 4-cyl.

19 city/28 hwy

Highlander

FWD

3.5 DOHC V6

21 city/29 hwy

LE 3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/28 hwy

AWD

3.5 DOHC V6

20 city/27 hwy

The XC90 Recharge can drive on battery power alone for up to 18 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.

The XC90’s standard fuel tank has almost a gallon more fuel capacity than the Highlander (18.8 vs. 17.9 gallons).

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

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

XC90 T5/T6

XC90 Recharge

Highlander

Front Rotors

13.6 inches

14.4 inches

13.3 inches

Rear Rotors

12.6 inches

13.4 inches

13.3 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 shorter than the Highlander:

XC90

Highlander

60 to 0 MPH

126 feet

132 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

137 feet

141 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

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For better traction, the XC90’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Highlander (275/45R20 vs. 235/65R18).

The XC90’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 55 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Highlander L/LE/XLE’s standard 65 series tires. The XC90’s optional tires have a lower 35 series profile than the Highlander Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the XC90 has standard 19-inch wheels. Smaller 18-inch wheels are standard on the Highlander L/LE/XLE. The XC90’s optional 22-inch wheels are larger than the 20-inch wheels on the Highlander Limited/Platinum.

Suspension and Handling

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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 R-Design/Inscription 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 5.3 inches longer than on the Highlander (117.5 inches vs. 112.2 inches).

The XC90 T6 AWD handles at .85 G’s, while the Highlander XLE AWD pulls only .82 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The XC90 T6 AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Highlander XLE AWD (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 27.4 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

For greater off-road capability the XC90 has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Highlander (8.3 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 1.9 inches higher than on the Highlander (9.9 vs. 8 inches).

Passenger Space

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The XC90 has .2 inches more third row headroom and 4.2 inches more third row legroom than the Highlander.

Cargo Capacity

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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.

Servicing Ease

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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.

Ergonomics

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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.

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’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 optional 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 has standard headlight washers to keep headlight output high. The Highlander doesn’t offer headlight washers.

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

The XC90’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 XC90 Inscription 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 XC90 R-Design/Inscription’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

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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 $30 less for fuel injection and $1244 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 2020/10/20

The Car Book by Jack Gillis recommends the Volvo XC90, based on economy, maintenance, safety and complaint levels. The Toyota Highlander isn't recommended.

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.

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