Compared: 2022 Ford Explorer vs. 2022 Toyota Highlander

These decades-old nameplates continue to sell well in the midsize-SUV space, but which makes sense for your family?

Ford | Toyota

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At a glance, it appears as though the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander are following the same playbook: They both have three rows of seating, enough technology to appease modern families, and optional hybrid powertrains to suit eco-conscious buyers. And yet, they go about these things differently. The Highlander supports up to eight passengers, whereas the Explorer seats at most seven. The Toyota offers a better tech suite but not as much luxury as the Ford. And they come at the hybrid situation with very different engines. Here, we take a close look at how the Explorer and Highlander fare in the categories that matter most to families.

Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander: Engines and Fuel Economy

In an era where turbocharged engines have become the norm, the Highlander’s naturally aspirated 295 hp V6 seems dated. Toyota offers a hybrid, too, which combines a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder with two or three electric motors, depending on whether you spec all-wheel drive. This model makes 243 hp and provides strong fuel economy, getting up to 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the freeway. The V6 Highlander makes do with, at best, 21 mpg city and 29 highway.

The Ford Explorer embraces turbocharging, with lesser trims featuring a 300 hp 2.3L four-cylinder. Such models manage between 19 and 21 mpg in urban environs, depending on drive configuration and options. Hybrid models use a 3.3L V6 and earn an EPA fuel economy estimate of just 28 mpg in the best case, which is significantly lower than the hybrid Highlander. The sport-oriented Explorer ST and ritzier Explorer King Ranch receive a strong 400 hp twin-turbocharged 3.0L V6 that’s optional on the Platinum trim.

Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander: Technology

Both the Toyota and Ford come with an 8.0-inch screen as the default infotainment unit and support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. Things change in higher trims, where the Highlander’s included 12.3-inch screen shows up the Explorer’s extra-cost 10.1-inch display. Top-model Highlanders have a JBL sound system, but it doesn’t provide as much clarity and crispness as the Explorer’s available B&O unit. And while both offer heated and ventilated front seats, only the Ford has an optional massage feature.

Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander: Price

The lowliest Explorer opens at $34,540, and the base Highlander, $36,420. If you want a hybrid, though, the pricing gap widens considerably, with Toyota offering its fuel-efficient powertrain for as little as $38,620 on the modestly equipped LE while Ford requires that buyers select at least the $51,575 Limited trim.

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Carl Malek
Carl Malek is an automotive journalist with more than 10 years of professional experience. He covers all aspects of the automobile industry but specializes in vehicle reviews and industry analysis with strong knowledge in both fields. When he is not writing, he enjoys spending quality time with his wife Emily and being involved in other family activities.