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The Highlander is Toyota’s best-selling SUV after the RAV4. But despite its popularity, the Highlander might not be the best pick for every driver. The Dodge Durango is one of the most unconventional midsize SUVs that isn’t without flaws (and even faced extinction). But it has an inherently brawnier nature that might appeal to certain consumers.

Why the Toyota Highlander is a best-selling SUV

Although the 2023 Toyota Highlander ranks below many rivals on U.S. News’ midsize SUV list, it still provides capable handling. It never leans too heavily around corners, and the suspension absorbs most bumps in the road. And the 2023 Highlander packs a new turbo-four engine with an EPA-estimated 24 mpg city/highway combined.

The Toyota Highlander seats up to eight riders, though the third row’s seats lack adequate support for adult passengers. The other two rows are much more spacious, and the second row’s seats even have a reclining function. 

Even the base trim boasts many standard features, including smartphone integration and Amazon Alexa compatibility. In addition, the Highlander L’s safety suite also has a forward-collision warning system, automatic emergency braking, a rear-seat reminder, and a few lane-keeping assist functions. 

But the Dodge Durango boasts more impressive performance chops than the Toyota Highlander

2023 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat
2023 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat | Stellantis

The Highlander’s turbo-four engine is efficient but makes only 265 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Even the Dodge Durango’s base V6 is more powerful, with 293 hp on tap. However, the Durango’s variety of V8 engine options is arguably its biggest selling point.

The Dodge Durango R/T packs a standard V8 producing 360 hp and 390 lb-ft of torque. And the SRT models have a larger V8 generating 475 hp.

As one might expect, all Hellcat models come with Dodge’s legendary Hellcat Hemi V8. It harnesses 710 hp and 635 lb-ft of torque. When Dodge Garage tested the Durango Hellcat, it reached 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. This model also comes with standard all-wheel drive and unlocks the Durango’s maximum towing capacity of 8,700 pounds. The Toyota Highlander can pull only 5,000 pounds.

Of course, none of those V8 engines returns the best fuel economy. The Dodge Durango Hellcat is the thirstiest, averaging just 14 mpg combined. A Durango with the 360-hp V8 earns an estimated 17 mpg combined. The V6 is more fuel-efficient, getting 22 mpg combined.

The Durango also has slightly more cargo space than the Highlander. It has just over 85 cubic feet total, though the Highlander offers more cargo room with the third row folded.

Want more muscle? Consider the Durango

Regarding horsepower and towing capacity, the 2023 Durango has a clear advantage over the Highlander. Still, the Dodge SUV has a few drawbacks. All of its engines tend to guzzle gas, meaning higher fuel costs. 

Furthermore, the Dodge Durango’s interior is showing its age, and even the higher trims have too many plastic pieces. In addition, customers have to pay extra for most of the Durango’s advanced safety features.

A pricier Durango has more tech than the Highlander, and its infotainment interface is as user-friendly as its rival, according to U.S. News. However, many of those Durango models are more expensive than a fully loaded Toyota Highlander Platinum. A Durango SRT Hellcat costs at least $91,740. Access to the entry-level V8 starts at $52,150.

Still, consumers prioritizing performance would be hard-pressed to find a midsize SUV rival that matches the Dodge Durango.


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