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It seems like new SUVs are constantly entering the market, but there are some models that remain best-sellers for years. For example, the Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer both typically have the highest sales numbers in the midsize SUV segment. Last July was a different story, and we’re struggling to find out what happened. 

How many Toyota Highlanders were sold in July?

The Toyota Highlander moved about 8,600 units last month, which is 31% fewer Highlanders sold compared to 2022. The 2023 Toyota Highlander received a few changes, but the most significant one was the loss of the standard V6 engine. Now every Toyota Highlander has a 265-hp turbo-four engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Highlander only lost 30 ponies, but some critics warn that the new engine tends to complain when pushed to higher speeds. 

The 2023 Toyota Highlander also features an all-new digital instrument panel and a 12.3-inch center touchscreen on the two highest trims. Aside from that, this is the same Toyota Highlander that has been pleasing its drivers since the early 2000s. It’s a good family car with room for up to eight passengers, featuring spacious accommodations in both the second and third rows. 

It also promises a maximum cargo capacity of over 83 cubic ft, with 16 cubes available if each seat remains upright. The dashboard feels smooth and durable to the touch, even on the lowest trims. The revamped infotainment interface has wireless smartphone integration, Amazon Alexa compatibility, and a Wi-Fi hotspot. Every Highlander also has a full safety suite with full-speed range adaptive cruise control, pre-collision system, and lane-keeping features. 

Is this a bad year for the Ford Explorer?

The Ford Explorer actually inched ahead of the Toyota Highlander in July, selling 74 extra units. However, its year-to-date sales are down by a whopping 51%. It’s surprising considering that the Ford Explorer has the added appeal of engine variety. The three cheapest trims feature a 300-hp turbo-four engine while the rest of the lineup has a 400-hp twin-turbo V6. 

The latter engine predictably isn’t good on gas, earning just 18/26 mpg at best. However, the base engine is nearly efficient as the Toyota Highlander’s. It’s rated for up to 21/28 mpg, while the Highlander’s turbo-four gets one extra point for both city and highway driving. 

Unique trim variation is another strong suit of the Ford Explorer. If you want an SUV that can tackle light off-roading adventures, there’s the Timberline trim. Drivers who want a sport-tuned suspension can opt for the ST model. The Toyota Highlander XSE looks the part of an athletic SUV, though it lacks any notable mechanical enhancements. 

The Ford Explorer can carry a maximum of seven riders and about 88 cubes worth of cargo. This SUV has many of the same convenience tech features as the Highlander, along with easy-to-use advanced driver’s aids. 


The 3 Most Popular American 3-Row Midsize SUVs so Far This Year

The Toyota Highlander and Ford Explorer are still segment leaders

As usual, the Toyota Highlander has already sold well over 100,000 vehicles this year. Approximately 121,852 drivers have purchased one so far, so it’s still the best-selling midsize SUV of 2023. The Ford Explorer isn’t too far behind with a total of 113,057 vehicles sold in 2023, according to GoodCarBadCar

Examining YTD sales differences, we can see that both of these vehicles have only experienced popularity decreases of 6%. Since it’s likely not the cars at issue, the explanation could be something as simple as limited availability or consumer budget constraints.

However, if the downward trend continues, Ford and Toyota might need to re-examine their marketing strategies for these two fan-favorite SUVs.