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Two of the best-selling midsize SUVs are the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer. Find out how they measure up in this 2023 Toyota Highlander vs. 2023 Ford Explorer comparison. With its wide array of advantages, the Explorer beats the Highlander

2023 Toyota Highlander vs. 2023 Ford Explorer

Front angle view of dark gray 2023 Toyota Highlander midsize SUV
Magnetic Gray Metallic 2023 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

In this 2023 Toyota Highlander vs. 2023 Ford Explorer midsize SUV comparison, we evaluated several areas. This includes performance, gas mileage, towing, off-road capabilities, safety, passenger and cargo space, warranty coverage, reliability, and price.

Highlander vs. Explorer: Performance and gas mileage

Front angle view of Star White 2023 Ford Explorer midsize SUV
Star White 2023 Ford Explorer | Ford

On the performance front, the 2023 Toyota Highlander offers two engine options: a turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four engine (265 horsepower) and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid (243 horsepower).

The 2023 Ford Explorer offers quite a few engine options, and they are all more powerful than the ones offered for the Highlander. This includes a 2.3-liter EcoBoost I-4 (300 horsepower), a 3.3-liter V-6 hybrid (318 horsepower), and a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6 (400 horsepower).

For efficiency, the fully gas-powered Highlander gets an estimated fuel economy of up to 25 mpg, compared to 24 combined mpg for the gas-powered Explorer. Also, the Highlander tops the Explorer for hybrid efficiency. The Highlander Hybrid gets an estimated gas mileage of up to 36 combined mpg, compared to 27 combined mpg for the Explorer Hybrid.

Highlander vs. Explorer: Towing

The 2023 Explorer can tow more than the 2023 Highlander. It has a maximum towing capacity of 5,600 pounds, compared to 5,000 pounds for the Highlander.

Highlander vs. Explorer: Off-road capabilities

If you’re aiming to head off-road, then the Explorer is the better choice for you. While the Highlander offers an all-wheel drive system, the Explorer offers a more advanced four-wheel drive system, which features a terrain management system. Also, the Explorer has higher ground clearance than the Highlander (up to 8.7 vs. 8.0 inches).

Furthermore, unlike the Highlander, the Explorer has an off-road-focused model with the Timberline trim. The Explorer Timberline is ready to head far out into the wilderness with features such as a limited-slip rear differential, skid plates, and upgraded shocks. 

Highlander vs. Explorer: Safety

The Highlander and Explorer are safe vehicles. For the previous model year, both SUVs earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+ award, which is the highest possible IIHS rating.

Highlander vs. Explorer: Passenger and cargo space

The Explorer is bigger than the Highlander. As a result, it provides more interior space. The Explorer has a total passenger volume of 152.7 cu-ft and a maximum cargo capacity of 87.8 cu-ft. In comparison, the Highlander has a total passenger volume of 141.3 cu-ft and a maximum cargo capacity of 84.3 cu-ft.

Along with providing more space, the cabin of the Explorer is more upscale compared to the Highlander, with a more premium look and feel.

Highlander vs. Explorer: Warranty coverage and reliability

The Highlander and Explorer have similar warranty coverage. Both SUVs have a 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty. However, unlike the Explorer, the Highlander has a free maintenance plan, with two years or 25,000 miles of coverage.

Also, the Highlander is slightly more reliable than the Explorer. It earned a J.D. Power reliability rating of 82/100, compared to 81/100 for the Explorer.

Highlander vs. Explorer: Price

Which midsize SUV costs more: the 2023 Highlander or the 2023 Explorer? The starting price of the 2023 Explorer ranges from $36,760 MSRP for the Base trim up to $54,130 MSRP for the King Ranch trim.

For the 2023 Highlander, the official price information is not yet available. However, the 2023 Highlander will probably cost slightly more than the 2022 Highlander. The starting price of the 2022 Highlander ranges from $35,855 MSRP for the L trim up to $49,510 MSRP for the Platinum Hybrid trim.

2023 Toyota Highlander vs. 2023 Ford Explorer: Which midsize SUV is better?

In this 2023 Toyota Highlander vs. 2023 Ford Explorer midsize SUV comparison, the 2023 Explorer has most of the advantages. This includes advantages for performance, towing, off-road capabilities, passenger and cargo space, and a more upscale interior. Conversely, the 2023 Highlander has advantages for gas mileage, a free maintenance plan, and reliability. 


2023 Toyota Highlander: Features, Price, Specs, & Overview