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The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has been around for several years at this point. During that time, several new hybrids of other popular SUVs have entered the market. The Ford Explorer has a reputation for being fun to drive, but that’s not the main thing that hybrid shoppers seek out. If you’re thinking about buying an Explorer Hybrid over the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, you may be disappointed in at least one area. 

Key differences between the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Ford Explorer Hybrid

Every Toyota Highlander Hybrid comes with the same powertrain, consisting of two electric motors and a four-cylinder engine. Despite that dual-motor setup, all-wheel drive is a $1,500 upgrade. Complemented by a continuously-variable transmission, the 2023 Highlander Hybrid is capable of 243 hp in total.

While the extra electrification resulted in higher speed, Edmunds sensed more enthusiasm from the Ford Explorer Hybrid’s powertrain. This one consists of a single electric motor and a V6 producing a total output of 318 hp, which is paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission. 

The Explorer Hybrid is even brawnier when equipped with the Trailer Tow package, allowing this SUV to tow up to 5,000 lbs. That’s 1,500 lbs less than what the Highlander Hybrid can pull. The Explorer Hybrid also has bigger cargo measurements, even with every seat in use. 

However, in terms of overall comfort, test drivers think that the Highlander Hybrid has the edge. The suspension remains composed while you’re driving and most of the seats are very supportive. Explorer Hybrid passengers may feel jostled when going over bumps, but the seats themselves remain cozy. Neither SUV has a spacious third row, but the Highlander’s was highlighted for subpar cushioning. 

Since the hybrid powertrain is only available on two upscale Ford Explorer trims, the automaker packed both with a lot of nice features. Highlights of the Limited model include a 360-degree parking camera, ventilated front seats, and a premium audio system. The Explorer Hybrid features real wood accents inside, plus massaging front seats and a slew of extra safety features.

That’s on top of all its base tech, most of which you can also get inside the Highlander Hybrid. However, only the latter has support for Amazon Alexa devices included with Apple and Android smartphone integration. The Highlander Hybrid has a relatively shorter list of standard safety features compared to its Ford rival.

You can get the 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid for a better price

Currently, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid retails for $40,620 and the most expensive model starts at $51,075. The Ford Explorer Hybrid Limited is priced at $47,070 and you’ll pay at least $53,820 for the Platinum model. Edmunds data suggests that you might pay over $54,000 even if you buy the cheaper Limited trim.

You likely don’t even need to buy a fully-loaded Highlander Hybrid Platinum to enjoy owning this car. The most popular trim is the XLE at just $43,620. This model gives you a little more bang for your buck with leather seats, a sunroof, and a wireless charging pad.  

The Toyota is vastly more efficient

With AWD, the Toyota Highlander Hybrid’s powertrain earns 35 mpg combined city/highway and carries an estimated annual fuel cost of $9,110. In contrast, the Ford Explorer Hybrid is only rated for 23 mpg combined. You can also expect to pay an average of $13,846 for gas each year.

Edmunds also determined that the Ford Explorer Hybrid has elevated maintenance and depreciation rates, resulting in a higher cost to own. Given its lower price range and frugal fuel economy estimates, buying a Highlander Hybrid makes the most sense from a value perspective.


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