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Two consumer favorites in the SUV segment are the Toyota Highlander and the Ford Explorer. While the two SUVs stack up pretty evenly, one is able to inch itself solidly ahead based solely on the number of standard features it provides. Here’s a look at the toe-to-toe match-up between these two SUVs. 

A look at the 2023 Toyota Highlander 

The 2023 Toyota Highlander is a spacious SUV offered with either a gas-based or electrified powertrain. According to Car and Driver, Toyota offers the Highlander in six various gas-powered trim levels and five hybrid-powered trims. The six trim levels that feature a gasoline-based powertrain include the L, LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum. Toyota offers the baseline L trim for a starting MSRP of $36,620. Platinum, the most expensive gas-powered trim option, starts at an MSRP of $49,475. 

When it comes to the hybrid powertrain options, there are five various trim offerings to choose from, including the Hybrid LE, Hybrid XLE, Bronze Edition, Hybrid Limited, and Hybrid Platinum. Toyota offers the baseline hybrid trim, Hybrid LE, at a starting MSRP of $40,620, while the most expensive hybrid trim level, Hybrid Platinum, starts at $51,075. The gasoline-powered Highlanders average 22 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. In comparison, the Highlanders with the hybrid powertrains average 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. 

Here’s how the 2023 Ford Explorer stacks up 

According to Car and Driver, the 2023 model is offered in eight various trim levels, including Base, XLT, ST-Line, Limited, Timberline, ST, Platinum, and King Ranch. Hybrid powertrain configurations are only available on the Limited and Platinum trim levels.

The hybrid powertrains average 23 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. Of course, this means that the Toyota Highlander hybrid models get significantly better fuel economy, with a comparative average of 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. 

The starting prices of these two SUVs are very much an apples-to-apples comparison, with the baseline Toyota Highlander starting at $36,620 and the Explorer base trim starting at $36,700. However, the most expensive Explorer trim is a few thousand dollars more than the highest-priced Highlander trim. 

Ford offers the most expensive Explorer trim level, King Ranch, at a starting MSRP of $54,525. In terms of fuel economy, the gas-powered Explorer is slightly worse in comparison to the gas-powered Highlander’s 22/29 average, with an average of 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. 

These standard features help to set the Toyota Highlander apart 

Based solely on price and fuel economy, the 2023 Toyota Highlander inches ahead of the Explorer. However, the amount of standard features that the base trim Highlander has over the base trim Explorer helps to push the Highlander well ahead of the 2023 Explorer.

According to U.S. News, some of the key features that don’t come standard on the base Explorer but do come standard on the Highlander include adaptive cruise control, heated mirrors, keyless start, a WiFi hotspot, and rear A/C.  

So while it’s certainly a tight race between these two SUVs, it looks like the 2023 Toyota Highlander proves itself to be the better option for the majority of consumers based on its fuel economy, standard features, and more affordable starting price.

However, with the brand name recognition Ford maintains in the U.S. markets, some American consumers will always be more incentivized to choose Ford even if it means losing out on a few perks. 


The Toyota Highlander Continues Its Reign Over the Ford Explorer