Luxury brands such as Lexus have a loyal following, and for good reason: They often offer high amounts of comfort and reliability in addition to a luxury driving experience. However, the price may throw people off, and more affordable alternatives are worth considering for anyone who doesn’t want to spring for the luxury badge. The Toyota Highlander is built on the same platform as the Lexus RX, and its starting price is approximately $10,000 lower — but can it really compare to the luxury of a Lexus?
Pros and cons of the Toyota Highlander
The 2021 Toyota Highlander has an overall score of 84 from Consumer Reports. It scored an impressive 86/100 on its road test and has a predicted reliability rating of 4/5. Its price ranges from $35,085 to $50,415.
There are two engines available for the Highlander: a 3.5-liter V6 that makes 295 hp, and a more fuel-efficient 2.5-liter hybrid that makes 243 hp. Consumer Reports found that the V6, which gets a combined fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon, feels powerful and responsive. The hybrid gets an excellent 35 miles per gallon combined but doesn’t offer the same amounts of power.
Test drivers call the ride experience “compliant and controlled,” praising the Highlander’s agile handling. Additionally, the cabin features high-end materials even in the base trim. Reviewers do note, however, that the Highlander’s interior doesn’t really begin to feel special until you reach the top trim levels.
This SUV comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It also comes with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.5 suite of safety features, which includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, forward collision warning, and adaptive cruise control.
How the Lexus RX compares
The 2021 Lexus RX has an overall score of 80 from Consumer Reports, making it rank slightly lower than the Toyota Highlander. It also scored lower on its road test, receiving a rating of 77/100. Its price ranges from $45,220 to $57,310.
Like the Highlander, the RX is available as either a standard V6 or a hybrid. The V6 makes 295 hp, while the hybrid version makes 308 hp. This is a significant difference between the two vehicles — while the hybrid Highlander is less powerful than the standard option, the hybrid RX offers both more power and a very good fuel economy of 29 miles per gallon combined.
Unlike the Highlander, however, the RX doesn’t offer particularly good handling. Test drivers state that its steering isn’t very responsive and that its soft suspension “makes the car lean over, giving the uncomfortable impression that the RX doesn’t hug the road well.”
Consumer Reports also dings the infotainment controls of the RX, calling them “an ergonomic mess.” The Highlander’s controls, on the other hand, are simple and intuitive.
Standard safety features for the RX include adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, and forward-collision warning. Unlike the Highlander, blind-spot warning comes standard on the RX.
Are these SUVs really comparable?
The luxury Lexus RX is in a different class from the Toyota Highlander, so is it really fair to compare the two? Ultimately, yes: They are built on the same platform and receive incredibly similar performance scores from Consumer Reports.
Despite the fact that the Highlander doesn’t offer quite the same level of plush comfort or power as the RX, it still provides an excellent ride, plenty of standard features, and an intuitive infotainment system. Once you get into the top trims of the Highlander, its cabin also offers similar levels of high-end materials and comfort — although, at this point, the price of the Highlander is on par with the price of the RX.
Which vehicle you prefer will come down to personal preference and brand loyalty. Each SUV has its own strengths and weaknesses, but despite their different classes, their similarities are undeniable.