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In recent years, the Toyota Highlander has dominated the sales charts for the midsize SUV segment. This includes earning the title of the best-selling one in 2022. However, in 2023, an iconic model kicked the 2023 Toyota Highlander off its midsize SUV throne: the 2023 Ford Explorer. So far this year, the Explorer is outselling it. 

2023 Ford Explorer tops 2023 Toyota Highlander for best-selling midsize SUV in 2023 so far

Front angle view of silver 2023 Ford Explorer, best-selling midsize SUV in 2023 so far
2023 Ford Explorer | Ford

Midsize SUVs are in high demand these days. They are good choices for families on the go, with the roomy cabins providing generous passenger and cargo space. The Toyota Highlander, which debuted in 2000, has led the segment in sales over the past several years.

However, in 2023, the Highlander was usurped by the 2023 Ford Explorer, which has been around even longer, debuting in 1990. According to Car and Driver, American consumers bought 58,061 units of the Explorer during the first quarter of 2023, making it the best-selling midsize SUV so far this year. This sales total is a 36% year-over-year increase, which enabled the Explorer to pass the Highlander.

In comparison, the sales total of the Highlander so far in 2023 is 55,344 units. This is a 31% year-over-year decline. One of the reasons for the decrease is consumers might be waiting for the larger 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander, which is slated to arrive this summer.

Ways the 2023 Explorer is better than the 2023 Highlander

Front angle view of white 2023 Toyota Highlander, second-best-selling midsize SUV in 2023 so far
2023 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

In addition to its higher sales total for the midsize SUV segment, there are several ways the 2023 Ford Explorer is better than the 2023 Toyota Highlander. This includes more powerful engine options. The Explorer offers a 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6 (400 horsepower), a 3.3-liter V-6 hybrid (318 horsepower), and a 2.3-liter EcoBoost I-4 (300 horsepower). Conversely, all of the engines for the Highlander are weaker: a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid (243 horsepower) and a 2.4-liter inline-four (265 horsepower).

Also, with its more effective four-wheel drive system and higher ground clearance, the Explorer is better for off-road use. Additionally, unlike the Highlander, it has an off-road model with the Timberline trim. Another strength of the Explorer is towing. It can tow up to 5,600 pounds, compared to 5,000 pounds for the Highlander.

Furthermore, the Explorer has a roomier cabin. It provides a total passenger volume of 152.7 cu-ft, while the Highlander tops out at 141.3 cu-ft. There’s also more cargo space in the Explorer. It has a maximum storage capacity of 87.8 cu-ft, compared to 84.3 cu-ft for the Highlander.

Other SUVs with high sales

The 2023 Ford Explorer is the best-selling midsize SUV in 2023 so far, followed by the 2023 Toyota Highlander. After these models, the next one is the 2023 Jeep Grand Cherokee, with 54,502 units sold in the first quarter. 

However, none of these models are the top-selling SUV. There are several compact SUVs with a higher sales total. The best-selling one is the 2023 Tesla Model Y (85,000 units), which edges out the 2023 Toyota RAV4 (84,704 units). There’s also the 2023 Nissan Rogue (76,499 units) and the 2023 Honda CR-V (67,241 units).

We’ll have to see how things pan out for the rest of 2023. However, the Ford Explorer is moving in the right direction.

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