Crossover & Midsize

Is the Toyota Highlander Luxurious Enough To Compete With the Acura MDX?

The Toyota Highlander has been one of the most popular midsize SUVs for years. But it certainly has never been considered a luxury SUV. As years have passed, however, Toyota has needed to update the Highlander to keep it competitive and desirable for buyers. Today’s SUVs are closer to luxury than ever before, and that includes the 2020 Toyota Highlander. But is it luxurious enough to compete with the likes of the Acura MDX?

What the 2020 Toyota Highlander and Acura MDX have in common

The 2020 Toyota Highlander isn’t a luxury SUV and the 2020 Acura MDX is. But while these two SUVs may seem miles away from each other, they have a lot more in common than you would think.

In fact, according to an analysis by Kelley Blue Book experts, both the Toyota Highlander and Acura MDX are three-row, midsize SUVs with seating for up to seven or eight. In addition to size, both SUVs come equipped with a powerful, standard V6 engine. Each also offers buyers the option of an available hybrid powertrain

Both SUVs offer an array of standard technology and safety features as well as competitive fuel economy ratings for its class. Driving the Highlander and MDX are also similar, with both SUVs mastering a composed and gentle ride.

According to U.S. News, the 2020 Toyota Highlander’s “comfortable ride” is one of its most positive attributes. In fact, the 2020 Toyota Highlander and Acura MDX are so similar in such big ways, one question remains: is the Highlander luxurious to pass for the MDX’s segment? Or is the Acura MDX not luxurious enough?

Differences between the two SUVs

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The most obvious difference between the 2020 Toyota Highlander and Acura MDX is the price. As one three-row SUV exists within the luxury segment and one does not, an assumption can be made that the luxury SUV is much more expensive.

And this assumption is accurate as the 2020 Acura MDX has a starting price of around $45,000. Prices, depending on trim and model, however, can extend well into the $60,000 range. While the MDX’s starting price is competitive for its segment, the non-luxury 2020 Toyota Highlander comes with a much lower starting price of around $35,000.

But the price isn’t the only difference between these two midsize SUVs. The Acura MDX has “more luxurious details” than the Highlander, but the Highlander comes with a better fuel rating than the MDX. The Toyota Highlander also comes with a great resale value and low cost of ownership.

The Toyota Highlander vs. Acura MDX: does luxury do it better?

In today’s competitive industry, buying luxury doesn’t always mean buying value. While the 2020 Toyota Highlander and Acura MDX are comparable in features, design, and specs, that doesn’t mean each SUV will please new owners the same. In fact, according to Consumer Reports‘ poor rating of the 2020 Acura MDX, luxury isn’t better in this case.

Consumer Reports experts place the Acura MDX toward the bottom of its luxury midsize SUV rankings, only receiving an overall score of 58/100. The MDX performed decently on the road test, earning a score of 80/100, but that’s where the good ratings stop.

The 2020 Acura MDX comes with extremely low predicted owner satisfaction and reliability ratings of two and one (out of five), respectively. In fact, Consumer Reports estimates that only around half of MDX buyers will be completely satisfied with their purchase.

The Toyota Highlander, however, performed exceptionally better than the MDX in Consumer Reports’ testing. According to Consumer Reports’ findings, the 2020 Toyota Highlander ranks near the top of the non-luxury, midsize SUV segment. Even considering the differences between luxury and non-luxury segments, the Highlander receives an astronomically higher overall score than the Acura MDX of 86/100.

On the road test, scores came close, with the Highlander earning a score of 86/100. But both predicted owner satisfaction and predicted reliability scores come in at a better four out of five, with experts stating that the Highlander is “a smart choice for families looking for a do-it-all vehicle.”

As it turns out, luxury isn’t always the better value. The 2020 Toyota Highlander offers comparable features and specs to the Acura MDX but with a much cheaper price tag and better scores from experts. Unless the term “luxury” is a necessity for new buyers, the Toyota Highlander is a viable alternative to the Acura MDX.