Hybrids & Electrics

The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Dominates the Ford Explorer

We are celebrating a victory for the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. But this victory comes at the expense of the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid, which came in the last place. Check out why the Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the best hybrid or electric SUV for families. 

The 2021 Toyota Highlander wins best hybrid or electric SUV for families 

According to U.S. News, the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the best hybrid or electric SUV for families. But the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid landed in eighth place, which is also the last place. 

A metallic-red 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid midsize crossover SUV traveling on a road in a park with green grass and trees
2021 Toyota Highlander Platinum Hybrid AWD in Ruby Flare Pearl | Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.

The Highlander Hybrid and Explorer Hybrid are the only three-row options that made the list, making them the two options with the most in common to compare. However, other honorable mentions include the Ford Escape Hybrid, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, and Honda CR-V Hybrid. 

Why is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid better? 

Saying one vehicle is better than another can be pretty subjective. Often, vehicles meet the needs of drivers differently. It’s not exactly apples to apples, but according to U.S. News, the 2021 Toyota Highlander is the best option for families, while the Ford Explorer Hybrid barely made the list. 

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid begins at about $38,510, while the Ford Explorer Hybrid starts at about $45,005. So, what makes the Explorer Hybrid worth the extra $6,495 if you pick it over the Highlander? 

RELATED: The Toyota Highlander Hybrid Has Key Advantages Over the Venza

A little extra space in the third row. The Highlander’s third row is best suited for children. The Ford Explorer offers 18.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row with up to 87.8 cubic feet total. The Highlander has 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row and up to 84.3 cubic feet. 

But the Explorer has a lacking fuel economy. It only gets an EPA estimated 28 mpg combined, while the Highlander Hybrid provides up to 35 mpg. But the lower fuel economy is because the Ford Explorer Hybrid has more power. 

With the Ford Explorer Hybrid, you get a 3.3-liter V6 engine with an electric motor that creates 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque. When properly equipped, the Explorer can tow up to 5,000 lbs. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that’s paired with two electric motors to provide 243 hp and 186 lb-ft of torque. It can tow up to 3,500 lbs. 

Toyota Highlander Hybrid and Ford Explorer Hybrid Features 

U.S. News mentioned that the 2021 Ford Explorer Hybrid doesn’t have a cabin that matches the quality of rivals’. But the Hybrid is only available with the Limited trim. According to Edmunds, the Explorer Hybrid isn’t very comfortable, and the cabin has a lot of wind noise. 

The 2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch edition driving on a dirt road
2021 Ford Explorer King Ranch | Ford

The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is praised for being more affordable with an upscale cabin. Edmunds shared that the Highlander Hybrid has a smooth ride and quiet interior. Plus, the seats are very comfortable. 

Both SUVs come with a standard 8-inch touchscreen that can connect to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Convenience features include wireless phone charging, a wifi hotspot, optional captain’s chairs in the second row, and more.