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As the SUVs continue competing for the top spot, we have good news for the Toyota Highlander and bad news for the Ford Explorer. Despite trying to tackle rivals, the Ford Explorer is stuck in second place, behind the 2021 Toyota Highlander

The 2021 Toyota Highlander vs. the 2021 Ford Explorer 

The 2021 Toyota Highlander on the road
2021 Toyota Highlander | Toyota

According to sales reports, the 2021 Toyota Highlander is the most popular midsize SUV with three rows of seats. The Highlander sold 63,184 units in the third quarter of 2021. This represents a 23 percent increase compared to the third quarter of 2020. 

The 2021 Ford Explorer landed in second place. It sold 41,993 units in Q3 2021. It faced a 29 percent decrease in sales compared to Q3 2020 when it moved 59,060 units. But at least it’s still in second place. The Mazda CX-9 came in last. 

But sales may have been impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and the global semiconductor chip shortages. Auto manufacturers are still struggling with delays. The Highlander may have had more units available to sell than the Explorer, but we can still see how they compare. 

How do the Highlander and Explorer perform? 

You can get started in a 2021 Toyota Highlander for $35,085. The 2021 Ford Explorer comes in with a slightly lower price at $32,925. These prices are listed before dealership markups, and the destination fees have been added. 

With the Highlander, you get a standard 3.5-liter V6 engine with 295 hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. The Highlander Hybrid generates 243 hp. Also, the Highlander can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds

The 2021 Ford Explorer offers three engines. The standard 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine provides 300 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque. Upgrade to the 3.0-liter V6 for 365 hp and 380 lb-ft of torque. 

With the 3.3-liter V6 engine is paired with the hybrid powertrain and provides 318 hp. The Explorer can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in about 6.8 seconds. When properly equipped, the Highlander can tow up to 5,000 lbs, and the Explorer can tow up to 5,600 lbs. 

While the Explorer provides a sportier experience, it allows more noise to enter the cabin. The Highlander can feel a bit heavy but offers a smoother ride. The Highlander is more comfortable, and the Explorer is more engaging. 

Does the Highlander or Explorer have better features? 

2021 Ford Explorer parked on pavement
2021 Ford Explorer | Ford

The 2021 Toyota Highlander provides 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats with up to 84.3 cubes total. With the 2021 Ford Explorer, you can access 18.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row with up to 87.8 cubes total. Both SUVs are known for having very small third rows. 

While the Explorer’s interior seems a little lackluster, it’s functional and comfortable. The Toyota Highlander is crafted with more high-quality materials but lacks convenience features that rivals offer. 

The Highlander comes with an 8.0-inch infotainment system, but you can upgrade to the 12.3-inch display. The Explorer also has a standard 8.0-inch unit that can be upgraded to a 10.1-inch screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come with both SUVs. 

Also, both SUVs come with tons of standard safety features. These SUVs are pretty evenly matched. The Highlander may be more comfortable, but the Ford Explorer is more fun. We recommend testing both.


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