There’s a lot of fierce competition in the midsize SUV category, but two names usually rise to the top. Both Lexus and parent company Toyota makes quality SUVs, including the Toyota Highlander and the Lexus RX 350, but one clearly outranks the other. It’s no real surprise, since Lexus is Toyota’s luxury brand, launched in 1989 as a step up for Toyota loyalists.
Today, many of the vehicles are built on the same platforms. However, according to U.S. News and World Report, Lexus wins out in every category except price and fuel economy. They compared Lexus and Toyota in those areas, plus performance, interior, and safety.
Why does Lexus beat Toyota in midsize SUVs?
For Toyota fans looking for a nice midsize SUV, it’s natural to look at the Highlander. However, U.S. News and World Report cars division reviewers prefer the Lexus RX 350 in the midsize SUV category. They found the 2020 Lexus RX 350 one of the better SUVs they tested overall, with a powerful engine, luxury interior, high-tech features, and smooth ride.
While the reviewers appreciated the affordability and roominess of the Toyota Highlander, they found it fell behind in some key areas. These include handling, interior quality, and performance. The base Highlander has more passenger space and seats eight with three rows. Lexus drivers have to get the RX L for three rows, and there’s only available seating for seven.
In many ways, the Lexus RX 350 and the Toyota Highlander are different versions of the same SUV. They both have the same standard 3.5-liter V6 engine putting out 295 horsepower. It’s mated in both SUVs to an eight-speed automatic transmission.
The 2020 Toyota Highlander
The Toyota Highlander was only ranked number 15 in midsize SUVs. Reviewers did like what they called the “composed” ride, and also the high-end cabin materials.
It was fully redesigned for 2020 and is available in front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive models. The Highlander gets a respectable 29 miles per gallon on the highway, better than some competitors with a four-cylinder engine.
Reviewers still thought the Highlander was a good SUV, despite its ranking. It has a standard V6 engine and standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The 8-inch touch screen is also now standard, and all these features work together to keep the driver connected and entertained. Safety features include road sign recognition, and a larger cargo area.
The 2020 Lexus RX 350
The 2020 Lexus RX 350 ranks up at number two in the U.S. News and World Report survey. Things they loved the most were the soft ride, powerful V6 engine, and standard safety technology. They didn’t like that most of its competitors have more cargo room.
Reviewers appreciated the Lexus RX 350 as a commuter vehicle because of its fuel efficiency and comfort. They also thought it makes a great family vehicle thanks to all the standard safety features. They had to admit that the Toyota Highlander does offer a lot of the same amenities, just not in the luxury class.
The midsize Lexus SUV got some refreshed exterior styling for 2020, as well as new standard features. Smartphone integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, with a new user-friendly interface. Drivers use a device called a Remote Touch Controller that functions a lot like a computer mouse to communicate with the vehicle.
In the midsize SUV category, the 2020 Lexus RX 350 stands above the 2020 Toyota Highlander in many categories. Both are good SUVs, but the abundance of features on the RX 350 makes it a better choice.