2020 Highlander vs. Explorer Comparison

When looking for a new car that will last longer and go farther, Toyota and Ford are two historically reliable brands. The true test comes when comparing two of their vehicles in a side-by-side competition.

In terms of safety, the 2020 Highlander comes standard with Toyota Safety Sense® 2.0 (TSS 2.0) and the Star Safety System™. You will need to upgrade to an Explorer Limited or higher trim for comparable active safety features.

As for going farther, the fuel efficiency of the higher grade Highlander models beat out the mileage estimates of the Ford Explorer ST and Platinum.

There’s no denying that you can always count on Toyota’s reliability backed by a plethora of awards from Kelley Blue Book®. Below, we’ll take a deeper dive into topics like safety, performance, and reliability to see who comes out on top in this 2020 Highlander vs. Explorer head to head.

Publish Date: 06/12/2020

Explore Highlander

Safety

When it comes to safety features in a car, you might say: “The more the merrier!” That’s why Toyota packs in more as a standard.

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Safety

  • All 2020 Toyota Highlander trims come standard with TSS 2.0® and the Star Safety System™.
  • You will need to upgrade to a higher Explorer trim to get comparable features at a higher starting MSRP.
  • The Highlander also comes with the added safety feature of Safety Connect®.
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Performance

For a smoother drive, Toyota utilizes Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) in the Highlander L AWD 3.5L V6 Direct Shift 8-Speed Automatic. You will need to upgrade to an Explorer ST or higher to get the Hill Descent Control™ as an option. This feature is standard on the Platinum trim.

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Performance

  • The Toyota Highlander offers both Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) while the Explorer only has Hill Descent Control™.
  • For higher trim models, the Highlander Limited has better gas mileage than the Explorer Platinum.
  • You get more power with the Highlander V6 engine than the I-4 base engine for the Explorer.
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Reliability

When it comes to being recognized for their reliability, Toyota and Ford consistently rank. Toyota was the #2 Most Awarded Brand of 2019 while Ford was ranked #7 on the KBB 10 Most Awarded Brands of 2019 list.

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Reliability

  • Toyota and Ford battle for the top spot on award lists, but Toyota came out as the #2 Most Awarded Brand of 2019 as opposed to Ford's #7 ranking.
  • Based on KBB Expert Ratings, the Highlander received 4.6 out of 5 stars vs. the Explorer's 4.1 out of 5 stars.
  • The 2020 Highlander L AWD offers several drive modes designed to handle different weather conditions and terrains.
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Conclusion: Highlander vs. Explorer

When it comes to safety, performance, and reliability, the Highlander and Explorer are a close matchup. However, the 2020 Toyota Highlander offers more standard features without the costly add-ons. Toyota, as a brand, also ranks more highly than Ford in KBB Expert Ratings and other award lists.

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Conclusion: Highlander vs. Explorer

  • The Highlander offers more standard safety features with TSS 2.0 and the Star Safety System™.
  • The base trim Highlander has a more powerful V6 engine than the I-4 engine of the Explorer.
  • Toyota was ranked #2 in the KBB 10 Most Awarded Brands of 2019.
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