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Ford Explorer Vs. Toyota Highlander Comparison: Which SUV Is Better?

Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander

If you're searching for a spacious and comfortable midsize SUV, comparing the Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander is a great place to start. Each of these SUVs offers advanced features, impressive performance metrics, and a reputation for reliability.

However, one of these SUVs stands tall regarding passenger comfort, power and capability, and overall options.

Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander Specs

2023 Ford Explorer 2023 Toyota Highlander
Standard Engine 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder 2.4L 4-cylinder
Horsepower 300 265
Torque 310 lb-ft 310 lb-ft
Drivetrain RWD or 4WD FWD or AWD
Transmission 10-speed automatic 8-speed automatic
EPA-Est. MPG (Cty/Hwy) 21/281 22/292
Towing Capacity 5,300 lbs3 5,000 lbs4
Length 198.8 in 194.9 in
Max Seating Capacity 7 8
Max Cargo Capacity 87.8 cu ft 84.3 cu ft
Passenger Volume 152.7 cu ft 141.8 cu ft

The 2023 Ford Explorer vs. 2023 Toyota Highlander specs reveal a more powerful Ford Explorer in virtually every metric. With its trio of dynamic engine options, including a base engine that flexes harder than the standard Toyota Highlander, the Explorer takes the spotlight. Comparatively, the Highlander offers two engine options: a single gas-powered and a single hybrid engine.

The Ford Explorer Hybrid vs. Toyota Highlander Hybrid options provide further differentiation. The Ford Explorer Hybrid is a 3.3-liter hybrid engine with 318 horsepower and 322 pound-feet of torque, paired with a ten-speed automatic transmission. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid engine is a less-powerful 2.4-liter hybrid engine with 243 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque, paired with a CVT.

Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander Trim Levels

Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander Trim Levels

Regarding trim levels and available features, the Ford Explorer offers eight trim levels, while the Toyota Highlander offers 11. The Ford Explorer trims include:

  • Ford Explorer
  • Ford Explorer XLT
  • Ford Explorer ST-Line
  • Ford Explorer Timberline
  • Ford Explorer Limited
  • Ford Explorer ST
  • Ford Explorer King Ranch
  • Ford Explorer Platinum

Comparatively, the Toyota Highlander SUV trim levels include:

  • Toyota Highlander L
  • Toyota Highlander LE
  • Toyota Highlander XLE
  • Toyota Highlander XSE
  • Toyota Highlander Limited
  • Toyota Highlander Platinum
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited
  • Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum

The trim levels of the new Ford Explorer for sale provide various amenities that will appeal to different driver needs and preferences. For example, the base trim is ideal for drivers who need a comfortable and dependable SUV with intuitive features. The ST-Line trim adds luxury and tech with wireless charging and a B&O® Bang & Olufsen® sound system. The Timberline is ideal for drivers with a sense of adventure who want to take their Ford Explorer off-road. As you explore the trims, look out for the impressive suite of available features to find the ideal model for your lifestyle.

The Toyota Highlander also offers plenty of standard and available features, but it does not come with options like a SYNC 3 10.1-inch LCD capacitive portrait touch screen with pinch-to-zoom capability.

Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander Tow Capacity

Flexing its impressive muscles, the 2023 Ford Explorer SUV is a force to be reckoned with. This versatile SUV can confidently tow up to 5,600 pounds.3 This capacity is thanks to the available, robust 3.0-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine, which, when teamed up with the Class IV Trailer Tow Package, makes towing easy. You can also tow this same amount with the 3.3-liter V-6 hybrid powertrain.3 Standard features like the Tow/Haul mode in the Terrain Management System make your experience even better.

Taking a look at the competition, the Toyota Highlander doesn't lag too far behind with its maximum available towing capacity of 5,000 pounds4 for the gas-powered variants. The hybrid models of the Toyota Highlander SUV have a maximum towing capacity of 3,500 pounds.4

If you're looking for a powerful SUV, purchase or lease your new Ford Explorer at Veterans Ford.

Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander Tow Capacity
Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander MPG

Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander MPG

Fuel efficiency is an essential aspect of any vehicle, especially for eco-conscious drivers. The Toyota Highlander SUV provides a slight advantage in fuel efficiency compared to the Ford Explorer. The Highlander base model in front-wheel drive offers 22/29/25 MPG (City/Highway/Combined).2 Comparatively, the base model of the Ford Explorer in rear-wheel drive offers 21/28/24 MPG (City/Highway/Combined).1

Explorer vs. Highlander Reliability

The Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander reliability ratings are favorable. Each SUV brand has a long-standing reputation for reliability and durability. According to J.D Power Consumer Ratings, the 2023 Ford Explorer has a "Great" Quality and Reliability rating of 82 out of 100,5 while the 2023 Toyota Highlander has an "Average" Quality and Reliability rating of 79 out of 100.6

These robust SUVs offer plenty of features and comfort for your daily drive and family road trips. However, the Ford Explorer offers more power, more available options, and more space. Visit our Ford dealer in Tampa, FL, to meet the new Ford Explorer and take it for a test drive today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which SUV has a wider range of trim levels and options: the 2023 Ford Explorer or Toyota Highlander?

The Toyota Highlander has more trims to choose from because it separates out those with its available hybrid powertrain into separate trims for a total of 11. The Ford Explorer offers eight trims, some of which come with multiple engine options. In total, the Ford model has three engine options to pick from, while the Toyota Highlander SUV has two.

Can the new Ford Explorer tow more than the Toyota Highlander?

The Ford Explorer has a higher towing capacity than the Toyota Highlander. The Ford Explorer SUV boasts a maximum towing capacity of up to 5,600 pounds.3 However, the Toyota Highlander SUV isn't far behind, with a maximum available towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.4 However, if you choose a Toyota Highlander Hybrid, the available towing capacity drops to just 3,500 pounds.4

Which is more fuel-efficient: the Explorer or the Highlander?

The Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander SUVs each deliver similar fuel efficiency. The front-wheel drive base model of the Toyota Highlander offers 22/29/25 MPG (City/Highway/Combined),2 while the base rear-wheel-drive Ford Explorer model offers 21/28/24 MPG (City/Highway/Combined).1 If you're shopping for a new SUV based on fuel efficiency, you'll get similar performance out of each.

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1EPA-estimated city/hwy mpg for the model indicated. See for fuel economy of other engine/transmission combinations. Actual mileage will vary. On plug-in hybrid models and electric models, fuel economy is stated in MPGe. MPGe is the EPA equivalent measure of gasoline fuel efficiency for electric mode operation.

2Use for comparison purposes only. Your mileage will vary for many reasons, including your vehicle's condition and how/where you drive. See

3Max towing varies based on cargo, vehicle configuration, accessories and number of passengers.

4Before towing, confirm your vehicle and trailer are compatible, hooked up and loaded properly and that you have any necessary additional equipment. Do not exceed any Weight Ratings and follow all instructions in your Owner's Manual. The maximum you can tow depends on base curb weight plus the total weight of any cargo, occupants, and added vehicle equipment. "Added vehicle equipment" includes additional standard/optional equipment and accessories added by the manufacturer, dealers, and/or vehicle owners. The only way to be certain of your vehicle's exact curb weight is to weigh your vehicle without passengers or cargo. [Calculated with the new SAE J2807 method.] Installation of a tow hitch receiver or other accessories located near the rear bumper or side-door kick sensors may require disabling or removing the kick sensor, and the sensor operation setting in your vehicle should be turned off. See Owner's Manual for limitations.

5Reference to this third-party claim is solely for informational purposes and not to be relied upon. For details regarding this rating, visit

6Reference to this third-party claim is solely for informational purposes and not to be relied upon. For details regarding this rating, visit

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