Toyota Highlander vs Ford Explorer: Expert Comparison review by Naijauto.com

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Wondering which of the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander to go for? Read this review that highlights the most important factors these two come with!

I always thought the Toyota Highlander is the coolest of the class until last year when I had a chance to test drive a 2019 model of the Ford Explorer. Men!!! That car is just cool, you drive into a parking lot and you'll hear all kinds of beepy sounds ring out everywhere especially when you're approaching an obstacle. Now for some of us who have also driven the latest models of the Toyota Highlander, there springs the Toyota Highlander vs Ford Explorer challenge. This is about which is better or for which of these two you should boldly hand-over your money to a dealership or salesperson.

So we at Naijauto.com are bringing you an expert comparison of these two models from two of the most popular and biggest car brands in the world.   

1. Ford Explorer overview

The Ford Explorer was introduced in 1991 to tap into the SUV market that was obviously experiencing a major boom at that time.

The Explorer was derived from the 1974 Ford F-series Explorer package. The Explorer car package was at that time only available in three 1974 F-series models, the F-350, F-250, and F-100 and  Ford Explorer Sport Trac or (Ford Explorer trac sport). Ford Motor Company thus felt the need to tap into the success of those model packages by introducing an all-new, standalone full-size model, the Ford Explorer SUV.

The Explorer has enjoyed tremendous market success through its six generations with over 168,000 units of the Explorer sold in the United States alone inside the year 2019. Barring the current global pandemic, the 2020 Explorer was expected to do well in terms of global sales, but the lockdowns that came with the pandemic slowed every industry down. However, Ford Motor Company plans to resume production by the 18th of May.

2020-ford-explorer-platinum-side-view

The Explorer's root can be traced to the Explorer package of some 1974 Ford F-series Trims 

2020-ford-explorer-platinum

The first models of the Ford Explorer were introduced in 1991

2. Overview of Toyota Highlander

While the Ford Explorer has some deep American root, this Toyota car as we all know is one of those cars of Japan that succeeded in gaining a good share of the global auto market, making it one of the top 5 auto brands in the world. Unlike the Ford Explorer, whose production began in 1990, the Toyota Highlander was first introduced in 2001 and was one of the first-ever examples of how a crossover SUV built on a cars platform should look and perform like.

Currently, the Toyota Highlander is in its 4th generation which was introduced last year and has been enjoying good market figures, selling an estimated 59,268 units during the fourth quarter of 2019, way shy of what a similar Toyota SUV, the 4Runner, sold within the same period.

2020-toyota-highlander-front-view

The first models of the Highlander were released in 2001

2020-toyota-highlander-rear-view

The first models of the Highlander were built on the same platform as that of Lexus RX

3. Toyota Highlander Vs Ford Explorer: The Comparison

3.1 Pricing

The latest models of the two Crossovers may not be considered among the most "expensive SUVs but cost a good fortune to own. But obviously we believe if you are reading this, your interest is mainly how good one is over the other, and not really how much cash it will take out of your pocket. Anyways, the table below will give an idea of the Toyota Highlander prices in Nigeria and the 2020 Ford Explorer price in Nigeria.

After that, we will try to highlight the prices of previous-year models of both SUVs. First the price comparison of the latest 2020 models.

Prices of 2020 Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander comparison

Ford Explorer

Toyota Highlander

Trim Price (₦)

Trim

Price (₦)

Platinum Trim 4x4 ₦22.72m Platinum AWD Trim ₦19.03m
ST Trim 4x4 ₦21.35m Platinum FWD Trim ₦18.27m
Limited Trim 4x4 ₦19.55m Limited AWD Trim ₦17.78m
Limited Trim 4x2 ₦18.77m Limited FWD Trim ₦17.02m
XLT Trim 4x4 ₦15.08m XLE AWD Trim ₦16.07m
XLT Trim 4x2 ₦14.30m XLE FWD Trim ₦15.44m
Base Trim 4x4 ₦13.56m LE AWD Trim ₦14.98m
Base Trim 4x2 ₦12.78m LE FWD Trim ₦14.35m
    L AWD Trim ₦14.12m
    L FWD Trim ₦13.49m

Prices of used Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander/ Comparison

Ford Explorer

Toyota Highlander

Model Year Price (₦) Model Year Price (₦)
2010 Ford Explorer ₦1.74m - ₦2.44m 2007 Toyota Highlander ₦1.28m - ₦2.00m
2011 Ford Explorer ₦2.66m - ₦3.64m 2008 Toyota Highlander ₦1.72m - ₦2.59m
2012 Ford Explorer ₦3.08m - ₦6.09m 2009 Toyota Highlander ₦1.92m - ₦2.79m
2013 Ford Explorer ₦4.64m and above 2010 Toyota Highlander ₦2.54m - ₦3.57m
2014 Ford Explorer ₦5.81m - ₦6.55m 2011 Toyota Highlander ₦3.23m - ₦4.43m
2015 Ford Explorer ₦6.23m - ₦7.28m 2012 Toyota Highlander ₦3.59m - ₦4.77m
2016 Ford Explorer ₦7.02m - ₦11.11m 2013 Toyota Highlander ₦5.80m and above
2017 Ford Explorer ₦8.37m - ₦12.58m 2014 Toyota Highlander ₦5.02m - ₦8.78m
2018 Ford Explorer ₦10.35m - ₦11.19m 2015 Toyota Highlander ₦7.98m - ₦9.31m
2019 Ford Explorer ₦12.62m - ₦21.12m 2016 Toyota Highlander ₦9.58m - ₦11.89m
    2017 Toyota Highlander ₦9.58m - ₦11.89m
    2018 Toyota Highlander ₦10.90m - ₦14.01m
    2019 Toyota Highlander ₦12.41m - ₦18.53m

And oh you can also get the details of the latest model of the Toyota Highlander and some top tips on buying a used Toyota Highlander in Nigeria by clicking the links!

>>> More car comparisons to check out:

3.2. Exterior

When it comes to exterior look, both models display a good level of design work and both look fine. The Highlander comes with this smoking gun front fascia, which is something most young-blood bankers and mid-level offshore workers like. The rear area tries a look to maintain the DNA of the Lexus RX models and so for guys that own and want to upgrade from their Lexus RX models, then you may want to go for the Toyota Highlander models.

For the Ford Explorer, it comes off as a business class SUV for the bosses, especially with its imposing exterior look. If you are an ED or a top bracket executive that prefers an SUV, then the Explorer offers that extra feel of an executive ride over the Highlander.

ford-explorer-on-a-dirt-road

The Ford Explorer has this executive feel to its exterior look

2020-toyota-highlander-exterior

The Highlander looks much more aggressive

But if we must give a verdict, we would rather go for the Ford Explorer, as it looks a lot more executive and imposing. That is not to say the Highlander is not cool, but the Explorer for us just gives that extra edge for their latest models.

Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander: Exterior
Toyota Highlander Ford Explorer
 Smoking gun front fascia  Imposing look overall
 
 Rear-end design inherits from the Lexus RX
 Suitable for mid-level offshore workers  Suitable for businessmen

3.3 Interior

Just like the exterior, both mid-size crossovers got a good deal of work put in. However, some interior features will have a big say on where you actually put your money. A number of Automotive industry analysts have given the interior plastics of the Explorer some really poor ratings, so we took out time to confirm this. So, the interior plastics lining the interior of the Explorer doesn't look that expensive. If you've seen the movie titled the "Criminal", the plastics in the 2020 models of the Explorer fall in the same category as that Jericho (Kevin Costner) used his teeth to rip-off.

Maybe next year's models will possibly have this area revisited.

2020-toyota-highlander-front-seat

The Highlander comes with a 12.3-inch infotainment display

2020-ford-explorer-front-seat

The Explorer offers ambient interior lighting for your pleasure

In contrast, the Toyota Highlander utilizes high-quality fine-grain plastics to line their big-wheeled midsize crossover SUV interior, which results in the Highlanders interior looking a lot posher.

However, besides this area and how the Explorer's third-row seat is a little bit uncomfortable, the Highlander seems to be outclassed by what the Explorer offers in terms of interior features. The Explorer outshines the Highlander by offering more comfortable and plushy seats with better lumbar support across both the front and second-row seats.

It also offers a Tesla-like infotainment display that stands tall and is much more easily accessible when compared to Highlanders' bigger but old-fashioned display.

Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander: Interior
 Ford Explorer Toyota Highlander
 Poor ratings for its plastics  High-quality fine-grain plastics -> Looks posher
Uncomfortable third-row seat  
 Less impressive interior functions
 Plushy front and second-row seats with better lumbar support
 Modern infotainment display  Old-fashioned display

 

>>> Check out these 10 simple tips to maintain your used Toyota Highlander

3.4 Space and cargo capacity

Ford Explorer takes the crown here, as it offers a lot more interior space and storage capacity than what you get with the Highlander. The Explorer's maximum cargo capacity with both second and third-row seats folded down stands at about 87.8 cubic feet; a good 14.5 cubic feets more than the Highlander's 73.3 cubic feet offering. The Explorer still beats the Highlander even with both seats up, offering about 18.2 cubic feet of cargo space at the back compared to Highlanders 16.1 cubic feet.

Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander: Space and Cargo capacity
Ford Explorer  Toyota Highlander
  Maximum cargo capacity
 87.8 cubic feet  73.3 cubic feet
Rear seats not folded
18.2 cubic feet 16.1 cubic feet

boy-coming-off-a-car

The Explorer offers more interior spacing than the Highlander

The following video gives a brief walkaround overview of both motor vehicles

Video: All-new 2020 Toyota Highlander vs 2020 Ford Explorer | quick walkaround

3.5 Engine

But what should tip one side over is the power comparison? The Explorer is way ahead of the Highlander in this area, from their base models to their class-topping trims. The Explorer's base trim, which is offered as both the Front-wheel-drive and the  All-wheel-drive vehicles pump out a solid 300 hp with its 2.3 Liter Ecoboost engine, as well as 310 lb-ft torque from its 10-speed automatic transmission.

The Platinum top trim of the Explorer also posts impressive numbers with it 3.0 Liter twin-turbocharged V6 engines, and standard 10-speed transmission, delivering a solid 380 lb-ft torque and 365 hp.

On the Toyota Highlander side, the power supplied by the engine is well below the Explorer's offering. Considering Highlander's Platinum top trim (with AWD powertrain), its 3.5 Liter V6 engine offers as much as 295-hp and 263 lb-ft delivered to its wheel by the 8-speed automatic transmission. And oh, the Toyota Highlander is one of those Front-wheel-drive vehicles that is just efficient if you decide to go with it.

Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander: Engine
Ford Explorer  Toyota Highlander
  Base trim
 2.3L Ecoboost engine  3.5L V6 engine
 300 HP/310 lb-ft torque  295HP.263 lb-ft torque
 10-speed automatic transmission   8-speed automatic transmission
Top trim
 3L twin-turbocharged V6 engines  3.5L V6 engine
 365 HP/380 lb-ft torque  295HP.263 lb-ft torque
 10-speed transmission  8-speed automatic transmission

3.6 Performance and fuel economy

Both SUVs were designed as off-road vehicles and thus you could expect that what lies under the bonnet will generate some high pump rating to drag them over such terrains. However, the Highlander for sure beats the Explorer in terms of fuel economy, especially with their hybrid models. The Toyota Highlander, with its 2.5 Liter In-Line 4 cylinder engine combined with a rear-wheel powering electric motor torque-split hybrid system, offers as much as 35 mpg fuel economy for both city drive and highway travel.

On the other hand, Ford Explorer's 3.3 Liter V6 engine combined with its electric motors offers a Ford estimated 24 mpg fuel economy combined, which is obviously dwarfed by what the Highlander offers.

But, it becomes easily obvious why the Explorer's hybrid system will post such meager fuel economy numbers when you look at its power and performance rating. This is considering that the Explorer can tow as much as 5000 lbs of load compared to the Highlander's 3500 lbs. Well, I believe Nigerians will be more interested in the non-hybrid versions comparison. Well, both SUVs post similar fuel economy numbers, so it's a draw here.

Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander: Performance & Fuel Economy
 Ford Explorer Toyota Highlander
Performance
 5000 lbs of load  3500 lbs of load
  Fuel economy (both Cty and Hwy)
 24 mpg  35 mpg

4. Conclusion

Concerning vehicle technology and safety, both sides are just good enough and you should be fine with either of them as they offer top-class innovative automotive technologies. So, clearly, the decision is made a lot easier for you with the detailed expert comparison of the 2020 models of Toyota Highlander vs Ford Explorer. These two are surely among the best SUVs to buy in Nigeria and of course two of the Best SUVs 2020.

>>> Check out: some really insightful reviews of both SUV models

>>> Visit Naijauto.com for the latest updates on Car Prices, and Car reviews!

You can also get the latest listings of Toyota Highlander for sale in Nigeria and Ford Explorer for sale in Nigeria

Henry Egan a poet, essayist, content writer, blogger and technical writer who is willing to read just that last material to develop the best content possible. Henry feels he is more of a new generation writer with a sassy and swanky style. You can be sure you'll get all the facts in and never get bored with his articles.

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