Honda Pilot vs. Toyota Highlander: Which One Should You Get?
Honda and Toyota are automakers who constantly go head-to-head when competing in the domestic car market. With an extensive line of fantastic vehicles, a long history of excellence, and forward-thinking designs, it’s no surprise that the two brands are some of the most popular manufacturers in the field.
More specifically, the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander compete as award-winning models. Both the Pilot and the Highlander are midsize SUVs with three rows of seats. Both have all-wheel-drive options, and the latest model comes equipped with a V6 engine.
Honda released the current iteration of the Pilot in 2016, while the Toyota’s last major redesign came in 2020. In both instances, these redesigns continued to build upon a reputation of excellence, but which one is right for you?
We’ll dive into the stats right here with our Honda Pilot versus Toyota Highlander comparison.
Highlander vs. Pilot: Engines and Fuel Economy
Again, the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander both feature a 3.5-liter V6 engine as standard equipment under the hood. The Pilot has nine-speed automatic transmission, while the Toyota Highlander has eight.
Expect to see the Pilot's V6 to meet 280 horsepower. Front-wheel drive is standard, although you can upgrade to an all-wheel-drive option. The Pilot's towing capacity sits at 5,000 pounds max.
The Highlander offers similar stats, with 295 horsepower and front-wheel drive also standard. Several variations of all-wheel-drive are available, and 5,000 pounds is the max towing capacity. With the hybrid version of the Highlander, those stats switch to a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 243 horsepower.
When it comes to fuel efficiency on the road:
Neither the Highlander nor the Pilot falls behind in this category. The Pilot gets a standard 20 mpg on city streets and 27 mpg on the highway. If you opt for all-wheel drive, those stats change to 19/26 mpg.
Toyota's standard model gets you 21 mpg in the cities and 29 mpg on the freeways, with those stats dropping to 20/27 mpg in all-wheel drive. In short, the Toyota Highlander comes out ahead in this category, but only barely.
Seating, cargo space, and interior features
The Highlander and the Pilot are once again standouts in this category. Both midsize SUVs sport three rows of seating that can easily accommodate seven or eight passengers altogether. Honda has always been known for comfortable seating and spacious cargo, and the Pilot is no exception to this trend. Cloth seats are standard, while higher trim levels allow you to upgrade to leather, heated, and ventilated seats.
For cargo, the Honda Pilot has 18.5 cubic feet of space with all the seats up, 55.9 cubic feet of space with the third row down, and 109.2 cubic feet with both the second and third rows down. Toyota matches Honda beat-for-beat with seating but falls slightly behind in cargo space. You'll get 16 cubic feet with the third row up, 48.4 cubic feet with the third row down, and 84.3 cubic feet with both the second and third rows folded flat.
However, the Toyota Highlander more than makes up for this discrepancy with its tech features.
The base level of the Highlander comes equipped with an 8-inch information display, with the option to upgrade to a 12.3-inch screen in higher trim levels. Other standard features include a six-speaker audio system, five USB ports, and sync with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. It also has a wifi hotspot.
On the flip side, the Honda Pilot has some fantastic tech options, but not all of them are available in the standard trim. That's is a consistent pattern with Honda cars, so you can expect to see it repeated in earlier models and different models like you do with this rundown of the Honda Accord versus the Toyota Camry. The same goes for minivan models such as the Honda Odyssey versus the Toyota Sienna.
For 2021, Honda equipped the Pilot with a 5-inch infotainment display, two USB ports, and Bluetooth capabilities. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available as optional upgrades, too.
Highlander or Pilot, which is safer?
Lastly, let's dive into safety and handling, one of the most important aspects to consider with any new vehicle. That's especially true if you have so many passengers that you require a three-row SUV.
The Honda Pilot has a stellar safety record, winning five stars from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2021. Standard safety features that helped it win this stellar rap include automatic high beams, lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, and forward-collision warning. This isn't the first year that the Pilot won multiple awards, either. The 2019 model, the 2018 model, and the 2017 model also won Top Safety Pick awards from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The Toyota Highlander meets the Honda Pilot pound-for-pound in this category. For 2021, it too received a five-star rating by the NHTSA. It also won the title of Top Safety Pick from the IIHS in the same year. Standard features include automatic emergency braking, rearview cameras, and forward-collision warnings. Among earlier models with these same features are the 2019 model and the 2018 model.
As for how these vehicles handle on the road?
The Honda Pilot is agile and responsive and can get up to speed quickly. The Highlander's AWD capabilities make it well-suited for backcountry camping. Its strong suspension means that it easily handles uneven roads.
Honda Pilot vs. Toyota Highlander: Which one should you buy?
Now that we’ve covered the basics, you’ll probably have a decent idea about which vehicle will suit your needs. You’ll also know what to expect regarding engine options, seating arrangements, cargo space, entertainment upgrades, and safety features.
Both the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander are excellent midsize SUVs with many specs in common. Their prices are similar, too, so how do you tell which one is best?
In our opinion, they’re both fantastic but better suited for different scenarios. Are you the type of person to do some heavy-duty camping? The Toyota Highlander is probably the safer option. Do you prefer quick and easy getaways to the lake or woods? Pick the Pilot instead.
Additionally, the price may be a determining factor for you. If you shop online for earlier models, though, you can find the right car for what you need. With Shift, you can buy a car from the comfort of your own home at a fair, up-front price. When you buy, you’ll also know that your new vehicle will have no hidden issues from a 150-point inspection done before purchase.
Suppose you’re considering buying a different vehicle online, especially another Toyota model. In that case, consider reading up on how much a used Toyota 4Runner costs here.
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All prices are based on vehicle availability and pricing as of
September 28, 2021
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