2020 Ford Explorer vs 2020 Toyota Highlander – Albany, NY

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  • 2020 Ford Explorer

    A grey 2020 Ford Explorer is facing left.

    Starting at

    $32,765

    2020 Toyota Highlander

    A silver 2020 Toyota Highlander is angled right on a white background.

    Starting at

    $34,600

    3Available Engines2
    300-400Horsepower (HP)243-295
    310-415Torque (lb-ft)175-263
    5,600Max Towing Capability (LBS)5,000

    If you're looking for a midsize SUV, you're in good company. It's one of the most widely produced vehicles in the country, so you'll have plenty of options to choose from. In fact, according to US News and World Report, there are over 20 vehicles that are considered midsize SUV (and this doesn't include what it classifies as midsize crossover). So you'll want to sift through all the different vehicle makes and models. Two of the most popular ones are the Ford Explorer and the Toyota Highlander. But which of these two models checks off the most boxes? While it does depend on the boxes listed on your shopping list, here is the nitty-gritty when it comes to the 2020 Ford Explorer vs 2020 Toyota Highlander.

    Both the 2020 Ford Explorer and the 2020 Toyota Highlander come with a similar entry price point. The Ford Explorer has an entry MSRP of $32,765, while the base 2020 Highlander has a starting MSRP of $34,600. If you were to shop around for the top-tier trim on the Ford Explorer, you would end up with the Platinum four-wheel-drive SUV. This version has a price point of $58,250. The 2020 Toyota Highlander also has a Platinum as its top-tier trim, although this version comes with a lower price point of $46,850. Maxing out each does come at a lower price for the Highlander, but diving into the complete list of specs shows where these price differences come into play.

  • Performance

    A blue Explorer from the front, the winner of 2020 Ford Explorer vs 2020 Toyota Highlander, is driving on a desert highway.

    Engine Options

    With the 2020 Ford Explorer, you have two engine options and a hybrid engine. For the 2020 Toyota Highlander, there is currently just one engine. There will likely be a hybrid model coming out of Toyota in the future as there was a 2019 edition, although Toyota has not officially released the 2020 model. Due to this, you'll have to wait for your hybrid, or you will need to go with the single all-fuel engine offered.

    2020 Ford Explorer

    For the base 2020 Ford Explorer, you'll end up with a solid 2.3L I4 Turbo that produces 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. The second option is a 3.0L Twin Turbo V6, which is going to give you 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque. This powerful engine is found on the RS and Platinum trims. The 3.3L Hybrid V6 offers up an excellent 318 horsepower and 322 lb-ft of torque.

    2020 Toyota Highlander

    All of the current Highlanders will come with a 3.5L V6 that produces 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. You get the same engine on the base Highlander as you do with the Platinum Highlander, which might have you wondering why you should upgrade in the first place. When the hybrid option is released, it will feature 243 horsepower and a much lower 175 lb-ft of torque.

    Towing Capacity

    You probably already know this answer, but the 2020 Ford Explorer can tow more than the Highlander. By simply looking at the engine outputs, there isn't a question. While both are midsize SUVs, which naturally will limit true towing potential, the more powerful engine will almost always deliver better towing. With the 2020 Ford Explorer, you'll max out your towing capacity at 5,600 pounds. As for the Toyota Highlander, you'll hit the max at 5,000 pounds.

  • Interior

    A maroon 2020 Ford Explorer is parked in a snowy field outside Albany, NY.

    Cargo Space

    Trim doesn't matter when it comes to cargo space, which is great if you don't want to max out the trim in order to max out the room you need. When you get with the base is what you get with the Platinum editions. For the 2020 Ford Explorer, you will have 18.2 cubic feet of cargo space with all seats up. When you fold down the back row, you'll increase your cargo space to 47.9 cubic feet, and then if you fold down the second row, you'll boost this number up to 87.8 cubic feet.

    As for the Highlander, you'll start with 16 cubic feet of space with the seats up. When you fold down the back row you will jump up to 48.4 cubic feet, giving you a full half-foot of cargo space over the Explorer. However, this number drops back to 84.3 cubic feet with the back two rows folded down. This means the 2020 Ford Explorer comes with 2.2 more cubic feet with all seats up, and 3.5 more cubic feet with all the seats folded down.

    Entertainment

    On the base 2020 Explorer trim, the midsize SUV will come with FordPass Connect, which is the company's built-in 4G LTE WiFi service. It also offers SiriusXM Satellite Radio, AM/FM stereo, plus dual second-row smart USB ports and optional voice-activated navigation system. The system also includes Ford SYNC, which features both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The base Toyota Highlander will feature its own WiFi Connect service, plus an AM/FM stereo that includes SiriusXM Satellite radio, plus Android Auto and AppleCarPlay. It also has built-in Amazon Alexa, if you use this particular smart assistant. This is a nice feature if you are involved in the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. However, if you use Google, you will be able to communicate with your car via Android Auto (as long as your Android phone has the Google Home assistant).

    As for the Platinum edition of the 2020 Ford Explorer, the SUV will give you an upgraded B&O Sound System by Bang & Olufsen. It maintains many of the same standard features found on the base model. As for the Highlander Platinum trim, you'll also land an upgraded audio system. However, Toyota uses JBL w/Clari-Fi for its upgraded audio experience. You'll need to listen to the two systems to decide which you like the best, although both will be upgrades over the standard six-speaker setups found on the base Explorer and base Highlander.

  • Safety

    A blue 2020 Ford Explorer is parked on a hill in the woods outside Albany, NY.

    Safety First

    Unlike other brands out there, both Ford and Toyota give you almost all of the safety features on the base models. Now, some tech safety features are found on upgradeable options, but in terms of mechanical performance and keeping you safe on the interior, Ford, and Toyota are some of the best out there.

    2020 Ford Explorer

    With the base 2020 Ford Explorer, it comes standard with a Safety Canopy System, which blankets the entire cabin with airbags in the event of a crash. It also has a front passenger knee airbag, to help prevent knee and lower leg injuries. It comes standard with traction control, AdvenceTrac with Roll Stability Control, plus lower anchors and tether anchors for children's seating.

    2020 Toyota Highlander

    The base 2020 Toyota Highlander comes with its Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 system, which helps with pre-collision and pedestrian warnings. It also has electronically controlled braking, enhanced stability control, eight airbags (including a knee airbag), rear passenger seatbelt reminder (which is great if you have a kid who's always trying to wiggle their way out of their seatbelt), child-protector rear door locks, lower anchors and tethers for children's seating, plus a collapsible steering column which can help reduce some chest injuries during an accident.

    Platinum Trims

    The Ford Co-Pilot360 Assist comes as a standard feature on the Explorer Platinum trim (it is optional on the base trim). This helps you with everything from parking to automatically changing your cruising speed while on the highway, to helping you spot cars in your blind spots. It also comes with a Trailer Tow Class III Package, which makes it easier to line up towing and to control the vehicle while you tow trailers, including the ability to see beyond the trailer, which keeps both you and other drivers safe.

    The Platinum Toyota Highlander comes with the same safety features as the base package, plus Snow Mode + Drive Mode select features, Downhill Assist Control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, plus front and rear parking assist with automated braking.

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