Honda Pilot vs. Toyota Highlander

Honda Pilot vs. Toyota Highlander: Which crossover is right for you?

honda pilot vs toyota highlander 2019 thumb

They may not be the most exciting vehicles, but midsize crossovers have supplanted the station wagon and minivan to become the main choice for families. Every mainstream automaker in America either has a midsize crossover in its lineup, has two of them to cover a bigger share of the market, or is planning on building one as quickly as possible.

The 2019 Honda Pilot and the 2019 Toyota Highlander are two of the main players in this segment. The Highlander was one of the best-selling car in America in 2017. The Pilot wasn’t in the top 20, but which one is better in terms of comfort, performance, safety, and content? Read on and see for yourself.

Tech features

The base Pilot LX comes standard with a 5.0-inch central display screen and seven-speaker audio system. Honda also offers a more elaborate infotainment system, with an 8.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, on higher trim levels. Navigation, an upgraded audio system, and kid-pacifying rear-seat entertainment system are also available, but you’ll have to move even further up the trim level ladder.

android auto review version 1502315865 system press

Unlike Honda, Toyota offers a touchscreen as standard equipment. The base Highlander LE gets a 6.1-inch screen, as well as a six-speaker audio system. An 8.0-inch touchscreen, navigation, and 10-speaker JBL audio system are all available as options, but Toyota does not offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on the Highlander. A rear-seat entertainment system is also available on higher trim levels.

Performance and fuel economy

The Pilot and Highlander are both car-based crossovers, so while they might look like traditional SUVs, they have more refined on-road manners and a lower degree of off-road capability. Both come standard with front-wheel drive, but are also available with all-wheel drive. Beyond that, there are quite a few differences.

Honda only offers one engine option in the Pilot: A 3.5-liter V6 that produces 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. The V6 is paired with a six-speed or nine-speed automatic transmission, depending on the trim level. Front-wheel drive Pilots are rated to tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped, while all-wheel drive models can tow up to 5,000 pounds.

Toyota designates a 2.7-liter four-cylinder unit as the standard engine in the Highlander. This engine produces 185 hp and 184 lb-ft, and is available only with a six-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. An optional 3.5-liter V6 makes 295 hp and 263 lb-ft. The V6 is paired with an eight-speed automatic, and is available with either front or all-wheel drive. Four-cylinder Highlanders have a towing capacity of just 1,500 pounds, but V6 models can lug up to 5,000 pounds.

It’s important to remember that lots of real-world factors can influence fuel economy.

In its most fuel-efficient form (with the nine-speed automatic and front-wheel drive), the Pilot gets an EPA-rated 23 mpg combined (20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway). The Highlander maxes out at 23 mpg combined (21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway), when equipped with the V6 and front-wheel drive. It’s important to remember that lots of real-world factors, such as driving style and the types of roads you drive on, can influence fuel economy. As the saying goes, your mileage may vary.

Unlike Honda, Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain option. The Highlander Hybrid combines a 3.5-liter V6 with electric assist for a total system output of 306 hp. All-wheel drive is standard, and the hybrid model can tow up to 3,500 pounds. It’s also rated at 29 mpg combined (30 mpg city, 28 mpg highway) by the EPA.

Interior and exterior design

The Pilot and Highlander won’t win any beauty contests. Both are an awkward mismatch of styling cues from their respective makers’ cars with large, rather ungainly SUV body shapes. The Pilot’s chrome-laden grille is a bit more stylish than the gaping maw that defines the front of the Highlander, however.

Both interiors are fairly nondescript, but that’s to be expected in mass-market vehicles like these. As is the case with many modern cars, the central touchscreens bulge out awkwardly from the dashboards, showing how difficult it can be to package this in-demand tech. Both the Pilot and Highlander also have supplemental LCD screens in their instrument clusters, which driver may find useful, or distracting.

Both vehicles are fairly close in size. The Pilot measures 194.5 inches long, 69.8 inches tall, and 78.6 inches wide. The Highlander is 192.5 inches long, 70.1 inches tall, and 75.8 inches wide. Wheelbase-lengths are pretty close too: 111 inches for the Honda, 109.8 inches for the Toyota. Honda claims 7.3 inches of ground clearance for the Pilot, compared to 8.0 inches for the Toyota. Yet, due to the limitations of these vehicles’ tires, suspension, and all-wheel drive systems, we wouldn’t recommend taking either off road.

On the inside, the Pilot boasts seating for up to eight people, with 152.9 cubic feet of total passenger volume. The Highlander can also seat eight, with a maximum passenger volume of 144.9 cubic feet, depending on the model. The Pilot has 16.5 cubic feet of cargo space with all three rows of seats in place, and 83.9 cubic feet with the second and third rows folded. The Highlander offers 13.8 cubic feet, and 83.7 cubic feet, respectively.

Safety

Honda and Toyota offer an array of safety features. The Pilot comes standard with basic features like anti-lock brakes and stability control, and front, front-side, and three-row curtain airbags. Every Pilot regardless of trim level also boasts collision mitigation, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, and lane departure warning. Adaptive cruise control comes standard, too, but buyers who want a blind spot monitoring system need to move up in the trim level hierarchy.

In comparison, the Highlander comes standard with adaptive cruise control, automatic high beams, lane keep assist, and a pre-collision system. The complement of airbags includes front, front-side, driver knee, and roll-sensing side curtain airbags. Blind spot monitoring and park assist are also available on higher trim levels.

Pricing

Not surprisingly for vehicles pitched as competitors, the Pilot and Highlander are fairly close in price. A base Pilot LX with front-wheel drive starts at $31,450 before Honda adds a mandatory $995 destination charge. Honda offers the Pilot in LX, EX, EX-L, Touring, and Elite trim levels, bringing the price up to $48,020 for an all-wheel-drive Elite model with navigation and a rear-seat entertainment system.

Highlander pricing starts at $31,330. That price buys a base LE model with front-wheel drive and a four-cylinder engine, with no optional equipment. From there, you can upgrade to an LE Plus, XLE, SE Limited, or Limited Platinum model. The most expensive Highlander is the Limited Platinum with all-wheel drive, which hits $47,010.

Key rivals

If the Honda Pilot or Toyota Highlander don’t sound appealing, there are plenty of other choices. The Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, Hyundai Santa, Kia Sorento, and Volkswagen Atlas all offer a similar combination of space, features, and price, as does Subaru’s 2019 Ascent.

Cars

Drywall or kayaks? The 2020 Toyota Highlander is ready for your weekend plans

Toyota introduced the 2020 Highlander ahead of its public debut at the 2019 New York Auto Show. The fourth-generation Highlander is bigger than its predecessor, and it comes with more tech features, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Cars

From rugged wagons to hot sports cars, the 2019 NY Auto Show brought it all

From city cars to supercars, anything goes at the New York Auto Show. Automakers from all over the globe traveled to the 2019 show to unveil their newest concept cars and production models.
Cars

The 2020 Toyota Yaris offers big car tech in a small, Mazda-flavored package

Toyota resurrected the Yaris nameplate with a little bit of help from Mazda. Closely related to the Mazda2, the hatchback now stands out with a sharper design than before, and tech features normally found on bigger, more expensive cars.
Cars

2020 Ford Escape gets sleeker styling, greener powertrains, more tech

The 2020 Ford Escape gets redesigned for the first time since the 2013 model year. Ford brought back the hybrid powertrain, and is adding a plug-in hybrid option for the first time.
Cars

Café racer-inspired ebike hits 28 mph quickly and quietly with carbon belt drive

Ebike manufacturer Electra launched the Café Moto Go, an advanced ebike. The Café Moto Go's step-over frame was inspired by café racers. The Café Moto Go is a premium performance ebike built to run smoothly and extra quietly.
Cars

Where to go when your EV is low: Rich neighborhoods have most charging stations

If you're running low on juice in your electric vehicle, head for the rich part of town. A survey by Realtor.com found median home list prices in the 20 U.S. ZIP codes with the most EV charging stations were 2.6 times the national average.
Cars

Ford is keeping hackers out of its cars by putting key fobs to sleep

Ford found a way to stop thieves who try to hack their way into a car by duplicating its key fob. It developed a smart key fob that puts itself to sleep when it's idle for at least 40 seconds. It automatically wakes up when someone picks it…
Cars

This vintage Ford Bronco off-roader has a modern electric powertrain

Zero Labs took a classic Ford Bronco and replaced its gasoline engine with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. So you get the style and off-road capability of a Bronco, but with zero emissions.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Earth Day, indoor container farming, robot submarines

Today on Digital Trends Live, we discuss how technology intersects with Earth Day, a new Tim Cook biography, indoor container farming, robot spy submarines, A.I. death metal, and more.
Cars

Tesla will have ‘autonomous robotaxis’ in 2020, Elon Musk says

Tesla will deploy self-driving cars in a "robotaxi" service in 2020, CEO Elon Musk said at the automaker's Autonomy Investor Day. Musk has promised autonomous Tesla electric cars before, but will he finally deliver this time?
Cars

Startup Smartcar accuses bigger rival Otonomo of stealing intellectual property

California-based startup Smartcar claims its intellectual property was stolen by a much bigger (and better-funded) rival named Otonomo. Otonomo hasn't given its side of the story yet.
Cars

2020 Nissan 370Z Special Edition celebrates 50 Years of the Z car

Nissan is celebrating 50 years of its iconic "Z car" with a special edition of the 2020 370Z. The 50th-anniversary model is dressed to look like a 1970s race car, but remains technically unchanged.
Product Review

BMW’s smallest M car is its biggest performance statement

The BMW M2 Competition is frighteningly quick in a straight line, and its short wheelbase lends itself to some hilarious power slides, but it’s the curvy roads and tight tracks where this coupe comes alive.
Cars

Tesla rushes investigators to China to figure out why a parked Model S exploded

Tesla has sent a team of in-house investigators to Shanghai to determine why an early Model S suddenly exploded and caught fire. The electric sedan was parked before the fire started, and the cause of the blaze remains unknown.