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Toyota Highlander vs. Rav4: Pros, Cons, & Differences

2021 Toyota Highlander XLE AWD

The new Toyota Highlander and Rav4 are two of the most popular options in the car market. Both are full-sized, crossover SUVs. They have many available trim levels, engine trims, and other perks.

While both are also equipped with a long list of features, they differ in several key areas that are worth considering before deciding which one is best suited for your needs.

Below, we’ll discuss several outstanding features of each SUV and look at the key differences between these two great vehicles. Keep reading to learn more!

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Review Summary

The Toyota Highlander and the Toyota Rav4 are compact SUVs that have always been front-runners in the car industry. They have excellent reliability and resale value. Also, they have a long list of standard features.

The Toyota Highlander has a more powerful engine option and an improved interior quality. It also has extra standard safety features. There are

three rows of seating and it is one of the largest SUVs in its class. So, if you have large cargo and a big family, this is the SUV for you.

The Toyota RAV4 is an all-new model. It comes with many standard safety features and user-friendly tech. If you want an off-road SUV, this is likely the one for you.

At a Glance

Toyota Highlander
  • 5L six-cylinder engine
  • Maximum cargo volume of 84.3 cubic feet
  • 5,000 pounds maximum towing capacity
  • Maximum passenger capacity of 8
  • 21/29 MPG (City/Highway)
  • 295 horsepower
  • 263 lb-ft of torque
Toyota Rav4
  • 5L four-cylinder engine
  • Maximum cargo volume of 69.8 cubic feet
  • 3,500 pounds maximum towing capacity
  • Maximum passenger capacity of 5
  • 25/32 MPG (City/Highway)
  • 203 horsepower
  • 184 lb-ft of torque

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Overview of the 2024 Toyota Highlander

The new Toyota Highlander is ready for you to take home. From the ground up, it’s redesigned to make your drive more stylish, enjoyable, and safer than ever before.

Here are some of its outstanding features:

Engine and Transmission

The standard engine in the Toyota Highlander has a 3.5-liter, six-cylinder engine. It has 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque. It also has an 8-speed automatic transmission, just like the previous model but upgraded for smoother, faster shifting. The transmission is also lighter than the previous unit and helps increase fuel efficiency.

The hybrid powertrain of the Toyota Highlander has a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine. It’s paired with two electric motors for a combined 243 horsepower.

Fuel Economy

The fuel economy on the new Highlander is 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in cities and 29 mpg on highways. These figures are for front-wheel-drive (FWD) models only. All-wheel drive (AWD) versions get a modest drop to 19 mpg in cities and 26 mpg on highways. This is

an improvement over the previous Highlander Hybrid.

A new, electric AWD system also makes the Highlander Hybrid more capable off-road.

Interior Features

The redesigned Toyota Highlander has an all-new interior. The dash has a high-tech look. It also has physical climate controls below a large touchscreen.

You can control the system by voice commands or touch controls on the screen itself. Also, there are physical buttons for several functions, such as audio volume, to make it easier to use while driving.

All models come standard with two USB ports, plus two USB-C ports for mobile devices. They also have Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.

Driver-Assist and Safety Features

The Toyota Highlander offers advanced safety and driver-assist features. Every model has adaptive cruise control and standard automatic emergency brakes.

The Toyota Highlander also has road sign recognition, lane-keeping assist, and automatic high beams.

  • It has a large touchscreen
  • It has more cargo and passenger capacity
  • It gives you a comfortable ride
  • The cabin is quiet
  • It has many driver aids
  • User-friendly LATCH system
  • Expansive outward visibility
  • It’s more costly than Rav4
  • The third row is cramped
  • Small cargo space

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Overview of Toyota Rav4

The Toyota Rav4 is a popular crossover vehicle that families love. It has seating for five, a generous cargo area, a sleek design, and plenty of features. The Rav4 is the best crossover SUV.

Let’s look at several features of the Toyota Rav4.

Engine and Transmission

The Rav4 is a compact SUV that comes with a choice between two engines. The standard engine is a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine. It’s enough for most driving situations.

This engine is coupled with a 6-speed transmission and is available in either front or all-wheel drive.

Fuel Economy

The FWD Toyota Rav4 is rated 25 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway by the EPA. AWD models get 26 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway.

The FWD model is standard. The AWD model is available in the XLE, LE, XLE Premium, TRD, Adventure, and Limited Off-Road trim levels. This system is an on-demand system that sends power to the rear wheels only when needed.

Interior Features

The interior of the Toyota Rav4 is designed for user comfort, convenience, and connectivity. And it’s not just for the driver—each passenger will appreciate the outstanding design of the new Rav4.

The vehicle’s interior has an intuitive layout with sophisticated materials and high-tech features. All these features work together to put you at ease and improve your experience on the road.

The new Rav4 has an easy-to-reach dashboard with simple-to-operate controls. Its center console makes it easier for you to find what you need. It also has a fold-down rear seating that you can configure in many ways.

Driver-Assist and Safety Features

The 2021 RAV4 comes with plenty of driver-assist features to keep you safe on the road. Some come as standard features, while others can be added as upgrades. It also has child-protector door locks and an advanced airbag system.

Every trim except the LE is also equipped with a blind-spot monitor with sensors on the front and rear.

  • Improved fuel economy
  • Lower starting cost
  • User-friendly infotainment system
  • It comes with many standard safety features
  • Excellent ride experience
  • It has a comfortable cabin
  • It has a noisy and whining powertrain
  • The touchscreen is slow to respond
  • It doesn’t have third-row seats

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How Do They Compare?

The Toyota Highlander and the Toyota Rav4 are two crossover SUVs offered by Toyota. These vehicles appear similar on the outside, but

some key differences set them apart. Let’s look at what each of these SUVs has to offer.

1. Engine

  • Edge: Toyota Highlander

The standard Toyota Highlander engine is more powerful than the Toyota RAV4 engine. As a result, it makes it the better choice for shoppers who want more performance from their vehicle.

The Toyota Highlander has a 3.5-liter, six-cylinder motor. It has 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque.

The Toyota RAV4 comes with a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine with 203 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.

2. Fuel Efficiency

  • Edge: Toyota Rav4

The Rav4 is more efficient than the Highlander. The most fuel-efficient version of the Highlander is the gas/electric hybrid model. It gets an estimated 23 mpg combined.

On the other hand, the Rav4 gets an estimated 33 mpg combined in even its most powerful trim with all-wheel drive. It also gets up to 41 mpg combined in hybrid models.

3. Towing Capacity

  • Edge: Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander can tow up to 5,000 pounds with the V6 engine. On the other hand, the Toyota RAV4 is rated at 3,500 pounds. It gives Highlander an advantage in this department.

4. Passenger and Cargo Space

  • Edge: Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander has seating for up to eight people. The Toyota RAV4 has room for five passengers. Still, both SUVs offer generous space in the first and second rows.

The third row in the Toyota Highlander provides space for adults on short trips but is tight on legroom.

The Highlander has three rows and more passenger space than the RAV4 with only two rows.

Behind the third row of the Highlander, you get 16 cubic feet of luggage space. When you fold these seats, it becomes an impressive 48.4 cubic feet. Also, you get 84.3 cubic feet of cargo room when you fold down all three rows.

The RAV4 offers 37.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind its second row. It also provides 69.8 cubic feet with that row folded down.

5. Interior Features and Technologies

  • Edge: Toyota Highlander

When it comes to interior features and technologies, you’ll find similar options in both SUVs.

The Highlander has double-zone climate control, a 12.3-inch display, and a digital rearview mirror.

The RAV4 offers the same features, but you must upgrade to the TRD Off-Road trim package to enjoy these perks.

6. Safety Features

  • Edge: Toyota Highlander

Both the Toyota Highlander and Rav4 have received top safety scores. Toyota is known for its advanced safety features. So, you’ll find plenty of driver-assist technologies in both SUVs.

The Highlander also has a few more standard safety features than the Rav4. These include rear cross-traffic alerts and parking sensors.

7. Off-Road Capabilities

  • Edge: Toyota Rav4

If you want an SUV with excellent off-road capabilities, you should get the Toyota Rav4. It comes standard with AWD so that it can handle rough terrain easily.

The Toyota Rav4 is built with a multi-terrain select. It helps you get better traction when driving on different surfaces. Also, it has clearance from the ground that allows you to ride through rocky surfaces. The Toyota Highlander is also an excellent off-road vehicle. This crossover SUV has excellent suspension and high ground clearance. It makes it easy for you to drive through rocky terrain without having problems with your SUV.

8. Cost

  • Edge: Toyota Rav4

The Toyota Highlander is a bigger crossover SUV. So, it will be more expensive regarding fuel. On the other hand, the Toyota Rav4 is not as large as the Highlander and is less costly.

The Toyota Rav4 has a smaller engine than the Highlander. It’s less powerful but cheaper and more efficient in fuel consumption. B

oth SUVs are similar. However, the Toyota Rav4 is less expensive. There are many reasons for this difference, such as size and engine capacity. It all depends on what your needs are.

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What Other Users Say

We have gone the extra mile to find out what owners of a Toyota Highlander or a Toyota Rav4 say about these two SUVs.

Some users find the Toyota Highlander too spacious. It’s comfortable, and it’s the ideal size if you have a family. This

SUV comes with many features as well. Most users say that the Toyota Highlander isn’t fuel-efficient compared to Toyota Rav4.

Those driving Toyota Rav4 are happy with the SUV since it is excellent in any terrain and saves on fuel. The Toyota Rav4 also costs less compared to the Toyota Highlander. Because of its versatility

, it is an excellent option if you want to use your car for more than just commuting. You can take it camping or on road trips without worrying about running out of room for your gear.

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After weighing the differences between the Toyota Highlander and Rav4, you are now better suited to choose which crossover SUV is best suited for your needs.

If you need a spacious SUV, the Highlander is a viable option. It has excellent gas mileage and plenty of modern techs.

If you are in the market for an alternative to the Highlander, the Rav4 is one of the favorites. It has a stellar list of advanced safety features. They make it one of the safest cars on the road today.

The Highlander has the advantage of being bigger and roomy. The Rav4’s advantages come in its superior fuel economy. It all comes down to what your needs are. So, decide which factors are the most important and make your final decision.

Featured Image Credit: 2021 Toyota Highlander XLE AWD, Kevauto, Wikimedia Commons CC SA 4.0


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