Toyota Highlander vs. Lexus RX

By

Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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, Automotive Editor - September 18, 2019

When shopping for a luxury vehicle, it can be beneficial to step down to a mainstream model with all the option boxes checked to fill your luxury needs at a lower price. When checking out the Lexus RX, its distant cousin, the Toyota Highlander may seem like a great option due to its pricing advantage and array of upscale options. Can a loaded-up Highlander check enough luxury boxes to beat the RX? Continue reading to find out.

See a side-by-side comparison of the Highlander & RX»

What the Highlander Gets Right

As the non-luxury model in this head-to-head competition, the Toyota Highlander has a significant advantage in base pricing. The Highlander starts at $32,375 including destination, while the Lexus RX is priced at $44,595.

This advantage continues as you move up the trim ladder. In fact, buyers can move all the way up to the nicely equipped Highlander Limited before approaching the RX’s starting price.

Though the Highlander may not be as striking and eye-grabbing as the RX, it still boasts some sharp angles that make it stand out. But where the Highlander really excels is its pleasant interior that includes plenty of logic in its layout, enough storage for smaller items, and unique finishes in each trim.

The Highlander also gets a small bump in the safety department, as it earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating, while the RX fell short due to its lack of passenger-side small overlap testing.

Despite its lower base price, the Highlander boasts all the standard safety tech the IIHS likes to see, including automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, and automatic high-beams. The RX includes these as standard too, but at a far higher base price.

What the RX Gets Right

The Lexus RX is one of the more striking luxury crossovers with its massive spindle grille, sharp lines, floating roof, and swoopy roofline. This look may not appeal to all buyers, but it keeps it from fading into the background.

The optional F Sport package adds to this with more body cladding and upgraded wheels. The cabin also stands out with more style than the Highlander, plus its available real wood trim trumps the faux wood in higher-trimmed Highlander models.

Under its hood, the RX comes standard with a 3.5-liter V6 that pounds out 295 horsepower and 267 pound-feet of torque. This matches the Highlander’s available V6's horsepower and beats it by four lb-ft of torque, but it really stands out compared to the Highlander’s standard four-cylinder engine.

Inside, the RX boasts extreme comfort in its front and second-row seats, plus the standard leatherette upholstery feels like the real deal. What’s more, Lexus put a lot of time into making the RX’s cabin a serene place with minimal noise from the outside.

As a luxury model, the RX boasts significantly more standard features than the Highlander. Some key advantages in the base RX include its standard 8-inch infotainment screen, LED headlights, power front seats, and leatherette upholstery.

Stick to Your Budget with the Highlander

Trying to build a Toyota Highlander that can compete with the Lexus RX is a losing battle, but dollar-for-dollar, the Highlander delivers more value across the board, allowing you to add more features and stay on budget. Plus, buyers who prefer a more timid design will find this in the Highlander.

Our Verdict: Lexus RX

The Lexus RX is one of the top-selling crossovers in its class each year for a great reason. It delivers a great balance of price and features all wrapped up in a legitimate luxury package, despite sharing some DNA with the Toyota Highlander.

Take a closer look at the Toyota Highlander »

Take a closer look at the Lexus RX »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

Justin Cupler has specialized as an automotive writer since 2009 and has been published in multiple websites and online magazines. In addition to contributing to CarsDirect, Justin also hosts a web-series car-review show and dabbles in the world of personal-finance writing.

His specialty is in the high-performance realm, but he has a deep love and understanding for all things automotive. Before diving into the world of writing, Justin was an automotive technician and manager for six years and spent the majority of his younger life tinkering with classic muscle cars.

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