Toyota Highlander vs. Lexus RX

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Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - February 12, 2020

With mainstream models moving more upstream with nicer materials and dashing designs, consumers may have a tough time telling whether luxury vehicles justify the higher price tags. When exploring the Lexus RX, it's a good idea to also check out the Toyota Highlander, a mainstream cousin to the luxury crossover. While the RX is clearly the upscale option of the two, can a fully-loaded Highlander get close to feeling like a luxury crossover?

That’s what we’ll try to answer below and see which option is a better fit for the majority of consumers.

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

What the Highlander Gets Right

As the mainstream option in the head-to-head, the Highlander has the advantage when it comes to pricing. The base Highlander carries a price tag of $35,720 including destination, while the RX costs $45,175. The $9,455 difference between the two goes a long way, as consumers can get into the Highlander Limited, which is the second trim from the top, and still save $405.

The Highlander is all-new for the 2020 model year, while the RX hasn’t been redesigned since 2016. The all-new Highlander brings a more striking design, nicer interior materials, a more spacious cabin, a standard V6 engine, more safety features, and more standard technology.

Overall, the drastic changes make it a much more competitive model than before. For 2020, Lexus updated the RX’s interior and exterior designs and added a few more tech features, but being the newer model gives the Highlander an edge over the RX.

For consumers needing a crossover with a third row of seats, the Highlander is the better option. The Toyota comes with seating for up to eight as standard, while the RX has seating for up to five as standard.

To get seven seats with the RX, consumers have to choose the RX 350L, which has a higher starting price of $48,325. The Highlander also bests the RX when it comes to cargo space. It can hold 16 cubic feet of cargo behind the third row, 48.4 cubic feet behind the second row, and a total of 84.3 cubic feet. The most the RX can hold is 58.5 cubic feet of cargo.

What the RX Gets Right

Lexus continues to lead the way forward for luxury brands when it comes to vehicles with striking designs. The RX’s massive spindle grille, check-mark LED lights, floating roof design, and angular lines make it look much sportier than the Highlander. That’s not to say that the new Highlander’s design is bland, it’s just not as dramatic as the RX’s.

On the inside, the RX has nicer materials and a more luxurious design than the Highlander. The centrally located analog clock, sweeping dashboard that connects with the center console, and sporty instrument cluster all help the RX feel like a true luxury vehicle. Available real wood and aluminum trim also help give the RX an edge when it comes to just how lush it feels.

As the more expensive and luxurious crossover, the RX comes with nicer features as standard over the Highlander. Rain-sensing windshield wipers, heated exterior mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, synthetic leather upholstery, a nine-speaker audio system, and six USB ports are standard on the RX.

Want a Truly Luxurious Experience?

With similar performance, fuel economy, and interior space, choosing between the Highlander and the RX mainly comes down to whether you prefer a luxury vehicle or a mainstream one. The RX comes with more upscale features, nicer materials, and a design that’s sure to draw attention. All of these things come at a much higher price, though.

Our Verdict: Toyota Highlander

For the majority of consumers, the Toyota Highlander is the better option of the two. It’s a much better value proposition, comes with a more versatile interior, and comes with a similar list of tech features. With the redesign, the all-new Highlander is a much better crossover than before and makes the gap between luxury vehicles like the Lexus RX smaller than it's been in the past.

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

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter

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