Toyota RAV4 vs. Toyota Highlander

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 - April 25, 2019

Toyota offers a lineup of great crossovers to meet an array of buyers’ needs, ranging from single young folks heading to college to large families. Two leaders in Toyota’s lineup are the all-new RAV4 and the aging Highlander. Can the older Highlander keep the smaller and newer RAV4 in the No. 2 spot? Continue reading to find out.

See a side-by-side comparison of the RAV4 & Highlander »

What the RAV4 Gets Right

The Toyota RAV4 went through a full redesign for the 2019 model year, bringing in a new, more rugged appearance that is sure to attract old-school SUV shoppers to the compact crossover segment. This new look boasts more upright pillars, glass, and front fascia. It also adds a flatter hood that enhances visibility.

The Toyota RAV4 also boasts tons of technology, but what stands out compared to the Highlander is its standard Apple CarPlay. The Highlander doesn’t even offer this as an option, making the RAV4 more appealing to the younger crowd.

Want fuel economy? The Toyota RAV4 offers it in gobs. The base model gets up to an EPA-estimated 26 miles per gallon city, 35 highway, and 30 combined. Opt for the RAV4 Hybrid, and the thriftiness jumps to 41/38/40 mpg (city/highway/combined). The best the Highlander can do is 30 mpg city, 28 highway, and 29 combined in the hybrid model.

What the Highlander Gets Right

The Toyota Highlander is higher up the food chain than the RAV4, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn it delivers superior ride quality. It’s not that the RAV4 is rough, but the larger Highlander absorbs bumps with less effort, making even patchy roads relatively smooth.

Inside, the Toyota Highlander offers room for up to eight passengers, so the whole family can ride without issue. What’s more, the second row is no penalty box with 38.4 inches of leg room and 39.9 inches of head room. Cargo rides in comfort too with up to 42.3 cubic feet of space behind the second row and 83.7 cubes behind the first row.

Finally, with its 3.5-liter V6 engine, the Highlander has 295 horsepower to play with, which crushes the RAV4 by 92 hp. This also plays a role in the Highlander’s 5,000-pound towing capacity in all V6-powered models. This beats the RAV4 Adventure by 1,500 pounds and the rest of the RAV4 lineup by 3,500 pounds.

Great for a Smaller Family

Though it's new and looks great, the Toyota RAV4 can't quite keep up with its larger Highlander sibling. The RAV4 excels as a daily driver for a smaller family looking to save money on fuel and car payments.

Our Verdict: Toyota Highlander

Though it's older than the Toyota RAV4, the roomy and powerful Toyota Highlander is still tough to beat. It hits all the main points with ample power, a respectable towing capacity, and loads of interior room, making it a slam dunk in a head-to-head competition against its little brother.

Take a closer look at the Toyota RAV4 »

Take a closer look at the Toyota Highlander »

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.

Follow On: Twitter

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