When you look at two SUVs that may look similar from the outside, you may sometimes learn that the inside and the beating heart of the SUVs are a world apart. The Toyota Highlander and the Chevy Traverse are two SUVs that can be mistaken for each other at a glance but are nothing alike.
The Chevy Traverse has not been refreshed completely in a few years, making its 3.6-liter engine inefficient and the technology inside slightly wanting. The Toyota Highlander has received a complete model refresh for 2021, with both the engine and the internal technology being updated.
Understanding how two SUVs that should be similar are worlds apart requires a more in-depth look at what they both have to offer. We always recommend that you understand both vehicles’ inside and the outside before you make your decision.
On The Outside
As base models and with the emblems covered, many people have mistaken these two SUVs for each other. Both have the same sleek lines that lead from the front fog lights to the side of the SUV, with only a few of the features being unique and apart from each other.
The front fog lights on the Traverse are lower down with a square shape to the overall; further, the front grill is slightly higher on the vehicle than on the Highlander. Further, the Traverse has roof racks that can be chosen, giving it a unique look that the Highlander does not have.
With a complete refresh of the designs and lines on the Highlander is does not have a side skirt that is visually distinctive to the rest of the SUV. A flatter roof gives the body an overall look of being sleeker and built for speed, with windshields at a higher angle than other SUVs.
When given a chance to look closer at both of these SUVs, you may see that the initial sleekness of the Traverse is not there, and the body has an overall box shape. With the wheels on both cars being solid alloy rims, the shape of these is usually chosen when you buy the SUV.
We can already see some major differences from the outside if you know what to look for; however, once we go inside both the Traverse and the Highlander, we see massive changes. Both of these SUVs have wildly different interiors that boast a range of features that many find more important than outward appearances.
Seating And Upholstery
The Chevy Traverse is priced lower and has optional cloth seats or leather seats, with no trim levels that allow mixing and matching. This limits the options and colors that you can choose when you are building the car, with many choosing to go for leather seats as these have more variety.
The Highlander has both cloth, faux leather, and leather seats with the trim levels mixing these altogether, with some trims allowing for a mix between leather and cloth. Further, the Highlander has been updated to be part of a greener world, with some upholstery options trending towards green technology.
Both the Highlander and the Traverse sport up to eight seats in total, with both allowing the seats to be removed for more cargo space. You may find that when it comes to seating amount and options available, you cannot properly differentiate between the two.
As much as the Highlander has shown off with its 84.3 cubic feet of space with all the seats down and the hefty 48.4 cubic feet with the third row down, the SUV does fail here. Further, with all rows of seats up, the SUV only has 16 cubic feet of space, making full family trips a challenging affair.
The Traverse has made a name for itself with the massive 98.2 cubic feet of storage with all the seats down, still having 57.8 cubic feet with only the third row down. Further, the Traverse sports a whopping 23 cubic feet of total storage even with all eight seats up.
Features And Infotainment
The Toyota Highlander has almost every infotainment feature that you can imagine, with Wi-Fi, Apple Car Play, and Android Auto included at the base price. Further, the full surround sound system is also included, making the full interior features one of the most beautiful things about the Highlander.
The Traverse has only the Wi-Fi hotspot as a standard; however, it has almost every other feature, including AM/FM Stereo as an optional extra. This makes the interior features of the Traverse lacking as it does not compete well in a 2021 market where infotainment has become the standard.
Under The Hood
Highlander has been upgraded to be a lot stronger and a lot more technologically advanced than its competitors when it comes to performance. However, the Traverse is still using the same technology since the second generation was first introduced.
Engine, Drivetrain, And Transmission
While the Traverse sports a strong 3.6-liter 310 horsepower engine, it is the only engine currently available for the SUV. Making it a hard choice when you are looking for something that might offer a little less power, with many complaining about brake problems when the SUV has been driven hard.
Toyota has introduced an all-new engine with the new Highlander, providing choosing a strong hybrid engine. Providing 295 horsepower at peak performance, the 3.5-liter petrol engine has been known to perform well under pressure and provide the power needed to tow anything.
Both SUVs can easily pull well over 5000-pounds while being fully loaded with people, reaching highway speeds as needed. As neither has been made to race, they have slower accelerations than most other vehicles on the road.
At The Pumps
As much as the Traverse may try to compete with modern SUVs, the older design of the engine does not do it well once it starts driving. Achieving only 18 mpg when driving in the city while doing 27 mpg when on the highway is known as an SUV that is heavy on fuel usage.
The hybrid engine design and modern technology that has gone into Highlander has meant that it outperforms all its contemporaries at efficiency. Reaching an easy 21 mpg in the city and a comfortable on the wallet 29 mpg when on the open roads.
When loading these two SUVs with trailers or just things to put in the boots, you will experience a change in the fuel economy. It should be noted that the Highlander will still outperform the Traverse owing to the hybrid engine helping to improve fuel usage even under load.
When it was last tested, the Traverse scored an admirable five stars for its safety tests, which means that it is still one of the safest SUVs on the road. Naturally, the Highlander has also scored the highest five stars that could be awarded to an SUV that has been newly released.
The Highlander starts at a relatively high $35k, with no hybrid engine but added almost every infotainment feature. However, it spikes at nearly $50k when you have all the engine parts, the all-wheel drive, and a few assists the Highlander can be heavy on the pockets of anyone.
However, the Traverse Starts at a surprisingly low $30k, with almost nothing for infotainment in the SUV; this should not be surprising. Peaking at $55k, it is also one of the most expensive SUVs when measured against its competitors, making the Traverse the worst of both worlds.
And The Winner Is…
The Chevy Traverse has put up a brave fight against the newcomer from Toyota; however, it loses in all the wrong places. The Toyota Highlander is not only in a better price bracket; it comes standard with several features that not even the top-end model of the Traverse includes.
The power of the Traverse is wasted on trying to move the heavy body, while the Highlander easily moves itself and your cargo wherever you need to go without wasting fuel. The Toyota Highlander is one of the best SUVs on the market and easily outperforms the Chevy Traverse.
Kelley Blue Book: 2020 Toyota Highlander vs. 2020 Chevrolet Traverse Comparison