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Toyota Highlander vs. Lexus RX

This is a silver Lexus RX parked at a riverside parking lot.

The Toyota Highlander and the Lexus RX are two of the top competing luxury SUVs in 2021. Both of these cars are highly regarded to be some of the best available in the category, and they are very close competitors in almost every way, but how do these two cars really compare?

The Toyota Highlander and the Lexus RX are both excellent luxury SUVs. The Highlander is less expensive and offers more performance, driver assists, safety features, and cabin space. The RX is more well-equipped regarding tech and infotainment and is a smoother ride with a more luxurious finish.

Let’s take some time to properly compare these two luxury SUVs to find out which is best for you. These cars are similar in many ways, but they also have unique and defining features that set them apart from one another. Let’s highlight some of these features to help you decide which is the better option for you.

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The Toyota Highlander

This is a silver Toyota Highlander on display at a car show.

The Toyota Highlander is one of the top-performing luxury SUVs in 2021.

There are some highs and lows regarding the Highlander, but it really depends on what your needs and requirements are in a vehicle. 

There are several reasons to love the Highlander, and there are a few attributes o the Highlander that may turn some away.

Nevertheless, let’s take a more in-depth look at this SUV.

Overview

The Toyota Highlander is a good all-around family vehicle. It is a capable school-run van and powerful road trip companion. There is very little that the Highlander cannot cope with.

The Highlander is equipped with three rows, a spacious cabin that is loaded with many infotainment features, plenty of storage compartments, and a hefty amount of luggage space.

This car comes standard with many modern features such as driver assists and safety features that are incredibly useful.

The Highlander is fitted with a V6 engine and two-wheel drive as standard, but it can be fitted with a hybrid engine system, and an all-wheel drive is also an option.

This is a capable car but is a little lackluster when it comes to the driving experience. The acceleration is a little sluggish, and the handling is not as swift as we may like it to be.

Overall, the Highlander is a good mid-sized luxury SUV, but it may not be the best option for those drivers who are seeking a little excitement in their daily drive.

Highlander Specifications

This is a close look at the dashboard meters of a Toyota Highlander beyond the steering wheel.

All Highlanders, apart from the Hybrid models, run a 24-valve, fuel-injected V6 with an aluminum block and heads. These models are fitted with an 8-speed automatic transmission system.

The Hybrid model powertrain includes a 16-valve Atkinson-cycle 2.5lr in-line motor and three permanent-magnet synchronous AC motors. These Hybrid models are also equipped with a continuously variable automatic transmission. 

The standard V6 Highlander engines produce 295 horsepower, and the Hybrid systems produce a combined 429 horsepower. The engine-powered Highlander has a top speed of 114mph, and the Hybrid can do 118mph. Both top speeds are electronically limited.

The lighter standard Highlander is a little quicker off the line than the Hybrid. The V6 motor allows it to reach 60mph in 6.7 seconds, while it takes the Hybrid 7.3 seconds.

Features and Options

This is a close view of the gear shift of a Toyota Highlander with detailing.

Highlander models are equipped with 7 or 8 seats, depending on the model. The materials and comfort features in every model are nice, with touches of high-quality trim. The higher models are equipped with more comforts and better materials, but all models are satisfactory in these areas.

The luggage space in the Highlander is decent but a little smaller than some other vehicles in the same class.

The Highlander has a 5-star safety rating and includes several driver-aids such as adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automatic high beams, pedestrian detection systems, automated braking, and blind-spot monitoring.

Apart from these, there are all the typical in-car gadgets, screens, audio systems, and electronics that you expect to find in a car of this type.

Pricing

The price of the Toyota Highlander depends on the model that you choose.

The price ranges from the base model at $36 300 to the highest model at $48 455 with a wide range in between.

The Lexus RX

This is a gray Lexus RX 350 on display at a car show.

The Lexus RX range is another excellent example of a luxury SUV, and it sports even more luxury than most others in this class.

This car is what it is expected to be – comfortable, smooth, luxurious, spacious, fuel-efficient, and expensive – as all Lexus’ are.

The RX range is not as sporty as the styling may lead you to believe; even the sport model is a little sluggish, but high-performance is not the purpose of this car, so unless you are specifically looking for high performance, then it should not be a problem.

This car is ideal for those drivers who are seeking fuel efficiency, reliability, comfort, and style.

Let’s take a look at the RX by Lexus to better understand the vehicle.

Overview

This is a 7-seater luxury SUV, but it is not as spacious inside as other cars in the same class. The front and middle rows of seats are very nice with many comfort features and plenty of space, but the third row is another story.

This car is extremely smooth to drive, but it does lack the performance that many are seeking from their daily driver.

However, what this car lacks in performance, it more than makes up for in features and style. This car is awash with technology and features that make it stand out from other mid-size SUVs. 

The interior uses fine materials such as soft leather and textured metallic and wood trims. This car is spacious and well-equipped, but there are few placement issues that can make some features challenging to use or reach for the driver.

Overall, this is an ideal SUV for those who look for a little more comfort than the rest. The Lexus RX range is for the discerning driver with specific requirements.

RX Specifications

This is a close look at the driver's side interior of the Lexus RX 300.

The RX is equipped with either a 24-valve V6 with port and direct fuel injection producing 290 horsepower or a 24-valve Atkinson-cycle 3.5lt V6 and two permanent-magnet electric motors producing a combined 567 horsepower.

The Hybrid models have a continuously variable automatic transmission system with a manual shifting mode, and the standard engine versions have an 8-speed automatic.

The standard models do 0-60mph in 7.3 seconds, and the Hybrids can manage the same speed in 7.1 seconds.

Both models use all-wheel-drive systems.

Pricing

This is a close look at the backseat black leather upholstery of the Lexus RX.

The Lexus RX is significantly more expensive than most other SUVs in the same class. 

The base models begin at a higher price than the highest-end Toyota highlander.

The base model Lexus RX costs $46,245, and the highest model costs a robust $52,335.

Conclusion

When directly comparing both the Highlander and the RX, the Highlander is an overall better value for money vehicle and offers a little more sportiness and excitement from a family vehicle than the RX does.

The Highlander has more space, is slightly better equipped in terms of safety features and driver assists, and costs significantly less than the RX does.

References:

Car and Driver: 2021 Lexus RX

Car and Driver: 2021 Toyota Highlander

Car and Driver: Lexus RX 450h Hybrid Review

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