- the ford explorer and toyota highlander three-row suvs are both new for 2020 and feature available hybrid powertrains.
- ford claims more towing capacity than toyota, but the highlander offers significantly better fuel-economy numbers.
- the 2020 ford explorer hybrid is currently on sale for a starting price of $53,475, while the 2020 toyota highlander hybrid won't arrive at dealerships until later this year and pricing has not yet been announced.
the toyota highlander has owned the hybrid three-row suv market for some time now, but ford's new explorer hybrid is here to shake things up. ford specifically calls out the highlander hybrid in a new press release detailing the explorer hybrid's specs, so we thought we'd compare both new gas-electric suvs. the 2020 highlander is the more efficient of the two, but the 2020 explorer holds the edge in power and capability.
the two suvs have different powertrain setups, with the explorer using a 3.3-liter v-6 as its gasoline engine and the new highlander switching from the old model's v-6 to a new hybrid system with a 2.5-liter inline-four. when combined with an electric motor, the ford's combined output is 318 hp, while the toyota pairs its four-cylinder with two electric motors for a combined 240 hp.
the highlander wins here by a wide margin, with the front-wheel-drive hybrid model offering an estimated 34 mpg combined to the rear-wheel-drive explorer hybrid's 28 mpg combined. city and highway numbers tell a similar story, with the highlander offering 35/33 mpg city/highway and the explorer offering 27/29 mpg city/highway.
the toyota also suffers less of a fuel-economy penalty if you opt for all-wheel drive, as the awd hybrid's mpg estimates drop by just 1 mpg across the board to 33/34/32 mpg combined/city/highway. choosing the explorer hybrid's all-wheel-drive system results in a 3–4 mpg drop to 25/23/26 mpg combined/city/highway.
as you might expect from its bigger power numbers and rear-wheel-drive configuration, the explorer hybrid wins here with a 5000 pound maximum towing capacity. the highlander hybrid can tow a max of 3500 pounds.