2022 Ford Explorer vs. 2022 Toyota Highlander Comparison

Erin Riches-Wong | Mar 13, 2022

Families love the reconfigurable nature of 3-row midsize SUVs. You can carry six, seven, or even eight people when you need to, and when you don't, they offer impressive cargo capacity and the ease of entry and exit that only a vehicle with a taller ride height can provide.

The Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander are two popular choices for a crossover SUV with a third-row seat. Both offer a V6 engine. And both offer hybrid models for consumers seeking better gas mileage.

If you're shopping for either of these 3-row midsize SUVs, this 2022 Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander comparison will help you sort out the differences that matter.

Price and Value

2022 Ford Explorer Hybrid Platinum White Front Quarter View

2022 Ford Explorer Hybrid

Consumers shopping for the 2022 Ford Explorer will find that this 3-row midsize SUV comes in base, XLT, ST-Line, Limited, Timberline, ST, Platinum, and King Ranch trim levels. Take care not to confuse the new-for-2022 Explorer ST-Line with the more expensive ST: The ST-Line has the performance-themed Explorer ST's cosmetic upgrades but not its pricey turbocharged V6 engine.

That turbo V6 is one of three available engines on the 2022 Explorer. The others are a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine (standard on most trims) and a hybrid powertrain that combines a V6 engine with an electric motor.

Pricing on the 2022 Ford Explorer ranges from $33,745 to $53,995, not including the $1,295 destination charge. The off-road-ready Ford Explorer Timberline has standard all-wheel drive (AWD). Other Explorers have standard rear-wheel drive (RWD) and can get AWD as a $2,000 option.

The maximum seating capacity in the 2022 Ford Explorer is seven. The third-row bench has seat belts for two. The base Explorer has a second-row bench seat; all other Ford Explorers offer a choice between that and captain's chairs. Equipped with captain's chairs, the Explorer seats six.

Ford offers few connected services on the 2022 Explorer. With the FordPass app installed on your phone, you can remotely start the engine, lock the doors, or request roadside assistance. It's not much, but there's no subscription required. Every 2022 Ford Explorer has a Wi-Fi hotspot; you can use it for three months before you have to pay. The Ford MyKey system offers basic teen driver technology features. It allows you to program key fobs to restrict speed, audio volume, and touchscreen operation.

Ford does not offer complimentary scheduled maintenance.

Consumers shopping for the 2022 Toyota Highlander midsize SUV will find that it comes in L, LE, XLE, XSE, Bronze Edition, Limited, and Platinum trim levels. On the 2022 Highlander, you will decide between a traditional gasoline V6 and a hybrid powertrain that combines a 4-cylinder engine with electric motors. Most trim levels are available with either, except the V6-only L and XSE trims and the hybrid-only Bronze Edition.

Toyota Highlander pricing ranges from $35,405 to $47,560, not including the $1,215 destination charge. Front-wheel drive is standard across the board. All-wheel drive costs $1,600 to $1,950, depending on the trim.

Thanks to its 3-passenger third-row seat, the 2022 Toyota Highlander can accommodate up to eight people if you find the right combination of narrow car seats and boosters. If you opt for second-row captain's chairs, the maximum capacity drops to seven.

Toyota offers more connected services than Ford. Every Toyota Highlander comes with a one-year trial subscription that includes automatic collision notification, live emergency assistance, and rapid access to roadside assistance. You also get a 3-month Wi-Fi subscription. Most 2022 Highlanders provide a year of remote engine starting and door locking. You can have a year of complimentary concierge service on vehicles with factory navigation.

Toyota provides complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first two years or 25,000 miles.

Advantage: Toyota Highlander

Reliability and Quality

2022 Toyota Highlander XLE FWD Side Profile View

2022 Toyota Highlander XLE

The Ford Explorer does not rank among the top three models in the Upper Midsize SUV category of either the J.D. Power 2022 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS) or the J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study (IQS). The 2022 Ford Explorer comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Hybrid system warranty: 8 years or 100,000 miles
  • Hybrid battery warranty: 8 years or 100,000 miles (10 years or 150,000 miles in California emissions states)
  • Roadside assistance: 5 years or 60,000 miles

The Toyota Highlander does not rank among the top three models in the Upper Midsize SUV category of the 2022 VDS. It ranks third among Upper Midsize SUVs in the 2021 IQS. The 2022 Toyota Highlander comes with the following warranty and roadside assistance coverage:

  • Standard warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles
  • Hybrid system warranty: 8 years or 100,000 miles
  • Hybrid battery warranty: 10 years or 150,000 miles
  • Roadside assistance: 2 years and unlimited miles

Advantage: Toyota Highlander

Performance and Efficiency

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline Interior Dashboard

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

There are three engines to consider on the 2022 Ford Explorer. Rated at 300 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, the base turbocharged, 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine will meet the needs of most 3-row midsize SUV drivers. A 10-speed automatic transmission is standard. Properly equipped 4-cylinder Ford Explorers have an impressive 5,300-pound tow rating.

All-wheel-drive models have hill-descent control along with Deep Snow and Sand terrain modes. Most Ford Explorers have around 8 inches of ground clearance. If you're venturing to remote campsites, the 2022 Explorer Timberline offers a raised suspension that provides 8.7 inches of clearance along with improved approach and departure angles. Available only with the 4-cylinder engine, the Timberline has a limited-slip rear differential, all-terrain tires, and skid plates.

Next up is the 2022 Ford Explorer Hybrid. Available on the Limited and Platinum trims, the hybrid powertrain uses a 3.3-liter V6 engine rated at 285 hp. The hybrid Explorer's 35-kilowatt electric motor is built into a modified version of the 10-speed automatic transmission. It draws current from a 1.5-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The combined system power is 318 hp. Properly equipped Explorer Hybrids are rated to tow 5,000 pounds.

The third engine option on the 2022 Ford Explorer is a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6. This entertaining engine is standard on the Explorer ST, where it makes 400 hp and 415 pound-feet of torque. Ford offers a 385-hp version on the Platinum and King Ranch. A 10-speed automatic is standard. The optional tow package provides a 5,600-pound tow rating.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates 4-cylinder RWD 2022 Ford Explorers at 23-24 mpg in combined city and highway driving. With AWD, most 4-cylinder Explorers rate 22 mpg combined. Due to its raised suspension and all-terrain tires, the 2022 Explorer Timberline is less aerodynamically efficient. It rates 20-21 mpg combined, and you should expect lower mileage regardless of your driving habits.

Hybrid Ford Explorers rate 26-27 mpg in combined driving with RWD and 23-25 mpg with AWD. With the turbocharged V6, the Explorer rates 20-21 mpg combined with RWD and 19-20 mpg with AWD.

There are two engine options on the 2022 Toyota Highlander. First up is a 3.5-liter V6 engine that makes 295 hp and 263 pound-feet of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard. This engine is notable for its smooth power delivery, but some consumers might notice a delay as the transmission upshifts. It's not a safety issue, just an occasional annoyance.

Six-cylinder Toyota Highlanders come with one of two AWD systems. The base AWD system has terrain modes and hill-descent control. An upgraded system on the higher trims adds torque-vectoring technology that transfers engine torque between the rear wheels to enhance grip.

Every Highlander has 8 inches of ground clearance. When properly equipped, the V6 Highlander has a 5,000-pound tow rating.

If you want a more fuel-efficient 2022 Toyota Highlander, consider the Highlander Hybrid. It uses a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 186 hp in combination with a front electric-drive motor and a 1.9-kWh battery pack. The total system power is 243 hp. A second electric motor blends the power sources; this is called an electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT).

A third electric motor drives the rear wheels on AWD Toyota Highlander Hybrids (the gasoline engine does not provide torque to the rear wheels on hybrid Highlanders). Properly equipped 2022 Highlander Hybrids have a 3,500-pound tow rating.

The EPA rates the V6 FWD 2022 Highlander at 24 mpg in combined driving. The AWD V6 model rates 23 mpg. The FWD Highlander Hybrid rates 36 mpg in combined driving, while the AWD Highlander Hybrid rates 35 mpg.

Advantage: Neither

If acceleration and towing capacity matter most, almost any version of the Explorer should satisfy you. If fuel economy is a top priority, know that only the Highlander Hybrid tops 30 mpg.

Safety and Driving Assistance

2022 Toyota Highlander XSE Interior Front Seats

2022 Toyota Highlander XSE

Every 2022 Ford Explorer comes with the Ford Co-Pilot 360 suite of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS). Ford Co-Pilot 360 includes a forward-collision warning (FCW) system with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning (LDW), lane-keeping assistance (LKA), and blind-spot warning (BSW) with rear cross-traffic warning.

You can equip most 2022 Explorers with Ford Co-Pilot Assist+, which provides a form of Level 2 semi-autonomous driving assistance known as traffic jam assist (TJA). This package includes adaptive cruise control (ACC) with stop-and-go capability, lane-centering assistance, evasive steering assistance (ESA), and traffic sign recognition. The higher trim levels have a low-speed rear automatic braking system and automatic parking assist.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not published full crash-test ratings for the 2022 Ford Explorer. Ford's 3-row midsize SUV has a maximum 5-star rating for side-impact crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) rates the 2022 Explorer a "Top Safety Pick+," the Institute's highest designation for safety.

Consumers will find that every 2022 Toyota Highlander comes with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) package of ADAS. One key difference on TSS 2.5+ is that it doesn't include BSW with rear cross-traffic warning, so the base Highlander L goes without this vital safety aid. We recommend stepping up to at least the LE trim level, which has BSW standard.

Otherwise, TSS 2.5+ has all of the same features as Ford Co-Pilot Assist 360, and its FCW system is more advanced. It detects pedestrians and cyclists in both daylight and low-light conditions. The Highlander also has intersection turn assistance (ITA) to help you avoid ill-advised left turns into oncoming vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Like the Ford, the Toyota has a Level 2 TJA system with ACC and ESA. The Highlander's higher trims have low-speed front and rear automatic braking. A rear-seat reminder system is standard on all 2022 Highlanders.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander has a 5-star overall NHTSA safety rating (4 stars for frontal-impact performance). The IIHS rates the 2022 Highlander a "Top Safety Pick+," the Institute's highest designation for safety.

Advantage: Neither

Both of these 3-row midsize SUVs offer a high level of safety.

Infotainment and Technology

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline Dark Green Rear Quarter View

2022 Ford Explorer Timberline

The standard Sync 3 infotainment interface in the 2022 Ford Explorer includes an 8-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. Higher trims are available with a 10.2-inch display. Keep in mind that it isn't a traditional widescreen display; instead, it looks like a tablet in portrait mode. Consumers can get a factory navigation system with either display.

The base Explorer has two USB ports. The XLT adds two additional USB ports in the second row for a total of four. Ford includes a wireless charging pad starting on the Limited.

The standard infotainment interface on the 2022 Toyota Highlander is also an 8-inch touchscreen display. It includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. You can get a 12.3-inch widescreen display on the higher trim levels. You can get factory navigation with either display.

All Highlanders have five USB ports. You can get a wireless charging pad on the XLE and up. The 2022 Toyota Highlander Platinum has a head-up display.

Advantage: Neither

Features are similar. Your decision will come down to personal preferences.

Comfort and Utility

2022 Toyota Highlander XSE Gray Rear View

2022 Toyota Highlander XSE

The 2022 Ford Explorer will appeal to anyone with an eye for design. The dash design is clean and attractive, and material quality is outstanding on the higher trim levels. The mid-range Timberline has an unusual green color scheme and water-resistant simulated leather and cloth upholstery.

Most families will find that the Explorer's third row is only practical for occasional use. There isn't much legroom, and adults won't enjoy the climb back there to help children who aren't mature enough to buckle themselves. The Explorer's first- and second-row seats are comfortable, though, and triple-zone climate control is standard. Second-row sunshades are standard starting on the Limited.

The 2022 Ford Explorer has 18.2 cubic feet of cargo space behind its third-row seat and 47.9 cubic feet behind its second row. With both rows folded, it has a maximum capacity of 87.8 cubic feet. A power liftgate is standard on all Explorers; a hands-free liftgate is available on the higher trims.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander's cabin isn't as stunning, and the quality of materials is nothing special among 3-row midsize SUVs. Most controls are easy to find and use, though.

Like the Explorer, the Highlander will serve you best if you aren't using the third row daily. There's more legroom than Ford's third row, but access is tight for adults trying to buckle in younger children. Getting in and out of the Toyota Highlander's first- and second-row seats is comparatively easy, and seat comfort is good. Triple-zone climate control is standard, as on the Explorer. Second-row window sunshades are standard on the XLE.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander offers 16 cubic feet of grocery/stroller space behind its third row and 48.4 cubic feet behind its second row. The Highlander provides 84.3 cubic feet of cargo space with all rear seats folded. A power liftgate is standard on all Highlanders, except the base L. The upper trims have a hands-free liftgate.

Advantage: Ford Explorer

Learn More About the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander

If you'd like to learn more about these 3-row midsize SUVs, be sure to read our expert reviews of the 2022 Ford Explorer and 2022 Toyota Highlander. To find out how people like you rate models in this segment, be sure to check out our ratings from verified vehicle owners.

Also, please keep in mind that while the information in this article was accurate and valid on March 10, 2022, it may have changed since that date. Always confirm product details and availability with the automaker's website or your local dealership.

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