2022 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2022 Toyota Highlander Comparison

Erin Riches-Wong | Mar 25, 2022

Consumers shopping for a midsize Toyota SUV with an available third-row seat might be surprised to find they have two options. The obvious pick is the 2022 Toyota Highlander, a spacious crossover SUV that comes standard with three rows of seating. The offbeat choice is the 2022 Toyota 4Runner, a classic sport-utility vehicle with an optional third row.

Which one is right for you? The larger Highlander makes more sense if you'll regularly have children sitting in the third row, especially since you can opt for middle-row captain's chairs to improve third-row access. What's more, the Toyota Highlander's optional hybrid powertrain returns impressive fuel economy.

But if you want to go on off-road adventures, the rugged Toyota 4Runner can take you on far more of those. Just don't be surprised if you splash coffee on yourself on the drive to work. The 4Runner is an old-school SUV with slow steering and a bouncy ride.

If you're trying to decide between Toyota's midsize SUVs, this 2022 Toyota 4Runner vs. Toyota Highlander comparison will help you sort out the key differences.

Price and Value - Find the best Toyota deals!

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Lime Rush Front Quarter View

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro

Consumers will find that the 2022 Toyota 4Runner ranges in price from $37,605 to $52,420, not including the $1,215 destination charge. This midsize SUV comes standard with a V6 engine and 5-passenger seating. You can have your pick of SR5, Trail Special Edition, TRD Sport, SR5 Premium, TRD Off-Road, TRD Off-Road Premium, Limited, and TRD Pro trim levels.

You can get an optional, 2-passenger third-row seat on the 2022 4Runner SR5, SR5 Premium, and Limited trims. Most Toyota 4Runners have standard rear-wheel drive (also called 2-wheel drive, 2WD, or 4x2) and optional 4-wheel drive (4WD) with low-range gearing ($1,875-$2,035, depending on the trim). The TRD trims have standard 4WD (also known as 4x4). The 4Runner Limited alone offers a full-time 4WD system.

Every 2022 Toyota 4Runner offers connected services. You get a one-year trial subscription to Safety Connect with automatic collision notification, live emergency assistance, and rapid access to roadside services, plus a 3-month trial for the Wi-Fi hotspot. Consumers seeking remote access features (Remote Connect) like remote engine starting and door locking will need to get the Limited or TRD Pro. Toyota 4Runners equipped with the premium audio package are eligible for live concierge services (Destination Assist).

Scheduled maintenance is on the house for the first 2 years or 25,000 miles.

Pricing on the 2022 Toyota Highlander ranges from $35,405 to $47,560, not including the $1,215 destination charge. This midsize crossover SUV comes standard with three rows of seating. You can select from L, LE, XLE, XSE, Bronze Edition, Limited, and Platinum trim levels.

The 2022 Highlander's lower trim levels have a standard bench seat in the middle row and 8-passenger seating. The higher trims have captain's chairs in the second row and max out at 7 passengers. Some trim levels allow a choice of either configuration.

Consumers can equip the Toyota Highlander with a V6 engine or a gas-electric hybrid powertrain that combines a 4-cylinder engine and electric motors. Note that the Bronze Edition is hybrid only, while the Highlander L and XSE trims are V6 only.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander comes standard with front-wheel drive (FWD). Depending on the trim, you can get AWD as a $1,600-$1,950 option. Keep in mind this is a light-duty system meant to combat winter weather rather than a deluxe 4WD system.

The Toyota Highlander offers similar connected services. Safety Connect and Wi-Fi are standard across the board. Except for the base L, all trims get 12 months of complimentary Remote Connect. Only the Limited and Platinum have Destination Assist.

Toyota offers complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first 2 years or 25,000 miles.

Advantage: Toyota Highlander

Reliability and Quality - Find the best Toyota deals!

2022 Toyota Highlander XLE FWD Silver Front Quarter View

2022 Toyota Highlander XLE

The Toyota 4Runner ranks second among Midsize SUVs in the J.D. Power 2022 Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS). It does not rank among the top three Midsize SUVs in the J.D. Power 2021 Initial Quality Study (IQS). The 2022 Toyota 4Runner 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
  • Roadside assistance: 2 years and unlimited miles

The Toyota Highlander does not rank among the top three Upper Midsize SUVs in 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 4Runner

Performance and Efficiency - Find the best Toyota deals!

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport Interior Dashboard

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport

The 2022 Toyota 4Runner has a standard 4.0-liter V6 engine that makes 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed automatic is the only available transmission. This powertrain gets the job done, but you shouldn't expect brisk acceleration. And with only five forward gears, the transmission often hunts for the best gear when climbing mountain grades.

If you want to tow a small trailer, know that any properly equipped Toyota 4Runner has a 5,000-pound tow rating.

Two-wheel-drive 4Runners have a limited-slip rear differential and 9 inches of ground clearance. Toyota offers several different 4WD systems. Most 4Runners have part-time 4WD, which requires you to shift into 4WD when needed. The system includes low-range gears intended for off-road use at very low speeds.

All 4WD 4Runners include A-TRAC (short for Active Traction Control), which helps you maintain traction when climbing slippery dirt hillsides in 4WD Low (also known as 4 Lo). With A-TRAC and 9.6 inches of ground clearance, you can tackle some pretty serious trails. Remember that the 4Runner is an older design than most other midsize SUVs. It holds its own in the dirt, but it isn't well-mannered on the expressway.

The TRD Off-Road, Off-Road Premium, and Pro trim levels add a locking rear differential, a multi-terrain system, and an off-road cruise control system called Crawl Control. The 2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro has a unique off-road suspension with specialized shock absorbers and springs, as well as all-terrain tires.

If you want a full-time 4WD system that automatically engages the front wheels when needed, the 2022 4Runner Limited is your only option. Only 4WD SR5 and Limited models have hill-descent control.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates fuel economy on the 2022 Toyota 4Runner at 17 mpg in combined city and highway driving with both 2WD and 4WD. You should expect lower gas mileage on the 4Runner TRD Pro due to its all-terrain tires.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander has two available engines. The default choice is a 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 295 hp and 263 pound-feet of torque. An 8-speed automatic transmission is standard. Toyota's refined 3.5-liter V6 is easy to like. You might notice a delay during transmission upshifts, but most drivers will get used to it.

Like the 4Runner, the V6 Toyota Highlander has a 5,000-lb. tow rating when properly equipped. With just 8 inches of ground clearance, it's best not to venture too far off paved roads.

Toyota offers two AWD systems on the 2022 Highlander. The base system includes selectable terrain modes and hill-descent control. The XSE, Limited, and Platinum get an upgraded system with torque-vectoring technology that can redistribute engine torque between the rear wheels to enhance grip.

Consumers seeking a frugal 3-row midsize SUV should consider the 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The hybrid Highlander uses a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine rated at 186 hp and 175 pound-feet of torque in combination with a front electric-drive motor that draws current from a 1.9-kilowatt-hour battery pack. The total system power is 243 hp. Highlander Hybrids with AWD have an additional electric motor that drives the rear wheels (the 4-cylinder engine does not provide torque to the rear wheels), but the total power output is the same.

The transmission on the hybrid Highlander is an electronic continuously variable transmission (eCVT). It's a specialized electric motor (different from the drive motors) that blends the SUV's gasoline and electric power sources.

Equipped with the hybrid powertrain, the Highlander never feels slow. However, the 4-cylinder engine makes plenty of noise. If you're planning to tow, keep in mind that a properly equipped 2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is limited to 3,500 lbs.

The EPA rates the V6 Toyota Highlander at 24 mpg in combined city and highway driving with FWD and 23 mpg with AWD. The Highlander Hybrid is significantly more fuel-efficient. It rates 36 mpg in combined driving with FWD and 35 mpg with AWD.

Advantage: Neither

A V6 Toyota Highlander is the most pleasant option for everyday driving, while the hybrid Highlander offers compelling fuel-efficiency. The Toyota 4Runner will please consumers who embrace its impressive off-road capabilities and accept its deficits in fuel economy, acceleration, and handling.

Safety and Driving Assistance - Find the best Toyota deals!

2022 Toyota Highlander Platinum AWD Interior Dashboard

2022 Toyota Highlander Platinum

The 2022 Toyota 4Runner comes with a basic package of advanced driving assistance systems (ADAS) known as Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P). It includes a forward-collision warning (FCW) system with automatic emergency braking (AEB) and pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning (LDW), adaptive cruise control (ACC), and automatic high-beam headlights.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) rates the 2022 4Runner at 4 out of 5 stars for overall crash safety. It has a 4-star frontal-impact crash rating and a full 5 stars for side-impact protection. It has a 3-star rating for rollover resistance versus 4 stars for most midsize SUVs. In IIHS testing, the 2022 4Runner rates Good in most crash categories, but it has a Marginal rating in the small-overlap, front-offset crash test.

If you want more ADAS, the 2022 Toyota Highlander has you covered. Every Highlander comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) ADAS package, which includes a more advanced FCW system. It detects pedestrians and cyclists in both daylight and low-light conditions. It also has intersection turn assistance (ITA) to help prevent ill-advised left turns into oncoming vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists. Other TSS 2.5+ features include lane-keeping assistance (LKA) and evasive steering assistance (ESA), which actively assists with the steering to help you avoid a collision.

The 2022 Toyota Highlander provides Level 2 semi-autonomous driving assistance in the form of a traffic jam assist (TJA) system that incorporates ACC with stop-and-go capability, lane-centering assistance, and traffic-sign recognition. If you're looking for a blind-spot warning (BSW) system with rear cross-traffic warning, Toyota includes it on all Highlanders, except the base L.

All Toyota Highlanders have a rear-seat reminder system. The higher trims have front and rear low-speed automatic braking.

The 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+, which is the Institute's highest designation for safety.

Advantage: Toyota Highlander

Infotainment and Technology - Find the best Toyota deals!

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport Blue Rear Quarter View

2022 Toyota 4Runner TRD Sport

Consumers will find that the 2022 Toyota 4Runner has a standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment interface with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration. Factory navigation is optional or standard, depending on the trim level.

All 2022 4Runners have five USB ports and a 120-volt outlet (400-watt output) in the cargo bay.

The entry-level infotainment interface on the 2022 Toyota Highlanders includes an 8-inch touchscreen display with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The higher trim levels can upgrade to a 12.3-inch widescreen display. Factory navigation is available with both displays.

Every 2022 Highlander has five USB ports. A wireless charging pad is standard on the XLE and up. The Highlander's higher trims have a 110-volt outlet, but the Highlander Hybrid is the way to go if you want to plug in appliances. Starting on the Bronze Edition trim, the hybrid Highlander has dual 110-volt outlets with a combined 1,500-watt output.

Advantage: Toyota Highlander

Comfort and Utility - Find the best Toyota deals!

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Silver Rear Quarter View

2022 Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The 2022 Toyota 4Runner's cabin takes you back to an earlier time when you had to climb up into SUVs rather than slide into them. Once inside, you'll find a surprising amount of space in the first and second rows. The seats are comfortable, too. Visibility from the driver's seat isn't great, but children in the second row will enjoy a fine view. The interior materials feel more durable than lavish, and the 4Runner's large dials and levers are easy to operate.

Most Toyota 4Runners get by with manual air conditioning. Second-row air conditioning vents are standard. The Limited upgrades to dual-zone automatic climate control, but there's no dedicated rear air conditioner for 4Runners with the optional third-row seat.

The 4Runner has 47.2 cubic feet of capacity behind the second-row seats. With the rear seats folded, there's a maximum capacity of 89.7 cubic feet. Compared to crossover SUVs, the Toyota 4Runner has a high cargo floor. To ease the loading of heavy items, Toyota offers a slide-out cargo deck on 5-passenger 4Runners (it reduces the maximum capacity to 88.8 cubic feet). If your Toyota 4Runner has a third-row seat, keep in mind there are just 9 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind it. There's no power liftgate on this SUV, but you can power down the rear glass.

Consumers will find that the 2022 Toyota Highlander's interior feels far more modern. Getting into the first and second rows is effortless, and although third-row access is tighter than in some other 3-row midsize SUVs, it's preferable to the arrangement in the 4Runner. Triple-zone automatic climate control is standard, and second-row window sunshades are standard starting on the XLE.

Still, the Highlander isn't perfect. The interior design and materials aren't especially attractive or memorable, and the storage areas aren't as useful as they should be in a family vehicle. As in the 4Runner, though, most controls are large and easy to find.

Both the V6 Toyota Highlander and the Highlander Hybrid provide 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row. You'll find 48.4 cubic feet behind the second row, and the maximum capacity is 84.3 cubic feet. Only the base L trim does without a power liftgate. The upper trims offer hands-free convenience.

Advantage: Toyota Highlander

Learn More About the Toyota 4Runner and Toyota Highlander - Find the best Toyota deals!

If you'd like to learn more about these midsize SUVs, be sure to read our expert reviews of the 2022 Toyota 4Runner and 2022 Toyota Highlander. To find out how people like you rate models in this segment, 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 24, 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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