Jones Ford Verde Valley Compares 2013 Ford Explorer VS 2013 Toyota Highlander Near Verde Valley, AZ

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2013 Ford Explorer

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2013 Toyota Highlander

Safety Comparison

The middle row seatbelts optional on the Explorer XLT/Limited inflate when a collision is detected, helping to spread crash forces over a much larger area of the body and limiting head and neck movement. This can help prevent spinal and internal injuries. The Highlander doesn’t offer inflatable seatbelts.

The Explorer Limited/Sport offers an optional collision warning system, which detects an impending crash through forward mounted sensors and flashes a bright light and sounds a loud, distinctive tone to warn the driver to brake or maneuver immediately to avoid a collision. The system also pre-charges the brakes to begin deceleration more quickly. The Highlander doesn't offer a collision warning system.

The Explorer Limited’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane and gently nudges the vehicle back towards its lane. The Highlander doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Explorer XLT/Limited/Sport’s optional blind spot warning system uses digital cameras monitored by computer to alert the driver to moving objects in the vehicle’s blind spots where the side view mirrors don’t reveal them. The Highlander doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver’s blind spots.

To help make backing safer, the Explorer XLT/Limited/Sport’s optional cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The Highlander doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Explorer’s optional driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Highlander doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

The Explorer (except Base) offers optional SYNC, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to get turn-by-turn driving directions or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Highlander doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the Explorer and the Highlander have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front-wheel drive, height-adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding and available all-wheel drive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Ford Explorer is safer than the Toyota Highlander:





4 Stars

4 Stars




Neck Injury Risk



Neck Stress

351 lbs.

482 lbs.

Neck Compression

8 lbs.

95 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

417/662 lbs.

402/852 lbs.



4 Stars

4 Stars




Chest Compression

.5 inches

.7 inches

Neck Injury Risk



Neck Stress

192 lbs.

203 lbs.

Neck Compression

53 lbs.

96 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Ford Explorer is safer than the Toyota Highlander:



Front Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars

Abdominal Force

135 G’s

167 G’s

Hip Force

295 lbs.

350 lbs.

Rear Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars

Spine Acceleration

32 G’s

46 G’s

Hip Force

524 lbs.

746 lbs.

Into Pole


5 Stars

5 Stars

Spine Acceleration

53 G’s

59 G’s

Hip Force

676 lbs.

769 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty Comparison

There are over 3 times as many Ford dealers as there are Toyota dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Explorer’s warranty.

Engine Comparison

The Explorer has more powerful engines than the Highlander:



Explorer 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

240 HP

270 lbs.-ft.

Explorer 3.5 DOHC V6

290 HP

255 lbs.-ft.

Explorer Sport 3.5 turbo V6

350 HP

350 lbs.-ft.

Highlander 2.7 DOHC 4 cyl.

187 HP

186 lbs.-ft.

Highlander 3.5 DOHC V6

270 HP

248 lbs.-ft.

Highlander Hybrid 3.5 DOHC V6 hybrid

280 HP

For more instantaneous acceleration and better engine flexibility in any gear, the Explorer’s engines produce their peak torque at lower RPM’s than the Highlander:


Explorer 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

1750 RPM

Explorer 3.5 DOHC V6

4000 RPM

Explorer Sport 3.5 turbo V6

1500 RPM

Highlander 2.7 DOHC 4 cyl.

4100 RPM

Highlander 3.5 DOHC V6

4700 RPM

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

On the EPA test cycle the Explorer gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander:




2.0 turbo 4 cyl./Auto

20 city/28 hwy

20 city/25 hwy

4 cyl./Auto


3.5 V6/Auto

17 city/23 hwy

17 city/22 hwy


The Explorer has 1.4 gallons more fuel capacity than the Highlander Hybrid’s standard fuel tank (18.6 vs. 17.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups.

The Explorer has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Highlander doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Brakes and Stopping Comparison

The Explorer’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the Highlander are solid, not vented.

The Explorer stops shorter than the Highlander:



70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

177 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

135 feet

140 feet

Consumer Reports

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

145 feet

153 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels Comparison

For better traction, the Explorer’s optional tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Highlander (255/50R20 vs. 245/65R17).

The Explorer’s optional tires provide better handling because they have a lower 50 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Highlander Limited’s 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Explorer offers optional 20-inch wheels. The Highlander’s largest wheels are only 19-inches.

Suspension and Handling Comparison

The Explorer has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Highlander’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

The Explorer has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Highlander doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Explorer’s wheelbase is 2.8 inches longer than on the Highlander (112.6 inches vs. 109.8 inches).

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Explorer is 3 inches wider in the front and 2.9 inches wider in the rear than the average track on the Highlander.

The Explorer Limited 4WD handles at .81 G’s, while the Highlander SE AWD pulls only .74 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Explorer Limited 4WD performs Popular Mechanics’ emergency lane change maneuver 1.7 MPH faster than the Highlander Limited AWD (48.29 vs. 46.57 MPH).

The Explorer Limited 4WD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.2 seconds quicker than the Highlander SE AWD (27.4 seconds @ .61 average G’s vs. 28.6 seconds @ .58 average G’s).

Chassis Comparison

As tested by Car and Driver, the interior of the Explorer Limited 4WD is quieter than the Highlander SE AWD:



At idle

35 dB

40 dB


75 dB

75 dB

70 MPH Cruising

68 dB

70 dB

Passenger Space Comparison

The Explorer has 6 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Highlander (151.7 vs. 145.7).

The Explorer has .8 inches more front headroom, .6 inches more front hip room, 1.6 inches more front shoulder room, .4 inches more rear headroom, 1.5 inches more rear legroom, .2 inches more rear hip room, 1.5 inches more rear shoulder room, 1.5 inches more third row headroom and 3.3 inches more third row legroom than the Highlander.

The Explorer offers an optional rear tailgate seat that can be flipped rearward and used for tailgate picnics. (Do not use seat reversed while vehicle in motion.) The Highlander doesn’t offer a rear tailgate seat.

Cargo Capacity Comparison

The Explorer’s cargo area provides more volume than the Highlander.



Behind Third Seat

21 cubic feet

10.3 cubic feet

Third Seat Folded

43.8 cubic feet


Third Seat Removed


42.3 cubic feet

The Explorer’s cargo area is larger than the Highlander’s in almost every dimension:



Length to seat (3rd/2nd/1st)






Pressing a switch automatically lowers or raises the Explorer Limited’s optional third row seats, to make changing between cargo and passengers easier. The Highlander doesn’t offer automatic folding seats.

Ergonomics Comparison

When three different drivers share the Explorer Limited, the memory system makes it convenient for all three. Each keyless remote activates different, customized memories for the driver’s seat position, foot pedal distance and outside mirror angle. The Highlander doesn’t offer a memory system.

The Explorer Limited’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Highlander doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The power windows standard on both the Explorer and the Highlander have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Explorer is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Highlander prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

The Explorer XLT/Limited/Sport’s front power windows open fully with one touch of the switches, and the driver’s window also automatically closes, making it more convenient at drive-up windows and toll booths, or when talking with someone outside the car. The Highlander’s passenger windows don’t open or close automatically.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the Explorer XLT/Limited/Sport’s exterior keypad. The Highlander doesn’t offer an exterior keypad entry system.

The Explorer’s standard speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Highlander’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted. The Explorer Limited’s optional wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Explorer Limited detect other vehicles, which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Highlander doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

The Explorer’s power mirror controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The Highlander’s power mirror controls are on the dash, hidden behind the steering wheel, where they are awkward to manipulate.

The Explorer Limited’s optional air conditioned front seats cool the driver and front passenger and help take the sting out of hot leather in Summer. The Highlander doesn’t offer air conditioned front seats.

To keep a safe, consistent following distance, the Explorer Limited/Sport offers an optional Adaptive Cruise Control, which alters the speed of the vehicle without driver intervention. This allows the driver to use cruise control more safely without constantly having to disengage it when approaching slower traffic. The Highlander doesn’t offer an adaptive cruise control.

The Explorer Limited’s optional Active Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Highlander doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

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