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Toyota Highlander vs. Toyota 4Runner: What’s The Difference?

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White 4Runner

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The Highlander is designed to handle daily activities very well, while the 4Runner tears through difficult off-road terrains. However, cars are a bit more complicated than that, so let’s begin by taking a look under the hoods of the two SUVs. Toyota Highlander vs. Toyota 4Runner: what’s the better choice?

Power, Purpose, and Driveability

By looking at the statistics, we get a better picture of the directions Toyota took with the 4Runner and the Highlander.

The Engine

The standard Highlander has a 3.5L V6 gasoline engine that delivers 295 horsepower and 263 torque to all wheels through an 8-speed shiftable automatic. The highway fuel economy you can expect is about 27 miles per gallon, and it dips down to 20 mpg in the city.

The 4Runner’s powerplant is a 4.0L six-cylinder V6 gasoline engine that delivers 270 horsepower and 278 torque. The power is transmitted to the wheels by a 5-speed shiftable automatic. The mileage, a bit worse than the Highlander, is 16 mpg city driving and 19 mpg on the highway.


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Handling On and Off the Road

Toyota Highlander, made to be a daily driver, handles very well on pavement. With a focus on comfort, it handles better than your average SUV. However, off-roads aren’t the Highlander’s natural habitat, though it can handle slightly rough roads.

With the 4Runner sturdy body-on-frame construction and solid 9 inches of ground clearance, it was clearly made to handle rough terrains very well. A few optional features such as ‘Crawl Control’ will make the off-roading experience much more pleasant.

The Takeaway

Although both vehicles come with similar V6 engines, the 8-speed transmission of the Highlander offers a smoother overall ride, and by the vehicle’s construction, the Highlander was made to be a comfortable daily vehicle. The 4Runner, on the other hand, was designed to be a great bang for the buck for off-road enthusiasts.


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Comfort, Cargo, and Utility

When it comes to comfort, cargo, and utility, the Highlander is superior to the 4Runner; here’s why!

The Highlander is a 7-seater with three rows of seats that are very comfortable, especially if you opt for a more expensive trim with options such as heated seats and ventilation. However, the third row might be better suited for kids. Nevertheless, it can still fit three adults.

Nobody expects comfort during an off-road adventure, so the 4Runner doesn’t come with nearly as many comfort features, nor does it have third-row-seating. Still, Toyota does offer 7 seats as an option.

The additional features of the Highlander include the LATCH system with an IIHS rating of ‘Good.’ The 4Runner has a lower rating and fewer connectors, making the Highlander a better option for a family with children.

In terms of safety features, both vehicles are equipped with features you’d expect a modern vehicle to have.

Technology and the Infotainment System

Technology and the infotainment system of the two vehicles are very different; let’s see how! Toyota Highlander vs. Toyota 4Runner: who has better technology?

SUVs, usually purchased for their excellent versatility, should have a user-friendly infotainment interface. The Highlander does come with a better system and better overall technology compared to the 4Runner. The regular trim comes with a 6.1-inch touch screen and several other minor capabilities. However, there’s a lot more on offer as an option, such as a navigation system, advanced audio, and a larger touch screen, just to name a few. Something that’s interesting—and a downside for some—is that the Highlander isn’t compatible with Apple Carplay nor Android Audio.

The Toyota 4Runner’s technology doesn’t feel very modern. That’s not surprising since it’s basically an SUV made for huge off-roading enthusiasts that are looking to fulfill their desires with a capable vehicle. The 4Runner does exactly that, it excels at off-roading, and it’s very budget-friendly for a brand new SUV. The same as the Highlander, the 4Runner isn’t compatible with Apple Carplay or Android Audio.


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Is it Worth the Price?

Toyota Highlander vs. Toyota 4Runner, can you save yourself a few thousand bucks and still come out on top or should you invest a few thousand more and purchase the better SUV?

Toyota Highlander Price and Trims

Toyota Highlander costs about what you’d expect. Depending on the trim you choose, options, and additional packages, a brand new Toyota Highlander will cost you between $35,000 and just below $50,000. 

While $35,000 seems pretty fair for this mid-size crossover SUV, the $50,000 price tag might not be worth it. If you’re willing to spend that amount of money on a comfortable 7-seater daily driver, you could instead look into a luxury SUV that’s similarly priced.

There are Highlander trims that offer more comfort, affordability, mileage, etc. In other words, there’s something for everyone, and if you’re serious about purchasing a Highlander, here’s a thorough guide on the trims.

Toyota 4Runner Price and Trims

The price tag of the 4Runner starts just above $36,000 and $49,000. The most popular, premium off-road trim goes for $43,325, which seems pretty fair. Overall, the 4Runner is a purchase that you can make with confidence.

Spending anything more than $43,325 is unnecessary, but if you like the options and packages offered, you’ll most likely thank yourself in the future for spending a bit more.

The most popular, premium off-road trim is essentially everything you need. You’ll be able to take your 4Runner off-roading right from the dealership, but you’ll be able to modify it over time to suit your needs since you won’t spend an absurd amount of money upfront. You can learn a bit more about the 4Runner’s trims here.

Toyota Highlander vs. Toyota 4Runner; Ending Remarks

Toyota Highlander vs. Toyota 4Runner, which one is better?

The Toyota Highlander definitely comes out on top as a comfortable daily driver that can fit a family without any issues. On the other hand, the 4Runner feels like an excellent off-road SUV targeted at enthusiasts.

The Highlander feels more like a sedan when it comes to road manners because of its unibody construction, while the 4Runner’s body-on-frame construction allows the SUV to tear across rough roads. The Highlander comes equipped with a bunch of features for safety and driver assistance, while the 4Runner has off-road-oriented features.

As always, it all comes down to what you’re looking for. Think about your goals and needs, then see which best suits your lifestyle!



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