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Honda Pilot Vs. Toyota Highlander: Compare Cars

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Honda Pilot Vs. Toyota Highlander

Honda Pilot Vs. Toyota Highlander

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If you're a busy parent, especially of the kind that doesn't want to be seen in a minivan, seven-passenger crossovers are good substitutes. And if your escape from sliding doors brought you to either the Honda Pilot or the Toyota Highlander, you're on the right track.

Both of these models are among the best affordable mass-market family crossovers—affordable yet comfortable, safe, and well-equipped. But which fits your family better? Read on carefully, as it comes down to a few subtle yet important points.

Over a couple of generations, both the Pilot (which is due to be redesigned next year) and the Highlander (which is redesigned for 2014) have really proven themselves for family utility. Yet if there's one distinct thing that separates the Pilot out as better, it's the Honda's driving feel. And for the Highlander, it's the Hybrid offering, as well as the roomy seating arrangement and quiet, calm cabin.

When we tally up our numeric ratings, it's the Highlander that comes out on top, particularly where family matters matter most. In safety, the Pilot is in the IIHS's good graces; but only the 2014 Highlander, with its combination of 'good' safety ratings in most categories plus an 'acceptable' small overlap result, is a Top Safety Pick+ selection. Visibility also suffers on the Pilot, with its very thick, very SUV-like rear pillars.

Both of these models are tall and spacious, as well as easy to load and get into and out of (despite the lack of sliding doors). A slight nod for interior room goes to the Highlander, where even large adults fit easily in the second row. That bench has an option for a hide-away middle seat that stows to allow walk-through access to the Toyota's big third-row seat. The Pilot's third-row seat is wide but leg room is a little shorter than some, but the interior brims with useful cubbies and bins.

Both of these models can be fitted with a power tailgate, DVD entertainment systems, Bluetooth, navigation, and other luxury features. Yet if you're on a budget, Toyota has the edge, as even on the most affordable models offer a USB port, Bluetooth audio streaming, and Bluetooth hands-free calling connectivity--not to mention a much nicer interior style.

The Pilot comes in just a single powertrain offering, a 250-hp V-6 with a five-speed automatic good for up to 18/25 mpg with front-wheel drive. With either vehicle, all-wheel drive is available, but probably only needed if you live in a place where rough weather lasts for more than a month a year.

The new Highlander scores again for its variety of powertrains. A base four-cylinder earns very good fuel economy (up to 20/25 mpg); it's topped by a fairly expensive Hybrid model that's rated at up to 27/28 mpg by the EPA. The strong V-6 version is best for towing or carrying a full load of passengers often.

You'll enjoy driving the Pilot, for sure, since its steering and ride are well controlled. The Highlander has improved remarkably in this regard, with a flatter ride and more responsive, if numb steering.

Big family utes like these don't have to be good-looking to be great choices. However, one of the best vehicles in the segment happens to do that: while the Highlander outpoints the Pilot in this head to head, the Ford Flex outscores them both by a wide margin, with more infotainment features, and with a famously boxy shape that looks compelling while hitting all the right marks for safety and utility. All three are built to serve and protect--it's up to you if you want to serve something else, too.

2014 Honda Pilot 2014 Toyota Highlander
2014 Honda Pilot 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum
TCC Rating
7.6 Despite the 2014 Honda Pilot's truck-like exterior, it's one of more practical and family-friendly models on of the market today. 8.2 The 2014 Toyota Highlander covers familiar territory, without straying too far into Adventure Land.
7The Pilot has some SUV pretensions in its boxy shape; the cockpit is rendered in plasticky plastics. Read more7Sleeker from the side than the front, the Highlander's big, stylish transition takes place inside. Read more
8Ride and handling are still a Pilot strong point, and its big V-6 is strong and smooth. Read more7Powertrains are carried over, but this Highlander's less floaty and more connected than before. Read more
8Controls could be laid out more simply, but the Honda Pilot has a nicely sized third-row seat. Read more9We prefer the cloth seats and appreciate the added cargo room, but it's the finer finishes that call out the new Highlander best. Read more
8The Pilot earns good crash-test scores, but some cutting-edge safety options are missing. Read more9It's an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, and the new Highlander comes with a standard rearview camera. Read more
7Honda puts some of the more desirable infotainment features on only its most expensive Pilots. Read more9Toyota's Entune system is standard, along with Bluetooth and audio streaming; the plushest Hybrid Limited versions push $50,000. Read more
6Among the three-row, V-6 utes, the Pilot is one of the more efficient crossovers. Read more6Gas mileage is par for the course; the Hybrid's better numbers are iffy prospects in the real world. Read more
from $29,670 from $29,215
from $27,137 from $26,673
Fuel Economy - Combined City and Highway
21 (Est) 22
Front Leg Room (in)
41.4 44.2
Second Leg Room (in)
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Read Full Specs
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