2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid swings and misses at Toyota Highlander Hybrid

September 6, 2019

Last week, Ford confirmed the 2020 Explorer Hybrid netted an official 28 mpg combined rating with rear-wheel drive, 25 mpg combined in all-wheel drive, according to the EPA. While that’s impressive for a three-row crossover SUV, it trails the 34 mpg combined expected for the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid in front-wheel-drive configuration.

This week, Ford took a shot at Toyota by comparing the towing capacity between the new Explorer Hybrid and old Toyota Highlander Hybrid. When properly equipped “the all-new Explorer Limited Hybrid tows 1,500 pounds more than a 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid,” the company said in a statement.

The problem with this comparison is that Toyota unveiled the 2020 Highlander in April, and while most specs haven’t been announced, Ford is comparing apples to old apples. 

Here’s what we know: The 2020 Ford Explorer Hybrid is more powerful and less efficient than the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid. 

Efficiency

The redesigned Explorer Hybrid still trails the 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid by 3 mpg combined in all-wheel drive, but could trail the forthcoming 2020 Highlander in front-wheel drive by even more. Toyota expects the EPA to confirm it at 34 mpg combined. 

Ford is also touting the rear-drive Hybrid’s range of more than 500 miles on a single tank, which is impressive for a large vehicle with an 18-gallon tank. The outgoing Highlander had a smaller 17.2-gallon tank, so it didn’t hit the 500-mile mark, but even if the 2020 has a 15-gallon tank, it will exceed the Explorer Hybrid’s top range.

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2020 Toyota Highlander

Power

With an electric motor between the 10-speed automatic transmission and 3.3-liter V-6, the Explorer Hybrid makes 318 horsepower. The 2020 Highlander Hybrid downsizes to a 2.5-liter inline-4 with a pair of electric motors to make 240 hp, which is a significant downgrade from the 306-hp 2019 Highlander Hybrid. 

Capability

It’s reasonable to expect that the Explorer Hybrid’s 5,000-pound towing capacity will exceed the Highlander Hybrid. The non-hybrid 2020 Highlander with the 295-hp V-6 tows 5,000 pounds. Even with the extra torque coming from the electric motors, the Hybrid’s inline-4 probably won’t be able to match that. 

If you’re looking for the most efficient hybrid three-row crossover, the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is the one. But if you want efficiency with more performance and more towing capability, the 2020 Explorer Hybrid has the overall edge.

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