RAV4 or Highlander: Which SUV is Right for You?

 

The modern SUV is fast becoming the vehicle of choice for commuters, single drivers, families, and anyone on the road who needs flexibility, economy, and ease of use all rolled into one. You'd be hard-pressed to drive down any road around New Hampton or Middletown and not come across more than a few versions, from the latest compact SUV to eight-passenger haulers. Plenty of them will have the Toyota badge on them - both the Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander are amongst the best-selling models on the market. So how do they differ from one another?

How Much Room is in a Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander?

The most obvious difference between the two comes in the size category. The Toyota RAV4 has a smaller footprint than the Toyota Highlander, making it a great choice if you are strapped for parking space like in downtown Goshen or Monroe.

The smaller footprint does come with less interior space, obviously. The RAV4 provides seating for five, while the Highlander can provide seating for up to eight. That being said, while both offer plenty of space for your average adult in the second row, the third row of the Highlander is best suited for children and young adults. Any more than a short trip around New Hampton could get uncomfortable for adults.

With all three rows of seats upright, the Highlander still provides 13.8 cubic feet of cargo space, plenty of room for groceries, backpacks, and sports equipment. In fact, it's more cargo space than most compact cars and even some mid-size sedans. If you only need to carry four or five passengers, the back row can be stowed to expand to 42.3 cubic feet of space, perfect for long vacation trips where everyone needs one or two pieces of luggage and you still want to pack a cooler for snacks. When you need the maximum space, both the second and third row can be stowed for 83.7 cubic feet of room - you'll have no problem fitting everything to move your kid into their first college dorm room.

The smaller footprint means a little less space inside the RAV4 for cargo. With seating for all five passengers in place, you get 38.4 cubic feet of cargo room, still plenty of room for those long vacation trips. When you stow the second row, the RAV4 opens up to 73.4 cubic feet of cargo space, only ten cubic feet less than the Highlander with all of its seats stowed. Still more than enough room for moving a kid into college.

 

What Kind of Engine does the Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander Have?

Both the Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander come with standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive - the latter is the better choice for conquering the snowy highways of the region or the muddy, or sometimes non-existent, roadways around Newburgh or Scotchtown.

Featuring a 2.5L four-cylinder engine, the RAV4 is aimed more towards the driver who is looking for cost-effective power that can tow a little bit when needed. Turning out 176 horsepower and 172 lb.-ft. of torque, it is accessible power that is comfortable in town and out on the highway. It comes with great fuel efficiency too - up to 23 MPG around town and 30 MPG on the highway, depending on the trim level and the choice of front- or all-wheel drive. It can tow up to 1500 pounds behind - enough for a snowmobile or two, personal watercraft, or even a small boat and outboard motor. The RAV4 also offers a hybrid version with a 2.5L engine, offering 194 net system horsepower. It's perfect for the driver who spends most of their time in the streets of Middletown or Goshen, with 34 MPG city and 30 MPG on the highway.

A bigger vehicle needs a bigger engine, so the base model of the Toyota Highlander comes with a 2.7L four-cylinder engine that offers 185 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Paired with a six-speed transmission, Snow Mode is offered for improved winter handling. Offered in front-wheel drive only, it gets 20 MPG around town and 24 MPG on the open road. It's budget-minded, for the driver who needs room for seven but needs to pinch a penny here and there - and it can still tow up to 1,500 pounds.

The Highlander also offers a 3.5L V6 engine that is capable, confident, and can haul. You won't have any hesitation when merging or passing with 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. of torque on hand. It is available with front- or all-wheel drive, but we certainly recommend the latter for the winter months. With front-wheel drive, you'll get 21 MPG city and 27 MPG highway thanks to the eight-speed automatic transmission. It's also the best option for towing, as the 5,000-pound capacity can handle larger boats and some camping trailers for when you want to get out of town.

The hybrid option in the Highlander takes that 3.5L engine and adds front and rear electric motors, for a system net power of 306 horsepower. This bumps up fuel economy around town to 30 MPG all while hauling 7 passengers, cargo, and having the capability to tow 3,500 pounds. That's about the same efficiency as a mid-size sedan. On the open road, 28 MPG means you can go longer between stops at the gas station. It's a package perfect for the school carpooler or city commuter. Hybrid Highlanders are only offered in all-wheel drive.

What Kind of Interior and Technology is Offered in a Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander?

Drivers and passengers alike will appreciate that Toyota provides solid base packages for both the Toyota RAV4 and the Toyota Highlander, as well as plenty of upmarket options.

While the RAV4 provides standard air conditioning with available dual-zone automatic climate control, the Highlander needs a more powerful system to handle the larger cabin. Base models of the Highlander feature front and rear air conditioning with second- and third-row vents. This can be upgraded to three-zone automatic climate control with a separate second-row control panel so rear-seat passengers can set their temperatures as they see fit.

Fabric- and SofTex®-trimmed seats are offered in the RAV4, and the driver and front passenger seats can be heated to provide comfort during the cold New York winters. A heated steering wheel is also offered to help out during those months. Heavy-duty all-weather floor liners and cargo mats are offered to protect the interior. Ambient footwell lighting adds a touch of upscale taste to the interior that is trimmed with easy-cleaning plastics.

While the Highlander also offers fabric and SofTex® upholstery, there are more luxury options available. Perforated leather-trimmed front-row seats are offered, with 12-way power adjustability and memory function for the driver's seat. The second-row outboard seats can be heated, while front seats can be heated for winter as well as ventilated for comfort in balmy summers. Luxury touches throughout the interior include soft-touch upper door trim with options for metallic, wood-grain, and technical pattern accents, as well as available leather-trimmed door armrest areas and steering wheel.

The RAV4 and Highlander provide identical infotainment options based around the Entune® Audio system. These start with the base system, featuring a 6.1-in. touchscreen, six-speaker, a USB 2.0-port with iPod connectivity and control, and hands-free phone and streaming audio via Bluetooth® wireless technology and Siri Eyes Free. These can be upgraded to an 8-in. touchscreen in the Highlander or a 7-in. touchscreen in the RAV4, with SiriusXM®, or to the Premium Audio with Integrated Navigation and Entune® App Suite as well as HD Radio™. JBL® Audio systems are the premier systems in both vehicles - the RAV4 gets 11 JBL® GreenEdge™ speakers with a subwoofer amplifier, while the Highlander gets 12 JBL® GreenEdge™ speakers with a subwoofer amplifier. The Highlander also has the availability of a rear-seat Blu-ray entertainment system with 9-in. display.

Both vehicles offer available heated mirrors to keep visibility at a maximum and prevent icing over, and both offer a power tilt/slide moonroof for opening in the summer. The Highlander does add the option for a panoramic moonroof. Both offer a height-adjustable power liftgate with jam protection, but the RAV4 goes a step further and offers a hands-free, foot-activated power liftgate to make loading up easier when you've got your hands full.

What are the Safety Features of a Toyota RAV4 and Toyota Highlander?

When it comes to standard and available safety features, no carmaker is as attentive as Toyota. Safety should not be optional.

Both the RAV4 and Highlander come with a standard integrated backup camera with a projected path, and both can be upgraded to feature dynamic guidelines or even get a Bird's Eye View Camera with an overhead 360-degree view in both Drive and Reverse. Both also get the Star Safety System as standard, including Enhanced Vehicle Stability Control, Brake Assist, and Smart Stop Technology.

Every trim of the RAV4 and Highlander features the basic Toyota Safety Sense P system, with higher trims getting additional features. Driver assist features including the Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Automatic High Beams, and Dynamic Radar Cruise Control are standard on every model - many carmakers offer these as cost-adding options or don't offer them at all. Both SUVs offer a Blind-Spot Monitor with Rear Cross-Traffic Alert as an option. The Highlander also offers front and rear parking sonar as an option, with Trailer Sway Control standard for your towing needs. This commitment to making the roads of Monroe and Goshen safer for drivers and pedestrians alike makes Toyota an industry leader.

Add amazing reliability on top of this, as the RAV4 and Highlander are rated by U.S. News & World Report as two of the most reliable SUVs on the market. Visit Johnson's Toyota to compare these two great vehicles side-by-side to see which one is the right fit for you and your lifestyle - do you want the compact convenience of the RAV4, or the luxury and spaciousness of the Highlander? Either one is a great choice, just like Johnson's Toyota is a great choice for new car shoppers across the region, from Middletown to Scotchtown.

true ;