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The Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander are popular choices for families seeking a three-row SUV. Each has good interior room, a long list of safety gear, and affordable pricing. They both deliver the practicality and driving experience most crossover shoppers expect.

Which one is right for your specific daily needs? Read on to find out exactly what you need to know when comparing the Honda Pilot versus the Toyota Highlander during your new car search. And for what to know when comparing any two cars check out our article on finding the perfect car for your needs.

About the Honda Pilot:

Built in Lincoln, Alabama, the Honda Pilot is the Japanese brand’s flagship SUV. This capable mid-size model seats up to eight passengers. It also offers excellent cargo room. All-wheel drive is available with the Honda Pilot, which makes it popular in winter climates. Drivers everywhere are attracted to its car-like ride despite its large size.

The Honda Pilot is available in a wide range of trims ranging from basic to luxurious. It has also won several awards, including being named as a 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick. To find out more about the SUV, visit the Details & Specs tab on the Honda Pilot page at AutoGravity.

About Toyota Highlander:

The Toyota Highlander is another Japanese SUV that is built in America. Specifically, it is assembled in Princeton, Indiana. Like the Pilot, the Toyota Highlander combines big cargo space with eight passenger capacity. It also offers available all-wheel drive.

In addition to its gasoline model, the Highlander also comes in Hybrid trim. Among the Toyota Highlander’s list of awards is a 2019 IIHS Top Safety Pick designation. To find out more about the SUV, visit the Details & Specs tab on the Toyota Highlander page at AutoGravity.

Pilot vs Highlander price comparison graph

Honda Pilot versus Toyota Highlander: What has Better Interior Quality, Space, and Comfort?

When it comes to cabin size, the Honda Pilot creeps past the Toyota Highlander. This means that its second- and third-row passengers have more room to stretch out their arms and legs. There’s also a touch more cargo space in the Honda. Keep in mind that the third row of seating is on the tight side in both vehicles.

The Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander each focus on utility and practicality. The interior design leans towards simplicity rather than luxury. The Highlander is a little less plain than the Pilot. Materials quality in each is quite close, and the two SUVs both offer well-assembled cabins.

Honda Pilot versus Toyota Highlander: What has Better Safety Equipment and Ratings?

As mentioned above, both the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander are IIHS Top Safety Picks. This means that the SUVs offer a good list of safety equipment, and perform well in crash testing.

The 2019 Honda Pilot comes standard with the Honda Sensing suite of safety features. It includes:

  • Forward collision detection and automatic braking. This system will warn the driver and even stop the SUV if it senses an impact.
  • Adaptive cruise control. This feature maintains a safe distance between the SUV and vehicles ahead.
  • Road departure mitigation and lane departure warning and assistance. This system keeps the vehicle from straying from its lane.

Honda also offers the LaneWatch feature and blind-spot monitoring with certain trim levels of the Pilot. LaneWatch provides a video image of the passenger-side area, visible when the right turn signal is used. Blind spot monitoring uses sensors to detect and warn drivers of unseen traffic on either side of the SUV.

Toyota labels its set of safety features Toyota Safety Sense. Standard with the Highlander are:

  • Adaptive cruise control.
  • Forward collision warning with automatic braking.
  • Lane departure warning and assistance.

Like the Pilot, if you want blind-spot monitoring in the Highlander you’ll have to pay more.

Each of these two SUVs are almost identical in terms of safety. But Honda’s LaneWatch system is more of a distraction than a help. If forces drivers to take their eyes off the road to look at the video screen on the dashboard. We don’t consider it an advantage, and would not pay more for it.

Honda Pilot versus Toyota Highlander: What has Better Technology?

The Highlander comes with either a 6.1-inch or 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The Pilot’s base infotainment screen is a 5.1-inch unit that doesn’t offer touch capability. You have to upgrade to the 8.0-inch unit on higher trim levels to benefit.

On the flip side, Honda offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which Toyota does not. The Pilot’s on-screen graphics are higher quality than those in the Highlander. Its menu system is also more logical to use. Each vehicle can be outfitted with a navigation system, as well as upgraded audio.

Once you move past the base model’s infotainment, Honda offers a better overall technology experience.

Honda Pilot versus Toyota Highlander: Which is Better to Drive?

Every Honda Pilot comes with the same V6 that produces a reasonable 280 horsepower. It also features a revised 9-speed automatic transmission on higher trim levels for improved performance.

The Toyota Highlander provides three engine options:

  • A base 4-cylinder (185 horsepower).
  • A V6 (295 horsepower).
  • A Hybrid model (306 horsepower).

The Toyota 4-cylinder is thirsty and unpleasant to drive. The V6 delivers more oomph off the line compared to the Honda, and matches its fuel mileage. The Highlander Hybrid steps up big-time over the Pilot with excellent city mileage and additional power.

The Highlander’s handling and ride is similar to that of the Pilot. These are both big, heavy vehicles. Where the Honda pulls ahead is in the snow. Its optional all-wheel drive system is excellent in winter conditions. Toyota’s all-wheel drive is good, but not quite as impressive.

Honda Pilot versus Toyota Highlander: Which Car is Priced Better?

The 2019 Toyota Highlander’s $31,530 base price is cheaper than the 2019 Honda Pilot’s $32,495 by nearly $1,000. Keep in mind that the Pilot offers a V6 as standard equipment, while the Highlander is stuck with a 4-cylinder. Despite its power and efficiency advantage, the Pilot offers a less impressive set of tech features at the entry level.

By the time you reach top trim levels, the Highlander and the Pilot have leveled out at just under $50k each. For not much more Toyota offers its quick, fuel-sipping hybrid model, which the Pilot can’t match.

From a value perspective, if you can live with the lack of a touchscreen the Pilot is a better buy for budget-minded drivers. The Highlander Hybrid makes more sense at the top end.

Honda Pilot versus Toyota Highlander: Which Car Should I Buy?

When putting the Honda Pilot versus the Toyota Highlander head-to-head, there’s a lot to consider.

In terms of safety, it’s an even match. Interior room and comfort give a slight edge to the Pilot. The Honda also pulls ahead in terms of winter driving, its powerful base engine, and available Apple CarPlay/Android Auto

Still, a touchscreen in every model, the availability of a mightier V6 engine, and the efficient Hybrid trim level are powerful factors in the Highlander’s favor. Wider choice of options in a similar range of prices help push the Toyota Highlander past the Honda Pilot in our comparison.

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Honda Pilot vs. Toyota Highlander: Which Car is Right For Me?
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Honda Pilot vs. Toyota Highlander: Which Car is Right For Me?
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We pit the Honda Pilot vs the Toyota Highlander, with a Pro comparing driving, tech, safety features, and pricing to clarify which is right for you.
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AutoGravity
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Benjamin Hunting is a Montreal-based freelance writer who has been covering every aspect of the automotive industry - finance, vehicle reviews, news, and trends - for over a decade both in print and online. One-half of the team behind the Unnamed Automotive Podcast, he is a friend to vinyl and enjoys keeping the shiny side up on track days.

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