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2019 Honda Pilot vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander

John Coyle | May 08, 2019

In this corner, we have the 2019 Honda Pilot. As the biggest crossover in the company's stable, it's what Civic fans long for once they have kids.

Next, we have the 2019 Toyota Highlander. It's good there can't only be one, because these are popular, and everyone sharing would be impractical.

It's hardly Mustang vs. Camaro - but Honda and Toyota both have fierce fanbases. So will the Pilot fly into your heart? Or will the the Highlander prove your immortal beloved? Let's look at the engines, interiors, standard features, and pricing to find out.


Powertrain

First, let’s look at the powertrains. All Pilots come with a 3.5-liter V-6, which is good 280-horsepower. The top two trim levels, the Touring and the Elite, are fitted with a nine-speed automatic, while a six-speed gearbox is standard. Front-wheel drive models deliver an EPA combined rating of 22 miles per gallon, while all-wheel drive models take a slight hit, and come in at 21 miles per gallon combined. Unfortunately, there’s no hybrid option.

Toyota’s Highlander has more choices. First, there’s a 185-hp 2.7-liter four-cylinder mated to a six speed, and a 295-hp 3.5-liter V-6 packing an eight-speed. It’s smart to opt up, however, as the smaller motor won’t save you at the pump. The comparatively equipped V6 actually scores 23 in EPA in combined testing, one better than its four-pot sibling. Even in all-wheel drive spec, the V6 still manages to tie the front-wheel drive four, but if you’re looking for the best fuel economy, the hybrid, with its 28-mpg EPA average, predictably does best of all. With 306 ponies on tap, it’s the most powerful too.

So the Highlander has more power and similar fuel economy. Plus, Toyota also offers a hybrid model. And that earns Toyota the win here.

Shop Toyota Highlander Inventory

Cabin Interior

Now, let’s look inside the cabin. It says something that the most talked about addition to the 2019 Pilot is a volume knob — because the cabin is otherwise dialed. While it doesn’t have the flash of some competitors, the interior feels cavernous, and even third-row passengers won’t feel cramped, as there’s nearly 32 inches of legroom.

In comparison, the Highlander’s way back passengers get less than 28 inches, and there are only three sets of LATCH car seat connectors, while the Honda features four. Without the seats folded there’s 13.8 feet of cargo space behind the back row, and with 16 cubic feet, the Honda beats it here too. Though with everything folded down, both have about 84 cubic feet of space.

While both vehicles are family friendly people movers, the larger third row, extract LATCH point, and slightly better cargo space make the Honda the winner here.

In this segment, infotainment tech is far more important to buyers than zero-to-60 times, and both the Pilot and the Toyota offer a host of goodies in that department.

All Pilots comes with Bluetooth and USB connectivity, but the standard screen is a relatively small five inches. Upgrading to the HondaLink system means an eight-inch touchscreen, ten speakers as opposed to seven, and support for the ever-popular Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

At eight inches, the Highlander’s upgraded infotainment system screen is comparable to the Pilot’s, and there’s also a PA system, so you won’t have to yell when you’re threatening to turn the car. But unfortunately, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto isn’t available at any trim level.

While both systems will accomplish the same tasks, we think the absence of Apple CarPlay and Android support tips the scales in Pilot’s favor, so we’re giving the win to the Honda here.

Shop Honda Pilot Inventory

Safety

Safety wise, the Pilot comes standard with high-tech features like forward collision warning, collision mitigation braking, and lane departure warning, while blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are optional extras.

Blind-spot monitoring and rear-cross traffic alert are also extra on the Highlander, but the Toyota Safety Sense P system includes pedestrian detection, along automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control.

Both of these vehicles earned five-star ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, so this is a close one. And while busy folks are going to want to spring for the extra safety features, we think the Toyota’s slightly more robust list of standard features gives it the edge here.

Shop Toyota Highlander Inventory

Price and Value

Now, it’s time to talk price.

Front-wheel drive versions of the the Honda Pilot start at $31,450, and include the six-speed auto, but for $34,330, buyers can jump up to the EX trim, which includes creature comforts like heated front seats, tri-zone climate control, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All-wheel-drive is a $1,900 option across the board, and the top-spec Elite trim, which included all-wheel drive and second-row captain’s chairs, come in at $48,020.

The base version of the Highlander comes with the less efficient four cylinder, and opting for the LE Plus trim, which includes the V-6, as well as features like the eight-inch touchscreen, tri-zone climate control, and a power liftgate, will run you $36,260. All-wheel drive isn’t available on the four-cylinder, but it’s a $1,460 option for the other trims. The top trim is the Limited, which gets a panoramic moonroof and surround view camera, and starts at $45,550.

This is a tough call, but we’re going to hand it to the Honda here. Even well-optioned V-6 models are still cheaper than the comparable Toyota, and we don’t think most folks will notice the Highlander’s slight power and efficiency advantage.

Shop Honda Pilot Inventory

Conclusion

This is another tough choice, as both companies have reputations for making well-designed  vehicles that are as reliable as the sunrise, But we think the Honda wins overall. While the Toyota has a slight edge in safety-tech and drivetrain choices, we think the Pilot's roomier cabin, available Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and lower price make it the winner. Of course, if you're wanting a hybrid, the Highlander is going to be your only bet.

The power of a test drive

Of course, you shouldn't buy a car without a thorough test drive. So if you're looking to check out one of more of these popular vehicles, find an AutoNation dealership near you!

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