Sharing the Lexus RX 300 platform, the Toyota Highlander was one of the first mid-sized SUVs of its kind when it debuted in North America in 2001. Possibly due to the Highlander’s instant success, Honda followed suit and released the Pilot in 2003 based on the same platform as the Honda Accord. Here we will compare some of the key features of these two SUVs.
Today, the base-grade 2019 Highlander LE has a lower starting MSRP of $31,33012 than the base-grade 2019 Pilot LX’s starting MSRP of $31,450.
Safety features are another aspect where these two brands and vehicles are constantly competing. Toyota’s suite of advanced active safety features, Toyota Safety Sense™ P (TSS-P)24, comes standard on all 2019 Toyota Highlander trims. Not to be outdone, Honda’s own suite of active safety features, Honda Sensing®, includes all four features of TSS-P and also comes standard on all 2019 Honda Pilot trims.
Out of all of the active and passive safety systems that these two SUVs share in common, the only advantage goes to the 2019 Highlander for its Smart Stop Technology® (SST) 50 which is a part of the Star Safety System. As of winter 2018, no comparable Honda feature could be found for Highlander’s SST.
Gas engine 2019 Highlanders and the Pilot have identical basic and powertrain limited warranties, but only the Highlander comes with ToyotaCare, a no-cost maintenance plan11, included with the lease or purchase of any new Toyota vehicle and covers scheduled maintenance at no cost for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. ToyotaCare also includes free 24-hour roadside assistance43 for two years and unlimited miles. Honda does not offer a comparable no-cost maintenance plan for the Pilot, but Honda does offer a lifetime limited warranty for exhaust parts purchased from a Honda dealer for as long as you own the vehicle. There are added-cost maintenance plans available with varying terms depending on the Honda dealer.
It’s not just safety, price, and warranty where the Highlander has key advantages. Once you get into these vehicles, you’ll see that the 2019 Highlander (no matter the grade) comes with 5 USB ports (three in the front, two in the rear)32. The 2019 Pilot LX only has one USB port and the highest grade available, the 2019 Pilot Elite, only has 3 USB ports.
As mentioned in the previous introduction section, every 2019 Highlander comes with Toyota Safety Sense™ P (TSS-P)24 standard. Here is a comparison of the standard advanced active safety features of TSS-P and the safety features of Honda Sensing®:
Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (LDA w/SA)20 alerts the driver, under certain conditions, if the vehicle begins to leave its lane. Steering Assist (SA) may make corrective steering inputs. This feature is similar to Honda Sensing®‘s Road Departure Mitigation System (RDM) and Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS)®.
Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection (PCS w/PD)2322 is designed to help to mitigate potential collisions using radar and an in-vehicle camera to help detect a preceding vehicle and, under certain daytime conditions, a pedestrian. If the system determines that the possibility of a frontal collision with a vehicle or a pedestrian is likely, an audio and visual alert is given and, provided the driver applies the brakes, the system may provide additional braking force using Brake Assist (BA)28. If the driver does not apply the brakes in this situation, the system may automatically apply the brakes, reducing speed to help mitigate the impact or avoid the collision altogether. These features are similar to Honda Sensing®‘s Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Collision Mitigation Braking System™ (CMBS™).
Automatic High Beams (AHB)18 relies on an in-vehicle camera to help detect headlights of oncoming vehicles and taillights of preceding vehicles and automatically toggles between high or low beams to provide the appropriate amount of light. 2019 Honda Pilots also come with Auto High-Beam Headlights as a driver assistance technology feature.
Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC)39 is designed to help detect a preceding vehicle and to automatically adjust speed to help maintain a preset distance behind the vehicle ahead. Once the slower vehicle is no longer in your lane, the system will resume your preset speed. This is similar to Honda Sensing®‘s Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow.
Outside of these features and all other passive and active safety features that these vehicles share, the 2019 Highlander does have one standout. Toyota’s Star Safety System includes Smart Stop (Brake Override) Technology® (SST)50, for which there is no comparable feature on the 2019 Honda Pilot.
The 2019 Highlander received a 5-star NHTSA Overall Crash Test Rating26. The 2019 Honda Pilot also received a 5-star NHTSA Overall Crash Test Rating.
These two mid-sized SUVs bring you plenty of passenger space and the safety features you want to help protect the whole family. But, when it’s time to have a little fun, which vehicle excites the most when you put your foot to the pedal?
Excepting the 2019 Highlander LE with 4-cyl engine, all 3.5L V6-engine Highlander trims have 295 horsepower. This is 15 more than any Honda Pilot trim, which all have a 3.5L V6 engine that offers 280 horsepower.
The 2019 Highlander offers more power with greater efficiency. One simple fact that highlights this: there are three Highlander Hybrid trims while the 2019 Honda Pilot does not have a hybrid engine option available.
If you do opt for a hybrid Highlander, you’ll get 306 system net combined horsepower and an EPA estimated 30 MPG city, 28 MPG highway, and 29 MPG overall48. The best you can get from a 2019 Honda Pilot is an EPA-estimated 19 MPG city, 27 MPG highway, and 22 MPG combined.
When you compare these SUVs across available grades and trims, you’ll see that the 2019 Highlander LE V6, LE Plus, and XLE all have better EPA-estimated city MPG48 and better horsepower than the 2019 Pilot LX, EX-L, and Elite.
Utility and efficiency make a great pair. The 2019 Highlander can provide that for any lifestyle, as it has 5 gas engine and 3 hybrid engine trims to choose from. This is considerably more than the 2019 Pilot, which offers 5 different gas engine trims but no hybrid engine trims in North America.
No matter the grade, every 2019 Highlander with V6 engine has higher EPA-estimated city MPG than the 2019 Pilot48. This efficiency comes with an optimal balance of performance, too, as all 2019 Highlander V6 gas engine trims have better EPA-estimated city MPG48 and better horsepower than the 2019 Pilot LX, the EX-L, and the Elite.
While the 2019 Pilot does have better EPA-estimated highway MPG than the 2019 Highlander LE with a 4-cylinder engine, the is the Pilot’s sole MPG advantage in this comparison.
The overall most efficient vehicle in this comparison, the 2019 Highlander Hybrid LE, has an EPA-estimated 30 MPG city, 28 MPG highway, and 29 MPG overall48.
The 2019 Highlander Hybrid LE also has 306 system net combined horsepower -- that’s 26 more horsepower than any 2019 Pilot and also the best horsepower figure in this comparison.
The Highlander was one of the first mid-sized SUVs of its kind to debut in North America. Against the 2019 Honda Pilot, it continues to lead the charge in a number of categories.
The 2019 Highlander has more versatile options than the 2019 Pilot, with 5 gas engine trims and 3 hybrid engine trims to choose from. Honda does offer 5 gas engine trims for the 2019 Pilot, but there is currently no hybrid engine option available.
Nevertheless, the 2019 Highlander has better EPA-estimated city MPG48 in every trim comparison except for the 2019 Highlander LE with 2.7L 4 cylinder engine. Even with the better MPG rating, every 2019 Highlander with V6 engine gets better horsepower than any 2019 Pilot.
When you take a look at the 2019 Highlander’s hybrid engine trims, the efficiency and performance advantages are even more impressive. Every 2019 Highlander hybrid trim gets 306 system net combined horsepower and better overall EPA-estimated MPG48 than every 2019 Pilot.
Toyota’s advantages extend into the interior as well. All 2019 Highlander trims come with 3 USB ports in the front and 2 in the rear32. Meanwhile, the 2019 Pilot LX only has one USB port and the 2019 Pilot Elite only has 3. What’s more, the 2019 Pilot LX comes with a 5-in. color LCD, while the 2019 Highlander LE comes standard with a 6.1-in. touchscreen.
Both of these vehicles have robust active and passive safety packages, but a one-feature advantage goes to the 2019 Highlander with its Smart Stop Technology® (SST)50 as a part of the Star Safety System.