- Mid-size SUVs are everywhere, but if you’re trying to decide between the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander, we’ve rounded up a few key ways that they’re different.
- The Highlander gets far better fuel economy if you spring for the hybrid option, which isn’t available on the Pilot.
- There are many similarities, though. Both SUVs can tow up to 5000 pounds, offer all-wheel drive, and start at almost the same price: $37,645 for the Pilot, $37,955 for the Highlander.
2023 Highlander Driven
2023 Pilot Driven
There’s plenty of competition in the three-row family-SUV market. Two of the most popular, the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander, might not offer the extreme off-roading capabilities that the competition has, but they’re capable machines that happily do the repetitive job of moving kids and families from place to place.
Toyota and Honda found a few sparks of design inspiration in the well-trodden mid-size SUV segment. The Highlander and Pilot share a cookie-cutter SUV shape, but each has distinct notes. The Pilot is an all-new generation this year, and Honda’s designers added a thick, body-colored C-pillar as part of the Pilot’s new, more trucklike appearance. The current-generation Highlander was introduced in 2020, and the 2023 version looks similar to last year’s model with its attractive front end.
The Highlander gets improved materials throughout the cabin this year, including SofTex and leather. On the higher trim levels, Toyota has introduced a new 12.3-inch infotainment display (an 8.0-inch screen is standard on lower models) and a new 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Other available features include an 11-speaker JBL audio system.
The Pilot’s all-new interior features clever seat tricks, including a center section between the optional second-row captain’s chairs that can fold into the floors. A 12-speaker Bose stereo system and a panoramic moonroof are available. Infotainment on the Pilot comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen on the two lowest trim levels and 9.0 inches on the EX-L and up.
Both SUVs can seat either seven or eight people. There are 16 cubic feet of space behind the third row in the Highlander and up to 22.4 in the Pilot.
Each of these models feature upgraded standard powertrains for 2023. Instead of the V-6 found in last year’s model, the new Highlander gets a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 265 horsepower and 309 pound-feet of torque with an eight-speed transmission. Combined fuel economy is 24 mpg. The 2023 Pilot, on the other hand, keeps the 3.5-liter V-6 from the previous year, but it has been tweaked to produce 285 horsepower, five more than last year, while still offering 262 pound-feet of torque. The Pilot has a new 10-speed automatic transmission, one more gear than last year, and offers 22 mpg combined.
The Pilot offers more off-roading capability with the TrailSport trim, but both SUVs can tow up to 5000 pounds and can be ordered with either front- or all-wheel drive. The Highlander has a hybrid powertrain option that the Pilot lacks, giving the Toyota much better fuel economy, up to 36 mpg combined.
The nearly identical starting prices should make it clear how closely these two models compete. The 2023 Honda Pilot starts at $37,645, while the 2023 Toyota Highlander starts at $37,955. As soon as you start adding hybrid powertrains or all-wheel drive, the numbers rise, but these SUVs at least start on nearly equal footing.
Sebastian Blanco has been writing about electric vehicles, hybrids, and hydrogen cars since 2006. His articles and car reviews have appeared in the New York Times, Automotive News, Reuters, SAE, Autoblog, InsideEVs, Trucks.com, Car Talk, and other outlets. His first green-car media event was the launch of the Tesla Roadster, and since then he has been tracking the shift away from gasoline-powered vehicles and discovering the new technology’s importance not just for the auto industry, but for the world as a whole. Throw in the recent shift to autonomous vehicles, and there are more interesting changes happening now than most people can wrap their heads around. You can find him on Twitter or, on good days, behind the wheel of a new EV.