The best midsize crossovers are extremely good, even when compared to the best in other segments. Two of the best of the best SUVs are the 2017 Honda Pilot and the Toyota Highlander. Which gives you the best buy? Let's put them side by side.
2017 Honda Pilot vs Toyota Highlander
The way crossovers look is probably at least as responsible for their outstanding success as the practicality they offer, a fact that is as true for midsize models as it is for compacts. The 2017 Honda Pilot looks a little softer and rounder than previous incarnations, with a more elegant shape and better detailing than rivals with similar styling.
Despite its car-like crossover underpinnings, the Highlander is a model that appears a little more rugged and truck-influenced than many of its competitors. This year the Highlander has a new grille design, with different grille finishes and headlight housing designs for different grades. Despite these changes, the Honda looks more modern and inviting.
The Pilot is fantastic when it comes to delivering front-seat space and comfort. The seats are well bolstered, with good definition, even in entry-level models. The highly desirable high driving position gives a commanding view out of what's going on outside, even for smaller drivers. Soft-touch trim is found everywhere and a finer attention to detail than previous generations is clearly evident. One of the thoughtful details? An acoustic windshield for keeping out more noise available on several trims.
The cabin of the Highlander really is top-notch. It's quiet, calm, well appointed--in fact, it feels like a luxury vehicle inside, especially with the thick acoustic glass damping the noise from the powertrain. There are soft-touch materials throughout and seating for up to eight people.
Power and Performance
Only one engine comes in the Honda, but it is an ultra-modern unit with a choice of automatic transmissions and front- or all-wheel drive. The engine is an updated 3.5-liter V-6 that develops 280 horsepower and 262 lb.-ft. of torque, and it gets you to 60 mph from a standing start in less than seven seconds.
You can choose between four-cylinder, V-6, and even hybrid versions of the Highlander. The base four-cylinder engine is a little underpowered, especially with a full load of eight people in the Toyota. The V-6 is a little down on horsepower compared to the Honda too, so this has to be a win for the Pilot.
Even with an efficient engine, hauling up to eight people around is going to use some gas so it's a good idea to know what to expect. The EPA rates the 2017 Honda Pilot at 19 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg combined. Adding all-wheel drive only takes 1 mpg off the highway rating.
The Highlander's four-cylinder isn't the most fuel-efficient of its engines because it has to work so hard in such a sizeable vehicle, so the V-6 with front-drive is the best with ratings of 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. It's a small victory, but a victory nonetheless, for the Highlander.
Learn More about the Honda Pilot
The similarities between the Pilot and the Highlander are huge, primarily because they are both competing hard for buyer love. Both SUVs accommodate up to eight people, cost nearly the same, have very nice interiors, and perform well. The Honda is slightly better to drive though, and for many people it's also a little better looking than the Highlander. Sometimes it's the small details that add up to something big--and in our case, that's a fact. The 2017 Honda Pilot gets our vote in this head-to-head comparison.