Car Comparison

2019 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander: What's the Difference?

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author photo by Eric Brandt December 2018
  • The 2019 Toyota Highlander is a family-friendly three-row SUV while the 2019 Toyota 4Runner is more of an off-roader.

  • The Highlander has car like road manners thanks to unibody construction while the 4Runner has a more traditional body-on-frame construction.

  • The Highlander comes standard with a lot of safety and driver-assistance features that aren't available on the 4Runner.

Families today have a lot of options for SUVs. With so many different SUVs offered within the same brand, it can get confusing to set them apart. One brand with a lot of SUV offerings is Toyota, and two that a lot of families consider are the Highlander and the 4Runner. They both offer a lot of perks that the other can't match and which one is right for you depends on your priorities. Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between the Toyota Highlander and 4Runner.

2019 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander exterior

Exterior

Despite coming from the same brand and technically being in the same segment, the Highlander and the 4Runner don't look all that similar. The Highlander has more in common with the rest of the Toyota lineup aesthetically than the 4Runner, which is a bit of a black sheep in the family.

The exterior appearances of these two SUVs speak to what lies underneath. The 4Runner looks a bit more rugged, and the Highlander is a little curvier and friendly-looking. That's because the 4Runner is more of an off-roader and the Highlander is more of a family hauler.

As for their sizing, these two Toyota SUVs are very similar in exterior dimensions. The 4Runner is a little taller than the Highlander, with that extra ground clearance coming in handy off-road but other than that, their dimensions are almost identical.

2019 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander interior

Interior

If you thought the exteriors of these two Toyota SUVs were different, wait until you see the inside. Like the exteriors, the interiors reflect what these SUVs are about. The Highlander is about comfort and convenience for big families, and the 4Runner prioritizes off-road performance while also doubling as a family vehicle.

Interior space is similar in both SUVs, but the interior design is a lot more modern in the Highlander. The interior of the 4Runner is perfectly functional, but it's quite dated and it might make you feel like you're in an SUV from the previous decade. As for seating, both of these Toyotas have three rows of seats, but in both, the third row shouldn't be used for adults with any regularity. Like most SUVs in this segment, it's pretty cramped in the way back.

2019 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander mechanicals

Mechanicals

The 2019 4Runner only has one engine option, while the Highlander has three. The Highlander comes standard with front-wheel drive and is available with all-wheel drive. The more truck like 4Runner has standard rear-wheel drive with optional 4-wheel drive.

2019 Toyota 4Runner Engine

  • 4.0-liter V6; 270 horsepower, 278 lb-ft of torque; 17 miles per gallon in the city and 22 mpg on the highway

2019 Toyota Highlander Engines

  • 2.7-liter inline four; 185 hp, 184 lb-ft of torque; 20 mpg city/24 mpg hwy

  • 3.5-liter V6; 295 hp, 263 lb-ft of torque; 21 mpg city/27 mpg hwy

  • 3.5-liter hybrid V6; 306 total hp; 30 mpg city/28 mpg hwy

The aging V6 in the 4Runner delivers middling performance numbers and sub-par fuel efficiency, but off-road enthusiasts love it for its dependability. The V6 in the Highlander, however, offers more horsepower and significantly better fuel economy. This engine is an easy recommendation for the Highlander as a big upgrade over the base 4-cylinder.

The hybrid option in the Highlander is another good choice if good fuel economy is a priority for you, especially in city driving. If you want a hybrid 4Runner, you're out of luck.

What the 4Runner lacks in variety under the hood it makes up for in off-road capability. With available part-time or full-time 4WD and available options like crawl control and multi-terrain select, you're ready to take on just about anything you'll encounter on-road or off. The AWD system available in the Highlander isn't as robust, but it's more than good enough for snowy roads and light off-roading.

2019 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander tech

Technology

One of the biggest differences between the Highlander and the 4Runner is in safety and driver-assistance features. Every 2019 Highlander comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense P (TSS-P) safety tech suite which includes adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane-departure warning and automatic high beams. Surprisingly, none of these features are available on any trim of the 4Runner.

The Highlander also has a big advantage over the 4Runner in terms of back-seat entertainment. The Highlander can be optioned with a Blu-ray player and wireless headphones, which is great for keeping the kids entertained on long trips, but like TSS-P, these features cannot be had in the 4Runner.

That's not to say the 4Runner isn't modern. The off-roader can be had with some modern amenities like JBL premium audio and satellite navigation, but it doesn't compare to the many tech features available in the Highlander.

2019 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander pricing

Pricing

The more family-friendly Highlander is more affordable than the more off-road-friendly 4Runner. The 2019 Highlander has a starting MSRP of $31,330, and the 2019 4Runner starts at $34,910. Both SUVs can get into the mid $40k range in the higher trims. The most affordable 2019 Highlander Hybrid you can get starts at $36,970.

2019 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander conclusion

Conclusion

For comfortable and practical family transportation, the Highlander is the 3-row SUV for you. For a serious off-roader that happens to have a lot of seats, the 4Runner is a great choice. For most families, the Highlander makes more sense than the 4Runner, but the latter's off-road performance is hard to beat in this segment.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2019 Toyota 4Runner vs. 2019 Toyota Highlander: What's the Difference? - Autotrader