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2015 Toyota Venza vs. 2015 Toyota Highlander: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro October 2014

If you're looking for a reliable, roomy, long-lasting family car, your shopping list probably includes several vehicles manufactured by Toyota. With cars including the Prius v, the Sienna, the RAV4 and the Sequoia, Toyota offers a wide range of vehicles that can meet just about any family's needs. Toyota's lineup includes so many cars, trucks and SUVs that some may seem very similar -- such as the 2015 Toyota Highlander and the 2015 Toyota Venza. So what exactly makes these two crossovers different from one another? We took a closer look to find out.

Exterior

Although the Highlander and the Venza share a few stylistic touches, the crossovers differ substantially on the outside. The Highlander's look is far more like a traditional SUV, with larger wheel arches, upright styling, a boxy rear end and a bold front grille. The Venza, meanwhile, has more of a wagon-meets-minivan look, with a long, sloping front end, far more rounded styling and a lower overall height. In essence, the Venza looks a lot more like the Camry wagon it effectively is, while the Highlander is designed to retain a more traditional SUV appearance.

Interior

The Highlander and Venza are highly dissimilar on the inside. The first difference is obvious to any shopper with a big family or anyone who may have to do the occasional carpool. The Highlander offers 3-row seating, while the Venza is only available with two rows. Beyond the obvious seating capacity difference, the Highlander and Venza offer very different interior styles. Once again, the Highlander's dashboard and controls are a lot more upright and SUV-like, while the Venza's cabin looks more like it came from a big Prius, with a sweeping dashboard and a high-mounted gear lever. The main difference here is that the Venza feels more like a car, while the Highlander is more like a larger SUV.

Mechanicals

You'll find the most similarities between the Highlander and the Venza under the hood. The models offer the same base engine: a 2.7-liter 4-cylinder rated at around 180 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. The models also offer the same optional engine: a 3.5-liter V6 that makes around 270 hp and 245 lb-ft. A 6-speed automatic is standard across the board. Fuel economy is a little better in the Venza, but only by 1 or 2 miles per gallon when you directly compare engines and drivetrains.

Features

The Venza came out in 2009 and has only seen minor updates in the years since -- including a facelift for 2013. The Highlander, meanwhile, was fully redesigned for the 2015 model year -- and that means it offers a wider range of the latest equipment than you'll find in the Venza.

As an example, the Highlander offers a few comfort and convenience features that the Venza doesn't have. These include ventilated seats and a voice-amplification system dubbed "Driver Easy Speak" that helps drivers speak to rear passengers. Other Highlander holdouts include an available Blu-ray player, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and a few other technology and safety benefits as described below.

Technology

Given that the Highlander's design is several years newer than the Venza's, the Highlander offers a lot more technology than its smaller stablemate does.

In terms of comfort and convenience features, that translates to Highlander-exclusive items such as a rear-seat Blu-ray player, a voice-amplification system that allows the driver to easily communicate with rear passengers, an available 8-inch touchscreen (to the Venza's 7-in unit) and available wireless headphones.

If it's safety you're after, the Highlander has a huge leg up there, too, offering a wide range of gadgets you can't get in the Venza, including forward-collision warning with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic high-beam control headlights. The Highlander also includes a standard backup camera -- a feature that's optional on base-level Venza models.

Safety

Although the Highlander offers more optional safety equipment than the Venza, standard safety features are roughly equal, except for the backup camera. Otherwise, both crossovers boast side-curtain airbags, traction and stability control, a driver-knee airbag and anti-lock brakes.

In terms of crash-test ratings, the Highlander and Venza both perform very well: Both received the 5-star overall ratings from the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In tests conducted by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Highlander earned the highest rating of Top Safety Pick+. The IIHS has not yet performed enough crash tests on the Venza to give it a similar score.

Conclusions

The 2015 Toyota Highlander and 2015 Toyota Venza are both excellent crossovers, offering smooth rides, lots of features and legendary Toyota reliability. We think that most families will prefer the Highlander to the Venza. Not only does the Highlander offer more standard and optional equipment, but it also boasts more technology, more safety features and a larger interior with more room for passengers and cargo. Most importantly, the Highlander is only priced around $2,000 more than a comparably equipped Venza, which makes it a relative bargain.

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Used 2015 Toyota Highlander AWD XLE V6
Used 2015 Toyota Highlander
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Used 2015 Toyota Highlander AWD LE V6
Used 2015 Toyota Highlander
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Used 2015 Toyota Highlander AWD LE V6
Used 2015 Toyota Highlander
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Used 2015 Toyota Highlander AWD XLE V6
Used 2015 Toyota Highlander
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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.
2015 Toyota Venza vs. 2015 Toyota Highlander: What's the Difference? - Autotrader