2019 Toyota Highlander vs RAV4
A $6,000 difference separates the base editions of the 2019 Toyota Highlander and the 2019 Toyota RAV4. Based on price, the packed RAV4 Limited competes with the more popular Highlander V6. Since both of these appeal to families, it’s a good idea to understand the difference before you test drive.
Size and Styling
The most obvious difference in these two Toyotas is size. The Highlander has three rows, seating seven or eight. The RAV4 design seats five. Are people going to be fit? How much space are you getting for your money?
The RAV4 second-row has 37.8 inches of legroom while the Highlander does slightly better with 38.4 inches. At 39.5 inches, headroom is the same. So there's really no difference if you are using only the first two rows.
Is the third row worth it? At 27.7 inches, the Highlander’s third-row legroom is less than most compact cars and suitable only for small children. For many buyers, this kills the deal. The only reason to spend more on a three-row vehicle is to get a usable third row.
Based on LATCH attachments, you can get two carseats in the RAV4 or three in the Highlander, but only if you use the single third-row attachment. Again, this may disappoint those who wanted a more usable third-row option. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave both SUVs good ratings for LATCH ease-of-use and accessibility.
The RAV4 and Highlander both come in nine shades with some genuinely colorful choices, but the Highlander’s palette is slightly muted in comparison to the RAV4. The RAV4 Adventure and XSE Hybrid models offer two-tone combinations. These have either a black roof or a gray accent color that Toyota is calling Ice Edge.
Highlanders definitely look the part of family hauler while RAV4 SUVs can look sportier and more fun. The RAV4 nose is definitely different and not to everyone’s taste. With a pronounced downward line on each side, some onlookers see an aggressive mouthlike grimace. The double grilles are almost equal sizes. The upper grille has a hexagonal pattern that picks up some design extras on sportier trims.
Highlanders have a more trucklike nose to match their trucklike size. The grille is split with a larger lower and smaller upper openings crossed by chrome bars. Most editions have a cool flip-up rear hatch window, a feature rarely found on rival SUVs. Parents will like this because they can grab items without spilling the entire contents of the cargo hold.
Power liftgates are on the menu for both SUVs. These are necessary conveniences with the size and weight of either hatch. A RAV4 has more than twice the usable space in the hold. The Highlander's small hold will frustrate large families who need seats but also need a place to stash their gear.
RAV4 interiors come in fabric or Softex. If you can do without leather, you’ll find lots of choices in nutmeg, light gray, mocha, or a black-and-blue combination. The Limited RAV4 has a dark brown accented interior with dark brown stitching on soft touch dash, doors and seats. Sportier Adventure and XSE Hybrid models have orange or red accents, blue ambient lighting, and other fun interior features.
Highlanders start off with fabric seats, but since many people will opt to step up to the better engine, they'll also get SoftTex. This has a rich feel like leather. The third tier adds real leather for the first two rows. Some models have a third row in SofTex.
Best of all, the soft touch points that you'll find on higher end RAV4s are prevalent on all Highlanders. This makes it much more pleasant when a family spends much of their day on the road.
Ambient lighting can be added, which is a must-have on the big Highlander if you have kids. This promotes a soothing atmosphere at night.
Only the Highlander has Driver Easy Speak, but then the RAV4 doesn't really need it. The available system allows the Highlander driver to talk to the kids on the third row. A conversation mirror helps the driver see what's happening back there. The only rival to have this type of feature is the Honda Pilot. It adds a camera as well.
The basic Entune system has a seven-inch screen. It allows you access to numerous apps. This has an especially good feature that many rivals don't have. The Scout GPS Link, which comes on a three-year trial, gives you full navigation without paying extra. The basic system also has Apple CarPlay and Siri Eyes Free. Unfortunately, neither SUV have Android Auto. The system even links with Amazon Alexa.
The backup camera has gridlines which are upgraded to dynamic gridlines on higher models. Both SUVs let you upgrade to an integrated panoramic backup camera. You'll need that more with the Highlander due to its large size.
A RAV4 is definitely a lighter, more nimble SUV if you compare it to the larger Highlander. You’ll appreciate that it has good pickup from either engine choice.
Naturally 2019 Toyota Highlanders are bulkier with large turn circles and more weight to lug around. As long as you don’t choose the under-powered four-cylinder engine, the Highlander has plenty of pick up.
Both SUVs have Toyota’s tracing assist which helps the SUVs on curves and turns. All hybrids come with a special on-demand all-wheel drive system, which makes them more capable in difficult weather conditions.
Rated at 8 inches, the Highlander has less ground clearance. RAV4 ground clearance is 8.4 inches unless you choose the hybrid which drops to 8.1 inches or the Adventure which boosts that to 8.6 inches.
It's easier to handle these SUVs if you can afford the blind spot monitor. The Highlander's size makes it more likely that you won't see what's on either side of the vehicle. Even the RAV4 has its blind spots. This isn't part of the basic package, but fortunately it is either available or standard on most models.
Comfort, Options and Performance
When you start comparing the trims, you’ll find that Toyota actually packs value into each level. At the basic level, the two SUVs have a 7-inch Entune system and a backup camera. The Highlander already has air vents on both rear rows and USB ports on the second row. It also has soft-touch points and a slightly higher quality to its materials.
At the second-tier trim, you get dual zone automatic climate controls, a smart key and push button start on the 2019 Toyota RAV4. The Highlander’s second-tier already has Softex seats, a driver’s power chair and the 8-inch Entune system. The next tier RAV4 finally gets rear vents and a power chair. It also picks up a power liftgate. Meanwhile Highlander buyers are getting leather seats and retractable sunshades that aren’t available on RAV4.
The Limited RAV4, which costs about as much as an entry-level Highlander, has SoftTex seats, a panoramic sunroof and heated seats. Highlander Limiteds have heated and ventilated front seats and heated 2nd-row seats.
RAV4 shoppers really can’t go wrong with either powertrain. The standard generates 203 horsepower while the hybrid actually boosts that to 219 horsepower. Both have good pickup. Acceleration and deceleration is more controlled by the eight-speed automatic transmission.
2019 Toyota Highlander shoppers, on the other hand, do well not to choose the 185-horsepower four cylinder. It doesn’t even offer good fuel economy. This is the real reason that the Highlander can start off at such a low price, but it's hardly worth the savings.
On the other hand, it is totally worth the money to step up to the 295-horsepower V6. You won't feel worried when you are accelerating onto the highway or passing another car at full speed.
The hybrid Highlander editions generate 306 horsepower. These are the only choice if you want truly modern fuel economy. Regular Highlanders will cost a family a lot of money at the gas pump.
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Highlanders and RAV4 models have few faults when it comes to safety. Both have eight airbags and Toyota Safety Sense. Given Toyota's pricing, this system alone is worth a test drive.
Always standard, automatic braking is tied to pedestrian detection and frontal collision warnings. A steering assist straightens it up in its lane. Dynamic Radar Cruise Control regulates travel according to traffic patterns, and Road Sign Assist warns you about important notices. Automatic high beams are definitely a plus.
The two models have five-star federal safety ratings, although neither can claim to be perfect. RAV4 is an IIHS Top Safety Pick Plus while the Highlander is Top Safety Pick. They both have good scores, but the RAV4 scores are better if you break down the testing into its components. Highlanders have better headlights, but these are available on the RAV4.
Safety Connect is standard with a three-year complementary enrollment. This gives you an automatic emergency response system for roadside breakdowns or collisions.
Which Model to Choose?
If your mind is on money, you can choose between the basic RAV4 or the V6 Highlander and still get quite a lot for your car dollar. You won't feel cheated when it comes to technology since Entune and Toyota Safety Sense are standard. Toyota has earned best brand for resale value from Kelley Blue Book as recently as 2018, indicating that these are good investments.
You can get more luxury for your money on the RAV4 if you don’t need a third row. Toyota's many style choices are matched by more amenities as you climb the ladder. This should be very tempting to those who don't need a third row.
However, if style is your thing, SofTex may not be enough. Highlanders are the only ones with leather on the menu. Plus all those soft points really add up to a more comfortable, luxurious cabin. Kelley Blue Book called it one of the 12 Best Family Cars.
If your dollar decides how much performance you get, you may favor the 2019 Toyota RAV4. With more horsepower at $25,000 than the Highlander has at $31,000, it's a no-brainer. If you love to drive, definitely pay a bit more for the more powerful Highlander. The four-cylinder unit simply can't pull its weight. That's why it isn't recommended even for those on a budget.
Technologies are rich throughout both line-ups, and you can get the same on both models. This makes it easy for technophiles to find the optimum amount of tech toys at a good price point.
Large families will favor the Highlander for the extra seats. If they need the space every day, however, the size of the third row should give them pause. Teens won’t fit back there. That means there's a limit to how much it can help a growing family. You can only put one carseat back there. Of course, the 2019 Toyota RAV4 doesn’t even give you the option, but you may want to check out rival three-row models with more third-row space.
Frequent travelers should note that the RAV4 has a generous 37 cu.ft. cargo hold. That's a good amount for this class, and it's excellent for a family of four or five.
In comparison, the Highlander’s hold is only 13.8 cubes. Basically Toyota has given you a compact car's trunk for eight people's luggage. Sure, you can fold the seats to get 42 cu.ft., but you can’t do that if the seats are occupied. Again, the RAV4 may not be the answer, but you may want to look at three-row SUVs with bigger holds.
Only RAV4 has an Adventure edition specifically designed for off-road use. This all-wheel drive model has dynamic torque vectoring, multi-terrain select and rear driveline disconnect.
The 2019 Toyota Highlander is not a choice for the trail. although it does offer all-wheel drive. If you cope with snowy weather, either SUV will do. The slight difference in ground clearance would probably make the RAV4 a better choice.
If long-term fuel savings are on your mind, the RAV4 is more fuel efficient with a 30 mpg combined rating. RAV4 hybrids boost that to 40 mpg. Highlander four-cylinder engines are rated for only 20 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. The V6 raises highway gas mileage to 27. The hybrid editions can raise that to 30/28 mpg city/highway.
Towing is not a big strength of either model. The basic editions of both SUVs can only tow 1,500 pounds. Highlander LE Plus and higher models raise that to 5,000 pounds. RAV Adventure models can tow 3,500 pounds.
Families probably won't go wrong with either model, but there are definitely reasons to save money with the RAV4. If the third row isn't a deal breaker, you should really take your time deciding between the two models.