2022 Toyota Highlander vs Lexus RX
As a parent with several small children to chauffer, you are probably thinking of upgrading from your cramped two-row sedan, hatchback, or SUV just so that you can have room for everyone - and their things. Finding that kind of space might just require you to upgrade to a third-row SUV. They offer a couple of extra seats and are more versatile when it comes to toting cargo around.
But which of these two SUVs will present you with the best deal? Reading about their powertrains, drivability factors, safety, and overall value might be able to help you answer that question.
Let's start things off by talking about the different powertrain options that are offered on both the 2022 Toyota Highlander and the 2022 Lexus RX. Starting with the Highlander, you get a standard 3.5-liter V6 engine that is able to generate a power output of 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets paired to an eight-speed automatic transmission that delivers power to the front wheels. All-wheel-drive is available as an option for any of the Highlander's trim levels.
Just how does this powertrain perform? As it turns out, pretty well. The Highlander has been clocked going from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 7.5 seconds, which puts it right on par with segment leaders like the Kia Telluride. However, the Highlander feels a little quicker out the gate than the competition.
Since the Highlander's 2020 redesign, it has better control over body roll motions, and the optional torque-vectoring AWD system comes in handy since it can direct engine power to individual rear wheels; this will subtly improve the Highlander's handling balance, not to mention how it provides extra traction on slick road surfaces. It does still feel like a large SUV when you drive it though.
As far as fuel economy goes, the Highlander is able to achieve an EPA estimated 23 mpg in combined city/highway driving on the AWD variant and 24 mpg combined on the FWD iteration. This places it about 1-2 mpg ahead of the competition, which, in a competitive segment like this, is a substantial gain.
Real-world testing reflects the EPA estimates, but if you desire an even better fuel economy, there is a Highlander Hybrid model that puts forth 36 mpg in combined driving.
So, how does the 2022 Lexus RX stack up in terms of power and fuel efficiency? If you are opting for the RX 350, then you get a standard 3.5-liter V6 engine capable of generating 295 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets paired up with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Front-wheel drive is standard, but you do get AWD as an option on either of the two trim levels.
Even when you go up to the F Sport trim, the RX 350 isn't exactly a strong performer. The V6 needs about 7.9 seconds to get up to 60 mph, which is slower than competitors like the Highlander, which also offers a lot more initial thrust than the RX's V6 does.
Also, AWD will be an essential for more sporty drivers since that extra traction comes in handy. Body roll isn't fantastic, but on the F Sport, it is lessened. Handling simply isn't the RX's strong point, point blank. The transmission likes to upshift a bit too quickly, but the brakes do a solid job of providing stopping power when you request it.
Another sour note is the V6's fuel economy. On the FWD RX350 model, you get an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined. This doesn't do much to stand out against rivals like the Highlander or Telluride. Real-world tests put the combined mpg under 22, which is certainly disappointing. At least the V6 engine doesn't demand that you use premium fuel like some turbo-equipped rivals do.
Drivability is a term that covers a multitude of factors used to describe how a vehicle performs. How comfortable is it? Is the interior well crafted? Is its technology functional? What kind of cargo space is available? All of these factors can influence your decision to buy or pass on a vehicle, so pay close attention to what the Highlander and RX have to offer.
Let's take a look at the 2022 Toyota Highlander first. The Highlander has a plush ride quality produced by a suspension that dispatches small and large bumps alike before they can make their way into the cabin, but at highway speeds, it refrains from coming off as detached or floaty.
Both the front and second row of seats deliver supple padding and support - even if you happen to select the optional second-row captain's chairs instead of the regular bench seat. Unfortunately, the third row of seats are thinly padded and are too narrow to be usable by adult occupants. Even kids might not find them to be all that cozy. You at least will not have to deal with much wind or road noise at highway speeds.
The Highlander's two front rows are pretty spacious, so adults will have to stick to sitting in them. The Volkswagen Atlas and Telluride tend to do better with their third rows. Once you get behind the wheel, you can easily find a good driving position since the seat and tilting and telescoping steering wheel are so highly adjustable.
You get a nice, commanding view all around, too - and that is in large part due to the slender roof pillars and wide panels of glass all around. Of course, you can use some of the Highlander's driver aids to see even better: the camera-based rearview mirror will let you to see out the back even when it is fully loaded with cargo, and the available surround-view camera system rotates for a full 360-degree view around the vehicle.
Toyota has really stepped up their game when it comes to technology. Standard on the base L trim level are an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen, smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa, a six-speaker audio system, onboard WIFI hotspot connectivity, and Toyota Safety Connect (the emergency communications features).
The XLE adds a bigger digital driver information display and the option for a built-in navigation system. On the Limited, you get a household-style power outlet, an intercom system that broadcasts the driver's voice through the speakers into the rear seats, and an 11-speaker JBL audio system. Upgrading to the Platinum adds the digital rearview mirror so you can fully see out of the cargo area.
Cargo space isn't exactly superb on the Highlander, but it isn't exactly terrible either. Small for this segment is the 16 feet of cargo space you get behind the third row of seats. However, you can expand this to a better-than-average 48.4 cubic feet when you fold the third row of seats all the way down. Lift-over height is nothing to marvel at but also nothing too terrible to live with. You might find yourself appreciating all of the small item storage areas thoughtfully placed throughout the Highlander's cabin though. And that second row of seats is perfectly able to accommodate even a bulky rear-facing child safety seat without hassle.
So, how does the RX compare? Well, it it pretty hit-and-miss. When talking about comfort, the RX gets a lot of things right. The windows are well insulated from exterior noise, so you won't hear much from the wind or road as you zip along at highway speeds. Just note that, if you get the F Sport, it trades ride comfort for sportier handling. Moderately jagged road surfaces are annoying, and large potholes are downright murderous on this cabin. The suspension just isn't tuned to smooth these types of bumps out well.
The RX's interior does look smartly put-together. The controls along the dash are large and easy to reach from your spot in the driver's seat. Everything is clearly labeled, so there is no guesswork as to what anything does. Getting in and out of the cabin is easy thanks to the wide door openings. The panoramic sunroof doesn't cut down on much headroom, but many of the vehicle's main systems cannot be fully accessed other than through the touchscreen interface.
The Mark Levinson sound systems that Lexus puts into its vehicles always stand out for their stellar sound quality, and the RX is no exception. You get a standard eight-inch infotainment touchscreen display and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration.
Optional on the base trim include the Navigation system package (which has a 12.3-inch touchscreen, 12-speaker audio system, and the Lexus Enform connected services), a 15-speaker Mark Levinson audio system, and a wireless charging pad. These all come standard on the F Sport trim level. There are a total of six USB ports available throughout the cabin, which is quite extensive.
This second-row SUV will give you a good amount of cargo space - 18.4 cubes behind the second row, to be exact. The 40/20/40-split folding rear seats give you some versatility for loading in bulkier cargo items. The 3,500-pound tow rating is reasonably for this segment, and there are plenty of small item storage areas to be found throughout the cabin.
Quite obviously, safety ratings and features make a huge difference in terms of ownership. Buyers want something they know is safe and will remain that way for years to come. That being said, the 2022 Toyota Highlander is built with safety in mind. On every level, you get the Safety Sense 2.5+ suite of advanced driver aids.
This bundles together frontal collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, automatic high beam headlights, a lane keeping system, and a traffic sign reader. A blind-spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert comes on the LE (the second trim level up), and the Limited tacks on parking sensors for the front and rear of the Highlander. If you want a head-up display, you will get one as standard on the line-topping Platinum trim level.
Lexus kind of skimps on driver aids compared to rivals like the Highlander. Forward collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control, a blind spot monitor with rear cross-traffic alert, and lane keep assist come standard. But you cannot really upgrade to much on the RX350. And what you do get comes at the premium Lexus price.
Which Has the Best Value?
Value takes into account short- and long-term vehicle ownership costs, calling into consideration features made standard for the price, options, fuel costs, warranty coverage, engine performance, and overall reliability. So, which of these two vehicles has the most value?
The 2022 Toyota Highlander tends to be a little more expensive than its closest rivals without delivering quite as many standard features. Also, the interior build quality is only about average for this segment.
Nothing about it standard out for better or worse. Its three years/36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper and five years/60,000 miles of powertrain coverage is pretty standard too, but you do get two free years of scheduled maintenance as opposed to the one that most manufacturers deliver.
The 2022 Lexus RX has some value to it. The interior has plenty of soft-touch plastic surfaces and leather upholstery. But with a price tag on the F Sport that can creep into the $60,000 range, this seems a bit expensive for the average buyer. And, with a starting MSRP around $45K, the average buyer will probably choose to skip over the RX. This is more oriented toward luxury buyers, even though they might want a few more driver aids for this price.
Which is Better?
While we like the versatility of the RX's cabin, it is indeed the Highlander that we would recommend for growing families. You get those two extra seats which, even if they are child-only, can come in handy in a pinch. Plus the second row has an abundance of room for child safety seats. With all the safety features and tech that comes equipped, you will find that you can get pretty much everything you want from the Highlander without blowing through your budget.