Is your family in need of an SUV that can keep up with your on-the-go lifestyle around Geneva, Canandaigua, and Rochester? A midsize SUV, such as the 2021 Ford Explorer or 2021 Toyota Highlander, may be perfect for you! Both vehicles offer space, comfort, and other amenities that the whole family can enjoy.

To help you choose between the Ford Explorer vs. Toyota Highlander, our team at Friendly Ford compared the cabin space, performance, and features of these two vehicles to see what differs between the two.

Versatile Interior Space

In either SUV, you can fit the whole family and even bring along friends with three rows of seating. In addition to plenty of room for each passenger, both models have room behind all three rows to bring supplies along with you. In the back of the 2021 Explorer, there's 18.2 cubic feet of cargo volume. The 2021 Highlander provides you with 16 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the third row.

You can also fold down the third-row seats as well as the second-row seats to accommodate all different combinations of cargo and passengers. When you fold down the third row, the Highlander has 48.4 cubic feet of volume for cargo, while the Ford Explorer provides 47.9 cubic feet.

You can also fit even more gear in the back of the 2021 Explorer. The Explorer can fit up to 87.8 cubic feet of cargo volume when both back rows are folded down. The Toyota Highlander maxes out at 84.3 cubic feet of cargo volume. When cargo space is at a premium, the Ford Explorer offers more room to pack your favorite things with you.

Passenger Volume and Room

Along with plenty of cargo volume, both the Explorer and Highlander offer plenty of space for passengers. When you and the family get inside the cabin, you'll find space to stretch out in each row.


2021 Ford Explorer

2021 Toyota Highlander

Headroom (1st/2nd/3rd)

40.7/40.5/38.9 in.

41.2/39.4/36.1 in.



43/39/32.2 in.

42/41/27.7 in.

Shoulder Room (1st/2nd/3rd)

61.8/61.9/54.6 in.


Hip Room (1st/2nd/3rd)

59.2/59.1/40.9 in.

57.2/57/45.6 in.

When comparing total passenger volume, the Explorer clocks in at 152.7 cubic feet, while the Highlander has 141.3 cubic feet. You and your family will have more room to yourselves in the 2021 Ford Explorer, making those long journeys more enjoyable.

Comfortable Seating: Explorer and Highlander

When seated inside both SUVs, you and your passengers will be able to relax with many different convenience and comfort features. The Explorer and Highlander both feature tri-zone electronic automatic temperature control. Second-row passengers can even set their own settings separate from front-row riders to find their preferred climate.

A family on the go has plenty of devices to use, and the Explorer and Highlander have the ability to keep them charged and ready. The Highlander has two 12V outlets to keep batteries at 100%. The Explorer features a total of five 12V outlets for your charging needs spread out through all three rows.

Engine Performance of the 2021 Explorer vs 2021 Highlander

With a 3.5L V6 engine, you'll get strong capabilities with the Toyota Highlander. This engine produces 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. When you look at the 2021 Explorer, though, you'll see its engine pushes out even more power.

The 2.3L EcoBoost® I-4 engine delivers 300 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. There's even an available 3.0L EcoBoost® V6 motor with the Ford Explorer. This available engine can output up to 400 horsepower and 415 lb-ft of torque.

You'll also have better acceleration when driving the 2021 Ford Explorer. The Explorer's 10-speed automatic with selectShift® capability enables this vehicle to get up to speed smoothly and quickly, which is great when you need to change lanes for an upcoming exit or merge onto the highway. The 2021 Highlander comes with an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Explorer vs Highlander Towing Capacity

When you need to hitch your trailer and tow heavy loads, both the Highlander and Explorer have the fierce engineering to pull it off. The Highlander is able to tow up to 5,000 pounds across all trims.

Because of its strong engineering, the Ford Explorer is capable of towing even heavier loads. With the standard 2.3L EcoBoost® engine, the Explorer can tow up to 5,300 pounds when properly equipped. The 3.0L EcoBoost® V6 4WD powertrain is capable of towing 5,600 pounds of trailer weight when paired with the right equipment.

If heavy towing is in your future, then the Explorer will be able to bring more of your gear along for the ride.

Technology Only Found in the 2021 Explorer

Although there are a lot of similar technologies in both SUVs to give everyone a comfortable, safe, and fun ride, the 2021 Ford Explorer has a few systems that'll enhance your driving experience even further. These Ford-exclusive technologies make the Explorer stand out from the competition.

The available Active Park Assist 2.0 will make parking in tight parallel or perpendicular spots easy. Simply push the button and the vehicle will detect an open spot and let you know when to put the car in neutral. From there, just hold the button, and the Explorer will navigate its way into the space.

The 2021 Highlander has available Parking Support Braking and Intelligent Clearance Sonar and Rear Cross-Traffic Braking as well as Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking to help you safely park, but it can't steer its way into the spot.

You can also get more convenience with the available Ford+Alexa in the Ford Explorer. Through available SYNC®3, Ford+Alexa lets you quickly order an item off Amazon Prime, access a range of skills, and even control smart-home devices all by using your voice while driving.

Picking Between the Ford Explorer vs Toyota Highlander

Both the Ford Explorer and Toyota Highlander have features that families will enjoy. When put to the test, the Explorer succeeds in terms of space, tech, and performance thanks to its expert design. If the extra room, technology, and power of the 2021 Ford Explorer is what you want for your commutes around Geneva, Canandaigua, and Rochester, NY, then stop by to check out this SUV at Friendly Ford! Contact us today to schedule a test drive of the 2021 Explorer.

Make an Inquiry


Friendly Ford Inc.

1077 Routes 5 & 20
Directions Geneva, NY 14456

  • Sales: (888) 460-6178
  • Service: (888) 452-1834
  • Parts: (888) 484-4561


  • Monday 9am - 7pm
  • Tuesday 9am - 7pm
  • Wednesday 9am - 7pm
  • Thursday 9am - 7pm
  • Friday 9am - 6pm
  • Saturday 9am - 5pm
  • Sunday Closed