Comparison Test: 2023 Honda Pilot vs. 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander


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If vehicles were priced by utility rather than glamour and exclusivity, it’s three-row SUVs that would cost half a mill, while hypercars, with their miserly luggage holds and seating for no more than two, would be more affordable. Luckily for those of us trying to get the twins to their bassoon lesson, the neighbor’s kid to curling practice, and Grandpa to his ceramics class, sensible and useful machines such as the Honda Pilot and the Toyota Grand Highlander put a smaller dent in the wallet than McLarens and Koenigseggs. Even when trimmed out like these two top offerings from Honda and Toyota, loading up friends, family, pets, and accompanying accessories can be done while staying under the $60,000 mark.

The Pilot has been ferrying families since late 2002, while the Grand Highlander is a new addition to the three-row aisle, filling in a gap between the smaller Toyota Highlander and the hulking Sequoia. Honda versus Toyota is an obvious matchup, with our range-topping contenders offering many of the same safety and convenience features, similar storage space, and standard all-wheel drive, wrapped up in blunt-nosed boxy designs that will neither offend nor astound. We expected performance to be similar too, but that’s where one of these machines pulls, quite literally, far ahead.

2nd Place: 2023 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

Looked at from a dollars-per-passenger perspective, the Pilot comes out on top. Even as a top-spec eight-passenger Elite AWD model, the Honda still came in at nearly $6000 less than the Toyota. The Grand Highlander with the second-row captain’s chairs only seats seven, but if you’re jealous of the Toyota family’s ability to send its kids through the mid-row walkway, you needn’t be. The center section of the Honda’s middle seat is easily removed and stowed under the cargo floor. Passengers won’t fight for the privilege of riding in the third row, but even tall adults will fit, and when not in use, the third row is easily lowered and raised again.

Let’s move up front, where the Pilot’s nod to style in the interior is a loamy leather that even in the options sheet is just called “brown.” We’re fans of chocolate details, but this shade is more burnt diner coffee than rich espresso. On the plus side, muddy dog prints and Raisinet spills will go unnoticed.

HIGHS: All the features for less money, easy-fold third row, seats eight with removable second-row center section.
LOWS: Soporifically slow, sleepy steering, annoying shifter.
VERDICT: The Pilot does its job without complaint, but also without thrills.

The Pilot cockpit is easy to enter and comfortable to sit in, with heated and ventilated front seats and 10-way adjustability for the driver. The interface is straightforward, with only Honda’s teeny-button shifter likely to raise any user complaints. Drivers with manicures will find the Park button unpleasant to touch, and those with big mitts won’t find it at all. The rest of the console is well formatted, with a wireless charging pad, out-of-the-way cupholders, and narrow-but-deep storage under the armrest. We also liked the shelf in front of the passenger seat. There’s no great handbag storage up front, but plenty of room for snacks and beverages.

The 9.0-inch touchscreen sticks out of the top of the dash, and it’s a stretch to reach from the driver’s seat. Kudos, however, to the physical climate-control buttons, and the Elite trim gets a head-up display to add a little fighter-pilot feel to the Honda Pilot.

We wouldn’t recommend getting into a dogfight with the Pilot though. While the Honda was nimble enough—pulling 0.84 g on our skidpad, which is good for a three-row SUV—it’s not quick. We know that many SUV shoppers aren’t prioritizing drag racing, but the Pilot is sluggish enough that passing became a chore, and in some cases, a stressor. That was a surprise given Honda overhauled the Pilot powertrain for this model year and pairs it with a 10-speed automatic transmission. The new mill puts out 285 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque, but it arrives deep into the throttle and has to contend with an extra 300-plus pounds compared to the prior version. The result is a lazy 7.2-second 60-mph time. That’s a full second slower than the previous-gen Pilot, putting this Honda toward the back of the pack. Even if it were quicker, there’s little incentive to push it hard, as you don’t get much feel from the steering, and the brakes’ 70-mph stopping distance was unimpressive. We wouldn’t make such a big deal of this, except that the Toyota proved so much more enthusiastic as a driving partner, and that put it clearly in first place despite its higher price.

1st Place: 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum AWD

Don’t be fooled by the Highlander name. The Grand Highlander isn’t merely a regular Highlander with a few inches tacked on. It’s a bigger vehicle all around: longer, taller, and wider than the Highlander but still capable of slipping into a parking space or a two-car garage. Exterior dimensions are almost identical to the Pilot’s, but the Grand Highlander’s slightly longer wheelbase makes for more than 10 cubic feet of additional cargo space with all the seats down. Put them up and even the third row is reasonably comfortable for taller riders. And if for some reason you need to carry multiple different beverages with you on your journey, the third row alone has six cupholders.

HIGHS: Surprisingly quick, clever interior layout, fits everything inside and still fits in a garage.
LOWS: No steering feel, third row heavy to stow, even worse shifter.
VERDICT: The Grand Highlander is family size but moves out like a smaller machine.

At first glance, the Toyota interior is awash in gray faux suede and black leather, like a pair of ’80s stiletto boots, but less sexy. Closer inspection rewards with rose-gold accents, a Pilot-beating 12.3-inch touchscreen slightly more set into the dashboard, and a useful if cluttered center console. The wireless charging pad tucks a phone deep under the dash—good for driving safety perhaps, not so good for retrieval once parked. The removable cupholder can also be a cubby, and the long storage space between the armrests could house a small bag. It’s clever that the armrests don’t need to lift for access, making it easier to grab something in a single move. An additional small storage drawer on the left side of the dash is perfect for housing parking-garage tickets or the key fob (just don’t forget about it in there). The flexible storage theme carries into the second row, where the console can be lifted out to make an aisleway between the seats, and no passenger is ever far from a phone charger, a place to store a phone, or a cupholder (or six).

Complaints about the Toyota are few, but it does join the Pilot in foolishly reimagining the good ol’ PRNDL shifter into something less familiar and way less nice. In the Grand Highlander’s case, it’s similar to the toggle found in a Prius, with Reverse forward and Drive back and a mysterious labyrinth in between. Using it correctly is unsatisfying, and messing it up is maddening. If your automatic transmission requires a diagram, you’ve made things too complicated.

Once you find Drive though, the Grand Highlander is off like a rocket, at least by SUV standards. Our test car had the Hybrid Max powertrain, combining a 265-hp turbo four-cylinder with a pair of electric motors and a six-speed transmission. The total output is 362 horses and 400 pound-feet of torque, which is noticeable in driving as the Grand Highlander accelerates with ease from stoplights or when stepping out to pass. That performance was backed up in our test results, where the Grand Highlander did the 60-mph run in 5.6 seconds and covered the quarter-mile in 14.3, more than a second quicker than the Pilot. Again, you may not care about the numbers, but when you’re making the scary left turn out of the Costco parking lot with a trunk full of oversized condiment jars, you’ll appreciate the extra zip.

Other than acceleration, the driving dynamics of the Grand Highlander and the Pilot aren’t dramatically different. The Pilot held on better around the skidpad, but both stopped about the same: 187 feet from 70 mph for the Grand Highlander compared to 189 for the Honda. Neither has sports-car steering feel, and both had some wind noise in the cabin at highway speeds. In our hands, the Grand Highlander returned 25 mpg overall while the Pilot got 22.

It’s rare that two vehicles so close in almost every other way should have one big outlier, but that’s how these two shook out. They look alike, sound alike, and offer many of the same benefits, so in the end it’s down to how much merging you do, and whether it’s worth the extra money to do it a bit quicker.

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2023 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 8-passenger, 4-door wagon


Base/As Tested: $53,755/$53,755


DOHC 24-valve V-6, aluminum block and heads, direct fuel injection

Displacement: 212 in3, 3471 cm3

Power: 285 hp @ 6100 rpm

Torque: 262 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm


10-speed automatic


Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink

Brakes, F/R: 13.8-in vented disc/13.0-in disc

Tires: Bridgestone Alenza Sport A/S

255/50R-20 105H M+S


Wheelbase: 113.8 in

Length: 199.9 in

Width: 78.5 in

Height: 71.0 in

Passenger Volume, F/M/R: 57/57/40 ft3

Cargo Volume, Behind F/M/R: 87/49/19 ft3

Curb Weight: 4670 lb


60 mph: 7.2 sec

1/4-Mile: 15.7 sec @ 90 mph

100 mph: 20.1 sec

Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.

Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 7.6 sec

Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 4.1 sec

Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 5.4 sec

Top Speed (gov ltd): 112 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 189 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.84 g


Observed: 22 mpg

75-mph Highway Driving: 27 mpg

75-mph Highway Range: 490 mi


Combined/City/Highway: 21/19/25 mpg

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum AWD

Vehicle Type: front-engine and front- and rear-motor, all-wheel-drive, 7-passenger, 4-door wagon


Base/As Tested: $59,520/$59,520


turbocharged and intercooled DOHC 16-valve inline-4, 265 hp, 332 lb-ft + 2 AC motors (combined output: 362 hp, 400 lb-ft; 1.4-kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack)

Transmissions, F/R: 6-speed automatic/direct-drive


Suspension, F/R: struts/multilink

Brakes, F/R: 13.4-in vented disc/13.3-in vented disc

Tires: Continental CrossContact LX20 EcoPlus+

255/55R-20 107V M+S


Wheelbase: 116.1 in

Length: 201.4 in

Width: 78.3 in

Height: 70.1 in

Passenger Volume, F/M/R: 58/52/39 ft3

Cargo Volume, Behind F/M/R: 98/58/21 ft3

Curb Weight: 4936 lb


60 mph: 5.6 sec

1/4-Mile: 14.3 sec @ 98 mph

100 mph: 14.9 sec

Results above omit 1-ft rollout of 0.3 sec.

Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 6.1 sec

Top Gear, 30–50 mph: 2.9 sec

Top Gear, 50–70 mph: 4.2 sec

Top Speed (gov ltd): 117 mph

Braking, 70–0 mph: 187 ft

Roadholding, 300-ft Skidpad: 0.80 g


Observed: 25 mpg

75-mph Highway Driving: 24 mpg

75-mph Highway Range: 410 mi


Combined/City/Highway: 27/26/27 mpg


Senior Editor, Features

Like a sleeper agent activated late in the game, Elana Scherr didn’t know her calling at a young age. Like many girls, she planned to be a vet-astronaut-artist, and came closest to that last one by attending UCLA art school. She painted images of cars, but did not own one. Elana reluctantly got a driver’s license at age 21 and discovered that she not only loved cars and wanted to drive them, but that other people loved cars and wanted to read about them, which meant somebody had to write about them. Since receiving activation codes, Elana has written for numerous car magazines and websites, covering classics, car culture, technology, motorsports, and new-car reviews.    

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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