2021 Honda Pilot vs. 2021 Toyota Highlander

2021 Honda Pilot vs Toyota Highlander

The field of three-row family SUVs has grown considerably over the years. Yet even as these new crops of vehicles get churned out, two full-size models have steadily weathered the storm to remain at the top: Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. They’re both spacious, rich in features, and great values for the segment. Pitted head to head, however, and it’s easy to see why the 2021 Pilot is a better buy.


Rear Entertainment System

Three Honda Pilot models (Touring, Elite and Black Edition) come standard with rear entertainment. Honda’s Advanced Rear Entertainment System features a 10.2-inch high-resolution screen with a Blu-Ray™ and DVD player and several built-in streaming apps. Keep those kids happy as clams, even on long (i.e. boring) road trips.

Zero Toyota Highlanders come with a rear entertainment system. Parents: You know what to do.

Rear Entertainment System

CabinControl & CabinTalk

Honda Pilot comes with available CabinControl, allowing riders to commandeer the audio system even when seated in the third row. Passengers needn’t do more than open a smartphone app to change stations, skip songs, pick playlists, or even adjust their own personal climate settings.

Taking its own name literally, the Honda Pilot allows drivers and front passengers to become de facto pilots of the entire cabin. With CabinTalk, users can communicate ETAs and landmark sightings to rear-seat riders, either via Pilot’s speakers or through connected RES headphones.

The Toyota Highlander does not come with any such comparable features.


One-Touch 2nd-Row Seats

Convenience comes standard in all Pilot models, especially the EX and higher trims. Just look to its spectacular One-Touch 2nd-Row Seats for proof. Unlike the seats in the Highlander, Pilot’s seats come with no hassles, no struggles, no fussy levers to fuss over. With the push of a button, you have immediate access to the third row—plain and simple.

One-Touch 2nd-Row Seats

Interior Space

Passenger Comfort

Let’s take a look at the specs that matter most: Passenger volume. Inside the 2021 Honda Pilot Elite are 153.1 cubic feet of good, old-fashioned space for riders. Even the base Pilot LX keeps passenger room high, offering 152.9 cubes.

The Toyota Highlander, by comparison, is far less spacious. In its largest form, the Highlander L trim, you get just 141.3 cubic feet of space. Pop a moonroof in what is Pilot Elite’s rival, the Highlander Platinum, and passenger volume shrinks to a meager 136.1 cubic feet.

Pilot also out-delivers Highlander in those secondary, albeit still significant specs like 3rd-row legroom. Comparing the Pilot Elite to the Highlander Platinum, Honda’s full-size SUV offers more overall headroom, over 4 inches of additional rear legroom, and more room for shoulders and hips from front to mid-row seats. It’s a cornucopia of extra inches, essentially.

2021 Pilot Elite 2021 Highlander Platinum
Passenger Volume 153.1 cu. ft. 136.1 cu. ft.
Headroom (front/middle/rear) 40.1 in/40.2 in/38.9 in 38.4 in/37.1 in/36.1 in
Shoulder Room (front/middle/rear) 62.0 in/62.0 in/57.6 in 59.0 in/58.4 in/55.0 in
Hiproom (front/middle/rear) 59.1 in/57.3 in/44.6 in 57.2 in/57.0 in/45.6 in
3rd-row Legroom 31.9 in 27.7 in

Cargo Volume

The cargo king has arrived, and its name is “Honda Pilot.” Not only is Pilot more passenger-friendly than the Highlander, but it’s also more item-friendly. Open the liftgate. See that? It’s 18.5 cubic feet of cargo room, all for you and your gear. That’s 2.5 cubic feet more than what you get in the Highlander.

What’s that? You need more space? Flip the third row flat to expand cargo volume to 55.9 cubes, over 7 cubic feet more than the Highlander. Or pull the middle seats down and enjoy 109 cubic feet, which is over 25 cubic feet larger than the Highlander. Viva la king!

2021 Pilot LX 2021 Highlander L
Rear Cargo Volume 18.5 cu. ft.* 16.0 cu. ft.
2nd-Row Cargo Volume 55.9 cu. ft.* 48.4 cu. ft.
Max Cargo Volume 109.0 cu. ft.* 84.3 cu. ft.
Cargo Volume


In terms of dollars and cents, Honda’s Pilot is a better value than Toyota’s Highlander. Base Pilot LX models, which include the full Honda Sensing suite, seating for 8, and a multi-angle rearview camera, come with a price tag that’s about $2,000 less than the entry-level Highlander L trim. Those eye-opening pricing differences extend to all but the tippity-top Pilot Elite and Highlander Platinum models, too—and Highlander Platinum doesn’t include features like Pilot Elite’s i-VTM4 AWD System or Multi-Zone Audio.

2021 Pilot Trim MSRP* MSRP 2021 Highlander Trim
LX 2WD $32,250 $34,810 L
EX 2WD $34,930 $37,010 LE
EX-L 2WD $38,360 $39,810 XLE
Special Edition 2WD $38,960 $41,405 XSE
Touring 2WD $42,920 $43,765 Limited
Elite AWD $48,420 $46,965 Platinum


Cargo volume based on SAE J1100 cargo volume measurement standard plus, where applicable, floor space between seating rows and seats in their forward-most and upright position.

MSRP excluding tax, license, registration, $1120 destination charge and accessories. Dealer prices may vary. MSRP does not include $395 charge for select premium colors. $395 charge only applies to 2021 models.