Asian imports have been slowly overtaking the American economy for quite some time now. The biggest reason for that has been the economy itself. These import vehicles have offered better fuel efficiency, better reliability, and better customer service overall. Leading the way in the Asian import category of SUVs are the 2011 Toyota Highlander and the 2011 Honda Pilot. According to top reviewers like Edmunds, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and Consumer Reports, these are two of the best in this category. Let’s take that testing information to pit these two Asian powerhouses against one another and see who comes out on top.

Powertrain: Both models come with a 3.5L V6, rated very similar in horsepower and torque, but the Highlander offers a 4-cylinder option that increases fuel efficiency by 3 mpg. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard on both with the V6, as is an AWD option on the Highlander and 4WD on the Pilot. The 4-cylinder Highlander comes with a six-speed tranny. Towing capacity goes to the Highlander as well; it can handle up to 5,000 lbs. properly equipped. The max. capacity for the Pilot is 4,500 lbs.

Winner: Toyota Highlander

Braking/Safety/Handling: The Honda Pilot was flawless in all crash tests, getting five stars across the board. The Highlander earned five stars in all tests but the frontal

passenger test where it earned four. Despite the Pilot’s perfection in crash testing, its braking is extremely suspect, taking 149 feet to stop from 60 mph. That’s 18 feet longer than the Highlander and doesn’t give the driver a very secure feeling when emergency braking is needed. Handling on the Highlander is standard for anyone who’s driven a larger SUV, the pilot has fair handling but it feels rather loose on sharp turns.

Winner: Toyota Highlander

Cargo/Hauling: Being larger SUVs, both models come equipped with third-row seating. That seating folds down in both vehicles to expand cargo space to 95.4 cubic feet in the Highlander and 87 cubes in the Pilot. Despite the added space, the Highlander’s third-row seat does not split and fold. Most vehicles utilize a 50/50 split which allows the owner to haul cargo and at least one rear passenger at the same time. The Pilot boasts superior third-row accommodations and, despite its smaller actual cargo capacity, it seems much larger thanks to its boxy shape.

Winner: Honda Pilot

Comfort/Interior: The Pilot possesses a very rugged interior with one of the most spacious third-row seats available. However, both rear seats are very low to the floor, causing taller passengers to ride in a knees-up position. Material quality could also be better as there is a lot of cheaper plastic used throughout, but it does come equipped with some clever interior storage features. The Highlander features an attractive cabin with great visibility and very comfortable seats. The third-row seats can be rather cramped for larger passengers though and the one-piece third-row seat can be a real pain.

Winner: Toyota Highlander

Amenities/Options: The Pilot wins out in total style choices, 12 to 8. As for options, there aren’t many it doesn’t have. Leather, heated front seats, Bluetooth, a tri-zone climate control, sunroof, backup camera, rear-DVD entertainment system, and one of the best navigation systems with voice command available highlight its list. The Highlander has all of those options as well as a JBL audio system that includes Bluetooth technology, and power heated outside mirrors. There is also a towing prep package. It looks like Toyota took convenience one step further.

Winner: Toyota Highlander

Value for the $: The Highlander’s MSRP starts at $27,390, with the Honda coming in right above that at $28,045. Options can take the Toyota to $36,345 for the AWD V6 Limited model while the Pilot can jump all the way to $40,395.

Winner: The Toyota offers more engine choices, a better driving experience, and more quality interior features. The Honda is reliable and the interior is more user-friendly. For the price difference, however, it looks like the Highlander may be the route to go in this matchup.

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