Toyota Family Vehicles Comparison: Highlander vs. 4Runner vs. Sienna (By Guest Blogger, Brenan Greene of Trail4Runner.com)

Highlander vs. the 4Runner vs. the Sienna

When it comes to choosing the right type of vehicle for your family – one that truly fits your lifestyle and needs – there are many options to choose from and picking the right vehicle can prove a daunting task. Consider Toyota’s mid-sized SUV offerings – the Highlander, the Toyota 4Runner – and the Toyota Sienna minivan.

The vehicle you choose will depend on your unique needs and preferences. Should you go with the kid-friendly minivan or a standard family-friendly mid-size SUV? That is the question. While all three vehicles are typically family-oriented vehicles, the 4Runner stands out for its ruggedness and off-road capability.

We recommend the 4Runner for families who will be using their vehicle for outdoor, off-road trails and adventures as it performs optimally in mud and dirt. It also has a good ground clearance – up to 9.6” – which makes it great for off-road applications. The 5th Gen 4Runner also offers a ton of room for improvement through 4Runner mods and accessories.

The Sienna minivan and Highlander are more suited for daily errands, family outings and road trips. Check out our full road trip experience in the Sienna for a more detailed look into the Sienna. And, for an overview and review on the Highlander, take a look at the full 2014 Highlander Review for a better look inside.

But first? Don’t you sorta gotta have this awesome Toyota hoodie? Click here for the best deal on Amazon!

toyota

To help you make a well-informed decision before purchasing, let’s take a closer look at each vehicle’s unique characteristics and compare. We will be looking at the 2015 base models of these vehicles for easier comparison.

Interior

The interior of the Highlander is posh, sleek and family-friendly, with soft surfaces and simple controls. The Sienna’s interior is spacious, stylish and sleek, also designed to be family-friendly. On the other hand, the 4Runner’s interior features hard surfaces and looks similar to the inside cabin of a pickup truck. It has a more sturdy, rugged look.

Exterior

The 4Runner, with its rugged construction, looks less refined and sleek than the Highlander and Sienna. It looks like a vehicle that can handle the demands of off-road terrains – strong and sturdy. There are many different models of the 4Runner, so there is something for every family out there. But, most of them have a similar design, look and feel. The Highlander and Sienna have clean simple lines, and while not as rugged as the 5th Gen 4Runner, they still pack a stunning look and feel.

Seating

The standard 5th Generation 4Runner comes with 2 rows of seating with the option for a 3rd row. Keep in mind that this optional 3rd row is designed to fit kids only. If you have babies, toddlers or even grown children, you want to check out the Third-Row 4Runner. This will give you the best options for seating and transporting your little ones’ about. Adults can and will fit but it sure is tight. The 2015 Highlander and 2015 Sienna both have three rows of seating. The Highlander can accommodate up to 8 passengers while the Sienna can accommodate up to 7 or 8 passengers, depending on the vehicle configuration you choose to go with.

Comfort

In terms of the level of comfort offered by each vehicle, the 4Runner offers the least comfortable ride. This is due to its rugged, body-on-frame construction design. The uni-body frame of the Highlander provides a quieter, more comfortable ride than the 4Runner. The suspension system of the Highlander is designed for maximum shock absorption as you drive over bumps while the 4Runner tends to hit these bumps hard, making the ride less smooth.

The Sienna’s suspension is also designed for optimal shock absorption as you navigate bumps and uneven surfaces. The large sliding doors of the Sienna make it convenient for passengers – especially 3rd-row passengers – to enter and exit the vehicle easily.

With all of this being said, there a ton of options to increase the 4Runner’s ride and performance through aftermarket suspension systems. And, once you put an aftermarket suspension system on a 4Runner, you will have a smoother, more dependable on and off-road experience. If you are a camping family, the 4Runner is a solid choice.

Storage Capacity/Cargo Space

When the 2nd and 3rd rows of the Highlander are folded, you have 83.7 cubic feet of cargo storage space. With the 4Runner, folding the 3rd row accommodates 46.3 cubic feet of cargo while removing the 2nd row gives you 89.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The Sienna’s 3rd row folds to store 87.1 cubic feet of cargo while removing the 2nd row gives you 150 cubic feet of storage space. In terms of cargo space, the Sienna is the clear winner.

Towing Capacity

The 4Runner can tow up to 4700 pounds while the Sienna can tow up to 3500 pounds. For the average family, the Sienna’s towing capacity is more than enough for towing loads like a boat, for instance. The base model of the Highlander has a 1500-pound towing capacity while the V6 model can tow up to 5000 pounds.

Horsepower

The base model (3.5L V6) of the Sienna offers a maximum of 266 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque as opposed to the standard 2.7L 4-cylinder Highlander which cranks out only 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. However, you also have the option of a 3.5L V6 Highlander which offers 270 horsepower. The standard 4.0L V6 base engine of the 2015 4Runner produces a maximum of 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque.

Fuel Economy/Efficiency

The Highlander wins when it comes to fuel economy. Its 20/25 mpg city/hwy beats the Sienna (18/25 mpg city/hwy) and the 4Runner’s 17/22 mpg city/hwy.

Safety

In crash tests conducted by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 4Runner earned a mere 4-star rating. The 4Runner is the loser when it comes to safety features as they are quite limited when compared to the features in the other two vehicles. It has a standard backup camera as well as front and rear parking sensors.

Compare this with the Highlander which boasts a perfect 5-star rating. The Highlander is also rated highly by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning a Top Safety Pick+ rating. This is due to its many safety features including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking with forward collision warning and rear cross traffic alert.

The Sienna features a Star Safety System and can be configured to include other safety-maximizing features including Pre-Collision System and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Other safety features include emergency trunk release, lane departure warning, and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. The Sienna earns a Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and an overall 5-star rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Who Takes the Family Vehicle Cake?

As you can see, all three vehicles are great options. The vehicle you decide to go with will depend on your preferences. If you want a family vehicle for everyday use, without the stigma of driving an uncool minivan, the Highlander would be your best bet.

On the other hand, if you are more of the adventurous type that likes to explore trails and need a vehicle that can handle off-road terrains, consider going with the rugged and dependable 4Runner.

The Sienna is convenient for families with children as the sliding doors make it easy for them to enter and exit the vehicle seamlessly.

In my overall opinion, I would choose a Highlander or a 5th Gen 4Runner.

Brenan Greene of Trail4Runner.com

DISCLOSURE LANGUAGE

Trail4Runner.com, partnered with bloggers such as me for this program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any product mentioned in these posts. Trail4Runner.com believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Trail4Runner.com policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

Our Long Awaited Yet Random Drive to Henry Horton State Park on July 4th

Ever since we moved into to our new house in Spring Hill two and a half years ago, our family has always been curious about that sign on 840, advertising Henry Horton State Park; which is about 30 miles away from where we live.

The plan had sort of always been, that when we had an extra day off as a family where we had no agenda, or when we had a vehicle from one of our trips, we would finally check out Henry Horton State Park.

Well, this past week, the time had finally come.

Fresh off our Louisville trip, we still had the 2017 Toyota 4Runner. So it was simple:

This past Tuesday morning, on July 4th, our family loaded up in the “Storm Trooper” and made our long awaited yet random drive to Henry Horton State Park.

Since I had driven the entire Louisville trip myself, I wanted to give my wife a chance to drive the 4Runner. I didn’t even have to ask her if she wanted to drive. I just looked up, and she was already in the driver’s seat after I had loaded up the double stroller.

So with our son in the 3rd row seat directly behind me, and our daughter right next to me in the 2nd row seat, we began our journey.

Our daughter Holly was desperately in need of a nap, but she had a case of the munchies. So as we made our way to the legendary (in our minds, at least) state park, I facilitated her in being able to eat her cheddar goldfish.

As one would imagine, by the time we arrived at Henry Horton State Park, our little girl was finally fast asleep. So my wife volunteered to stay in the luxurious cabin of the 4Runner and through the windshield, watched the boys audition for American Ninja Warrior on the extreme playground.

My son really enjoyed the challenge of pulling himself across the obstacle course with a little help from me.

After he got good and sweaty, we hopped back in the 4Runner, as he held his Hot Wheels version of a 1985 Toyota 4Runner; which he’s had since he was two.

Clutching that older, miniature version of the vehicle that my wife drove us home in, he too fell asleep.

Of course, we would have little stop at the fireworks tent before we were back home for the day.

I will admit. There was nothing groundbreaking about our trip to Henry Horton State Park.

No cool caves. No amazing trails. No big waterfalls.

But for us as a family, it was a mystery finally solved, and a great way to spend the 4th of July together.

And that’s all that mattered.

I am So Excited about the 2017 Toyota 4Runner I Get to Drive This Week!

“Give me fuel, give me fire, give me that which I desire!”

Those were the magic words I spoke, which caused my 2004 Honda Element to mysteriously morph into a 2017 Toyota 4Runner 4X4 Limited V6.

It’s like how Cinderella’s pumpkin turned into a wondrous carriage pulled by horses. Only way cooler.

So for the next nine days, until the clock strikes 11:30 AM on July 6th, I will get to be the proud driver of this undeniably tough (yet charming) machine of glory.

In the dozens of vehicles of featured on my blog over the years, my very favorite was the Toyota Tacoma. So obviously I have been looking forward for months now, knowing that a Toyota 4Runner was being delivered to me this week; as I find the two vehicles to be similar to each other.

This thing has the elegant look of a Storm Trooper, yet the unpredictable great power of Darth Vader.

Seriously, I am going to be so cool this week.

I’ve already had several co-workers stop me and tell me how jealous they are.

This 4Runner taps into a pocket of my psyche that I typically keep subdued on my blog.

After all, I’m the Family Friendly Daddy Blogger. Readers have certain demographic expectations of me:

Take lots of cute pictures of my kids while telling cute stories about them. Rinse and repeat.

And that’s what I will provide for my readers over the next week or so, as we enjoy some awesome upcoming adventures, being the Chip and Joanna Gaines kind of family that we truly are.

But this is me, breaking the 4th wall, to say, “I am a conservative husband and father living in the Suburbs… hear me roar!”

I suddenly feel so in control.

So powerful.

So… alive.