Jones Ford Buckeye Compares 2012 Ford Escape VS 2012 Toyota Highlander Near Goodyear, AZ

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2012 Ford Escape

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2012 Toyota Highlander

Safety Comparison

The Escape’s blind spot mirrors use wide-angle convex mirrors mounted in the corner of each side view mirror to reveal objects that may be in the driver's blind spots. The Highlander doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver's blind spots.

The Escape offers optional SYNC, which uses a global positioning satellite (GPS) receiver and a cellular system to get turn-by-turn driving directions or send emergency personnel to the scene if any airbags deploy. The Highlander doesn’t offer a GPS response system, only a navigation computer with no live response for emergencies, so if you’re involved in an accident and you’re incapacitated help may not come as quickly.

Both the Escape and the Highlander have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front-wheel drive, height-adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding and available all-wheel drive.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Ford Escape is safer than the Toyota Highlander:





4 Stars

4 Stars




Chest Compression

.7 inches

.7 inches

Neck Injury Risk



Neck Stress

186 lbs.

203 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Ford Escape is safer than the Highlander:





5 Stars

5 Stars

Head Injury Index





5 Stars

4 Stars

Head Injury Index



Chest forces

42 g’s

44 g’s

More stars indicate a better overall result. Lower numbers indicate better individual test results.

Warranty Comparison

There are over 3 times as many Ford dealers as there are Toyota dealers, which makes it much easier to get service under the Escape’s warranty.

Engine Comparison

As tested in Consumer Reports the Ford Escape V6 is faster than the Toyota Highlander V6 (automatics tested):



Zero to 60 MPH

7.9 sec

8 sec

Quarter Mile

16.1 sec

16.4 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

88.3 MPH

87.1 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range Comparison

On the EPA test cycle the Escape Hybrid AWD gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander Hybrid CVT (30 city/27 hwy vs. 28 city/28 hwy).

On the EPA test cycle the Escape gets better fuel mileage than the Highlander:




4 cyl./Auto

21 city/28 hwy

20 city/25 hwy


19 city/25 hwy

18 city/24 hwy


4 cyl./Auto

20 city/27 hwy



18 city/23 hwy

17 city/22 hwy

The Escape has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Highlander doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Suspension and Handling Comparison

The Escape has vehicle speed-sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Highlander doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

The Escape’s drift compensation steering can automatically compensate for road conditions which would cause the vehicle to drift from side to side, helping the driver to keep the vehicle straight more easily. The Highlander doesn’t offer drift compensation steering.

For better maneuverability, the Escape’s turning circle is 2 feet tighter than the Highlander’s (36.7 feet vs. 38.7 feet).

For greater off-road capability the Escape has a greater minimum ground clearance than the Highlander Hybrid (8.4 vs. 8 inches), allowing the Escape to travel over rougher terrain without being stopped or damaged. The Escape’s minimum ground clearance is .3 inch higher than on the Highlander (8.4 vs. 8.1 inches).

Chassis Comparison

The Ford Escape may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 700 to 950 pounds less than the Toyota Highlander.

The Escape is 1 foot, 1.7 inches shorter than the Highlander, making the Escape easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Cargo Capacity Comparison

The Escape has a much larger cargo area than the Highlander with its rear seat up (31.4 vs. 10.3 cubic feet).

The Escape’s rear cargo window opens separately from the rest of the liftgate door to allow quicker loading of small packages. The Highlander’s rear cargo window doesn’t open.

Ergonomics Comparison

The power windows standard on both the Escape and the Highlander have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Escape is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Highlander prevents the driver from operating the other windows just as it does the other passengers.

In case you lock your keys in your vehicle, or don’t have them with you, you can let yourself in using the standard exterior keypad (not available on Escape XLS). The Highlander doesn’t offer an exterior keypad entry system.

The Escape’s standard power mirror controls are mounted on the door for easy access. The Highlander’s power mirror controls are on the dash, hidden behind the steering wheel, where they are awkward to manipulate.

The Escape Limited’s optional Active Park Assist can parallel park or back into a parking spot by itself, with the driver only controlling speed with the brake pedal. The Highlander doesn’t offer an automated parking system.

Economic Advantages Comparison

Insurance will cost less for the Escape owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Escape will cost $380 less than the Highlander over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Escape is less expensive to operate than the Highlander because typical repairs cost much less on the Escape than the Highlander, including $169 less for an alternator, $208 less for front brake pads, $123 less for a starter, $357 less for fuel injection, $1120 less for a fuel pump, $713 less for front struts, $956 less for a timing belt/chain and $72 less for a power steering pump.

Intellichoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Ford Escape will be $4099 to $10098 less than for the Toyota Highlander.

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