We’ve done a VW vs Kia comparison, like the VW Atlas vs Kia Telluride, but we have yet to do Volkswagen vs Toyota, until now. In this article, we will be covering the VW Atlas vs Toyota Highlander. We’ll be going over the similarities and differences between the two models. Topics such as size, performance, price, common problems, and more will be outlined in this article. Both vehicles are classified as mid-size crossover SUVs.
VW Atlas vs Toyota Highlander – The Basics
The Volkswagen Atlas was recently introduced in 2017 and is still in production today. Outside of the United States, the VW Atlas is referred to as the Volkswagen Teramont. It is the second-largest vehicle Volkswagen has to offer and is positioned between the Tiguan and the Touareg. It is built on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform and it offers 5 different trims: SE, SE with Technology, SEL, SEL R-Line, and SEL Premium R-Line. The Atlas Cross Sport is purposefully a smaller variant of the Atlas. Volkswagen wanted to fill a void in their lineup and the Cross Sport did just that.
The Toyota Highlander, also referred to as the Toyota Kluger, was first introduced in 2000 and is still in production today. It was one of the first mid-size SUVs or mid-size crossover in many markets, including the North American market. It was Toyota’s best-selling SUV until the Toyota RAV4 came along in 2006. Currently, it is positioned between the Toyota Sequoia and the Toyota 4Runner. There are 11 different trims that the 2022 Toyota Highlander has to offer: L, LE, Hybrid LE, XLE, Hybrid XLE, XSE, Bronze Edition, Limited, Hybrid Limited, Platinum, and Hybrid Platinum.
Volkswagen Atlas Generation
- CA1 Atlas (2017-Present)
Toyota Highlander Generations
- XU20 Highlander (2000-2006)
- XU40 Highlander (2007-2012)
- XU50 Highlander (2013-2018)
- XU70 Highlander (2019-Present)
VW Atlas vs Toyota Highlander Price
In this portion, we will be going over brand new 2022, as of this writing, model prices and used prices for the VW Atlas and Toyota Highlander.
New Volkswagen Atlas Price
In this section, we will be covering the new Atlas 2022, as of this writing, model year prices. The base Atlas, or Atlas SE, is $35,530, with a 4motion upgrade for $37,430. An Atlas SE w/ tech and SEL offer two engine options: 2.0T and 3.6L V6. The 2.0T Atlas SE w/ tech is $39,700 with an option to upgrade to 4motion for $41,600. The 3.6L V6 Atlas SE w/ tech is $41,450 with the option to upgrade to 4motion for $43,350. The 2.0T 4motion Atlas SEL is $45,300 and the 3.6L V6 4motion Atlas SEL is $47,050. The SEL R-Line and SEL Premium R-Line only offer the 3.6L V6 as an available engine. The Atlas SEL R-Line is $48,450 and the SEL Premium R-Line is $52,700.
New Toyota Highlander Price
As seen above, the 2022 Highlander has 11 trims, we won’t be covering all of them. Therefore the base Highlander, or the Highlander L, starts at $36,280 with an AWD upgrade option for an extra $1,175. The Highlander LE starts at $38,055 again with an AWD upgrade option for $1,600. A Highlander XLE starts at $41,055 with an AWD upgrade option for $1,600. The last 3 trims we’ll cover: XSE ($42,650), Limited ($45,010), and Platinum ($48,010). All these trims come with FWD standard but offer an AWD upgrade for an extra $1,600-$1,950.
Used VW Atlas & Toyota Highlander Prices
When it comes to used VW Atlas’ vs Toyota Highlanders, since the Highlander is much older than the Atlas, we will use similar model years for a better comparison. Since these are very competitive vehicles, new and used prices will be pretty similar. A used Atlas price ranges from $17,600 – $55,997* with an average price overall of $36,795, depending on model year and mileage. A used Highlanders price ranges from $20,500 – $57,592* with an average price overall of $39,045, depending on model year and mileage. Based on this data, the Highlander, on average, is $2,250 more expensive on the used side, but is cheaper on the new sales side.
*At the time of writing this article, we believe we are in a market where used vehicles are inflated, so consider that when seeing the used prices above.
General Atlas & Toyota Highlander Topics
VW Atlas vs Toyota Highlander Size
Below are some basic details about the size and weight differences seen between the 2022 Volkswagen Atlas and the 2022 Toyota Highlander.
VW Atlas vs Toyota Highlander
Surprisingly to us, the VW Atlas is larger in almost all dimensions, except for one. Seating capacity. The Toyota Highlander L & LE come standard with 8 seats, while the Limited and XLE have the option of 7 seats and 8 seats. The Volkswagen Atlas only has seating for 7. Therefore, if you are a consumer that needs two rows of bench seats in the back, the Highlander is the way to go. However, for everything else, the Atlas is larger. We know that cargo space is important, so we’ll quickly cover that. The Atlas gets 20.6ft³ with all the seats up, 55.5ft³ with the third row down, and 96.8ft³ with both the second and third row of seats down. The Highlander gets 16.0ft³ with all the seats up, 48.4ft³ with the third row down, and 84.3ft³ with both the second and third row of seats down.
VW Atlas vs Toyota Highlander Performance
For consistencies sake, we will be using the 2022 VW Atlas and 2022 Toyota Highlander factory performance specs.
Engines, Drivetrain, & Fuel Economy
VW Atlas Performance
The Atlas has two available engine options: a 2.0T TFSI & a 3.6L EA390 VR6. The 2.0T TFSI puts out 235hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Depending on which drivetrain, it gets different fuel economy. Therefore, the 2.0T TFSI engine with FWD gets 21mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway for a combined 23mpg with an 18.6gal fuel tank. And, the 2.0T TFSI engine with 4motion gets 20mpg in the city and 24mpg on the highway for a combined 22mpg with an 18.6gal fuel tank.
The 3.6L V6 naturally aspirated engine puts out 276hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. Depending on which drivetrain, it also gets different fuel economies. Therefore, the 3.6L engine with FWD gets 18mpg in the city and 24mpg on the highway for a combined 21mpg with an 18.6gal fuel tank. Lastly, a 3.6L VR6 engine with 4motion gets 17mpg in the city and 23mpg on the highway for a combined 20mpg with an 18.6gal fuel tank. Both engines offer an upgraded drivetrain option to VW’s AWD 4motion technology and come with an 8-speed automatic Tiptronic transmission.
Toyota Highlander Performance
The Toyota Highlander offers two engines: a 3.5L NA V6 and a 2.5L L4HV Hybrid. The 3.5L V6 is a naturally aspirated engine that puts out 295hp and 263 lb-ft of torque. Depending on which drivetrain, it gets different fuel economy. Therefore, the 3.5L V6 engine with FWD gets 21mpg in the city and 29mpg on the highway for a combined 24mpg with a 17.9gal fuel tank. And, the 3.5L V6 engine with AWD gets 20mpg in the city and 27mpg on the highway for a combined 23mpg with a 17.9gal fuel tank. It features an 8-speed automatic transmission.
The 2.5L L4HV hybrid engine puts out 243hp combined, but 186hp and 175 lb-ft of torque with the petrol engine. The hybrid engine gets the same fuel economy regardless of the drivetrain. Therefore, the 2.5L hybrid engine gets a combined 35mpg. It offers an Electronically controlled Continuously Variable Transmission (ECVT).
VW Atlas & Toyota Highlander Reliability and Common Problems
Unfortunately, since the Atlas was produced in 2017, there isn’t too much information to go on about its reliability. According to Consumer Reports, the VW Atlas placed 21st out of 26 for all mid-size SUVs when it came to reliability. If you aren’t in the market for a new Atlas, the used model year we would go after is 2021. Since its introduction, we’ve put together some common problems in Atlas’: faulty fuel injectors, a faulty clock spring, strange engine noise on shutdown, unexpected coolant loss, and premature fuel pump failure. It is difficult to provide a mileage estimate since there is a rather small sample size of Atlas’. The best advice would be to get the best warranty package offered when purchasing an Atlas.
Is the Toyota Highlander reliable? The Highlanders’ overall reliability is, to nobody’s surprise, above average. RepairPal rated it 4 out of 5 in reliability, which is above the average Midsize SUV rating of 3.5 out of 5. This puts the Highlander 7th out of 26 luxury midsize vehicles. We would advise avoiding the 2003, 2008, and 2014-2015 model years, as these are viewed as the least reliable Highlanders. The average annual ownership cost for a Toyota Highlander is $489, which is below the average midsize SUV of $573.
Common problems seen in Toyota Highlanders are: ruptured oil lines, premature ignition coil and spark plug failure, defective air filter hose, malfunctioning center airbag sensor, stripped engine bolt threads, and oil leaks. Again, to no surprise, Toyota Highlanders have been seen to last up to 300,000 miles if maintained properly.
VW Atlas vs Toyota Highlander – Which is Better?
Which model is better: the VW Atlas vs Toyota Highlander? Usually, we are biased since we own a VW/Audi blog. However, the Toyota Highlander is hard to bargain against. Therefore, we think the Highlander takes the win over the VW Atlas. The Highlander gets better gas mileage, allows for more customization, can seat more passengers, and the list can go on. The VW Atlas is more spacious and larger, has more cargo space, and is slightly cheaper. Both have the same towing capacity, depending on which Atlas engine you go with, have 5-star safety ratings, and have similar tech and safety features.
Something we always like to advise is getting first-hand experience with the vehicles in question. Therefore, schedule a test drive with your local VW and Toyota dealer to get behind the wheel of both. There’s no better research than first-hand research. It will further solidify the research done beforehand.
VW Atlas vs Toyota Highlander Conclusion
To wrap up this article, we know purchasing a vehicle can be a daunting and important financial decision. Therefore, we hope the information we provided above assists anyone in their purchasing decision. In short, the VW Atlas is slightly cheaper, larger, more comfortable for passengers, and has more cargo space. While the Toyota Highlander is more reliable, provides more power, gets better fuel economy, and can seat more passengers. If are a consumer that has had first-hand experience with either model, let us know your feedback in the comments below. This will help with our research and help future readers in their purchasing decisions.