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New 2021 Toyota Highlander Trim Level Offers a Ride Like No Other

Look for plenty of sport and an entirely new driving experience with this new 2021 Toyota Highlander trim level.

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Toyota Highlander is to families what I affectionately call “the ultimate family road trip vehicle.” I say this because it checks so many boxes on a road trip wish list.

The Highlander drives smooth, quiet and comfortable. Redesigned for 2020, it is loaded with technology and safety and convenience features.

Highlander was also ranked first by as the vehicle that original owners keep the longest across all brands. Talk about loving your vehicle.

Now, Toyota is upping the game by adding a new trim level to its already popular Highlander lineup.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE Magnetic Gray profile view

Well, at least it is new to some people. For others, it is very familiar and something Toyota fans have been asking about for years.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE

Do you know anyone in your friends and family circle like this: You know, someone who has driven a sedan or sports sedan most of their life, but now must make the jump to an SUV – but they do not quite want to be a “soccer mom” or “soccer dad.”

Do not want an “SUV for the suburbs.” They still want that sporty drive and feel.

This might even apply to you.

I have felt this myself in the past. Which is one reason I am looking forward to seeing the all-new Highlander XSE.

New for 2021, Highlander XSE combines the trusty smooth-quiet-comfortable and spacious feel with an entirely new driving experience and look.

2021 Highlander XSE performance

Owning a 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE may satisfy your need for a true one-with-the-road driving experience, while providing the space and versatility of a sport utility vehicle.

Typical 2020 Highlander suspension is front independent MacPherson struts with stabilizer bar and rear multi-link with stabilizer bar.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE Magnetic Gray profile front end front grille

2021 Highlander XSE features higher-rate springs and re-tuned shock absorbers for lower friction. Drivers will also have a sporty steering feel due to re-tuned electric power steering specific to XSE.

Look for new 20-inch machine-faced alloy wheels with black accents as well.

VIDEO: Learn more about 2021 Highlander XSE in my video review.

XSE is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. torque. It is matched with an 8-speed automatic transmission. This is the same powertrain combination found across the board on 2020 Highlanders.

Buyers will have the choice of front-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive system with dynamic torque vectoring. This safety-first system can send up to 50% of available torque to the rear wheels when loss of traction is detected. Power can also be distributed to individual left and right sides when needed.

A new Toyota Highlander look

Choose from two interior colors. Really it is like picking two entirely different color philosophies.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE black and red interior

2021 Highlander XSE is available in black SofTex or a dramatic, life-changing black and cockpit red combo. This red offering is the most intense Highlander interior ever made.

Plan on interior ambient lighting along with instrument panel carbon-fiber finish to create a very specific impression.

Multimedia capabilities include Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, SiriusXM and Amazon Alexa. Five USB ports cater to the technology-driven needs of all passengers.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE interior black and red seats multimedia apple carplay android auto

Exterior highlights include an exclusive new front grille, fascia and lower spoiler. Aggressive is the key descriptive word here. Also look for headlamps with black accents and light strip daytime running lights.

Black mirror caps, roof rails and window moldings complete a darker and edgier look.

The final feature making a firm impression in my mind is the exposed dual-tip chrome exhaust. This is a first for Highlander models.

Time for your thoughts on 2021 Highlander

What do you think about an XSE Toyota Highlander? Are you someone who might be considering a sporty SUV?

If not XSE, what other Highlander trim levels catch your eye? Maybe a Highlander Hybrid (up to 36 miles per gallon!)?

Thanks for reading everyone. See you next story when I show off interior features of 2021 Toyota Camry XSE Hybrid.

READ MORE: 2021 Camry XSE Hybrid brings great mpg and sport.

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Stephen (not verified)    August 25, 2020 - 10:25AM

Jeff, when do you expect the 2021 Sienna to arrive in dealer showrooms? Also, are you only in marketing or do you also sell Toyota also?


James shannanny (not verified)    August 25, 2020 - 7:13PM

When exactly is the Highlander xse coming out? I’m in the market for a suv this fall. Is corona going to delay the release for this car?

Steve (not verified)    August 26, 2020 - 1:01PM

I've always thought Toyota could get away with not adding features other car makers did because they could. “They were Toyota”

I have a 2018 Highlander, great car, but little features left off like this compared other manufacturers get annoying after a while.

Does the 2021 have a digital tire air pressure reading finally?
How about standard remote start for all trim packages
Or standard digital speedometer for all trim packages
Or XM radio stations having the name of the station display instead of just the number?

Again, little things that get annoying after a while.

Tx Jerrbear (not verified)    September 1, 2020 - 5:07PM

In reply to by Steve (not verified)

Steve Our 2020 Highlander Platinum has everything you mentioned above(Remote start is for Northern Climate Distributors) You can not expect these in all trim levels. Price points are everything in the car Industry so for those great features you have to anti up Extra Rock n Roll Cash. Ours even has the Heads up Display in the Windshield which is also awesome. Come to think of it my 2019 Rav 4 Limited AWD has all of these features as well. Open up that wallet Steve $$$$$$$. The Goodies are there fur ya!!!!!!!! :-)

Bill (not verified)    September 7, 2020 - 8:27AM

I have researched both the HL XSE and the Mazda CX9 and totally undecided at his point in time. I will have to drive both before making my decision. It will be between the HL XSE and the Mazda CX9 Carbon Edition.From what I have read for a couple of years, the CX9 is much more fun to drive, and the interior looks better than the HL. Many say the HL is overpriced in its class. According toe Consumer Reports, the CX9 beats the HL for reliability. For now....UNDECIDED.