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Surprise 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE Announcement has Fans Going Crazy

A new trim level will be released later this year for 2021 Highlander. Find out what all the hype is about.


There was a time not all that long ago, where people who enjoyed cars and trucks probably thought Toyota and sporty would never be heard in the same sentence. Toyota trucks, SUVs and cars were dependable, reliable and trustworthy. They held their value well. But sporty? Not so much.

That has all changed.

Toyota has committed to a new corporate philosophy of “no more boring cars”. As a result of this call to action, we find ourselves with the hot 2020 Camry TRD, 2020 Avalon TRD, and 2020 RAV4 TRD. Just announced at the Chicago Auto Show were 2021 4Runner Trail Special Edition, 2021 Tacoma Trail Special Edition and you guessed it, 2021 Tundra Trail Special Edition.

I will write more about these new favorites in my next story.

Also released by Toyota is brand new information about the next Highlander trim level – 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE. This is great news and it fills a void left by the omission of the SE grade in the 2020 Highlander lineup.

2021 Highlander XSE Specs

In my opinion, having a 2021 Highlander XSE offers possibilities for people to still have that midsize SUV that is an ideal family road trip vehicle – but gives them that sportiness they may have been missing previously. You now have that edge. That rugged feel.

Just like popular Camry XSE, Corolla XSE and even RAV4 XSE Hybrid, the 2021 Highlander XSE offers drivers a sporty feel in both looks and performance.

You can pick out an XSE Highlander that is either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive with unique dynamic torque vectoring. This allows the vehicle to send up to 50 percent more power to the rear wheels and from there can distribute more power to each individual wheel that needs the most traction.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE interior red and black seats

Like all other 2020 Highlanders, the 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.

You have never seen a Toyota Highlander like this XSE before. You will be able to choose from two different interior colors, either black Softex seats or a statement-making two-tone red and black with red accent stitching. Crazy times my friends.

Other highlights of 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE are 20-inch wheels, a restyled honeycomb-style front grille, LED strip accent lights, one-of-a-kind rocker panels and a chrome double-tip exhaust.

I will also go into all the improved performance features in future stories.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE interior red and black seatsWhat people are saying about 2021 Highlander XSE

Immediately following the announcement about this newest and most unique Highlander trim level yet, people took to social media to give their twenty-five cents worth. Their excitement is getting me fired up to see XSE in person.

Liznette commented simply, “I am in love!”

Malcolm already has plans in the works. “I already know what my next car is.”

“You know, I kinda like it. I would like to see one parked next to my 2019 Nightshade,” Added Thomas.

Ty was a fan of Toyota’s new color choice. “That red interior would be worth the wait.”

“I knew it was coming. That interior and exhaust is serious.” Said Kevin.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE Exhaust chrome tip

“Those wheels are killer. Consider me sold.” Said Tony.

Diana liked the look of the 2021 Highlander XSE compared to the 2020. “I like this front grille so much better than 2020.”

To be fair, there were at least 20 comments I read from people who are not the biggest fans of the new 2020 front grille. This new sporty grille for XSE Highlander will be very popular.

Now that I think about it, it would be really cool for Toyota to make and sell a front grille accessory upgrade for all 2020 Highlander trims that is similar to this XSE honeycomb pattern.

VIDEO REVIEW: Watch as I compare 2020 Highlander XLE vs 2020 Highlander Limited.

Time for your thoughts on Toyota Highlander

Do you have a new 2020 Highlander already? If so, what do you think? How do you like pics and specs on the new XSE Highlander?

Thanks for reading everyone. See you next story when I reveal a new color for the all-new 2021 4Runner Trail Editon.

YOU MAY ENJOY: My review of the 2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited. Please subscribe to Torque News YouTube channel for automotive and Toyota news and analysis.

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Ed B (not verified)    February 11, 2020 - 2:36PM

I really like this upgrade as well. I wish the hybrid would be offered in a similar package - a "sport hybrid" would be pretty cool...