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The Truth about 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE: Expect the Unexpected

Learn surprising features that make 2021 Highlander XSE more unique than another Highlander before it.

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Toyota Highlander was completely redesigned for the 2020 model year. Complete with sleek and luxurious exterior styling, refined interior cabin, and plenty of new safety and technology.

However, there was more to come for 2021 Highlander. Every 2021 trim level offers standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+, the latest evolution in Toyota safety systems.

Plus, we now have a Highlander XSE.

People comment on 2021 Highlander XSE

I recently posted a video review of Toyota Highlander XSE on my Toyotajeff YouTube channel. The feedback for this brand-new vehicle was positive and encouraging.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE Magnetic Gray profile view front end

Michael commented his approval. “The style lines on this model are attention grabbers.”

Jeffrey just purchased his shiny new ride. “Thanks Jeff. I am in Kentucky and just purchased a 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE in Blizzard Pearl in part to your videos.”

Thanks for the kind words and you picked a fantastic color.

“I love the look of these new Highlanders in the XSE package. I think this new body style really looks nice on these.” Said Tony.

“I was not a Highlander fan but then I saw XSE. This is my next car! Front grille is so tough looking.” Exclaimed Steve.

Jennie was focused on one specific aspect. “When will you show us the cockpit red interior? It’s so HOT!”

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE specs

Jennie was talking about one of two XSE interior color choices. Buyers can decide between black seats and cockpit red seats. I have not seen cockpit red in person yet, but I find the black seats to be cool and sporty looking. Plus, quite comfortable during my test drive review.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE interior rear seats cockpit red seats
This is the first time Toyota Highlander has had cockpit red seats. I cannot wait to see what people think of this polarizing seat color.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE interior front seats black seats2021 Highlander XSE rides differently than all other trim levels. Look for front sport-tuned independent MacPherson strut suspension with stabilizer bar. Rear suspension is multi-link suspension with stabilizer bar.

This gives drivers and passengers a more “one with the road” feel. I found the steering wheel to be more responsive and XSE hugged country road corners tight.

In short, it was incredibly fun to drive a Highlander. If that makes sense.

2021 Highlander powertrain

Highlander XSE is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft. torque. It is matched with a direct-shift 8-speed automatic transmission.

This is identical to all other gasoline-powered Highlanders.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE interior

Potential purchasers can pick either front-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive system that features Dynamic Torque Vectoring with rear driveline disconnect.

This Dynamic Torque Vectoring allows your Highlander to drive mainly in front-wheel drive mode, and then can distribute power to rear wheels and individual left and right sides as needed based on instant loss of traction.

You know, for snowy or muddy roads. Or sand.

Related: See how RAV4 drives in the snow with Dynamic Torque Vectoring.

Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds so get your boats and trailers and campers ready for a weekend at the lake.

Unique 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE features

That grille.

Front grille for XSE Highlander is aggressive and tough looking. It is divided into upper and lower sections.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE Magnetic Gray front end Blizzard Pearl front end

Look for LED projector headlights with black accents, LED strip daytime running lights and LED fog lights.

Highlander XSE also comes with standard LED taillights and stoplights.

Silver accent rocker panels highlight along the front end, side profile and rear end.

You may really like the exposed twin-tip chrome exhaust. This is a first for Toyota Highlander.

The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE rides on 20-inch gloss black and silver alloy wheels, along with P235/55R20M all-season tires.

Time for your thoughts on 2021 Highlander

Toyota Highlander XSE should be arriving at dealerships across the country this month. Factory MSRP for FWD is $41,405 and AWD is $43,355.

What do you think of Highlander XSE, and are there any specific features you either like or do not care for as much?

VIDEO: My 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE review and driving impressions.

Are you in the market for a new sport utility vehicle in the near future, and is a Toyota on your short list?

Is 2021 XSE Highlander on that list?

Thanks for reading everyone. See you next story when I tell key highlights of 2021 Toyota RAV4 Limited Hybrid.

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jeffrey mace (not verified)    October 25, 2020 - 10:33AM

I like your videos. I am in the market for a midsize crossover and have narrowed it down to the Highlander, Pilot and MDX. I think the XSE is positioned perfectly. In the mid 40's with plenty of safety features, creature comforts and handling features that grab my attention. Can't wait to test drive one.

Pete Warren (not verified)    November 5, 2020 - 6:20PM

I have had my silver XSE for about 2 weeks and LOVE the way it drives!! I’m still learning all the new bells and whistles for this car!! I’ve done a bunch of highway miles with it and have averaged 31 mpg at 66 mph!! Awesome car by Toyota!