2021 Toyota Highlander XSE – Sportier Family Hauler arrives later this year

The Highlander XSE will add a new sportier dimension to their popular family-hauler as, for the first time in its 20-year history, the mid-size Highlander SUV is adding a Toyota XSE sport performance trim for 2021.

Toyota teased consumers at the recent Chicago Auto Show with several special model treatments for 2021.  Notable among them was the debut of the new sportier XSE trim level for the 2021 Highlander SUV line. The XSE badge on a Toyota says that vehicle drives measurably to the sporty side. Toyota says they expect the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE to more than meet that measure when it arrives later this year.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE

The current (fourth-generation) Highlander, just introduced for 2020, is built on the flexible Toyota New Global Architecture (TNGA).  That new architecture provided the ideal platform for an athletic transformation of this very popular family hauler into an enviable carpooler for today’s families.

Designed for people who need SUV practicality but miss driving sport sedans, the Highlander XSE combines bold exterior design with more agile driving reflexes. Equipped with a specially tuned handling suspension, unique exterior style features, and exclusive interior trim accents – the 2021 Highlander XSE fills the bill.

2021 Highlander XSE

Positioned between the XLE and Limited grades, the 2021 Highlander XSE is seriously powered by a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that’s teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

In addition, it’s available with either front-wheel drive or Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive that can send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels.  Further, this advanced AWD system can control the left/right torque distribution to the rear wheels for an even more engaging driving experience.

The Multi-Terrain Select feature, controlled by a dial on the center console, allows the driver to adjust drivetrain responses to prevailing road and weather conditions for both safety and performance.

Underneath, the TNGA platform gives the Highlander XSE impressive handling agility that ably preserves Highlander’s renowned ride comfort.  Feature elements include exclusive machined- faced 20-inch wheels with black accents, higher-rate springs and rear stabilizer bar, shock absorbers tuned for lower friction and electric power steering re-tuned for a sportier steering feel.


In order to create the XSE grade, Highlander received a bumper-to-bumper style makeover.

The front fascia, grille, and lower spoiler are exclusive to this model and impart a more aggressive stance. The restyled upper grille joins a much larger lower air intake integrated into the new bumper, with a spoiler below that. Unique headlamps feature black accents and light-strip DRLs.

Distinctively unique rocker panels add an edgy accent to the Highlander XSE’s sculpted lines. Around back, is found the first-ever exposed dual-tip exhaust on a Highlander – chromed, no less.

Black roof rails, mirror caps, and window moldings complete the enhancement of  the subtle cool factor.


Inside, the Highlander XSE features black Softex-trimmed seats with fabric inserts, while ambient lighting and carbon-fiber finish on the instrument panel set a subtle cool mood.

Plus – for those wanting to make a bolder statement in their car-pooling family hauler – there is a striking two-tone red and black leather-trimmed interior with red-stitched instrument panel available.

Available Red and Black Two Tone Interior

The 2021 Highlander XSE comes ready to take on all manner of infotainment devices with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa compatibility, as well as five USB ports and an all access SiriusXM.

Available Red and Black Two Tone Interior

The Highlander XSE also offers an available Premium Audio 1200-Watt, 11-speaker JBL sound system with dynamic navigation.

When and How Much

Toyota anticipates about 12 percent of Highlander buyers will opt for this edgier car-pooling family hauler.  We think it will be higher.

The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE is slated to launch this fall.  Pricing along with updates to rest of the Highlander lineup will be announced closer to launch.

In the meantime, learn more about the current 2020 Toyota Highlander midsize SUV lineup (gasoline and hybrid) by going here: https://www.toyota.com/highlander/.