Toyota Highlander 2021 – Review, Specs, Photos

2021 Toyota Highlander: The Toyota Highlander sees the addition of a sporty XSE trim for 2021, which adds specially tuned suspension, unique exterior moldings, and a trim-specific interior interior. The Highlander is a three-row SUV that seats 7 or 8 passengers depending on the configuration. A hybrid variant is available. Competitors include the Dodge Durango, Honda Pilot, and Ford Explorer. Front-wheel-drive is standard with all-wheel-drive being optional. There are 6 trims: L, LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, Platinum. The Highlander offers two engines: A 3.5-liter V6 that makes 295 horsepower and mates to an 8-speed automatic transmission, and a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that uses a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and pairs with two electric motors to make 240 total system horsepower in the hybrid. Full review and all information about the car – 2021 Toyota Highlander.

New Toyota Highlander 2021

With plenty of room to haul the fam and your stuff, the 2021 Highlander and Highlander Hybrid are two handsome options in the mid-size-SUV segment that carry Toyota’s rock-solid reputation for reliability. With three rows of seating and plenty of cargo space, these utes are practical choices, even though rivals such as the Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade offer slightly more value. Toyota’s mid-size SUV is new for 2021 and offers many useful features not found in the outgoing Highlander. Both a gasoline V-6 and a hybridized four-cylinder are available, and the Highlander delivers a smooth ride and a quiet cabin. Many driver-assistance features are standard across the range, including automated emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. Toyota Highlander 2021 – photos colors and price in this article!

Interior

For 2021, the Highlander gets an interior makeover to match its updated exterior styling. Base L and mid-range LE models can seat eight passengers using bench seats in the second and third rows, but a seven-seat arrangement with second-row captain’s chairs is available on higher trims. Passenger space is more generous here than in the CX-9, but not as spacious as in the Chevrolet Traverse, especially in the third row. Materials throughout the cabin are much improved over those in the last-generation Highlander. Upscale Limited and Platinum models provide the most creature comforts, but compared with the features proffered by the Palisade or Telluride, they fall short. Luckily, the cargo area behind the third row is two cubic feet larger than that of the outgoing model, which fit a mere four carry-on suitcases. Toyota Highlander 2021 – see the photo in the gallery on our website.

Exterior

The all-new Toyota Highlander is only in its infancy—it was just redesigned for 2021—yet already Toyota is trying to spice up the perennially popular family hauler. Enter the 2021 Highlander XSE. This is the first time the Highlander has been available with Toyota’s XSE trim, which also typically signifies a the top-of-the-line iteration of the sporty trim-level pillar in Toyota’s lineup. (A quick refresher: LE and XLE models are more comfort-focused, and SE and XSE variants are edgier.) Therefore, the Highlander XSE combines youthful exterior cues and some luxed-up interior features like leather and optional safety and infotainment tech. Toyota says the Highlander XSE is for the family guy or gal who needs the extra space but really misses driving a sports sedan—but we’re assuming they don’t mean that literally. That’s because the XSE, far from some kind of tall avatar for a BMW M5 or Cadillac CTS-V, is powered by Toyota’s corporate 3.5-liter V-6 that’s good for 295 horsepower and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. Buyers have the option of both front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive.

Colors

There’s a new 2021 Toyota Highlander three-row crossover out there. Perhaps you’ve seen it on the roads, intersections, driveways, parking lots, strip malls, actual malls, or anywhere else with a paved surface and people? The family hauler may as well be standard issue in the suburbs and subdivisions around the country along with an Instant Pot and Nextdoor subscription card. Welcome to the neighborhood, here’s your Costco card. This year the Highlander adds an edgier XSE version that adds a little aggro to its curb appeal—new bumpers, blacked out badges, big 20-inch wheels, and stiffer suspension can do that. The 2021 Highlander gets a 6.8 for now, before safety is factored in. Once it is, we expect that number to rise.

Fuel economy

The EPA estimates that the 2021 Highlander V-6 will deliver up to 29 mpg on the highway when equipped with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive cuts that by 2 mpg. Hybrid models carry higher ratings, with front-wheel-drive variants earning 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway. We’ve tested the standard Highlander on our 200-mile highway fuel-economy route, where it delivered the 28 mpg. When the hybrid visits our office, we’ll be putting its fuel efficiency to the test on the same route.

Horsepower

Under the hoods of most Highlanders is a 295-horsepower V-6 that drives an 8-speed automatic and the front or all four wheels. It’s more entertaining than it has any right to be, and the XSE tightens the crossover up more than the rest of the bunch. Our pick is the Highlander Hybrid, which uses an inline-4 and electric motor to deliver 35 mpg combined, according to the EPA. That’s remarkable for a seven- or eight-passenger vehicle, and it’s still as entertaining to drive. Driveability isn’t the first reason to buy a Highlander, of course—space is. Up to eight can snuggle up inside the Highlander relatively comfortably, and the first two rows have more than 40 inches of leg room. The third row is best for small children or occasionally, small adults, and the second row can slide forward a few inches depending on mood.

Technical specifications

That exhaust is more for aesthetics than anything else. The Highlander XSE is paired with the same 3.5-liter V-6 churning out 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque that comes on the standard Highlander. The XSE comes with the same eight-speed automatic transmission and is available with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Toyota claims that it has retuned the suspension with stiffer springs and dampers and the addition of a rear anti-roll bar; the steering is also said to provide sportier feel.

Price

L: $35,720; LE: $37,920; LE Hybrid: $39,320; XLE: $40,720; XLE Hybrid: $42,120; Limited: $44,770; Limited Hybrid: $46,170. In our view, the mid-range XLE is the pick of the litter. It has heated front seats, a wireless smartphone-charging pad, and a power sunroof, among other niceties. We’d also spring for the Premium Audio with Dynamic Navigation package, which brings in-dash navigation and an upgraded stereo system. All-wheel drive will add $1600 to the bottom line. And opting for the hybrid powertrain over the standard V-6 will cost an extra $1400.

Safety

Federal testers haven’t chimed in yet, but the 2021 Highlander has mostly good safety scores so far. The IIHS said the Highlander earned top “Good” scores on all its crash tests, and rated the standard automatic emergency braking system as “Superior” at avoiding crashes with cars and pedestrians at 12 and 25 mph. The performance of its headlights varies by trim, according to the IIHS. The LED headlights equipped on Platinum trims rated “Good” by the IIHS, the LEDs on Highlander Limited notched one rating lower at “Acceptable.”

Motors

The Highlander comes with a 295-hp 3.5-liter V-6, which pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission and either front- or all-wheel drive. During a brief test drive, we found the V-6 could tackle short on-ramps reasonably enough. We haven’t had the chance to take the new Highlander to the track, but we’ll update this story with test results once we do. Handling is unexciting but stable, and the ride is perfectly suitable for family-chauffer duty. More driving enjoyment can be found in the Mazda CX-9.

Configurations

Base Highlander L crossovers cost just over $35,000 and get power features, three rows of seats, cloth upholstery, 18-inch wheels, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, four USB ports, active safety features (covered above) and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity. All-wheel drive is available for $1,600 more on Highlander L, LE, and XLE versions. Limited and Platinum Highlanders get their own, trick all-wheel-drive systems as standard equipment. Throwing more money at a Highlander nets creature comforts we consider to be great, but perhaps not entirely vital. The Highlander Platinum flirts with luxury-car equipment—and luxury car prices. For more than $50,000, the Platinum includes 20-inch wheels, premium audio, leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row seats, a head-up display, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, a heated steering wheel, a surround-view camera system, and ambient lighting. We’d come back down to earth with a Highlander XLE (with or without hybrid) that includes a power liftgate, fog lights, heated front seats, a power moonroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and 18-inch wheels. For about $41,000, we think it’s the best value.

Review

Car shoppers have more choices than ever for a three-row midsize SUV. But don’t forget about one of the crossovers that started it all. The redesigned 2021 Toyota Highlander steps back into the mix with key changes that uphold its spot as a solid pick in the class. The new Highlander is slightly longer than its predecessor, and that extra room increases the cargo space behind the third-row seat. Last year’s Highlander could only hold 13.8 cubic feet of gear behind the third row — one of the smallest cargo holds in the class. The extra room increases the 2021 Highlander’s carrying capacity to 16 cubes, which is more competitive though still far off from leaders in the segment. On the inside, there’s a standard 8-inch touchscreen or a new 12.3-inch display on top-line Platinum trims. Perhaps even more important, both support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration this year. In the previous Highlander, you had to rely on Toyota’s underwhelming Entune system to fully connect your smartphone. Our main concern is that the 2021 Toyota Highlander, while thoroughly competent, doesn’t raise the bar in any meaningful way. That leaves the door open for two newcomers, the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride, to potentially woo you over with their bigger interiors and luxury-like designs.

Release date

Inside, the Highlander XSE has a unique color scheme with red accents and red leather seats. This new trim level will go on sale this fall as a 2021. So now we’re wondering: Will a Highlander TRD be next?

Video

Over the last two decades, Toyota has largely abandoned the idea of sporty performance and driving engagement. More recently, the automaker’s shown growing interest in these principles by collaborating with Subaru and BMW on the 86 and Supra, respectively. There have also been sportier versions of the sedate Camry and Avalon sedans. The latest to get the treatment is the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE, which debuted at the 2021 Chicago Auto Show. This sporty new XSE model is a first in the Highlander’s 20-year history and sits midway through the lineup, between the XLE and the Limited trims. Visually, the XSE sets itself apart from the rest of the Highlander lineup with its unique front fascia styling. The grille is inverted and the air inlets enlarged to suggest more performance. New side rocker panels make the XSE look as though it rides slightly lower, while black accents replace chrome trim for a more sinister look.

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