Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2021 – Review, Specs, Photos

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 Hybrid, 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. Full review and all information about the car – 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

New Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2021

Toyota has revamped the Highlander for 2021. It’s vastly improved compared with the 2021 model it replaces. Next year, a sportier-looking XSE model will join the lineup. The Toyota Highlander is gaining an XSE model, which will come with sportier tuning for the suspension and steering, as well as an aggressive look. The trim will be available this fall on the 2021 Highlander. The Highlander XSE has the same engine as the standard model, a 3.5-liter V-6. Mainstream SUVs aren’t exactly known for their sporty attributes, but the likes of Ford, Jeep, and others all offer performance variants of their SUVs—and now Toyota is jumping on the bandwagon. The company is expanding the available trims on the Highlander to include XSE, a level which brings with it upgraded and sportier looks, as well as performance-tuned steering and suspension. Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2021 – photos colors and price in this article!

Interior

Admittedly, the video above is indicative of the higher XLE, Limited and Platinum trims – the lower L and LE are rather dour and monochromatic affairs. Yet, even those have above-average interior quality, and since those pricey trims tend to be popular, it’s worth extolling their virtues a bit. The earthy two-tone color schemes are distinctive, warm and generally inviting. The silver trim that wraps around the control binnacle like a fork is textured to make it look richer and more like actual metal. The wood trim on the dash and center console, be it real or not, is subtle and tasteful. The padded SofTex vinyl that covers much of the dash, doors and center console is pleasant to touch, while the real leather on the seats is buttery soft. All the switchgear is pleasant to touch and operate. Standard on most trim levels is an 8-inch touchscreen interface, which is mounted high within easy reach and sight. We like that it’s one of the easier systems to use, especially its audio controls, but those seeking a quicker, more modern interface may find it behind the times. Kia, Hyundai and Subaru’s systems in particular are superior. Yet, as the below video demonstrates, the Limited and Platinum can be outfitted with a 10.25-inch unit that is largely similar in terms of its basic look and operation, but gains functionality by adopting a widescreen orientation. The infotainment features it controls are identical to those that come standard on the Limited, including an 11-speaker JBL audio system and integrated navigation (yes, that can still be handy), plus those features standard on every Highlander: Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa connectivity, satellite radio, in-car WiFi and Safety Connect emergency services. There are also five standard USB ports (one media, four charging) and the Driver Easy Speak system that broadcasts the driver’s voice through the rear speakers. Toyota Highlander Hybrid 2021 – see the photo in the gallery on our website.

Exterior

Soon we will see Toyota’s latest addition to its current Highlander fleet of gasoline-powered and Hybrid SUVs. With its redesign for the 2021 model year, we have found sleek exterior styling, a spacious modern interior cabin and plenty of new safety features and technology. As the Highlander just went through a redesign for the 2021 model year, we anticipate that the 2021 model will be a carryover. However, we could still see some minor changes made within the year. That being said, Toyota has already announced that the popular XSE trim will make its way to the SUV next year. The new look for the 2021 Highlander brought an overall more aggressive design. From more angled headlights to the sharp body line spanning the length of the vehicle, the new style resembles anything but an everyday people hauler. On the inside, the SUV sports a large dash mounted touch screen, automatic climate control, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Expect the 2021 Highlander to carry on with these looks and features.

Colors

This year, the Highlander finally adds some ‘tude but its family manners are still firmly intact. It gets an 8 on our features scale thanks to its value, good standard gear, and touchscreen. A sportier Highlander XSE wedges into the lineup like a mohawk in a church pew. It’s equipped like the bunch but adds edgier bumpers that we cover above. Like last year, the Highlander is available in L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum trims. Hybrid Highlanders are available in LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum trims.

Fuel economy

Numbers won’t tell the whole story of the 2021 Highlander’s fuel-economy tale. The EPA isn’t yet done tallying up scores for 2021, but based on its similarities with last year’s version, we can make a few guesses. Most versions of the Highlander equipped with a V-6 and all-wheel drive manage 20 mpg city, 27 highway, 23 combined, according to the EPA. That’s a 4 on our fuel-economy scale. Front-drive versions rate 20/28/23 mpg. It’s not hard to do much better, and we recommend you do. Opting for the Highlander Hybrid improves fuel efficiency by magnitudes. The EPA rates the Highlander Hybrid with all-wheel drive at 35 mpg city, 35 highway, 35 combined. That’s as impressive as it is easy to remember. For a mainstream three-row crossover, that’s better than good—it’s great.

Horsepower

The same 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 resides under the hood, and shoppers can still choose between front- and all-wheel-drive. Thankfully, the Highlander XSE amounts to more than just some styling tweaks. The suspension gets an upgrade with a stiffer specification for the springs and rear stabilizer bar, the dampers are retuned for less friction, and steering effort is weighted slightly heavier. According to Toyota, the Highlander XSE retains its smooth ride quality despite the added handling performance.

Technical specifications

Most Highlanders will be equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 that makes 295 hp and 263 pound-feet of torque. It’s paired to an 8-speed automatic transmission and front- or all-wheel drive. The combo is enough to power the two-ton crossover confidently and, when properly equipped, tug up to 5,000 pounds of trailer. Toyota offers two all-wheel-drive systems on the Highlander, both suitable for wet or dry pavement and the occasional dusty trail. Highlander L, LE, and XLE get a simple all-wheel-drive system that can shuttle up to 50 percent of the available power rearward if the front wheels slip. Highlander Limited, Platinum, and new XSE get a more sophisticated system that sends up to 50 percent of its power toward the rear and can shuttle that power from side to side via a mechanical torque vectoring system that’s not only slick, but also very confident.

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

As is the Toyota way, the 2021 Highlander offers a standard suite of driver-assistance features. The package includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and automatic high-beam headlamps. Key safety features include: Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection; Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross-traffic alert; Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist.

Motors

A 2.5-liter four-cylinder and two electric motors team up for a combined 243 horsepower in the Highlander Hybrid. This model comes with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and a choice between front- and all-wheel drive. Leveraging Toyota’s hybrid expertise, this powertrain provides buyers with something more fuel efficient than the standard model. The tradeoff likely will come in acceleration performance, both due to the hybrid’s lower horsepower rating and the fact that this model uses a CVT instead of the nonhybrid’s eight-speed automatic. Potential buyers in this segment will perhaps know that the Ford Explorer comes in hybrid form, too. But pitting these utes against each other, the Toyota comes out on top in terms of fuel economy, and the Highlander Hybrid’s starting price of $39,320 is a whopping $14,155 less than the Explorer Hybrid’s.

Configurations

Every other trim receives headlights that rate as “Poor” by the IIHS—choose carefully. As is the Toyota way, the 2021 Highlander offers a standard suite of driver-assistance features. The package includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection, and automatic high-beam headlamps. Key safety features include: Standard automated emergency braking with pedestrian detection; Standard blind-spot monitoring with rear-cross-traffic alert; Standard lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assist.

Review

While the latest RAV4 underwent a revolutionary redesign to reset its look, character and capability, a far more evolutionary approach was taken with its big brother Highlander’s own redo last year. The 2021 Toyota Highlander represents the second year of the current generation, which dawned wearing softer and more organic styling, a more welcoming cabin and an improved driving experience. Yet, the overall concept remained the same. It is a three-row family crossover, and although it grew just a smidgen to accept a bit more luggage, it remains one of the smallest choices in the segment. The third row is best used in a pinch. Apparently, Highlander customers didn’t have a problem with that, which says a lot, since there are a lot of them and they tend to be repeat shoppers of a nameplate that’s been around for 21 years. Now, if you don’t foresee larger teens or adults needing that third row, then the Highlander’s more manageable size, ultra-efficient Highlander Hybrid model, impressive cabin quality, and time-tested dependability and resale value add up to a large family vehicle that’ll work for many. However, it has many impressive competitors, many of which cost the same or less despite offering more spacious and comfortable third-row seating. Among those are the excellent new Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade cousins, as well as the no-nonsense Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent family haulers. The new Highlander makes a much more compelling case for itself against them, but we’d also highly recommend considering them all especially after determining how much room you really need.

Release date

When we drove the Highlander last December, we thought it provided a “snooze-worthy driving experience.” The XSE trim, then, is an attempt to wake up the Highlander with a more athletic and aggressive stance that includes a significantly larger lower air intake and sharper-angled headlights. It also gains a chrome dual-tip exhaust.

Video

The Highlander was completely redesigned last year, but 2021 sees the addition of the XSE trim level that combines the existing XLE’s upgraded appointments with unique chassis upgrades to achieve a more engaging driving experience. Those include a stiffer, sport-tuned suspension, a stiffer rear anti-roll bar and reworked steering that should be more responsive. There’s also unique styling, including a reshaped grille that juts forward above an enlarged lower air dam that looks an awful lot like the one on the Sienna SE. There’s also a widened rear bumper, blacked out exterior trim, carbon-fiber-look interior trim and an exclusive upholstery consisting of black SofTex vinyl with cloth inserts that can be supplanted by optional red leather.

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