Written by Marco Carvajal
2021 Toyota Highlander XSE
The Highlander is one of the first mid-size crossover SUVs manufactured by Toyota. The new version of this vehicle is built on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA-K) platform, which is also used for the well-known and popular Camry and Rav4 vehicles,
The Highlander was one of the first midsize crossovers to be built based on passenger cars. This SUV is the crossover counterpart of the more rugged Toyota 4Runner midsize truck.
The Highlander crossover became Toyota’s best-selling SUV until the smaller RAV4 surpass its sales back in 2006. Even if the Highlander is not Toyota’s best-selling SUV anymore it still is a model that is followed by many car buyers who like its style and dynamics and keeps selling.
2021 Toyota Highlander 4th Generation, XSE trim, is priced at $41,680 MSRP, a good price for a sporty crossover SUV
The Highlander keeps evolving and becoming more stylish and modern, probably hoping to gain the sales that lost in the last fifteen years. The new 2021 Highlander is definitely a better version compared to its predecessors. The new shape of the Highlander is more attractive and stylish, driving the new 2021 highlander it feels like a completely new car.
Toyota’s (TNGA-K) robust new platform foundation, enables even greater capability, comfort, and safety than before. The new Highlander version looks stronger and sharper taking some elements from Toyota’s same-platform brothers, RAV4 and Camry.
This all-terrain Highlander SUV is very appealing for those wanting to find a powerful all-wheel drive, with tons of standard features priced with value in mind, from $35K to $48K, a very good price range.
After last year’s complete redesign, the new 2021 Toyota Highlander extends its lineup with a new XSE sporty model with sport suspension and several interesting features and options. I am test driving the Highlander XSE with all-wheel drive, a powerful and more sporty highlander compared to the other trims. The sport suspension feels very good when driving off-road. The $41K pricing of the XSE is very good for budget-conscious car buyers.
One of the main advantages of the new Highlander generation is the increase of a few inches longer for better cargo capacity.
The fourth-generation Highlander is very eco-friendly offering the choice between a powerful V6 or a new-generation hybrid powertrain. The gas version offering up to a manufacturer-estimated 24 MPG combined fuel economy and the Hybrid offering up to a manufacturer-estimated 36 combined MPG.
The Toyota Highlander is also known as the Toyota Kluger in other countries. Unable to use the Highlander name in Japan and Australia, Toyota calls the vehicle in those markets Toyota Kluger.
Since its beginning in late 2000, the Highlander became a pioneer as one of the first mid-size crossover off-road vehicles. As an off-road crossover, it becomes very appealing for car buyers, producing great sales. Today, 21 years later, the highlander is not as unique as it was, but it continues to sell and to be a great model in the Toyota lineup. Competition is much stronger today and customers have too many SUV crossover options today.
The Highlander is slightly more expensive than its closest rivals and doesn’t have as many standard features, such as competitors like the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, and Honda Pilot, but there are pros and cons with each car and for most car buyers the confidence of buying a long-lasting Toyota vehicle is worth more than a few additional features or even a lower price.
In terms of quality, the Highlander interior materials are average compared to what is used in the top-rated SUVs in this class but the top trims and the XSE have a very good interior.
One of the main advantages of the Highlander is its 21 years of history and the Toyota brand on its side, as it never stops being the first choice for a completely reliable car with good resale value.
Unlike some SUVs that can take time to respond when you first step on the gas, the Highlander’s engine provides an almost immediate response. The transmission shifts smoothly and the AWD works better than in most SUVs when driving off-road.
The Highlander is not the most luxury crossover in its segment, but it is a great option for those who want a great SUV with a new stylish design and the peace of mind of owning a Toyota SUV.
Highlander family receives new XSE trim in 2021
The fourth-generation Toyota Highlander design includes the introduction of the XSE trim class.
The XSE badge in the Toyota world indicates sporty dynamics thanks to a specially tuned suspension control, unique exterior styling, and exclusive interior trim to make your highlander more sporty and appealing.
For the first time in its 20-year history, the Highlander family SUV receives XSE status with its XSE trim model in 2021.
The Highlander XSE’s design is unique with exclusive 20-inch wheels with black accents. The XSE has taller springs and a rear anti-roll bar, and the dampers have been tuned to reduce friction. The electric power steering has also been re-tuned for sportier steering on the XSE. These new features enhance the XSE’s agility while maintaining the Highlander’s renowned ride comfort and off-road ability from this classic crossover.
The new fourth-generation Toyota Highlander goes one step further for 2021 with the introduction of the XSE grade.
Trims and Pricing for the 2021 Toyota Highlander
The new Highlander’s design is very attractive and also highly functional. Greater aerodynamic efficiency reduces wind noise while enhancing vehicle stability. The driver can experience the Highlander’s premium touch and feel with a very good level of operating smoothness in all driving conditions.
One of the great opportunities when buying a Toyota is that you usually have very good trim choices with a wide pricing selection. The Highlander is available with many different trim options from $35K up to $48K. The new 2021 XSE trim model I am test driving has a good value MSRP of $41K.
Toyota lets you decide how much to pay and what features to get in this extensive lineup of Highlander trim models.
$35,085 Starting MSRP
$37,285 Starting MSRP
- HYBRID LE
$38,735 Starting MSRP
$40,085 Starting MSRP
- HYBRID XLE
$41,535 Starting MSRP
- XSE (The one I am test driving)
$41,680 Starting MSRP
$44,040 Starting MSRP
- HYBRID LIMITED
$45,490 Starting MSRP
$47,240 Starting MSRP
- HYBRID PLATINUM
$48,690 Starting MSRP
2021 Toyota Highlander XSE Highlights
- Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+)
- 3.5-liter V6 engine
- 295 horsepower
- 263 pound-feet of torque
- Smart Key System with Push Button Start
- LED headlights
- Three-zone automatic climate control
- Android Auto & Apple CarPlay & Amazon Alexa compatibility
- Five total USB ports
- Power-adjustable driver’s seat
- 20-in. machined-face alloy wheels
- Aggressive mesh front grille with sporty front bumper and lower spoiler
- Rear lower bumper in a gray metallic finish with chrome lower spoiler trim
- Twin-tip exhaust
- Color-keyed side rocker panels with chrome lower trim
- Black roof rails
- Sporty unique SofTex-trimmed or leather-trimmed front- and second-row seats with heated front seats
All 2021 Highlander models are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with 295 horsepower, 263 pound-feet of torque, integrated with an eight-speed automatic transmission. These V6 engines produce a good performance and good fuel economy.
All-wheel drive is available and I strongly suggest to buy your highlander AWD.
The overall look of the 2021 Highlander is similar to the previous 2020 model, although some touches differentiate the new version. Once you’re seated and driving this new crossover, it’s easy to find your preferred riding position and have a very good wide vision of the road. The front seats are quite comfortable even on long trips, and the available second-row captain’s chairs offer almost the same comfort.
The Highlander is more stylish now in 2021, and if you like sporty cars the XSE trim is very attractive.
Toyota Highlander’s Warranty
When buying a car it is important to have confidence and trust in the brand you purchase. Toyota offers a very good warranty that helps buyers continue trusting this prestigious and solid brand.
Those who owned a Toyota at some point in their life know that Toyota vehicles almost never break, they almost last forever. Toyota produces cars of great quality, easy to repair and maintain, and with low-cost parts. Buying a Toyota not only means good value, pricing, and quality but is also long-lasting.
Toyota’s 36-month/36,000-mile basic new-vehicle warranty applies to all components other than normal wear and maintenance items. Additional 60-month warranties cover the powertrain for 60,000 miles and against perforation from corrosion for 60 months with no mileage limitation. Hybrid-related components that require repairs needed to correct defects in materials or workmanship are covered for 8 years/100,000 miles, whichever comes first from the original date of first use when sold as new. The HV battery is covered for 10 years/150,000 miles, whichever comes first, and is transferrable across different owners.
The new Toyota Highlander also comes standard with ToyotaCare, a complimentary plan covering normal factory-scheduled maintenance, for two years or 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, and 2 years of Roadside Assistance, regardless of mileage.
A good warranty and great quality are good incentives to drive a Toyota Highlander.