- 2021 Toyota Highlander to add sportier XSE trim level
- XSE is equipped with 295-horsepower, 3.5-litre V6 and standard AWD with torque vectoring in Canada
- More aggressive exterior appearance, retuned suspension for sharper handling characteristics
The 2020 Toyota Highlander is just arriving in dealerships, and already the Japanese automaker is talking about its 2021 lineup. At the Chicago Auto Show, it just unveiled the Highlander XSE, a more dynamic take on the midsize, three-row SUV.
In Toyota’s world, SE means a slightly sportier design, while XSE means more driver-focused ride and handling characteristics. However, it likely won’t rival more powerful, performance-oriented rides like the Ford Explorer ST and the Dodge Durango R/T.
The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE receives the 3.5-litre V6 that develops 295 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque, matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive with rear-wheel torque vectoring in Canada—although the U.S. market will get a front-wheel-drive variant. The company cites increased agility thanks to higher-rate springs and rear stabilizer bar along with retuned shock absorbers.
Visually, the XSE can easily be spotted by its black-accented 20-inch alloy wheels, a more aggressive front fascia, headlight clusters with black accenting, rocker panels, a redesigned rear bumper and dual exhaust tips. In addition, the roof rails, window surrounds and mirror caps are all black.
The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE’s cockpit gets Softex (read: man-made leather) upholstery with cloth accenting, ambient lighting and faux-carbon-fibre trim. Buyers can also choose black and red full leather seating that’s on the options list.
Positioned between the XLE and Limited trims in the Highlander lineup, the XSE should also feature three-zone automatic climate control, heated and power-adjustable front seats, a power sunroof, a power liftgate as well as an infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto integration. An 11-speaker, 1,200-watt JBL sound system is available.
The manufacturer boldly claims the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE is “designed for people who need SUV practicality but really miss driving sport sedans.” Pricing will be announced closer to this new SUV’s on-sale date—scheduled for later this year—while the just-introduced 2020 model ranges from $37,300 to $57,260 in Canada and from $34,600 to $50,200 in the United States.