2021 Toyota Highlander Will Add XSE Trim

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Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

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, Automotive Editor - February 10, 2020

It wasn’t too long ago that Toyota unveiled the all-new 2020 Highlander. But the automaker isn’t wasting any time adding more trims to the midsize SUV’s lineup. Following in the footsteps of other automakers that have decided to offer sporty people haulers, the automaker announced an XSE trim for the 2021 Toyota Highlander. This is the first time Toyota has ever put an XSE badge on a Highlander and, with all of the changes the trim brings, it promises to give consumers shuffling an SUV full of passengers something a little more enjoyable to drive.

The trim brings more than just an aggressive-looking body kit, though the exterior design of the SUV has changed dramatically, as it includes a few performance components. Exterior changes include a new front fascia that wears a redesigned grille and a well-portioned front splitter. The headlights look slightly more angular than the ones you’ll find on the regular Highlander, too, and the fog lights have been moved to the bottom of the front air intake. Toyota fitted black roof rails, black window surrounds, 20-inch wheels with black accents, and black mirror caps to accent the sportier design. At the back, the Highlander XSE wears exposed dual exhaust tips, a first-ever for the nameplate. Altogether, the changes result in a much more aggressively styled Highlander. You certainly won’t lose this SUV in a Target shopping lot.

Toyota Highlander

Toyota gave the XSE trim’s interior a few enhancements, but they aren’t nearly as noticeable as the exterior. The seats now come with synthetic leather, which Toyota calls SofTex, and fabric inserts. While black upholstery is the standard color, the trim can be fitted with a two-tone red and black color scheme that also comes with red stitching on the instrument panel. Ambient lighting and faux carbon-fiber trim complete the changes.

Mechanically, the XSE trim still comes with the 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 and eight-speed automatic transmission, but Toyota changed some of the SUV’s suspension components. Stiffer springs, retuned dampers, and an upgraded rear stabilizer bar ensure the Highlander XSE will corner more athletically than the mainstream model. Joining the updated suspension components is a retuned power-steering system that will now provide drivers with a sportier feel.

The Highlander joins the RAV4 Hybrid as the only two SUVs in the automaker’s lineup to have XSE trims. Toyota offers quite a few of its cars, like the Corolla Hatchback, Corolla sedan, Camry, and Avalon, with XSE trims. If the Highlander XSE does well, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the automaker come out with “sporty” trims for the 4Runner or Sequoia. Or who knows, maybe a TRD version of the Highlander could be next.

Toyota believes that 12% of buyers will opt for the XSE trim, which sounds realistic, but we think it mainly comes down to pricing. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a little longer to hear how much the trim will cost. We expect the XSE to fall in between the XLE and Limited trims, which means a starting price of approximately $41,000. The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE will go on sale later this fall.

Learn more about the current 2020 Highlander on sale now. »

, Automotive Editor

Based out of the Washington, D.C. area, Joel Patel is an automotive journalist that hails from Northern Virginia. His work has been featured on various automotive outlets, including Autoweek, Digital Trends, and Autoblog. When not writing about cars, Joel enjoys trying new foods, wrenching on his car, and watching horror movies. 

Follow On: Twitter

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