The number of Toyota models with the sporty XSE trim level is about to expand with the addition of a three-row people mover.
In Chicago on Wednesday, the Japanese automaker unveiled the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE with a meaner look and a sport-tuned suspension.
The XSE distinguishes itself from the rest of the Highlander lineup with a restyled front end with a gaping lower intake, side intakes that appear to draw air into the wheel wells, darkened headlights with black accents, a restyled grille, and a lip that juts out from the lower front bumper (watch your legs). The wheel wells are filled by 20-inch machine-faced alloy wheels with painted black accents. At the rear, it features twin chrome exhaust tips on the passenger and a bumper lip that plays off the one at the front. The exterior trim, mirrors, and roof rails are blacked out.
2021 Toyota Highlander XSE
Inside, the XSE can be ordered with two-tone red and black leather upholstery with a red-stitched instrument panel, though black cloth seating is standard. The trim has a carbon-fiber look. An 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Alexa compatibility is the focal point on the dashboard. The Highlander XSE has five USB ports.
Every Highlander XSE features a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6. Power is sent through an 8-speed automatic transmission to the front wheels or to all four wheels via optional all-wheel drive. The AWD system can send up to 50% of the power to the rear wheels and vector torque on the rear axle. Toyota said a terrain management-style dial on the center console includes drive modes that modify the powertrain calibrations for various conditions, including bad weather, but the automaker didn't detail the modes.
Higher spring rates, retuned shocks, and a stiffer rear stabilizer bar will help the XSE handle better than other Highlanders. The electric-assist power steering is also retuned to provide a sportier feel.
The options list is short but includes a 1,200-watt 11-speaker JBL sound system.
Toyota hasn't said how much the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE will cost, but it will go on sale this fall.
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