The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE Adds A Sportier Option To The Ordinary Three-Row Crossover

The XSE is for parents who don't want just a plain, boring family hauler

[Photos: Toyota]

The redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander has only just gone on sale in both its gas-powered and hybrid versions, but there’s another version waiting in the wings: a sportier XSE model. Following in the footsteps of the Camry and Corolla XSE, this Highlander will come in at the higher end of the range, offering family-minded buyers a three-row crossover with a bit more sizzle than the sedate, standard models.

No more power than the standard gas Highlander

Power for the XSE comes from the same 3.5 liter V-6 mated to an eight-speed automatic for a total of 295 horsepower. The Highlander drives the front wheels as standard, but buyers may option torque vectoring all-wheel-drive. The available all-wheel drive system offers “Multi-Terrain Select” allowing drivers to adapt for road conditions using a dial in the center console. 

According to Toyota, the XSE also comes with new 20-inch wheels, stiffer springs and sway bar, and re-tuned shocks. Toyota similarly adjusted the electric power steering to give the XSE a sportier feel from the standard models.


The XSE distinguishes itself from the rest with a restyled front end and rocker panels. The headlights feature black accents, and a larger, more aggressive grille. In addition to the new wheels, the XSE trim has beefier-looking dual exhaust outlets and more black accents around the windows, mirrors, and roof rails. 

The interior is the loudest part of the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE. It’s available in red and black with leather trim and red stitching around the instrument cluster, which comes with a carbon-fiber finish. As with the standard Highlander, the infotainment system supports Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Amazon Alexa. The XSE also has an optional a 1,200-watt, 11-speaker JBL premium audio system like what’s available on the Limited and Platinum trims.

Toyota has not announced pricing for the Highlander XSE yet. The company will release more information before the car’s official launch this fall.