Flash Drive

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE

Model Tested: 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE AWD

The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE is a new trim level with sportier handling, visual and interior feature upgrades.

Engine:  3.5-liter V-6, 295 horsepower, 263 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 8-speed automatic, all-wheel-drive

EPA Rating: 20-mpg city, 27-mpg highway, 23-mpg combined

Base Price: $43,355

As Tested: $47,152


Sport-tuned suspension

Good acceleration

Smooth highway ride

The 2021 Toyota Highlander is a three-row midsize SUV that gets good fuel economy.

Efficient 8-speed automatic transmission

Lots of drive mode variability: mud & sand, rocks & dirt, snow, hill descent

Normal, Sport, and Eco drive modes

Traction control

Maximum towing capacity 5,000 pounds

OK auto stop, pretty smooth, but not seamless

Good highway fuel economy—our best was 27.1-mpg

Highlander front row space and comfort are excellent.


Spacious, stretch-out front row room

Great second row legroom

Low floor hump

Rear HVAC controls

Split folding third row seats

Driver power lumbar support

Large power moonroof


Power liftgate with ample clearance for tall people

Flat cargo floor with no lift-over

Captains chair second row seats are available and also offer excellent room and comfort.

Rubber cargo mat

Bonus shallow storage bin under deck

Reasonable package space behind third row seat

Large, deep front row console bin with sliding cover

Smart phone charging tray

Wide opening rear doors

Second row seats fold almost flat

Two open storage ledges on center of dashboard and above glovebox

Medium size locking glovebox

Cargo room is very good with all the seats folded.

Medium size front door bins

Extra open storage slots on dashboard

Second row window shades

Two large seatback pouches

WOW Factors:

Large, roomy interior

Good cargo space/versatility

Large range of off-road modes

Very capable winter weather vehicle

Excellent safety features

Standard LED projector headlights

The Highlander lift gate opens very high and there is no lift-over.


Tight third row

Busy frontend styling

Bottom Line:

The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE is a mid-size three-row SUV that’s a very well rounded family multi-purpose vehicle. It has excellent safety features and safety ratings. The XSE trim level is new and includes sporty suspension, interior/exterior changes, JBL premium stereo, navigation and parking sensors. The Highlander XSE is slotted below the top-of-the-line Highlander Limited and Highlander Platinum.

The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE has distinctive styling and sport-tuned suspension.