2021 Toyota Highlander XSE receives an aggressive update

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Here is the sportiest Highlander you can buy.

Steven Pham / Roadshow

It seems that Toyota has just introduced its redesigned fourth-generation Highlander utility vehicle, but the automaker is not wasting time developing the line. A more sporty XSE model is ready to join the family. He just debuted on the eve of the first media day at the Chicago 2020 Auto Show, and these are some of his most important points.

Compared to a standard Highlander, this improved variant is dressed in a unique exterior style, features an improved cab and even benefits from a tuned chassis. It should be more attractive to drive and interesting to watch.

Toyota has built the Highlander for about 20 years, but this is the first time an XSE model is offered. The difference of the main variants is a new front fascia that includes a redesigned grill and a lower wing. Together, this gives the family carrier a more planted and aggressive appearance. Exclusive headlight sets with black accents and daytime striped driving lights complete the front of the vehicle.

To further accentuate their appearance are the special tilting panel moldings and 20-inch wheels with machine face. The roof rails, the mirror covers and the window moldings are finished in black, and on the back, the XSE model is equipped with chrome double exhaust tips, another novelty for the Highlander.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE

Those 20-inch wheels really give this vehicle a planted look.

Toyota

Underneath all that style, this SUV is equipped with stiffer springs and a more starched rear stabilizer bar. Working together with these components, the low friction dampers are readjusted. Taking advantage of these suspension changes, the electrically assisted power steering has been reset to feel more attractive.

The Highlander XSE is available with front-wheel drive or with a dynamic torque all-wheel drive system. This configuration can send up to 50 percent of the available torque to the rear wheels. From there, you can shuffle it from side to side according to the driver's conditions or demands to offer better handling.

As with other Highlanders, this is based on the TNGA platform, which means it is rugged, secure and should be similar to Lexus in its refinement. Another thing that has not changed is the powertrain. The XSE models feature a familiar 3.5-liter V6 engine combined with a sensitive eight-speed automatic transmission. This engine delivers 295 horsepower and must distribute 263 foot-pounds of torque.

Mechanical components aside, some notable improvements have been made to the interior. The seats are wrapped in SofTex, an artificial leather, and are also adorned with fabric inserts. The white ambient lighting creates the atmosphere, while a carbon fiber finish on the instrument panel adds some visual texture. For drivers who want something different, red and black leather is also offered, with red contrast stitching on the dash. This makes the Highlander look super sporty or like a brothel.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE

This is a pretty bold interior for a family carrier!

Toyota

Making sure you're always connected, XSE models come with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and even Amazon Alexa. To maintain the stability of the whole family of electronic devices with juice, there are five USB ports. An 11-speaker JBL audio system with 1,200 watts of power is available, so go ahead, turn on the hit album of the Kidz Bop party. Sung by children, movements like Jagger never sounded better.

The Toyota Highlander XSE 2021 is scheduled to go on sale this fall. The automaker expects it to represent about 12 percent of the total sales of this nameplate. The prices have not been published, but this model is destined to be located between the XLE and Limited grades, which means that it will probably start around $ 42,000.


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Originally published on February 6.

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