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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

XSE: A Drive On the Sporty Side

The 2021 Highlander XSE’s Multi-Terrain Select feature, controlled by a dial on the center console, allows the driver to adjust drivetrain responses to prevailing road and weather conditions. (Courtesy Photo)

The fourth-generation Toyota Highlander’s bold, distinctive design takes it one step further for 2021 with the introduction of the XSE grade, now standard Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+) and LED headlamp enhancements for L, LE and XLE.

In the Toyota world, the XSE badge signals a drive on the sporty side with specially tuned handling suspension, unique exterior styling, and exclusive interior trim. For 2021, and for the first time in its 20-year history, the Highlander family SUV gets the XSE treatment.

Starting at an MSRP of $41,405 for the FWD variant, the Highlander XSE combines bold exterior design with more agile driving reflexes. Positioned between the XLE and Limited grades, the 2021 Highlander XSE is briskly motivated by a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that’s teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s available with either Front-Wheel Drive or Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive.

The Highlander XSE handles curves as well as its design takes compliments. In addition to exclusive machined-faced 20-inch wheels with black accents, the XSE model is equipped with higher-rate springs and rear stabilizer bar, and the shock absorbers have been re-tuned for lower friction.

Electric power steering has also been re-tuned for a sportier steering feel. These carefully calibrated new parts boost handling agility for the XSE while preserving Highlander’s renowned ride comfort.

To make the XSE grade, Highlander received a bumper-to-bumper style makeover. The front fascia, grille, and lower spoiler are exclusive to this model and impart a more aggressive stance. The restyled upper grille joins a much larger lower air intake integrated into the new bumper, with a spoiler below that. Unique headlamps feature black accents and light-strip DRLs.

In profile, unique rocker panels add an edgy accent to the Highlander XSE’s sculpted lines. Around back, there’s a shocker: the first-ever twin-tip exhaust on a Highlander. Black roof rails, mirror caps and window moldings dial up the subtle cool factor.

Inside, the Highlander XSE rocks black SofTextrimmed seats with fabric inserts, while ambient lighting and carbon-fiber finish on the instrument panel sets the mood. A striking two-tone red and black leather- trimmed interior with red-stitched instrument panel is available. The 2021 Highlander XSE comes ready to take on all devices with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa compatibility, as well as five USB ports and an all access 3-month trial of SiriusXM.

Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+

Whether they’re young families or empty nesters exploring a new chapter in life, safety remains a top priority for Highlander customers.

For 2021, the Toyota Highlander is upgraded with standard Toyota Safety Sense (TSS 2.5+), a comprehensive suite of active safety systems that includes:

• Pre-collision System with Pedestrian Detection is enhanced with intersection support: At intersections, the system may detect an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian when performing a left-hand turn and may provide audio/visual alerts and automatic braking in certain conditions.

The TSS suite of safetyassist functions also includes:

• Road Sign Assist

• Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control

• Lane Keeping Technology: Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist and Sway Warning System

• Automatic High Beams


Base Price: $41,405

Wheelbase: 112.2 in.

Length: 195 in.

Width: 76 in.

Height: 68 in.

Engine: 3.5L V6

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

EPA Mileage: 21 city/29 highway


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