2021 Toyota Highlander – A New SUV for a New Year

When you’ve got a weekend adventure planned, you know not just any SUV will do; Toyota understands this, too. That’s why they’ve updated their popular Highlander series for 2021. With the 2021 Toyota Highlander, you get new and improved features while losing none of the charm of the 2020 version.

Trims & Models

There is no shortage of options when it comes to customizing the 2021 Toyota Highlander. This series offers six trims. Each trim has two configurations available (4dr Front-wheel Drive and 4dr All-wheel Drive), most of which come with hybrid options as well. All hybrid options offer FWD or AWD configurations. Your trim options are:

  • Highlander L (no hybrid option available)
  • Highlander LE 
  • Highlander XLE
  • Highlander XSE (no hybrid option available)
  • Highlander Limited
  • Highlander Platinum

The L and XSE trims currently do not come in hybrid models.


The exterior of the 2021 series remains largely unchanged from the 2020 designs. Still, there is some truth to the saying, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” The Highlander series offers a big and bold design that’s both functional and attention-grabbing, truly making it a great SUV for adventurers on the go.

Each trim and configuration offers a host of standard and optional features, with higher-end trims offering more than the lower ones do. The L and XSE trims, for instance, have only six paint color options available, unlike the other nonhybrid models that offer eight. Other customizable options include 18 or 20-inch alloy or chrome wheels, grille shutters, and mudguards.


You and your passengers won’t be lacking for space with this vehicle. The nonhybrid XSE and Platinum models can each sit seven people comfortably, while every other nonhybrid model has the capacity to seat up to eight. But it’s not just space that your crew will enjoy. Optional leather seating for your first and second rows, heated seating for your first row, 8 cup holders and 4 bottle holders, second-row sunshades, several outlets, multiple USB ports, and more await when you step inside the cabin.


Appearances and added goodies are great, but nothing is more important than safety. Toyota knows this, which is why they’ve updated the 2021 lineup with plenty of standard and optional safety features. These features include rear-view smart cameras, Toyota Safety Sense™ 2.5+, Star Safety System™, Safety Connect®116, Downhill Assist Control, a tire-pressure monitoring system, and so much more.

Thanks to these features, the 2021 Highlander means driving can be a less stressful experience for everyone involved. That’s why it’s no surprise that the vehicle’s overall NHTSA safety rating is a perfect 5 stars.

Fuel Economy

The 2021 Highlander fares decently in terms of fuel economy, with this lineup currently offering the most fuel efficient Highlander hybrid. The city/highway/combined MPG for each configuration are as follows:

  • Highlander L FWD – 21/29/24
  • Highlander L AWD –  20/27/23
  • Highlander LE FWD – 21/29/24
  • Highlander LE AWD – 20/27/23
  • Highlander Hybrid LE FWD – 36/35/36
  • Highlander Hybrid LE AWD –  35/35/35
  • Highlander XLE FWD – 21/29/24
  • Highlander XLE AWD – 20/27/23
  • Highlander Hybrid XLE FWD – 36/35/36
  • Highlander Hybrid XLE AWD – 35/35/35
  • Highlander XSE FWD – 21/29/24
  • Highlander XSE AWD – 20/27/23
  • Highlander Limited FWD – 21/29/24
  • Highlander Limited AWD –  20/27/23
  • Highlander Hybrid Limited FWD – 36/35/36
  • Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD – 35/34/35
  • Highlander Platinum FWD – 21/29/24
  • Highlander Platinum AWD – 20/27/23
  • Highlander Hybrid Platinum FWD – 36/35/36
  • Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD – 35/34/35

Unsurprisingly, the hybrid options have far better fuel efficiency than their nonhybrid counterparts, and the FWD configurations are more energy efficient than the AWD options.

Under the Hood

As far as performance goes, this SUV performs well. Every nonhybrid model comes with a 295-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine paired with 8-speed automatic transmission. Every hybrid model includes a 240-hp, I 2.5-liter, 4-cyl. engine paired with electronically-controlled continuously variable transmission (EVCT) with sequential shift mode. Each gas model offers three drive modes (Normal, Eco, Sport) while the hybrid offers four (Normal, Eco, Sport, and EV).

Pricing & Deals

Pricing will vary based on factors such as location and trim level. That said, the approximate starting MSRP for each model is listed as follows:

  • Highlander L FWD – $34,810
  • Highlander L AWD – $36,410
  • Highlander LE FWD – $37,010
  • Highlander LE AWD – $38,610
  • Highlander Hybrid LE FWD – $38,410
  • Highlander Hybrid LE AWD –  $40,010
  • Highlander XLE FWD – $39,810
  • Highlander XLE AWD – $41,410
  • Highlander Hybrid XLE FWD – $41,210
  • Highlander Hybrid XLE AWD – $42,810
  • Highlander XSE FWD – $41,405
  • Highlander XSE AWD – $43,355
  • Highlander Limited FWD – $43,765
  • Highlander Limited AWD –  $45,715
  • Highlander Hybrid Limited FWD – $45,165
  • Highlander Hybrid Limited AWD – $47,115
  • Highlander Platinum FWD – $46,965
  • Highlander Platinum AWD – $48,915
  • Highlander Hybrid Platinum FWD – $48,365
  • Highlander Hybrid Platinum AWD – $50,315

Those interested in discounts are encouraged to talk with their local dealer.

Final Thoughts

The 2021 Toyota Highlander strikes that balance between quality and affordability, making it suitable for adventurers and families with a moderate budget.


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