There’s a new 2021 Toyota Highlander three-row crossover out there. Perhaps you’ve seen it on the roads, intersections, driveways, parking lots, strip malls, actual malls, or anywhere else with a paved surface and people?
The family hauler may as well be standard issue in the suburbs and subdivisions around the country along with an Instant Pot and Nextdoor subscription card. Welcome to the neighborhood, here’s your Costco card.
This year the Highlander adds an edgier XSE version that adds a little aggro to its curb appeal—new bumpers, blacked out badges, big 20-inch wheels, and stiffer suspension can do that.
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The 2021 Highlander gets a 7.0 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
In addition to the new Highlander XSE, Toyota offers the three-row crossover in L, LE, XLE, Limited, and Platinum configurations. The Highlander Hybrid, which we recommend, is offered in every trim except L and XSE. Front-wheel drive is standard on most models, and all-wheel drive is available on every trim except Limited and Platinum, where it’s standard.
The new Highlander breaks some of the older versions’ mild awkwardness. The big crossover doesn’t hide its size very well, but it cuts a more attractive hole in the wind thanks to a shaplier snout and rising body line.
Under the hoods of most Highlanders is a 295-horsepower V-6 that drives an 8-speed automatic and the front or all four wheels. It’s more entertaining than it has any right to be, and the XSE tightens the crossover up more than the rest of the bunch.
Our pick is the Highlander Hybrid, which uses an inline-4 and electric motor to deliver 35 mpg combined, according to the EPA. That’s remarkable for a seven- or eight-passenger vehicle, and it’s still as entertaining to drive.
Driveability isn’t the first reason to buy a Highlander, of course—space is. Up to eight can snuggle up inside the Highlander relatively comfortably, and the first two rows have more than 40 inches of leg room. The third row is best for small children or occasionally, small adults, and the second row can slide forward a few inches depending on mood.
Behind the third row, the Highlander hauls up to 16 cubic feet of cargo, which expands to more than 84 cubes with the second and third rows folded.
Every Highlander gets automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, active lane control and blind-spot monitors.
In addition to that, even base Highlanders get 18-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with smartphone compatibility, and seats for up to eight for about $35,000. Top Highlander Platinums crest more than $50,000 but offer 20-inch wheels, premium audio, a 12.3-inch touchscreen, leather upholstery, and more. They’re practically executive limos for 12-year olds.