There are two basic engines offered in the 2021 Toyota Highlander and each can be matched to either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive setups. The base engine is a 3.5L V6 making 295 horsepower, sent to the front, or to all-four wheels via an 8-speed automatic transmission. The optional, hybrid engine is a 2.5L 4-cylinder, aided by two electric motors for a total of 243 horsepower. In 2WD form, Toyota estimates around 36 mpg in combined city and highway driving for the Highlander hybrid, an astounding number for an SUV capable of transporting up to eight people.
There are five basic trim levels for the V6 Highlander: L, LE, XLE, Limited and Platinum, though Hybrid versions of the Highlander only come in LE and above trims.
L trim level has 18-in alloy wheels, eight airbags, keyless entry/ignition, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, LED projector headlights, LED taillights, washer for the reversing camera, selectable driving modes, tri-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power-adjustable driver's seat, 4-way manually adjustable front passenger seat, cloth upholstery, 8-occupant seating with 60/40 split/folding second-row and third-row bench seats, 4.2-in color LCD driver information screen, Driver Easy Speak, Toyota Safety Sense 2.5, hill-start assist, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, 8-in infotainment touchscreen, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration, Amazon Alexa compatibility, satellite radio, and a 6-speaker audio system. All-wheel-drive versions also have hill descent control and mud guards.
LE trim level (V6 & Hybrid) adds a powered lift gate, LED fog lights, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
XLE trim level (V6 & Hybrid) brings a powered moonroof, roof rails, self-dimming rearview mirror, wireless charging, simulated leather upholstery for the first two seating rows, heated front seats, 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support, 4-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, second-row captain's chairs (reducing the occupant count to seven), and a 7-in color gauge cluster.
XSE trim level ups the stakes even more with a sport-tuned suspension and steering system, trim-specific 20-in alloy wheels, twin exhaust tips, torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, ambient cabin lighting, black simulated leather upholstery, LED headlights with a light-strip design for the daytime running lights. There's no hybrid version of the XSE.
Limited trim level (V6 & Hybrid) carries 20-in wheels, puddle lights, LED daytime running lights, high-output LED fog lights, hands-free lift gate operation, real leather for the first two seating rows, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, front/rear parking assistance with automatic braking, navigation, and a JBL 11-speaker premium audio system. Additional options to thsi trim level can also include a 360-degree camera system, and a 12.3-in touchscreen.
The 7-seater-only Platinum trim level (V6 & Hybrid) adds adaptive self-leveling LED projector headlights, rain-sensing wipers, panoramic moonroof, digital rearview mirror, 10-in color head-up display, 12.3-inch touchscreen, and illuminated door sills up front.
Every Highlander trim level comes standard with eight airbags and Toyota's Star Safety System that integrates stability control, traction control, anti-lock brakes and brake assist.
The new and improved Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 feature is inclusive to forward collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, left turn intersection support, partially autonomous emergency steering, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, lane tracing assistance, lane departure warning with steering assistance, automatic high beams, and road sign recognition.