2021 Toyota Highlander

MSRP range: $35,085 - $49,190
Edmunds suggests you pay$35,801

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2021 Toyota Highlander Review

  • Comfortable, quiet ride
  • Easy to see out of
  • Good power and fuel economy from V6 engine
  • Third row is kids-only
  • Below-average cargo space behind the third-row seat
  • New sporty XSE trim debuts
  • Part of the fourth Highlander generation introduced for 2020

Coming off a full redesign last year, the 2021 Toyota Highlander broadens its lineup with a new and sporty XSE model with a sport-tuned suspension. Most shoppers seeking a three-row family SUV probably aren't looking for handling performance, though, and the Highlander is already skilled in that area. Otherwise, this three-row midsize SUV returns unchanged, with the same perks and drawbacks as last year.

We enjoy the Highlander's comfortable seats and ride quality, as well as its potent V6 engine that comes standard. But this Toyota is held back by its cramped third-row seating and smaller cargo space behind those seats. If cargo space is a priority, it's worth checking out the impressive Kia Telluride (and related Hyundai Palisade) as well as the Honda Pilot or Volkswagen Atlas. Still interested? Check out our Expert Rating to get our in-depth take on the ups and downs of the 2021 Highlander.

EdmundsEdmunds' Expert Rating
Rated for you by America’s best test team
The Highlander gets high marks for its superb comfort and above-average fuel economy. It feels confident on a winding road, and its responsive acceleration is useful for driving around town. It's also comfortable on long-distance drives. But the Highlander suffers from a third-row seat that is confining and falls below the mark set by the top players in this segment.
Unlike some SUVs that can be slow to respond when you first step on the accelerator, the Toyota Highlander delivers near immediate response. At our Edmunds test track we measured 0-60 mph at 7.5 seconds, which is slightly better than average and a dead heat with the top-rated Kia Telluride — though the Highlander feels a little quicker from the driver's seat.

The Highlander's ability to negotiate a twisty road has improved. Body roll is controlled as you go around turns, and the available torque-vectoring AWD system can also help by applying engine power to individual rear wheels to subtly enhance the SUV's handling balance (in addition to the usual benefit of extra traction in wet weather).

Despite all this advanced technology, the Highlander still feels like a bigger SUV. A number of competitors move with more purpose and lightness, and many are able to stop quicker in an emergency braking scenario. Ultimate performance aside, the Highlander makes daily driving a low-effort activity, which is most important.
The Highlander's ride quality is pleasantly plush. Large and small road imperfections are smoothed over thanks to the compliant suspension, yet it avoids feeling floaty or disconnected at higher speeds. The front seats are quite comfortable even on long drives, and the available second-row captain's chairs deliver nearly the same amount of comfort. Alas, the third-row seats are one of the Highlander's greatest liabilities. Thin padding, a very low seat cushion and narrow space make them ill-suited for adults.

Wind noise is well silenced on the highway, and road noise is minimal. Our test Highlander did have a minor creak developing at the top of the driver's door.
The first and second seating rows provide ample space, but the third row is one of the most confining in the midsize three-row SUV class. If you're planning on regularly using the full passenger capacity, you will be better served by rivals such as the Kia Telluride or Volkswagen Atlas. Once you're seated, it's easy to find your preferred driving position, but taller drivers may wish for a bit more extension range from the telescoping steering wheel. It can be a bit of a reach.

We give the Highlander high marks for outward visibility. The front roof pillars are thin, which help you see around turns. Some of the Highlander's available technology features help too, such as the camera-based rearview mirror that allows you to see out the back even if you've fully loaded up the rear cargo area. The available surround-view camera system is sharp and can be rotated to "look around" the vehicle.
In recent years, Toyota has trailed other manufacturers when it comes to tech. This latest-generation Highlander makes big strides in the right direction, but it still has some drawbacks. The optional 12.3-inch touchscreen is huge (an 8-inch screen is standard) and it responds quickly to inputs, but the reflections on the surface make using it more difficult than it should be. Our Highlander Platinum test vehicle had five USB charge ports for the first and second rows but none for the third row.

Toyota provides a comprehensive suite of advanced driver aids as standard on all Highlanders. Among other things, we like the adaptive cruise control, but we found the lane departure warning slightly too sensitive in the normal mode and not sensitive enough in the low mode.
Cargo space is a bit of a mixed bag with the Highlander. Behind the third row, there's only 16 cubic feet of space, which is small for the class. Behind the second row, it expands to a better-than-average 48.4 cubic feet. The liftover height is about average for a midsize SUV.

As for cabin storage, there are good-size pockets and cupholders, as well as two shelves built into the dash (one has a clever phone cable keeper too). Because the wireless phone charger is in the center armrest bin, you have to flip it up to access the space underneath, which some might find inconvenient.

Got kids? A large rear-facing car seat will easily be accommodated in the second row thanks to the generous amount of fore/aft movement of the available captain's chairs. The car seat anchors are also easy to locate and access for all types of child safety seats, though there are no anchors in the third row.
The EPA estimates the all-wheel-drive Highlander returns 23 mpg (20 city/27 highway) and a slightly better 24 mpg (21 city/29 highway) for front-wheel-drive models. This may not seem like a huge advantage over the competition with a difference of just 1 or 2 mpg, but it's significant for this class of vehicle.

On our 115-mile highway-heavy evaluation route, we achieved 24.7 mpg, which indicates to us the EPA's estimates should be achievable. Of note, the Highlander Hybrid is estimated to return 36 mpg combined.
In general, the Highlander is a little more expensive than its closest rivals, and you don't quite get as many standard features. When it comes to quality, the interior materials are only about average when compared to what's used in the top-rated SUVs in this class.

Toyota's warranty coverage is pretty common for the class with three years/36,000 miles of bumper-to-bumper coverage and five years/60,000 miles for the powertrain. Toyota provides the first two years of scheduled maintenance for free.
The new styling up front gives the Highlander more of an industrial, truck-like appearance, which is pleasing. The same can't be said of the Supra-inspired character line that goes from the bottom of the front door and over the rear wheels.

One thing that helps boost this score is the Highlander's composure on a twisting road. We might even say it's fun to drive for a midsize three-row SUV.

Which Highlander does Edmunds recommend?

Most shoppers on a budget will be well served by the Highlander in LE trim, mainly for its addition of a power liftgate and a blind-spot monitor. For those in harsh weather regions, all-wheel drive is available throughout the lineup. If you have more room in your budget, the XLE model looks and feels quite a bit nicer thanks to its added convenience features and simulated leather upholstery.

Toyota Highlander models

The 2021 Toyota Highlander is a midsize three-row SUV with seating for eight passengers. Midgrade trims and above swap the second-row bench for captain's chairs, reducing capacity to seven passengers. All models are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine (295 horsepower, 263 lb-ft of torque) that is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels. All-wheel-drive is available on all trims as an option. There's also a Highlander Hybrid variant that is reviewed separately.

There are six trims: L, LE, XLE, XSE, Limited and Platinum. Note that some of the Highlander's extra features on the upper trims are offered on supporting trims as options.

The base L trim comes well appointed with feature highlights that include:

  • LED headlights
  • Heated mirrors
  • Remote keyless entry and ignition
  • Power-adjustable driver's seat
  • Tri-zone automatic climate control
  • Second- and third-row 60/40-split folding seats
  • 8-inch infotainment touchscreen
  • Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa smartphone integration
  • Six-speaker audio system
  • Onboard Wi-Fi hotspot
  • Emergency communications (Toyota's Safety Connect)
  • Toyota's Safety Sense suite of advanced safety features:
    • Frontal collision mitigation (warns you of an impending collision and applies the brakes in certain scenarios)
    • Adaptive cruise control (adjusts speed to maintain a constant distance between the vehicle and the car in front)
    • Automatic high beams
    • Lane tracing assist (makes minor steering corrections to help keep the vehicle centered in its lane)
    • Traffic sign reader

The LE trim adds a handful of convenience and safety features such as:

  • Foglights
  • Height-adjustable power liftgate
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
  • Blind-spot monitor (alerts you if a vehicle in the next lane over is in your blind spot)

The seven-passenger XLE upgrades the Highlander with:

  • Roof rails
  • Sunroof
  • Wireless charging pad
  • Auto-dimming rearview mirror
  • Simulated leather upholstery (SofTex)
  • Heated front seats
  • Second-row captain's chairs
  • Second-row sunshades
  • A larger driver information display

The new XSE trim represents the sporty choice in the lineup and adds:

  • Unique sporty styling cues
  • Sport-tuned suspension
  • Interior ambient lighting
  • Navigation system

Stepping up to the Limited trim adds plenty of luxury items that include:

  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Hands-free liftgate
  • Leather upholstery
  • Ventilated front seats
  • Additional front seat adjustments and memory functions
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Household power outlet
  • Intercom system that broadcasts the driver's voice through the speakers
  • 11-speaker JBL audio system

At the top of the range, the Platinum goes all-in with:

  • Adaptive headlights (swivel as you turn the steering wheel for better illumination in curves)
  • Automatic wipers
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Head-up display (displays important information in your sight line onto the windshield)
  • Digital rearview mirror (allows you to see out the back even with a fully loaded cargo area)
  • Heated second-row seats
  • Surround-view camera system (gives you a top-down view of the Highlander and its surroundings for tight parking situations)
  • 12.3-inch touchscreen

Consumer reviews

Read what other owners think about the 2021 Toyota Highlander.

Average user rating: 3.7 stars
26 total reviews
5 star reviews: 42%
4 star reviews: 15%
3 star reviews: 27%
2 star reviews: 0%
1 star reviews: 16%

Trending topics in reviews

  • interior
  • fuel efficiency
  • comfort
  • ride quality
  • appearance
  • engine
  • handling & steering
  • reliability & manufacturing quality
  • driving experience
  • safety
  • wheels & tires
  • road noise
  • value
  • acceleration
  • technology
  • doors
  • maintenance & parts
  • dashboard
  • sound system
  • infotainment system
  • towing
  • visibility
  • seats
  • transmission
  • lights
  • spaciousness

Most helpful consumer reviews

3/5 stars, Drivers side mirror vibration
Lori Marshall,
Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A)
I did my homework and was sure that Toyota was the brand to buy. Driving my new car home on the highway, it was obvious there is a very bad vibration in the drivers side mirror that distorts the images. After spending countless hours with the local dealer, the district division and Toyota National, they have rendered an opinion that this is "normal". I have reports from several Toyota technicians that there is indeed a problem but because Toyota has no fix, this is NORMAL. Very unhappy with TOYOTA....and would never recommend them as a result.
3/5 stars, 2021 Toyota Highlander XLE AWD Wind noise
XLE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A)
My brand new 2021 Toyota Highlander has very bad wind noise specially 40 mph. Because of to much with heard from outside, I can't drive long on the highway. The wind comes both driver and passenger side very loud. I'm taking to the dealer this weekend and I hope they will fix it. Spent a lot of money and I'm very concerned.
5/5 stars, Comfortably Fancy
Lisa L,
Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A)
This car has a lot of safety features, as well as many of the convenient features that most look for. The drive is comfortable, with a smooth ride. With it's size, I am pleased that it does not drive like a large vehicle. The seats are comfortable and roomy. The instrument display, the entertainment display, and the other system controls are all accessible and conveniently placed.
5/5 stars, 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE
Tiffany Bryant,
XSE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A)
Upgraded from a Camry. This rides very smooth, sporty, leather interior. Captain chairs, split seating to get to 3rd row. Nice wheels, sunroof. Perfect midsize SUV.

2021 Toyota Highlander videos

MARK TAKAHASHI: The mid-sized three row SUV has become the go-to choice for growing families. There can be only one top pick, though, and for the last two years that's been the Kia Telluride. There's a new challenger, though, and it's this, the all new 2020 Toyota Highlander. The last time the Highlander was redesigned was 2014, and back then it shot to the top of its class only to be replaced just a few years later by newer competitors. This time around, though, the Highlander adopts some new style that's been brought over by some of the pickup trucks. We've seen it played out with a RAV4, and personally, I'm a fan. I like the angular trapezoidal grille. It gives a little more aggression and a little more chunkiness that I think is missing from a lot of other SUVs in its class. Unfortunately, around the side I do have some complaints. In terms of the Highlander silhouette, it's really not too much different here from any other three row midsize SUV. One thing I don't like, though, is this weird character line that starts here, continues up, and swoops over the back wheels. It's kind of this weird unnecessary styling flourish that they've also used on the Supra. Me it almost seems like they had a bin full of these, they just didn't know what to do with them. It adds some visual weight that I think, quite frankly, is unnecessary. But styling is subjective. You may be OK with it. And it might also look better in darker colors. Under the hood of the Highlander is a 295 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 that's made into an 8 speed automatic transmission that drives the front wheels. All wheel drive is available as an option. There's also a four-cylinder hybrid version that has 243 horsepower and returns an impressive 35 miles per gallon. This V6 all wheel drive platinum, however, turns in a respectable 23 miles per gallon. Prices start right around $36,000 and climb to almost $48,000 for this, the top of the line platinum trim. That's a few thousand dollars more than our top ranked Kia Telluride, so let's find out what we get for the money. And it starts gathering speed really well. Doesn't even sound like you're stressing out the engine. And right there, 60. Boom. That's pretty impressive. I think Toyota did well to go with the V6, and the traditional automatic transmission actually has really good pickup. There's almost no delay between the time you stomp on the pedal and you start moving. I don't know how it's going to fare when we track test this because right now in the middle of COVID-19 we've shut down our testing, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's pretty close to the Telluride or even slightly faster. If it's not faster, it certainly feels like that because it has a quicker response to throttle input. The brakes are also just plain easy, and there's really not a lot to say about that. And that's a good thing. Coming to a stop right now. Nice and easy. Easy to just roll up. Come to a really beautiful limo stop. And that's great if you have a bunch of kids sleeping in the back. You don't want to wake them up. Despite its focus on being family friendly, this Highlander is surprisingly good on a curvy road. I'm on one of the curvaceous robes here in Southern California right now, and it takes it with confidence. Way more confidence than I expected. Body roll is really well-managed. There's no kind of shuddering back and forth, and no jostling. It takes the turn, it sets it with no wobbling after. Yes, you can, indeed, have fun driving a Highlander now. And the best part is it didn't sacrifice ride quality in exchange for that. Usually when an SUV can take curves like this, it's going to have a stiffer ride quality, and you're going to sacrifice comfort as a result. That's not the case with the Highlander. It's still really smooth and comfortable over the bumps, and the mid-corner bumps it just glides right over. And some of those bumps will actually upset other vehicles. Well done, Toyota. One thing I'm struck with right now, actually, is forward visibility. This front roof pillar right in front of me is as narrow as I've seen out of any vehicle in a long time. A lot of newer vehicles have really thick roof pillars, and that's for crash standards for rollover protection. In this one, they engineered it to be thinner or at least appear thinner to the driver. That means I don't really have to bob my head back and forth around it to see through sharp left turns. Rear visibility, it's about the same as any other midsize three row SUV. It's not great, but you have a decent enough view. What Toyota did, though, is they added one of these virtual mirrors so that if you have passengers or gear piled up to the roof, you can still see what's behind you. The problem I have with some of these virtual mirrors is there's no depth perception. Knowing that, it's fine if you're on a road trip and you just need to see what's coming up behind you. But if you're trying to maneuver it back into a tight spot, you're better off relying on the camera system, which is actually really good. It's sharp, and it gives a really good distortion-free view all around. And in this top platinum trim, you get the surround view monitor. Also helping with visibility is this has a head up display. So I'm getting speed and navigation prompts right in front of me. I don't have to take my eyes off the road. I'm a big fan of head up displays. As expected of any vehicle today, the Highlander comes off a long list of standard advanced safety features and available driver assistance. On my three-hour evaluation drive of this I rely pretty heavily on adaptive cruise control, and it functions very well. It maintains a really good gap between you and the car in front. And when traffic slows down, it eases into the brakes. It doesn't just hop onto them aggressively at the last second. Likewise when traffic starts flowing again, it eases into the throttle. It doesn't floor it and kind of pin you to the seat. In essence, it drives pretty much like any good driver should. One problem I had with some of these systems, though, is pretty minor, and it's the lane departure warning. It was a little too sensitive. It would send up a few false signals every now and then, and that was more because there's just some faint lines in the roadway that it thought were the painted lines. But it's a problem that a lot of other systems in other vehicles don't have a problem with. The good news is you can just disable it with one button on the steering wheel. You don't have to go searching through menus. And there's also a sensitivity setting for this. And when I took it down to its lower setting of two settings, it stopped giving me a lot of those false alarms. Another thing I'm noticing as I'm driving along is as much as I like the placement and size of this massive touchscreen, it's prone to a lot of reflections, and it's obscuring some of the information on the screen. A lot of the reflections are actually coming from the passenger's seat here, which means that the screen is a little too perpendicular. Other screens are tilted down a little bit just so you don't get a lot of those ancillary reflections. The redesign also significantly improved the Highlander's interior. These front seats are built for comfort. On our three-hour evaluation drive, I really didn't feel any fatigue. In this top Platinum trim, you also get ventilated seats. Most of your elbow touch points and knee touch points are well padded, but there are a few hard plastics that I wasn't really expecting. The dash overall has a pleasing, attractive design. I'm particularly fond of this giant touch screen right in front of me. It's within easy reach and right in my sight line so it reduces distraction while I'm using it. Apple Carplay and Android Auto are standard. This new infotainment system and screen are also pretty sharp. You have the option of doing a split screen layout. So you have your climate control on one side, and you have your audio and navigation on the other. There's also redundant controls for the climate control, which is something I really like. Having to dig through menus just to change the temperature it's kind of a pain. Underneath that big screen is a nice pocket here for your cell phone, and has a built in cord keeper. It's just perfect. Underneath that, another spot for a cell phone. Two large cup holders here, but there is an option for a wireless charging pad. The problem is they put it here underneath the center armrest, and it's blocking access to everything underneath. You have to flip it up and then kind of rummage through because it's not very easy to see inside, either. To me, seems like an afterthought. There's another bin right here just above the glove box. Which is great for the passenger, especially in a long road trip. We tend to run out of personal storage. Right here at your fingertips are a lot of low-level, off road terrain systems. You have things for mud, sand, rock, dirt, and also snow. Hill descent control is also here, along with some sport, normal, and eco drive mode selectors. I do have a few nit picks with the Highlander's interior, and that's related to the abundance of textures and colors. On the top of the dash here we have this cocoa brown kind of faux-leather texture with some kind of light brown stitching, and we have this metallic-looking carbon fiber embossed trim piece here with a chrome strip underneath that. Some light tan leather-looking upholstery underneath that with a kind of grittier texture here for the bin. On the doors we have some harder plastics, and also this kind of weird dark gray wood grain pattern which I'm really not a fan of in any car. But when you put them all together, it's just a little disjointed. It's almost like how you're not supposed to wear polka dots with stripes. It's just too much going on there. Feel like they could have been a little more refined and a little classier with fewer colors or just going with basic black. Here in the second row I have plenty of space, and this driver's seat is set for me. I'm 5 foot 10 and my hair's just barely brushing the head liner. You have some nice vents here for climate control with your separate controls right here in front of you. You also have heated seats with this top trim, and underneath two USB ports and a household power outlet. Materials quality is about the same as it is up front. Your elbows are nicely padded, but there are some hard plastics here or there. You do have some manual sun shades here to keep the sun off your young ones or for just a little more privacy. With these two captain's chairs, there's a decent enough pass-through here for smaller passengers to squeeze through. Here in the third row of seats, it's understandably a lot less accommodating. Wow, I'm really packed in here. But this second row seat is slid all the way back, and that's default position. With the second row seat slid just a little bit forward, I have much more space for my feet and for my knees. There is absolutely no thigh support, though, because this seat cushion's mounted so low to the floor. So my knees are pretty much up in the air with nothing underneath. It's obviously meant for very small passengers and children, or occasional use at that. Which is kind of par for the course for three row mid-sized SUVs. The Telluride does offer much more space back here, though. Another nit pick I have, too, is there's cup holders here, but it's really hard plastic and it's right where your elbow wants to sit. So if I was stuck back here, I'd probably have to roll up a jacket and put it underneath my elbow. There are also no USB charging ports back here. So on a long road trip packed with people they might get bored back here or run out of juice for their devices. When it comes to cargo space, it's a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the Highlander. Behind the third row of seats you have 16 cubic feet of cargo capacity. As you can see, that's not a whole lot, and it's also a little bit narrow. That's 5 cubic feet less than the Kia Telluride, too. And to put that in perspective, 5 cubic feet is about two of these big plastic bins. It's a little more significant than you might think. Once you fold down these rear seats, though, it opens up to about 48.4 cubic feet, giving the Highlander a slight advantage of about two cubic feet over the Telluride. Once you fold down the second row of seats, though, at its maximum capacity, the Telluride regains its advantage by about three cubic feet. In the end, if you're planning to haul a lot of people and a lot of gear, you might want to pay closer attention to the Highlander's cargo capacity. There's no doubt that the 2020 redesign has done wonders for the Toyota Highlander. It's got a good amount of power, it drives great, it's comfortable over long distances, there's a ton of space in the first and second rows, and you get all of the available advanced safety features and driver assistance we've come to expect. It does lose some ground against our top rated Kia Telluride, though. It doesn't have the interior quality and materials that make that Telluride so special. Also, the third row seats are far more cramped, and there's less cargo space behind them. The Highlander definitely deserves a spot in the top three among midsize three row crossovers, though. Which means it's a great competitor against the Honda Pilot. For more information on the Highlander, the Telluride, and the Pilot, head on over to edmunds.com. To see more videos like this, hit Subscribe.

2020 Toyota Highlander Review — Release Date, Price, Interior and More

NOTE: This video is about the 2020 Toyota Highlander, but since the 2021 Toyota Highlander is part of the same generation, our earlier analysis still applies.

Features & Specs

MPG & Fuel
21 City / 29 Hwy / 24 Combined
Fuel Tank Capacity: 17.9 gal. capacity
8 seats
Type: front wheel drive
Transmission: 8-speed shiftable automatic
V6 cylinder
Horsepower: 295 hp @ 6600 rpm
Torque: 263 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm
Basic Warranty
3 yr./ 36000 mi.
Length: 194.9 in. / Height: 68.1 in. / Width: 76.0 in.
Curb Weight: 4145 lbs.
Cargo Capacity, All Seats In Place: 16.0 cu.ft.

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Our experts’ favorite Highlander safety features:

Pre-Collision with Pedestrian Detection
Warns of an approaching vehicle or pedestrian, providing additional braking force or applying the brakes automatically if necessary.
Full-Speed Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
Follows the vehicle ahead at a preset distance, with the ability to operate at low speeds or all the way up to 110 mph.
Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
Alerts the driver of possible unintended lane departures and can apply small corrective steering inputs to keep the vehicle in its lane.

NHTSA Overall Rating 5 out of 5 stars

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration offers independent analysis.

Frontal Barrier Crash RatingRating
Overall4 / 5
Driver4 / 5
Passenger4 / 5
Side Crash RatingRating
Overall5 / 5
Side Barrier RatingRating
Overall5 / 5
Driver5 / 5
Passenger5 / 5
Combined Side Barrier & Pole RatingsRating
Front Seat5 / 5
Back Seat5 / 5
Rollover4 / 5
Dynamic Test ResultNo Tip
Risk Of Rollover16.9%

IIHS Rating

The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety uses extensive crash tests to determine car safety.

Side Impact Test
Roof Strength Test
Rear Crash Protection / Head Restraint
IIHS Small Overlap Front TestNot Tested
Moderate Overlap Front Test

Toyota Highlander vs. the competition

2021 Toyota Highlander

2021 Toyota Highlander

2021 Kia Telluride

2021 Kia Telluride

Toyota Highlander vs. Kia Telluride

Both the Highlander and the Telluride benefit from potent and efficient V6 engines that come standard. They're also praiseworthy for their lush comfort over long distances. The Telluride has the Highlander beat when it comes to third-row space and comes with more features for the money. The Kia's been our top pick in the class since it was introduced.

Compare Toyota Highlander & Kia Telluride features 

Toyota Highlander vs. Hyundai Palisade

The Hyundai Palisade is closely related to the Kia Telluride and holds many of the same benefits over the Highlander. The Palisade isn't as generous as the Kia with features, but it still represents a better value than the Toyota. On top of that, both Hyundai and Kia offer an unbeatable 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Compare Toyota Highlander & Hyundai Palisade features 

Toyota Highlander vs. Honda Pilot

As the Honda Pilot was last redesigned in 2016, it's the elder statesman compared to the newer Highlander. Despite its age, the Pilot is one of our favorites in the class thanks to its roomy and versatile interior and clever storage solutions. The third-row seats are a bit more accommodating than the Highlander's, but access to them is tight. We're also no fans of Honda's overly sensitive warning chimes.

Compare Toyota Highlander & Honda Pilot features 

2021 Toyota Highlander First Impressions

What is it?

Over the last two decades, Toyota has largely abandoned the idea of sporty performance and driving engagement. More recently, the automaker's shown growing interest in these principles by collaborating with Subaru and BMW on the 86 and Supra, respectively. There have also been sportier versions of the sedate Camry and Avalon sedans. The latest to get the treatment is the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE, which debuted at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show.

This sporty new XSE model is a first in the Highlander's 20-year history and sits midway through the lineup, between the XLE and the Limited trims. Visually, the XSE sets itself apart from the rest of the Highlander lineup with its unique front fascia styling. The grille is inverted and the air inlets enlarged to suggest more performance. New side rocker panels make the XSE look as though it rides slightly lower, while black accents replace chrome trim for a more sinister look.

The same 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 resides under the hood, and shoppers can still choose between front- and all-wheel-drive. Thankfully, the Highlander XSE amounts to more than just some styling tweaks. The suspension gets an upgrade with a stiffer specification for the springs and rear stabilizer bar, the dampers are retuned for less friction, and steering effort is weighted slightly heavier. According to Toyota, the Highlander XSE retains its smooth ride quality despite the added handling performance.

On the inside, the XSE spices things up with a two-tone red and black color combination over upholstery composed of SofTex simulated leather and cloth. Carbon-fiber trim, red stitching and unique interior ambient lighting round out the touches inside.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE - Profile
2021 Toyota Highlander XSE
Why does it matter?

Compared to most rivals in their respective classes, Toyota has garnered a reputation for making reliable, albeit bland, vehicles. The XSE trim for the Highlander, Camry and Avalon help to add some much-needed excitement. We're not convinced the XSE will improve driving dynamics in a meaningful way, but we're at least glad that it amounts to more than just cosmetic enhancements.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE - Front Interior
2021 Toyota Highlander XSE
What does it compete with?

The midsize three-row SUV class is very competitive. It's currently led by the top-ranked Kia Telluride, the related Hyundai Palisade, the spacious Honda Pilot and the sporty Mazda CX-9. Our initial impressions of the Toyota Highlander keep it from vying for the top spot for a number of reasons, but we should have a clearer picture of how it stacks up against the rest of the competition once we fully evaluate one.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE - Rear
2021 Toyota Highlander XSE

EdmundsEdmunds says

We like the Toyota Highlander for its comfort, interior refinement, potent V6 engine, and comprehensive list of safety features. This new sporty XSE trim might help boost the scores too. Unfortunately, the latest redesign doesn't make improvements that are significant enough to keep up with rivals.


Is the Toyota Highlander a good car?

The Edmunds experts tested the 2021 Highlander both on the road and at the track, giving it a 7.8 out of 10. You probably care about Toyota Highlander fuel economy, so it's important to know that the Highlander gets an EPA-estimated 23 mpg to 24 mpg, depending on the configuration. What about cargo capacity? When you're thinking about carrying stuff in your new car, keep in mind that the Highlander has 16.0 cubic feet of trunk space. And then there's safety and reliability. Edmunds has all the latest NHTSA and IIHS crash-test scores, plus industry-leading expert and consumer reviews to help you understand what it's like to own and maintain a Toyota Highlander. Learn more

What's new in the 2021 Toyota Highlander?

According to Edmunds’ car experts, here’s what’s new for the 2021 Toyota Highlander:

  • New sporty XSE trim debuts
  • Part of the fourth Highlander generation introduced for 2020
Learn more

Is the Toyota Highlander reliable?

To determine whether the Toyota Highlander is reliable, read Edmunds' authentic consumer reviews, which come from real owners and reveal what it's like to live with the Highlander. Look for specific complaints that keep popping up in the reviews, and be sure to compare the Highlander's average consumer rating to that of competing vehicles. Learn more

Is the 2021 Toyota Highlander a good car?

There's a lot to consider if you're wondering whether the 2021 Toyota Highlander is a good car. Edmunds' expert testing team reviewed the 2021 Highlander and gave it a 7.8 out of 10. Safety scores, fuel economy, cargo capacity and feature availability should all be factors in determining whether the 2021 Highlander is a good car for you. Learn more

How much should I pay for a 2021 Toyota Highlander?

The least-expensive 2021 Toyota Highlander is the 2021 Toyota Highlander L 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A). Including destination charge, it arrives with a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of about $35,085.

Other versions include:

  • XLE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $41,685
  • XLE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $40,085
  • XSE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $43,630
  • XSE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $41,680
  • Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $49,190
  • L 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $35,085
  • Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $45,990
  • LE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $37,285
  • Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $44,040
  • Platinum 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $47,240
  • LE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $38,885
  • L 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) which starts at $36,685
Learn more

What are the different models of Toyota Highlander?

If you're interested in the Toyota Highlander, the next question is, which Highlander model is right for you? Highlander variants include XLE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A), XLE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A), XSE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A), and XSE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A). For a full list of Highlander models, check out Edmunds’ Features & Specs page. Learn more

More about the 2021 Toyota Highlander

2021 Toyota Highlander Overview

The 2021 Toyota Highlander is offered in the following submodels: Highlander SUV. Available styles include XLE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A), XLE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A), XSE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A), Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A), XSE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A), L 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A), Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A), LE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A), LE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A), Platinum 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A), Limited 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A), and L 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A). Toyota Highlander models are available with a 3.5 L-liter gas engine, with output up to 295 hp, depending on engine type. The 2021 Toyota Highlander comes with all wheel drive, and front wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 8-speed shiftable automatic. The 2021 Toyota Highlander comes with a 3 yr./ 36000 mi. basic warranty, a 2 yr./ unlimited mi. roadside warranty, and a 5 yr./ 60000 mi. powertrain warranty.

What do people think of the 2021 Toyota Highlander?

Consumer ratings and reviews are also available for the 2021 Toyota Highlander and all its trim types. Overall, Edmunds users rate the 2021 Highlander 3.7 on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. Edmunds consumer reviews allow users to sift through aggregated consumer reviews to understand what other drivers are saying about any vehicle in our database. Detailed rating breakdowns (including performance, comfort, value, interior, exterior design, build quality, and reliability) are available as well to provide shoppers with a comprehensive understanding of why customers like the 2021 Highlander.

Edmunds Expert Reviews

Edmunds experts have compiled a robust series of ratings and reviews for the 2021 Toyota Highlander and all model years in our database. Our rich content includes expert reviews and recommendations for the 2021 Highlander featuring deep dives into trim levels and features, performance, mpg, safety, interior, and driving. Edmunds also offers expert ratings, road test and performance data, long-term road tests, first-drive reviews, video reviews and more.

Our Review Process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.

What's a good price for a New 2021 Toyota Highlander?

2021 Toyota Highlander L 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A)

The 2021 Toyota Highlander L 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $37,197. The average price paid for a new 2021 Toyota Highlander L 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is trending $1,396 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,396 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $35,801.

The average savings for the 2021 Toyota Highlander L 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is 3.8% below the MSRP.

2021 Toyota Highlander LE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A)

The 2021 Toyota Highlander LE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $39,622. The average price paid for a new 2021 Toyota Highlander LE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is trending $1,384 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,384 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $38,238.

The average savings for the 2021 Toyota Highlander LE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is 3.5% below the MSRP.

2021 Toyota Highlander XLE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A)

The 2021 Toyota Highlander XLE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $44,218. The average price paid for a new 2021 Toyota Highlander XLE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is trending $1,254 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,254 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $42,964.

The average savings for the 2021 Toyota Highlander XLE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is 2.8% below the MSRP.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A)

The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $46,803. The average price paid for a new 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is trending $1,357 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,357 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $45,446.

The average savings for the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is 2.9% below the MSRP.

2021 Toyota Highlander Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A)

The 2021 Toyota Highlander Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $48,658. The average price paid for a new 2021 Toyota Highlander Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is trending $1,629 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,629 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $47,029.

The average savings for the 2021 Toyota Highlander Limited 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is 3.3% below the MSRP.

2021 Toyota Highlander Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A)

The 2021 Toyota Highlander Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) can be purchased for less than the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (aka MSRP) of $51,313. The average price paid for a new 2021 Toyota Highlander Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is trending $1,502 below the manufacturer’s MSRP.

Edmunds members save an average of $1,502 by getting upfront special offers. The estimated special offer price in your area is $49,811.

The average savings for the 2021 Toyota Highlander Platinum 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A) is 2.9% below the MSRP.

Which 2021 Toyota Highlanders are available in my area?

Shop Edmunds' car, SUV, and truck listings of over 6 million vehicles to find a cheap new, used, or certified pre-owned (CPO) 2021 Toyota Highlander for sale near. Simply research the type of car you're interested in and then select a car from our massive database to find cheap vehicles for sale near you. Once you have identified a used vehicle you're interested in, check the AutoCheck vehicle history reports, read dealer reviews, and find out what other owners paid for the 2021 Toyota Highlander.

Can't find a new 2021 Toyota Highlanders you want in your area? Consider a broader search.

Find a new Toyota for sale - 6 great deals out of 16 listings starting at $19,417.

Why trust Edmunds?

Edmunds has deep data on over 6 million new, used, and certified pre-owned vehicles, including rich, trim-level features and specs information like: MSRP, average price paid, warranty information (basic, drivetrain, and maintenance), features (upholstery, bluetooth, navigation, heated seating, cooled seating, cruise control, parking assistance, keyless ignition, satellite radio, folding rears seats ,run flat tires, wheel type, tire size, wheel tire, sunroof, etc.), vehicle specifications (engine cylinder count, drivetrain, engine power, engine torque, engine displacement, transmission), fuel economy (city, highway, combined, fuel capacity, range), vehicle dimensions (length, width, seating capacity, cargo space), car safety, true cost to own. Edmunds also provides tools to allow shopper to compare vehicles to similar models of their choosing by warranty, interior features, exterior features, specifications, fuel economy, vehicle dimensions, consumer rating, edmunds rating, and color.

What is the MPG of a 2021 Toyota Highlander?

2021 Toyota Highlander XLE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A), 8-speed shiftable automatic, regular unleaded
23 compined MPG,
20 city MPG/27 highway MPG

2021 Toyota Highlander XLE 4dr SUV (3.5L 6cyl 8A), 8-speed shiftable automatic, regular unleaded
24 compined MPG,
21 city MPG/29 highway MPG

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE 4dr SUV AWD (3.5L 6cyl 8A), 8-speed shiftable automatic, regular unleaded
23 compined MPG,
20 city MPG/27 highway MPG

EPA Est. MPG23
Transmission8-speed shiftable automatic
Drive Trainall wheel drive
Displacement3.5 L
Passenger Volume155.1 cu.ft.
Wheelbase112.2 in.
Length194.9 in.
Width76.0 in.
Height68.1 in.
Curb Weight4370 lbs.

Should I lease or buy a 2021 Toyota Highlander?

Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.

Check out Toyota lease specials