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2021 Toyota Highlander Trim Levels with Comparisons & Configurations.

2021 Toyota Highlander Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: L vs LE vs XLE, XSE, Limited & Platinum

What 2021 Toyota Highlander Trim Level Should you Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

The Toyota Highlander has long been a popular choice amongst customers who need three rows of seating. As a Toyota, the Highlander is known for being reliable and safe. Aside from the luxury models that have very steep price tags, the Highlander is among the nicest SUVs out there. Its seating is comfortable, the cabin is well appointed, and the components under the hood are up for a challenge.

Toyota makes several versions of the 2021 Highlander, some of which are hybrids. Customers will have to consider which trim is most ideal for them, and this could be a tough task with so many choices available. This overview will provide potential customers with more information so they can make smart investments.


Compare the 2021 Toyota Highlander L vs LE Trim Levels. What is the Difference?

These two trims are the most affordable out of the collection of available 2021 Toyota Highlanders. They both run on 3.5-liter V6 engines. These engines are quite capable, as they can generate almost 300 horsepower and over 260 pound-feet of torque. Towing capacity is 5,000 pounds, so people can definitely bring along their grown-up toys, like bikes or boats, on fun adventures.

The Stop and Start Engine System helps the Highlander conserve energy. Front-wheel models have a combined fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon, and all-wheel models have a combined fuel economy just shy of that mark. All-wheel drive costs a bit extra with either of these trims, but it does offer a major advantage. Depending on the situation, all-wheel drive could be very useful since it provides additional traction and allows the SUV to better adapt to difficult road conditions.

From the outside, the L and LE look pretty similar. They both have color-keyed side mirrors, and these come with turn signals. LED projector headlights and LED Daytime Running Lights do a great job, and the LED taillights are bright and easy for others to see. Only the LE, though, has LED fog lights, and it also has blind spot indicators built into its side mirrors. Overall, the Highlander looks strong and athletic, riding on 18-inch wheels.

In the cabin, there are many desirable features, even on the base model. The Highlander comes standard with a climate system that has three zones, numerous cup and bottle holders placed around the cabin, an overhead console that's sized just right for holding sunglasses, and five USB ports for charging devices. Seats start out with fabric upholstery. Both the L and LE have a power-adjustable driver's seat, total accommodations for eight people, and three-seat benches in the second and third rows.

The L trim is equipped with an eight-inch touchscreen that is user-friendly and has easy-to-read text. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, and Amazon Alexa and SiriusXM Radio are, too. This amount of capability is sure to please most modern consumers who have gotten used to being able to instantly access all kinds of information. The LE is upgraded with the Safety Connect and Remote Connect systems. With these systems, drivers can use their smartphones to remotely start their vehicles, check on the status of their fuel, lock or unlock doors, and more.

To everyone's benefit, Toyota has packed the Highlander with advanced safety components. Toyota Safety Sense 2.5 is included on every Highlander, and it consists of technologies that can sense problems, warn drivers, and potentially take corrective measures to reduce the chances of accidents. For instance, the SUV can recognize when it's about to hit a car in front of it, and it can send out an alert and hit the brakes if appropriate.

For the most part, there are very few differences related to safety when looking at the Highlander trims. All-wheel drive models have more available drive modes, in addition to Downhill Assist Control, which works to prevent the Highlander from picking up too much speed on steep slopes.

Compare the 2021 Toyota Highlander LE vs Hybrid LE Trims. What is the Difference?

Just like the LE can be front-wheel or all-wheel drive, so can the hybrid LE. The obvious difference between the two trims is that the Hybrid LE is powered by a 2.5-liter engine and an electric motor. It has a net horsepower of 243. This is a solid amount, though not near the power that the non-hybrid Highlander has. Towing capacity in the Hybrid LE is 3,500 pounds. This is significantly lower than the 5,000-pound towing capacity of the LE.

The plus side of going with the Hybrid LE is that it can earn up to 36 miles per gallon. This is a key factor that will make this model the favorite of many customers.

With some vehicles in the market, hybrid versions are configured differently than non-hybrid versions to accommodate the hybrid components. As a result, they may have less cargo or passenger space. Fortunately, this isn't the case with the Hybrid LE. Like the LE, it has a maximum cargo volume of 84.3 cubic feet when all the rear seats are lowered. Leg room is 42 inches in the front, 41 inches in the second row, and almost 28 inches in the third row.

Compare the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE vs XLE Trim Levels. What is the Difference?

Moving from the LE to the XLE is a good decision if anyone prefers to have more premium features but needs to stick with a mid-level trim for financial reasons. The XLE has the same size wheels as the LE has, but its wheel are machined-finished versus painted. It also has a power moonroof that can slid or tilted open. It only takes one touch of a button to open and close it, and the moonroof comes with a sunshade to block out the heat in the summer months. Additionally, roof rails are standard in the XLE.

There are slight upgrades in the interior of the cabin that may be important to some buyers. Rather than having black door handles like the LE has, the XLE has chrome ones. Seating is enhanced with SofTex upholstery. Front seats are heated, the driver's seat can move in ten ways as opposed to eight, and the front passenger gets to take advantage of a power-adjustable seat as well.

In the XLE, the standard configuration is to have two captain's chairs in the middle row. This takes total seating accommodations from eight down to seven, but some people prefer this because it opens up the cabin. The XLE does come with the option of getting a bench in the middle row if having that extra seat is necessary for a particular customer.

The XLE has a few more high-tech components than the LE has, starting with wireless charging. Even its rearview mirror has an advanced element to it, which is the ability to connect with a garage door or security system through a HomeLink transceiver. Though the XLE's standard infotainment system is the same as the one in the LE, the XLE can be upgraded with navigation.

Compare the 2021 Toyota Highlander XLE vs Hybrid XLE. What is the Difference?

The only difference between the XLE and the Hybrid XLE is what's under the hood. There's really no need to detail the differences again, since all of that information is written in a previous section.

There are also hybrid versions of the Limited and Platinum trims. Comparisons between the Limited and the Hybrid Limited and the Platinum and the Hybrid Platinum will be left out so as to not repeat anything.

Compare the 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE vs XSE Trims. What is the Difference?

The XSE is new for 2021. It's a sporty version of the Highlander that's built for drivers who love pushing their vehicles to the limits. The XSE is the only trim that has a sport-tuned suspension that results in better handling.

Going along with the more aggressive nature of the XSE, there are black accents around the LED headlights. This trim uses 20-inch wheels and has a special front grille, chrome lower spoiler, and chrome trim around the side rocker panels. The XSE's A-pillar stands out with a high-gloss film, and its black roof rails and twin-tip exhaust contribute to the overall aesthetic.

Toyota has given the XSE SofTex seats, though there is the option to get leather seats. Like the XLE, the XSE comes standard with a seven-seat configuration. However, the XSE does not have an option to get a bench seat in the second row. What the XSE does have that the XLE does not are faux wood interior accents and ambient interior lighting.

Compare the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE vs Limited Trim. What is the Difference?

At the Limited level, there are some quality upgrades. Take the side mirrors, for example. The ones on the Limited have puddle lights that display a Highlander logo in addition to the ability to tilt-down when the SUV is in reverse, giving the driver a close-up look at how he/she is doing with steering. The LED fog lights are a high-output version, and even the Daytime Running Lights on the Limited are elegant, featuring a strip of LEDs.

The Limited has 20-inch wheels like the XSE does, but its wheels are chrome. This complements the dark gray metallic rear lower bumper. Also at the rear of the Limited is a hands-free power liftgate. The Limited does has a power liftgate, but it doesn't have the sensor that allows it to be hands-free.

The upgrades inside the cabin are quite evident. Leather seats are standard on the Limited, and so are heated and ventilated front seats. The Limited is another trim that comes standard with captain's chairs in the middle row, and it does offer a second-row bench seat as an option. A heating element has been built into the steering wheel to keep people's hands nice and toasty in the winter.

A significant enhancement is found on the Limited's infotainment system. Whereas navigation is optional on the XSE, it's standard on the Limited. Also included on the Limited are 11 JBL speakers to improve the sound quality. One cool feature on the Limited is "Driver Easy Speak." With this system, the driver's voice can be picked up and sent through the rear speakers so that the passengers can more easily hear him/her.

Compare the 2021 Toyota Highlander Limited vs Platinum Trim Levels. What is the Difference?

The Platinum rivals luxury SUVs in terms of how many amenities it has. It's the only Highlander trim to have a Bird's Eye View Camera that gives drivers a complete picture of how the SUV is doing in relation to its surroundings. (This camera view is optional on the Limited.) It's also the only Highlander to have a massive 12.3-inch touchscreen. Navigation is included, as are JBL speakers.

The Platinum's head-up display can prove to be very useful because it can give drivers key information that they can use to stay safe. Drivers can be gently reminded about speed limits and other important road signs through this ten-inch display. Another impressive element is the adaptive front lighting in the Platinum. Its headlights can adjust the level and angle at which they project their light, depending on the direction that the SUV is traveling in.

A number of high-end details make the Platinum's cabin much more sophisticated than the rest. The doorsill is illuminated in the Platinum, and there's a digital rearview mirror that can display a live feed of a rear-faced camera. The captain's chairs are the only option for the middle row, and they come with a heating element.

Perhaps the most noticeable thing about the Platinum is its a panoramic moonroof. Because it extends back much further than the traditional moonroof, it lets in much more natural light.

A few other details top things off with the Platinum. It has chrome surrounding its black front grille, a silver rear lower bumper, a scuff plate on the rear bumper, and 20-inch alloy wheels.


Which Trim to Choose?

The Platinum certainly comes across as the best trim, but of course, it comes with the most expensive price tag. Priced at approximately $47,000, it's too expensive for many customers. That leaves us with the Limited as a great option for anyone looking for premium finishings and a lot of comfort and convenience.

For those who want to spend a little less money, the XLE would be a smart choice. For starters, it has a competitive starting price. With the XLE, people can choose from a hybrid or traditional powertrain, front-wheel or all-wheel drive, and seven or eight seats. The SofTex seating material looks great, and the moonroof is a nice touch.

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Previous Toyota Highlander Trim Configurations:

Compare the 2020 Toyota Highlander Trim Levels