A grey 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE is shown from the front parked partially in shadows.

2021 Toyota Highlander: Trim Guide

Not all vehicles are created equal. We’re not talking about two separate models, but we’re talking about vehicles that have the same name and model year. How’s this possible? The answer is vehicle trims. Some vehicles that manufacturers put out don’t offer much in the way of customization, and sometimes you’re stuck with as little as two trim levels. In other cases, such as the 2021 Toyota Highlander, there is an abundance of trims. Of course, while this is certainly a good thing, it can make the shopping experience a bit more tricky if you don’t familiarize yourself with what each trim level has to offer. We’re here to give you a detailed guide on the ten available trims that you can choose from when you’re buying your Highlander. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Trim #1: L

The L is the base trim for the Highlander, and if you’re looking to save the most money possible, this is the one that you’ll be buying. However, don’t let its entry-level status fool you, as Toyota made sure to include a wealth of noteworthy features right out of the gate. One of these features that you’ll find on every Highlander, including the L, is Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) 2.5+. This is the latest in a long-running suite of safety features that Toyota has graciously implemented into its vehicles over the last seven or so years. Think of Safety Sense as a large set of active and passive safety features that include various techs such as Automatic Emergency Braking, Forward Collision Warnings, and so on.

Other features that come included with the L model are an infotainment center with a large 8-inch touchscreen, four USB ports dedicated to charging, and one for data syncing, making a total of five, and both Apple Carplay and Android Auto. With the addition of Bluetooth and a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot, the Highlander comes standard with one of the best infotainment setups that we’ve seen.

Trim #2: LE

With the L boasting such an incredible feature set, Toyota had to add some extra amenities to the LE trim to warrant the higher price. Fortunately, Toyota did, and with the LE, you’ll have all of the best features found on the L, but with a few extras. For example, the LE includes the same TSS 2.5+ but with the addition of a Blind Spot Monitor to prevent accidents when switching lanes and a Rear Cross-Traffic Alert. With the Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, your vehicle will signal a warning if you’re about to reverse into a bypassing obstruction such as a vehicle or pedestrian.

The LE also feels a tad more luxurious, and this is thanks in no small part to the addition of a leather steering wheel and shift knob combo. While this trim doesn’t come with standard leather seats to match, it does come with a power-adjustable driver’s seat as the L does. The LE also comes with a power liftgate, so accessing the rear side of your vehicle will be easier than ever, even when your hands are full.

Trim #3: Hybrid LE

The Hybrid LE trim is virtually identical to the LE in regards to design, interior, and safety features. What it does have that separates it from the original LE is a hybrid powertrain. This comes with the benefits that you’d expect, such as the 2021 Highlander Hybrid LE earning EPA-estimated ratings of 36 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway, which greatly surpasses the LE’s ratings of 21 MPG city and 29 MPG highway.

Trim #4: XLE

The XLE is where we start to see far more luxurious amenities than the prior trim levels, and it all starts with the seating. Instead of cloth, the seats inside of your Highlander will be leatherette in both the front and second row of seats and heated too. The passenger sitting in the front seat will also be treated to a power-adjustable seat as the driver does, with this one adjusting in four different ways. The XLE also includes a 7-inch Multi-Information Display (MID) in addition to the included infotainment center. This MID is located on your dashboard and is fully customizable so that you can only display the information or metrics about your vehicle that you care about the most when driving. There’s also a wireless charging pad for your smartphone should it support it, and a power-adjustable moonroof is also included.

Trim #5: Hybrid XLE

Like the Hybrid LE, the Hybrid XLE shares just about everything with the non-hybrid variant. The one difference, of course, is the hybrid powertrain which offers far greater fuel efficiency in travel both on the highway and in the city. The XLE models that aren’t a hybrid get the same 21 MPG city and 29 MPG highway ratings as the LE, and that’s because they both use the same 3.5L V6 engine. With the Hybrid XLE, the vehicle then earns EPA-estimated ratings of 36 MPG city and 35 MPG highway like the Hybrid LE.

A white 2021 Toyota Highlander XLE is shown towing a boat past a lake.

Trim #6: XSE

The XSE starts at an MSRP that isn’t that much higher than the Hybrid XLE, but it certainly looks more elegant. Like some of the previous trim levels, leatherette is available, but so is genuine leather for those who prefer it. Additionally, roof rails are included for tying down cargo or more fun objects like kayaks, and a twin-tip exhaust, which allows your engine to better distribute air when your engine is combusting. Lastly, the XSE increases the wheel size to 20-inches, which is a worthwhile upgrade over the 18-inch set on the lower-tier trims.

Trim #7: Limited

The Limited is packed with features, and where you’ll notice the most changes is within the interior, other than the Hands-Free Power Liftgate that comes with this trim. Inside of the vehicle, the seats are leather, but they’re also heated and have ventilation controls. The driver’s seat is far more comfortable to sit in, offering a wide range of positions thanks to its 10-way power-adjustable controls. Also coming with this trim is an upgraded audio system. This one is a powerful 1200w system with eleven excellent speakers.

Trim #8: Hybrid Limited

This one should come as no surprise as it follows the same trend that we’ve seen so far. The Hybrid Limited includes everything that Limited does, but with the EPA-estimated ratings that come with any of the other hybrid models.

A red 2021 Toyota Highlander Platinum Hybrid is shown through the glass of a store front.

Trim #9: Platinum

This trim is, in many ways, the very best that the Highlander can offer. Between its panoramic sunroof that offers a much greater amount of light and air than a regular sunroof and a stunning 12.3-inch screen for its infotainment center, it’s simply beautiful. A 10-inch HUD is also included, and this trim also allows for captain’s chairs in the second row instead of the bench-style seating. Combined with every feature we’ve discussed so far, there’s no wonder why the Platinum is the best trim around.

Trim #10: Platinum Hybrid

Of course, the Platinum trim needs a hybrid variant to be sold alongside it, and that’s exactly what the Platinum Hybrid is. The Platinum Hybrid comes with all of those amazing high-end features and the excellent fuel economy you want. Because of this, however, the Platinum Hybrid is the priciest trim of the bunch.

Pick a Trim

Trim levels are exciting, and that’s because it gives us some variation during the shopping process. With trim levels, manufacturers can customize them to their liking, and in the Highlander’s case, it allows for a wide range of options. We’re rather impressed with the Highlander, and each trim level that you can purchase feels as if it has a proper place and wasn’t made to simply pad out the feature set.