Toyota’s Highlander SUV has always been a strong seller for the Japanese auto giant, with the three row utility being a popular choice among families. However, the Highlander was never known for being a very sporty offering even in recent years. But the company is out to change all that with the unveiling of the Highlander XSE.
Those looking for the Highlander XSE to be a full on performance model will be disappointed, with the Highlander eschewing massive horsepower for subtler upgrades including a tweaked sport suspension, XSE exclusive styling, and distinctive interior appointments. This is the first time that the Highlander has received this designation, with the trim level being typically associated with Toyota’s car lineup (RAV4 being the lone exception prior to Highlander.) Like those models, the XSE serves as the middle child of the bunch, with the model being slotted between the XLE and the Limited models. The model still retains basic Highlander cues, which means a decidedly functional layout with more infusions of elegance and design. The model is powered by the carryover 3.5 liter V6 which brings 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque, with the eight speed automatic also being carried over from other Highlanders
In the case of the XSE, it brings more sportier cues to the Highlander, with the model gaining a revised lower front air intake, revised front grille, and a lower front spoiler. XSE models feature unique headlights that incorporate sporty black accents and big light strip style DRLs. The rear fascia is also tweaked, and for the first time ever on the Highlander, dual exhaust tips (chromed for good measure) come along for the ride and nicely compliment the black roof rails, mirror caps, and window moldings.
The interior of the Highlander XSE comes nicely equipped with black Softex leatherette seats with contrasting fabric inserts, while ambient lighting, and a faux carbon fiber panel on the instrument panel helps embody the sporty motif. Meanwhile for dads who want to do a better job standing out at the school drop off (or weekend warrior moms looking for more fun) The Highlander XSE can be equipped with a bold and visually striking red and black interior scheme with a red stitched instrument panel.
Rear passengers are not left out of the fun either, with the XSE still retaining the same levels of functionality and technology that its more mainstream cousins are known for. This includes five rear mounted USB ports, Androud Auto, Apple CarPlay and Amazon Alexa capabilities, as well as an optional 1200 watt JBL Premium Audio system.
Look for the Highlander XSE to make its way to dealerships later this year, with pricing expected to drop just before its official launch.