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2021 Highlander XSE AWD: Roomy Interior, Impressive Leg Room

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The new sporty model XSE maintains its ability to impress seven passengers, but has added a sportier personality. It features special tuned handling suspension and exclusive machine-faced 20-inch wheels with black accents. The XSE is equipped with higher rate springs and rear stabilizer bar, while the shock absorbers have been retuned for lower friction. The electric power steering has been refined for a sportier feel.

The 3.5-liter V-6 engine is married to an 8-speed automatic transmission that delivers 295 horsepower. Highlander’s AWD is mated to Dynamic Torque Vectoring.

Fuel economy delivers 20-mpg-city, 27-mpg-highway for a combined 27-mpg. My test drive was 32-mpg combined.

The Dynamic Vectoring is able to send 50% of torque to the rear wheels. This advanced available AWD System can control the left/right distribution to the rear wheels for a more engaging driving experience.

Highlander’s sporty personality can also be found in the front fascia grille, and the lower spoiler is exclusive to the XSE model.

I liked the aggressive stance, especially the sport mesh front grille. While the two tone red and black leather-trimmed interior with red stitching on the instrument panel is very compelling.

2021 Highlander XSE AWD: Roomy Interior, Impressive Leg Room

Photo: Toyota

SofTex trimmed heated power front seats with 3rd row 60/40 split, as fold flat seats are integrated into 2nd-row window sunshade. There’s premium audio, and 8-inch touchscreen with hands free Bluetooth, plus phone/music USB media port. I would have liked to see a larger touchscreen.

Lighted vanity mirrors, 3-zone auto climate control and the available Highlander JBL with Clari-Fi auto system with 1200 watts, 11-speakers and surround sound add even more to the interior atmosphere. The panoramic moon roof with front power tilt/slide ability beckons discovery. Just open it up, and catch a breeze as you listen to great music.

The absolute best safety and tech features are standard, and comprised of a host of those benefits. The inclusive system is called Toyota Safety Sense (TSS).

From those numerous features and systems, I would like to mention five that I felt were the most beneficial.

2021 Highlander XSE AWD: Roomy Interior, Impressive Leg Room

Photo: Toyota

My favorite was Road sign Assist. This has saved me more than once from being cited before becoming a safer driver in school zones.

Pre Collision with Pedestrian Detection Systems is enhanced with intersection support. At intersections the system may detect an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian when performing a left turn, and may provide visual alerts and automatic braking in certain conditions.

Additional PCS function includes emergency steering assist, which is designed to stabilize the driver’s emergency steering maneuvers within their lane while avoiding a pedestrian.

The bottom line is you have a comfortable interior with plenty of safety and entertaining technology colluding with a vehicle that features a sporty personality and rich, spunky good looks.

Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price $47,701.

Durhl Caussey writes a car column read around the world. He may be reached at this paper or [email protected].