A stylish exterior meets a versatile cabin.

Toyota Highlander Review | CarMax

If you're shopping for a three-row SUV with striking looks, a proficient V6, and a versatile cabin, the 2021 Toyota Highlander could be the car for you. As part of the fourth generation introduced in 2020, the Highlander can seat up to eight passengers and hold lots of cargo, making it an ideal choice if you like to road-trip with your crew. There's also a new XSE trim for 2021, which adds more aggressive styling and performance-tuned steering and suspension systems that up the Highlander's on-road fun.

While we currently do not have many 2021 Toyota Highlanders on our lots, we look forward to selling more in the future. If you love the 2021 model, you should also consider prior model years of the Toyota Highlander with similar features.

Here's what you'll learn in this 2021 Toyota Highlander review:

Key Specs and Features


Toyota Highlander Review: Engine | CarMax
  • The 2021 Toyota Highlander (L trim) with FWD, 3.5L engine, and automatic transmission gets an EPA-estimated 24 mpg combined.1
  • The 2021 Toyota Highlander with either FWD or AWD, 3.5L engine, and automatic transmission gets an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined.1

Cargo Space:

Toyota Highlander Review: Cargo | CarMax
  • 84.3 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the first row
  • 48.4 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row
  • 16 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the third row

Towing Capacity:

  • Toyota Highlander towing capacity is an estimated 5,000 lbs. with the 3.5L V6 on 2021 models, when properly equipped.2

Seating Capacity:

Toyota Highlander Review: Backseats | CarMax
  • Seven-passenger seating with second-row captain's chairs (standard in XLE, XSE, Limited, Platinum)
  • Eight-passenger seating with second-row bench seat (standard in L, LE; optional in XLE, Limited)
Toyota Highlander Review: Third Row | CarMax

Engine Options:

  • Standard 3.5L V6 engine with 295 hp and 263 lb.-ft. of torque

Tech Features:

  • Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ capability
  • Eight-inch touchscreen display (all trims except Platinum)
  • Bluetooth® connectivity
  • 12.3-inch touchscreen with surround-view camera system (Platinum trim)
  • Head-up display (Platinum trim)


The Toyota Highlander has a strong sales history at CarMax. It has been featured in these ranking lists:

5 Reasons to Buy

1. Sporty XSE Trim

Toyota Highlander Review: External View | CarMax

The athletic-looking XSE trim joins the Toyota Highlander lineup for 2021. It punches up the SUV's looks with aggressive exterior styling, larger 20-inch wheels, and black exterior accents. The XSE also has a sportier stance, which includes a lower air intake and sharper-angled headlights. Inside the cabin, the 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE has a fun vibe with a red and black leather-trimmed interior. The inclusion of performance-tuned steering and suspension systems make the XSE really fun to drive.

2. Comfortable Cabin

Toyota Highlander Review: Front Seats | CarMax

The 2021 Highlander is a three-row SUV that prioritizes comfort. With seating for seven or eight passengers, depending on the trim, your family and friends can enjoy long trips together — especially since the first and second rows provide 40.4 inches and 41 inches of legroom, respectively. The second-row sliding and reclining seats also make it easy to find the ideal position, or to gain access to the third row. With plenty of pockets and cup holders throughout the cabin, the Highlander has great storage space for small items. There are two shelves built into the dash, too, including one with an ingenious phone cable keeper.

3. Proficient V6

The 2021 Toyota Highlander is designed to deliver swift responses from its 295-hp 3.5L V6 engine, which comes standard on all trims. You won't feel as much pain at the pump with this SUV, since the 3.5L V6 gets an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined with front- or all-wheel-drive.1 With available Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD on all 2021 models, the Highlander is designed to improve driving performance in slick conditions. If you're looking for an SUV that makes commuting or road-tripping a pleasant experience, the Highlander's refined powertrain has you covered.

4. Lots of Capability

Whether cruising through the city or exploring the outskirts, the 2021 Highlander has the capability you need. In addition to the available Dynamic Torque Vectoring AWD, the Highlander's 3.5L V6 boasts an estimated 5,000-lb. towing capacity, when properly equipped.2 You'll have plenty of cargo space for camping gear, too, with 48.4 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the second row. If you're in charge of carpool and picking up your grocery order, you'll have space for seven or eight passengers (depending on the trim) and 16 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the third row.

5. Plenty of Technology

Toyota Highlander Review: Dashboard | CarMax

All 2021 Highlanders (except the Platinum trim) come standard with an infotainment system, eight-inch touchscreen display, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. An available Wi-Fi hotspot comes standard in every 2021 Highlander, so your passengers can stay connected while on the road.3 There's also available wireless charging on XLE and higher trims, making it simple to charge your devices without a tangle of cords. You'll find other cool features, too, like a head-up display and a 12.3 touchscreen display with navigation, in the trim-topping Platinum.

Toyota Highlander Review: Tech | CarMax

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What You Need to Know

Available Trims

  • L: Includes 18-inch painted alloy wheels, eight-way power-adjustable driver seat, eight-inch touchscreen display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and more.
  • LE: Adds height-adjustable power liftgate with jam protection, blind-spot monitoring system, tilt/telescopic leather steering wheel, and more.
  • XLE: Adds 18-inch machined-finish alloy wheels, power tilt/slide moonroof with sunshade, 10-way power-adjustable driver seat, wireless smartphone charging, and more.
  • XSE: Adds 20-inch machined-face alloy wheels, aggressive mesh front grille with sporty front bumper and lower spoiler, sport-tuned suspension, and ambient interior lighting.
  • Limited: Adds 20-inch chrome wheels, heated steering wheel, integrated backup camera with dynamic gridlines, and more.
  • Platinum: Adds 20-inch alloy wheels, power panoramic view moonroof with sunshade and one-touch open/close, heated second-row seats, navigation system, and more.

Available Colors

  • Blizzard Pearl
  • Blueprint
  • Celestial Silver Metallic
  • Magnetic Gray Metallic
  • Midnight Black Metallic
  • Moon Dust
  • Opulent Amber
  • Ruby Flare Pearl


  • Infotainment system with touchscreen display, five USB ports, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability, and more
  • Seating for seven or eight passengers
  • Tri-zone automatic climate control
  • 11-speaker JBL® audio system (Limited and higher trims)
  • 84.3 cubic feet of cargo volume behind the first row

Average CarMax Prices

The 2021 Toyota Highlander is a newer model year and we currently have a limited number in our inventory. See below for average CarMax prices for previous model years of the Toyota Highlander.

  • 2011 - Average prices less than $16,5004
  • 2012 - Average prices less than $17,5004
  • 2013 - Average prices less than $19,5004
  • 2014 - Average prices less than $22,5004
  • 2015 - Average prices less than $23,5004
  • 2016 - Average prices less than $25,5004
  • 2017 - Average prices less than $28,0004
  • 2018 - Average prices less than $30,0004
  • 2019 - Average prices less than $29,5004

Similar Model Years

If you like the 2021 Toyota Highlander, check out some previous model years of this vehicle with similar features.


The 2021 Toyota Highlander is rated overall 5/5 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Certain vehicles may have unrepaired safety recalls. Click here to look up a specific vehicle.

Similar Vehicles

If you're interested in the 2021 Toyota Highlander, you should also check out these similar vehicles from previous model years.

Toyota 4Runner

If you're shopping for a body-on-frame SUV with serious off-road cred, the Toyota 4Runner can quench your thirst for adventure. All 2017-2019 models use a 4.0L V6 that makes 270 hp and 278 lb.-ft. of torque and can tow an estimated 5,000 lbs., when properly equipped.2 All 2017-2019 trims are available in 4x4; SR5 and Limited models are also available in 4x2. The 2017-2019 4Runner TRD-Off Road boasts up to 9.6 inches of ground clearance and an electronically controlled locking rear differential that's designed to distribute engine power evenly to both rear wheels. Other features on the 2017-2019 TRD Off-Road Premium include:

  • 17-inch seven-spoke alloy wheels
  • Locking rear differential
  • Crawl control
  • SofTex®-trimmed heated front seats
  • Navigation system

Toyota RAV4

Suiting a wide range of driving needs, the Toyota RAV4 is a five-passenger compact SUV with a comfortable cabin and great versatility. With 38.4 cubic feet of volume behind the second row in 2017-2018 models, the RAV4's generous cargo area can s everything from groceries and shopping bags to camping gear. 2017-2019 models also feature 60/40-split second-row seats that fold flat to accommodate larger items. Hands full? You'll find a standard power liftgate with jam protection on the 2019 RAV4 XLE Premium, making it easier to load the trunk. Base LE models of the 2017-2019 RAV4 are well-equipped with many standard features, including:

  • 17-inch steel wheels
  • Backup camera with projected path
  • Fabric-trimmed seats
  • Six-way adjustable driver seat
  • Lane departure warning with steering assist

Nissan Pathfinder

Need a three-row SUV that can tow your toys and carry lots of passengers and cargo? The Nissan Pathfinder has the roomy cabin and robust hauling power you want. All 2017-2019 models run off a 284-hp 3.5L V6 with 259 lb.-ft. of torque that can tow an estimated 6,000 lbs., when properly equipped.With room for seven passengers in 2017-2019 models, you'll have space for family and friends, as well as 16 cubic feet of trunk space with all rows in place; capacity expands to 79.8 cubes by folding the rear row. Standard features on the mid-range 2017-2019 Pathfinder SL trim include:

  • Power-adjustable heated outside mirrors with memory
  • Four-way power-adjustable front passenger seat
  • Heated outboard second-row seats
  • Metallic interior trim with leather door trim inserts
  • NissanConnect® navigation system (optional on 2017 model)

The Bottom Line

The 2021 Toyota Highlander is an impressive three-row SUV that's well-suited for daily duty or special trips. With six trims to choose from and a roomy cabin for up to eight people and their belongings, you'll have the space and features you need to go about your travels in style.

Looking to learn more? Check out these related articles from CarMax:

1Fuel economy figures are based on EPA estimates for when vehicle sold as new. Fuel economy may vary for reasons like driving conditions and vehicle history. Unless specified, figures are for vehicles equipped with an automatic transmission. See fueleconomy.gov.
2Various factors may impact towing capacity, including weight of passengers, cargo, and options/accessories.
3Wi-Fi hotspots require a data plan to activate and may also require a compatible device. See the owner's manual or manufacturer website for more information.
4Based on prices on carmax.com from January 2, 2019 through June 4, 2020. Actual prices may vary based on your selected model year, features, and trim packages. Prices do not include taxes, tags, titles, and any applicable fees.
Unless otherwise noted, information related to these featured vehicles comes from third-party sources, including manufacturer information. Product and company names may be trademarks or registered trademarks of third-party entities. Use of them does not imply any affiliation with or endorsement by these entities.