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$34,810 - 48,915 MSRP

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Pros & Cons

  • Strong acceleration
  • Commendable cabin quality
  • Long list of safety and infotainment features
  • Cramped third-row seats
  • Less agile than rivals

Rankings & Research

The 2021 Toyota Highlander's #12 ranking is based on its score within the Midsize SUVs category. Currently the Toyota Highlander has a score of 7.8 out of 10, which is based on our evaluation of 12 pieces of research and data elements using various sources.

7.8

Overall

Scorecard

Critics' Rating: 7.7
Performance: 6.8
Interior: 7.4
Safety:
This rating isn’t available yet for the current model year. In the meantime, last year’s rating of 10.0 for safety is being used to calculate this vehicle’s overall score.
TBD
Reliability:
J.D. Power Ratings Logo

Thinking of leasing a Toyota Highlander?

The U.S. News Best Price Program saves users an average of $3,206 off the MSRP, and a lower price equals lower monthly lease payments. That means you could see a savings of $90 a month on a 36-month lease.

Is the Toyota Highlander a Good SUV?

The Highlander doesn't excel in any one area, but it's still a good, well-rounded midsize SUV. It has three rows of seats, and while the first two are roomy and comfortable, the last row is cramped. Cargo space isn't class-leading, but it’s still very serviceable. This Toyota's cabin quality is good, and the tech features are straightforward.

When it comes to performance, a standard V6 engine, good fuel economy, and a composed ride make the Highlander easy to live with. However, it's far from the most engaging driving partner in the class.

Why You Can Trust Us: 12 Reviews Analyzed

We analyzed 12 Toyota Highlander reviews – along with reliability ratings, fuel economy estimates, and more – to help you decide if the 2021 Highlander is the right new car for you.

This 2021 Highlander review incorporates applicable research for all models in this generation, which launched for 2020.

U.S. News Best Cars has been ranking and reviewing vehicles since 2007, and our staff has more than 75 years of combined experience in the auto industry. To ensure our objectivity, we never accept expensive gifts from carmakers, and an outside firm manages the ads on our site.

Should I Buy the Toyota Highlander?

A long list of standard driver assistance features and a well-equipped infotainment system make the Highlander a good value, even though it has one of the higher base prices in the segment. Still, most of its attributes are met by class rivals. When it comes down to it, the Highlander is a safe, if unexciting, choice.

Find a 2021 Toyota Highlander for sale near you »

2020 vs. 2021 Toyota Highlander: What's the Difference?

For 2021, Toyota introduces an XSE trim of the Highlander. This model features a sport-tuned suspension, an upgraded exterior design, and unique interior trim appointments. Additionally, all Highlander models now come standard with LED projector headlights.

Compare the 2020 and 2021 Highlander »

Here are the key changes for the Toyota Highlander over the last few years:

  • 2017: refreshed interior and exterior design; Toyota Safety Sense driver assistance features became standard; stronger V6 engine and eight-speed automatic transmission made available
  • 2018: no major changes
  • 2019: minor exterior design changes
  • 2020: fully redesigned with standard V6 engine and 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system; Android Auto and Apple CarPlay introduced and made standard; 12.3-inch touch screen, head-up display, and traffic sign recognition became available
  • 2021: gained standard LED projector headlights; XSE trim debuts

If you're considering an older model, be sure to read our 2018 Highlander, 2019 Highlander, and 2020 Highlander reviews to help make your decision. Also, check out our Best New Car Deals and Best New Car Lease Deals pages to learn about savings and discounts you can find on vehicles such as a new Highlander.

How Much Does the Toyota Highlander Cost?

The 2021 Toyota Highlander starts at $34,810, which is one of the highest base prices among midsize SUVs. There are five higher trim levels that each increase by a few thousand dollars, until you reach the top-of-the-line Highlander Platinum at $46,965.

All trims come standard with front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive (AWD) is a $1,600 option in lower trims and a $1,950 add-on in higher trims.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

Toyota Highlander Versus the Competition

Toyota Highlander vs. Kia Telluride

The Kia Telluride debuted as an all-new vehicle for 2020 and immediately turned the midsize SUV class on its head. The Telluride is a little more refined inside than the Highlander, and it offers a roomier third row. You'll enjoy the Kia's performance more than the Toyota’s, owing to its swift acceleration, easy maneuverability, and good amount of steering feedback. The Telluride is several thousand dollars less expensive than the Highlander both in its base model and highest trim. With a similar list of standard features, the Kia is the better value and the better buy.

Compare the Highlander and Telluride »

Toyota Highlander vs. Toyota Highlander Hybrid

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid ranks highly in the hybrid and electric SUV class. This hybrid variant is more fun to drive than its gas-only counterpart, as its electric motors add extra punch to acceleration right off the bat. These motors are paired with a four-cylinder engine, in contrast to the nonhybrid Highlander's V6. Choosing between these two will probably depend on how you value potential savings on gas versus the difference in MSRP.

The Highlander Hybrid gets an estimated 36 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, compared to 21/29 mpg city/highway from the standard Highlander. Driving the hybrid will save you about $450 in fuel costs per year, though a base model is around $3,600 more expensive than the base gas-only model. You'd have to drive the hybrid for about eight years to cover the discrepancy in purchase price.

Compare the Highlander and Highlander Hybrid »

Compare the Highlander, Telluride, and Highlander Hybrid »

Highlander Interior: Hits the Right Notes

Highlander Cargo Space

The Toyota Highlander rates pretty well among midsize SUVs for cargo utility. You get 16 cubic feet of space behind the third row, a volume comparable to the trunk size of some midsize to large sedans. Folding down the third row opens up 48.4 cubic feet of space. The Highlander has a maximum cargo volume of 84.3 cubic feet behind the first-row seats.

How Many People Does the Highlander Seat?

The Highlander seats up to eight people. The standard configuration offers three-person bench seats for both the second- and third-rows. The middle row slides and reclines for adjustable legroom and better passenger comfort. You can also opt for second-row captain's chairs, reducing capacity to seven.

The front seats remain comfortable for long drives, and the second row has ample space for most people. However, the optional moonroof cuts into headroom. The third row is smaller than that of many class rivals, and it's best left to smaller occupants.

Highlander and Child Car Seats

There are two complete sets of LATCH connectors for the second-row outboard seats, along with a tether anchor for the second-row middle seat, which has the ability to borrow lower anchors from both sides. The third-row middle seat has another tether anchor. All of the connection points are easy to locate and use.

Highlander Interior Quality

The Highlander's interior varies by trim level, but it's all good. Lower-trim models have a noticeable amount of plastics, and the design is somewhat dull. However, Toyota's reputation for excellent build quality remains intact. Higher trims feature more soft-touch surfaces and accents such as imitation wood.

Highlander Infotainment, Bluetooth, and Navigation

An infotainment system with an 8-inch touch screen comes standard in the Highlander. It's easy to learn the ins and outs of the interface, and there are plenty of clearly marked physical controls. You might find some of the graphics a little basic, and the system doesn't always function as smoothly as you want. A stunning 12.3-inch touch screen is optional, and it’s a lot more technologically impressive.

  • Standard infotainment features: an 8-inch touch screen, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, five USB ports, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a six-speaker stereo, and a Wi-Fi hot spot
  • Available infotainment features: a 12.3-inch touch screen, wireless device charging, navigation, and an 11-speaker JBL premium stereo
  • Additional standard features: proximity keyless entry and tri-zone automatic climate control
  • Other available features: a moonroof, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display, ambient interior lighting, a household-style power outlet, Driver Easy Speak (amplifies the driver's voice through speakers to the back rows), and a panoramic moonroof

For more information, read What Is Apple CarPlay?, What Is Android Auto?, and What Is Amazon Alexa Auto?

Read more about interior »

Highlander Performance: Capable Companion

Highlander Engine

The 2021 Highlander comes standard with a 295-horsepower V6 engine. While this isn't the most muscular SUV in the class, it serves up sharp acceleration from a stop. You can also get up to higher speeds fairly easily, thanks to an eight-speed automatic transmission that works smoothly in the background.

Highlander Gas Mileage

The EPA rates the front-wheel-drive 2021 Highlander at 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. Those figures are above average for a midsize SUV with a V6 engine. Several class rivals get better fuel economy, but they do so with standard four-cylinder engines. With all-wheel drive (AWD), the Highlander gets an estimated 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

Highlander Ride and Handling

The Highlander drives comfortably over uneven pavement and provides a balanced, comfortable ride. Handling isn't particularly agile, but this SUV still goes around corners with poise. There's little steering feedback, and it usually feels like you're driving a big vehicle – because you are.

Highlander Towing Capacity

When properly equipped, the Highlander can tow up to 5,000 pounds. That's about average for the class.

Read more about performance »

Highlander Reliability

Is the Toyota Highlander Reliable?

The 2021 Toyota Highlander has a slightly above-average predicted reliability rating of 3.5 out of five.

Toyota Highlander Warranty

Toyota covers the Highlander with a three-year/36,000-mile basic warranty and a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty.

Read more about reliability »

Highlander Safety

Highlander Crash Test Results

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the 2021 Toyota Highlander an overall safety rating of five out of five stars, with four stars in the frontal crash and rollover tests and five stars in the side crash test.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not tested the 2021 Highlander. However, the organization gave the very similar 2020 Highlander excellent ratings across the board.

Highlander Safety Features

Standard advanced safety features:

  • Forward collision warning
  • Pedestrian detection
  • Automatic emergency braking
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Automatic high-beam headlights
  • Lane trace assist
  • Traffic sign recognition
  • Rearview camera
  • Rear-seat reminder

Available advanced safety features:

  • Blind spot monitoring
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Surround-view parking camera system
  • Adaptive headlights
  • Rain-sensing windshield wipers
  • Rearview mirror camera
  • Head-up display

Read more about safety »

Highlander Dimensions and Weight

The Highlander is 16.2 to 16.5 feet long. Its curb weight ranges from 4,145 to 4,450 pounds, and its gross vehicle weight rating is between 5,830 and 5,935 pounds.

Where Is the 2021 Toyota Highlander Built?

Toyota builds the 2021 Highlander in Indiana.

Which Toyota Highlander Model Is Right for Me?

The 2021 Toyota Highlander comes in six trims: L, LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum. All models come standard with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, an eight-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional in every trim.

You can stick with a base model and still get a well-equipped vehicle, as a long list of driver assistance features and an infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa comes standard. Jump up to the LE to get blind spot monitoring, or pick the XLE for comfort features such as synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, and second-row captain's chairs.

Features such as ventilated front seats, a 12.3-inch touch screen, a head-up display, and a surround-view parking camera system can only be found in the top two trim levels. Note that these trims can cost around $10,000 more than a base model.

We review the Toyota Highlander Hybrid separately.

Toyota Highlander L

The 2021 Toyota Highlander L starts at $34,810. Standard features include cloth upholstery, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, proximity keyless entry, tri-zone automatic climate control, a rear-seat reminder, and an 8-inch touch-screen infotainment system with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa, five USB ports, Bluetooth, satellite radio, a six-speaker stereo, and a Wi-Fi hot spot.

The Highlander also comes standard with the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ suite of driver assistance and pre-collision features, which includes forward collision warning, pedestrian detection, automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, lane keep assist, automatic high-beam headlights, lane trace assist, and traffic sign recognition.

Toyota Highlander LE

The Toyota Highlander LE costs $37,010 and adds blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, a power liftgate, LED fog lights, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.

Toyota Highlander XLE

Retailing for $39,810, the Highlander XLE gains synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 10-way power-adjustable driver's seat, a four-way power-adjustable passenger seat, second-row captains' chairs, and second-row sunshades. It also includes a moonroof, wireless device charging, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, and a 7-inch digital instrument cluster display.

Replacing the captain's chairs with the standard bench seat is a free option, and navigation is available for $1,040.

Toyota Highlander XSE

The $41,405 Toyota Highlander XSE trim is new for 2021. Upgrades include sporty interior and exterior styling, a sport-tuned suspension, ambient interior lighting, navigation, and front and rear parking sensors. An 11-speaker JBL premium stereo is optional for $1,680.

Toyota Highlander Limited

Additional features in the Highlander Limited, which starts at $43,765, include a hands-free power liftgate, genuine leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a household-style power outlet, Driver Easy Speak, and an 11-speaker JBL premium stereo. A 12.3-inch touch screen and a surround-view parking camera system are optional for $1,050.

Toyota Highlander Platinum

For $46,965, the range-topping Highlander Platinum adds adaptive headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, a panoramic moonroof, a rearview mirror camera, heated second-row seats, a head-up display, a surround-view parking camera system, and a 12.3-inch touch screen.

Check out our U.S. News Best Price Program for great savings at your local Toyota dealer. You can also find excellent manufacturer incentives on our Toyota deals page.

See 2021 Toyota Highlander specs and trims »

The Final Call

The Toyota Highlander has a lot of positives, like easy-going performance, a comfortable cabin, and a massive list of features. However, that’s not enough to cut it in the competitive midsize SUV class, as several rivals are more fun to drive or have roomier third-row seats.

Don’t just take our word for it. Check out comments from some of the reviews that drive our rankings and analysis.

  • "The Highlander's more manageable size … impressive cabin quality, and time-tested dependability and resale value add up to a large family vehicle that'll work for many. However, it has many impressive competitors, many of which cost the same or less despite offering more spacious and comfortable third-row seating." -- Autoblog
  • "This fresh Highlander isn’t particularly innovative, but it doesn’t need to be. Its winning approach has always been to provide decent space for families, well-integrated and user-friendly features, excellent drivetrains, and solid dependability." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "The … Toyota Highlander boasts high-end technologies even among base models and, on higher trim levels, lavish cabin materials that go toe-to-toe with the poshest rivals. But space for people or luggage is not its forte — a historical weakness for the model that has improved only modestly in this fourth-generation overhaul." -- Cars.com (2020)
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