Toyota Highlander: Which Should You Buy, 2020 or 2021?

2020 Toyota Highlander

Most significant changes: New XSE trim for gas-only Highlander; standard LED headlights for L, LE and XLE; upgrade on standard Toyota Safety Sense system

Price change: $210 for L, LE and XLE; $115 for Limited and Platinum 

On sale: Now 

Which should you buy, 2020 or 2021? The modest price increases for enhanced safety features make the 2021 a better choice, assuming dealers aren’t discounting 2020 models significantly. And if you’re looking for the XSE, the 2021 model’s your only choice.

Toyota redesigned the popular three-row Highlander for the 2020 model year, so it’s not surprising to see relatively minor changes in this generation’s second year. The automaker is introducing a new, sportier XSE trim with different suspension tuning, along with XSE-specific exterior and interior styling cues. Beyond that, the LED headlights have been upgraded to projector-style lights on the gas-only L trim and both the gas and hybrid LE and XLE. Toyota claims the change improves visibility.

Related: 2020 Toyota Highlander Review: More in Some Ways, Not in Others

Upgraded Safety Tech

The 2021 model also gets the latest version of a Toyota Safety Sense suite of advanced safety features, which is standard equipment. The previous version, TSS 2.0, included forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, among other features. TSS 2.5 Plus, as Toyota now calls it, adds enhanced pedestrian and cyclist detection, including in low-light conditions, as well as enhanced automatic emergency braking that can now detect an oncoming vehicle if you  make a left turn across oncoming traffic.

Other standard TSS features include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning with lane-keeping assist and lane-centering steering, and automatic high beams.

Engines and Gas Mileage

Gas-only Highlanders are all powered by the same 295-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 paired to an eight-speed automatic, while the Hybrid pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas engine with an electric motor and battery pack for 243 total system hp, mated to a Hybrid-specific continuously-variable-style automatic transmission.

EPA fuel economy for the gas-only Highlander is 23-24 mpg combined, depending on driveline and trim. For the Highlander Hybrid, combined EPA mileage is 35 or 36 mpg, also depending on driveline and trim. 

Pricing and Release Date

The 2021 Toyota Highlander and Highlander Hybrid are on sale now. All prices below are for front-wheel drive and include the destination fee ($1,175); adding AWD to any trim will add an extra $1,600. 

  • L: $35,985 ($210 increase)
  • LE: $38,185 ($210 increase)
  • XLE: $40,985 ($210 increase)
  • XSE: $42,580 (New for 2021)
  • Limited: $44,940 ($115 increase)
  • Platinum: $48,140 ($115 increase)
  • Hybrid LE: $39,585 ($210 increase)
  • Hybrid XLE: $42,385 ($210 increase)
  • Hybrid Limited: $46,340 ($115 increase)
  • Hybrid Platinum: $49,540 ($115 increase)

 

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