The Missing Piece

At the Chicago Auto Show, Toyota announces its plans to round out the all-new Highlander’s portfolio with a bold and sporty XSE version

February 11, 2020
Xtra Sporty -- The Highlander XSE's grille, front and side rocker moldings, blacked-out accents and exclusive wheels are among the design elements that set it apart from the other grades in the line.

Toyota just kicked off sales of the all-new 2020 Highlander with a pretty adventurous Super Bowl ad. So you might think now would be the time to pause and take a well-deserved victory lap.

Think again.

On Thursday, Toyota continued to press its advantage with Highlander, announcing at the Chicago Auto Show not only that production of the hybrid version of its popular family hauler would begin this month, but that it planned to expand its reach with the addition of the Highlander XSE — due to go on sale as a 2021 model this fall.

“The response to the all-new 2020 Highlander has been amazing,” said Ed Laukes, group vice president of Marketing, to the assembled media. “Even though it’s only been out a month, we’re already taking it to the next level. And that’s the XSE.”

"Red-dy" to Roll -- The Highlander XSE's two-tone upholstery is a clear differentiator in the popular SUV's lineup.

Practicality with a Punch
Like the XSE variants of Camry, Avalon, RAV4 and Corolla that preceded it, the newest addition to the Highlander line aims to deliver styling and performance that quickens the pulse.

For example, its bold new exterior includes such touches as:
  • A sportier grille with a unique insert
  • Front and side rocker moldings
  • Blacked-out accents
  • A twin-tip exhaust
  • 20-inch wheels exclusive to the XSE
Step inside and you’ll find exclusive two-tone seats and as well as other distinctive XSE styling elements

“This might be the boldest interior we’ve ever achieved in a Highlander,” said Laukes.

That being said, there’s more to the Highlander XSE than pure aesthetics. Laukes also touted it as “the best-handling Highlander in the lineup,” thanks in part to an all-new sport-tuned suspension — as well as Dynamic Torque Vectoring for its all-wheel drive powertrain.
Night Rider -- The Tacoma is among Toyota's body-on-frame models that will get the full Nightshade treatment.

But That’s Not All, Folks…
Though the Highlander XSE might have been the star of the show, it’s far from the only newcomer-in-waiting for the 2021 model year. Toyota also shared that its body-on-frame models — Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia — would get the Nightshade treatment, joining the 4Runner as well as four other Nightshade models already at dealerships. And it announced the addition of special Trail Editions of Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner.

The Nightshade package begins with the Limited grade for each vehicle, then adds black-painted wheels, a darkened chrome grille, blacked-out exterior badging and more.
Cool and Clever -- The Trail Editions of the Tacoma and Tundra feature twin-mounted lockable storage boxes, including one that's insulated to serve as a cooler on the go.

The Trail Editions, meanwhile, introduce both distinctive design elements and practical comfort and convenience features to the mix. Some of the more notable examples include:

  • Twin bed-mounted lockable storage boxes, including one that’s insulated to make for the perfect cooler on the go (Tacoma and Tundra)
  • All-weather floor liners (all models)
  • 115-volt bed outlet (Tacoma and Tundra)
  • Black seating with unique tan stitching throughout (all models)
  • Removeable and lockable custom cooler (4Runner)
  • Yakima Loadwarrior cargo basket (4Runner)
  • Kevlar All-Terrain Tires (Tacoma)
  • TRD Off-Road Wheels (Tacoma and 4Runner)
In addition, all three variations on the Trail Edition theme will be available in Army Green, Cement, Midnight Black Metallic and Super White.
Got Stuff? -- Among the 4Runner Trail Edition's many unique features is a Yakima Loadwarrior cargo basket.  

“As you can see, it’s a very exciting time for Toyota trucks, SUVs, cars — you name it,” said Laukes. “We could not be positioned better for a successful 2020.”

For the full scoop on Toyota’s news out of Chicago, check out this post. on the Toyota USA Newsroom.
By Dan Miller
Sockios Alert! What is the diameter in inches of the Highlander XSE’s exclusive wheels? Email your answers to by the end of the day. Answer correctly and you'll be entered in a random drawing to win a pair of Sockios. The 50 winners will be notified by email. Good luck!

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