TodayApril 15, 2022

Toyota CAS2020 Highlander XSE and Nightshades

2021 Special Editions roll into the Chicago Auto Show

* First-Ever Toyota Highlander XSE Debuts with Bolder Style and Sporty Handling

* Trail Special Edition Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner Offer Greater Outdoors Versatility

* Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia Go Dark with Nightshade Special Editions

On the eve of the Chicago Auto Show (CAS), Toyota has debuted seven new SUVs and pickup, truck models.

2021 Toyota Highlander XSE

A sporty three-row family SUV? Yep, Toyota showed the bolder side of styling, giving the family SUV a sporty feel.

Highlander XSE: More Fun for the Parents

In the Toyota world, the XSE badge is the sporty logo with specially tuned handling suspension, unique exterior styling, and exclusive interior trim.

For the first time in its 20-year history, the 2021 Toyota Highlander family SUV gets the XSE treatment. The fourth-generation Highlander, just introduced for 2020 and built on the Toyota New Global Architecture, offers the ideal platform for an agile transformation.

The Highlander XSE combines bold exterior design with more agile driving reflexes. Positioned between the XLE and Limited grades, the 2021 Highlander XSE is sporting its sporty self with a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that’s teamed with an eight-speed automatic transmission. It’s available with either front-wheel drive or Dynamic Torque Vectoring All-Wheel Drive.

In addition to being able to send up to 50 percent of torque to the rear wheels, this advanced AWD system can control the left/right torque distribution to the rear wheels for a more engaging driving experience. In addition, the Multi-Terrain Select feature, controlled by a dial on the center console, allows the driver to adjust drivetrain responses to prevailing road and weather conditions.

The Highlander XSE handles with the exclusive machined-faced 20-inch wheels with black accents. The 3-sporty row is equipped with higher-rate springs and rear stabilizer bar; the shock absorbers have been re-tuned for lower friction. Toyota says the electric power steering has also been re-tuned for a sportier steering feel and handling agility for the XSE while preserving Highlander’s renowned ride comfort.

To make the XSE grade, Highlander received a bumper-to-bumper style makeover. The front fascia, grille, and lower spoiler are exclusive to this model and impart a more aggressive stance. The restyled upper grille joins a much larger lower air intake integrated into the new bumper, with a spoiler below that. Unique headlamps feature black accents and light-strip Daytime Running Lights.

In profile, the side view has unique rocker panels that add an edgy accent to the Highlander XSE’s sculpted lines. Around back, there’s a shocker: the first-ever exposed dual-tip exhaust on a Highlander – and chromed, no less. Black roof rails, mirror caps, and window moldings dial up the subtle cool factor.

The interior of the Highlander XSE is emboldened by black Softex-trimmed seats with fabric inserts, while ambient lighting and carbon-fiber finish on the instrument panel sets the mood. A striking two-tone red and black leather-trimmed interior with a red-stitched instrument panel is optional.

The 2021 Highlander XSE comes ready to lull the children and adults alike into oblivion with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa compatibility, as well as five USB ports and an all-access 3-month trial of SiriusXM.

The Highlander XSE will also offer an upgrade to Premium Audio 1200-Watt, an 11-speaker JBL sound system with dynamic navigation.

Toyota anticipates that about 12 percent of Highlander buyers will opt for this sportier family hauler. The 2021 Toyota Highlander XSE is slated for launch in the fall of 2020.

2021 Trail Special Editions get the Nightshade Special edition

The new Trail Special Editions of the Tacoma and Tundra pickups and 4Runner SUV are being outfitted with the new Nightshade Special Editions. There are already five other Toyotas available with the Nightshade treatment; Corolla Sedan, Corolla Hatchback, Camry, 4Runner, and Sienna van.

Toyota trucks sit on the top of the hill of their segment for owners who like outdoor activities. Toyota is introducing the 2021 Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner Trail Special Editions this summer, putting emphasis on extra storage and convenience, with unique styling and exclusive content added for good measure.

All three 2021 Toyota Trails are based on the SR5 grade models, and they also offer the choice of 2WD or 4WD.

The Tacoma Trail is built on the SR5 Double Cab,
The Tundra Trail is based on the SR5 Crew Max with SR5 Upgrade Package (larger fuel tank, front bucket seats with driver’s power lumbar support, front center console, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, three front cupholders, and an anti-theft system with alarm
The Toyota 4Runner as Trail Editions

The Trail color choices include Army Green, Cement, Midnight Black, and Super White. While these are not strictly considered limited editions, the volume will be low. Toyota is planning to equip 7,000 Tacomas, 5,000 Tundras, and 4,000 4Runners as Trail Editions.

All Trails feature black exterior badging, plus black seating with tan stitching. Something I desperately need at my house, standard all-weather floor liners help catch the outdoor elements that come in on occupants’ feet.

Each Trail model has its own unique set of upgrades:

* The 2021 Tacoma Trail features a set of Dark Gray 18-inch TRD Off-Road wheels with Kevlar All-Terrain tires, and the grille from the Tacoma Limited adds a custom touch. A 115-volt power outlet in the bed adds versatility, and lockable bed storage includes insulation on the driver side to double as a cooler.

* The Tundra Trail wears the bold chrome grille from the top-of-line Tundra 1794 Edition with color-keyed surround, plus special-edition wheels. As on the Tacoma Trail, lockable bed storage includes insulation on the driver side to work as a cooler.

* The 4Runner Trail comes ready to carry campers into the woods with dark gray TRD Off-Road wheels, and a Yakima LoadWarrior rooftop cargo basket for added utility and gear-hauling capability. Inside the 4Runner boasts a custom 40-quart cooler and sliding cargo tray.

Custom-made for Toyota in the U.S., the 4Runner Trail’s cooler is quite a versatile piece of equipment, featuring:

* Lockable lid

* Freezer-grade gasket to provide an air-tight seal and keep ice frozen for up to seven days

* Tie-down straps and special brackets on the sliding rear cargo tray to safely secure the cooler while driving

* Two heavy-duty latches with integrated bottle openers

* Two durable, ergonomic carry handles

* Large built-in drain plug with lanyard

* A flat top to allow the cooler to act as a table surface or an outdoor seat

Nightshade Special Editions: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

While most Toyota Nightshade models are based on SE grade versions, the 2021 Nightshade pickups and Sequoia are built on the more luxurious Limited grade models.

All have black leather-trim seating and slightly sinister-looking black exterior trim, including a darkened chrome grille, black mirror caps, and black door handles. All three of the Toyota Nightshade trucks offer the choice of 2WD or 4WD.

The Toyota Nightshade details by model.

The Tacoma Nightshade is also distinguished by Dark Smoke 18-inch alloy wheels, black exhaust tip, and fog light bezels, and a new grille insert design.
The Tundra Nightshade has black wheels and exhaust tips.
The Sequoia Nightshade uniquely features darkened chrome Sequoia badging, body moldings, and lower grille and fog light surround.

The Nightshade Editions look particularly wicked in Midnight Black Metallic or Magnetic Gray Metallic. For more customization, the Tacoma and Tundra are also available in Windchill Pearl for a small fee, and the Tundra can also be ordered in Super White.

The Sequoia Nightshade offers Blizzard Pearl as an additional choice.

Toyota is planning to build 5,000 each of the Tacoma and Tundra Nightshade, and 2,500 Sequoia Nightshade.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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