The forecast for the Windy City looks sporty and outdoorsy, with a touch of nocturnal mischief as Toyota debuts seven new SUV and pickup truck variants at the Chicago Auto Show. All will arrive later this year as 2021 models.
The sporty element is the first-ever Highlander XSE, which brings nimble moves and bolder styling to this three-row family SUV. Meanwhile, new Trail Special Editions of the Tacoma and Tundra pickups and 4Runner SUV come prepped for even more outdoorsy adventure. And, for people who like dark shadows, dark matter, and maybe even dark chocolate, Toyota is adding new Nightshade Special Editions of the Tacoma and Tundra pickups and the Sequoia SUV. These join five other Toyotas already available with the cool, dark Nightshade treatment.
Highlander XSE: More Fun for the Parents
In the Toyota world, the XSE badge signals a drive on the sporty side with specially tuned handling suspension, unique exterior styling, and exclusive interior trim. For 2021, and for the first time in its 20-year history, the 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 athletic transformation.
Designed for people who need SUV practicality but really miss driving sport sedans, the Highlander XSE combines bold exterior design with more agile driving reflexes. Positioned between the XLE and Limited grades, the 2021 Highlander XSE is briskly motivated by 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 curves as well as its design takes compliments. In addition to exclusive machined-faced 20-inch wheels with black accents, the XSE model is equipped with higher-rate springs and rear stabilizer bar, and the shock absorbers have been re-tuned for lower friction. Electric power steering has also been re-tuned for a sportier steering feel. These carefully calibrated new parts boost 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 DRLs.
In profile, unique rocker panels 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.
Inside, the Highlander XSE rocks 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 red-stitched instrument panel is available and is sure to incite a bit of carpool envy.,
The 2021 Highlander XSE comes ready to take on all devices with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, Amazon Alexa compatibility, as well as five USB ports and an all access 3-month trail of SiriusXM(R).
The Highlander XSE will also offer an available Premium Audio 1200-Watt, 11-speaker JBL sound system with dynamic navigation, breathing new life into old hair bands.
Toyota anticipates that about 12 percent of Highlander buyers will opt for this edgier family hauler. Other updates to the 2021 Highlander will be announced later, but the XSE is slated for launch this fall.
2021 Trail Special Editions: Carry In, Carry Out In Style
Toyota truck buyers love the great outdoors, and in fact, Toyota trucks sit at the top of their segments for owners who participate in outdoor activities like camping, fishing, and hiking. To celebrate and support all that fresh-air fun, Toyota is introducing the 2021 Tacoma, Tundra, and 4Runner Trail Special Editions this summer. All put 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 to deliver high value, and they also offer the choice of 2WD or 4WD. The Tacoma Trail is built on the SR5 Double Cab, and 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 and engine immobilizer).
Available Trail color choices include Army Green, Cement, Midnight Black, and Super White. While these are not strictly considered limited editions, 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. In all versions, standard all-weather floor liners help catch the outdoor elements that come in on occupants' feet. From there, 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, 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:
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
The cooler comes color-keyed with Cement or Army Green exterior 4Runner colors, while on Super White and Midnight Black 4Runner Trails the cooler is Cement.
Nightshade Special Editions: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
With the close of summer comes shorter days and earlier sunsets - the perfect time for a trio of new 2021 Toyota Nightshade Editions to make their arrival. Toyota already offers Nightshade Editions of the Corolla Sedan, Corolla Hatchback, Camry, 4Runner, and Sienna van.
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.
From there, the details vary 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 tip, while the Sequoia Nightshade uniquely features darkened chrome 'Sequoia' badging, body moldings, and lower grille and fog light surrounds.
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*, and the Tundra can also be ordered in Super White. The Sequoia Nightshade offers Blizzard Pearl as an additional choice. *Added Cost Color
Toyota is planning to build 5,000 each of the Tacoma and Tundra Nightshade, and 2,500 Sequoia Nightshade.