Toyota’s focus for the 2020 Chicago Auto Show is more is better as the Japanese automaker introduces seven variants of new vehicles that will find their way into dealerships in 2021.
The company brought the first-ever Highlander XSE, which brings nimble moves and bolder styling to this three-row family SUV, new Trail Special Editions of the Tacoma and Tundra pickups and 4Runner SUV as well as new Nightshade Special Editions of the Tacoma and Tundra pickups and the Sequoia SUV.
The new Highlander XSE gives Toyota an entry into the higher performance sport-utility segment. The XSE badge has translated to improved performance and a more aggressive exterior look for a slew of Toyota vehicles across its line-up throughout the years.
Slotted between the XLE and Limited trim levels, the 2021 Highlander XSE is powered by a 295-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 mated to 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% 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, the company notes. 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 new Highlander XSE gets several suspension upgrades to handle the power boost, including exclusive machined-faced 20-inch wheels with black accents, higher-rate springs and rear stabilizer bar, and re-tuned shock absorbers. The ute’s electric power steering has also been re-tuned for a sportier steering feel.
It’s not enough to improve the performance, XSE vehicles need to look the part and to that end the Highlander version received a nose-to-tail makeover. 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 addition, edge rocker panels accent the Highlander XSE’s sculpted lines. Around back, the aggressive look continues with the first-ever exposed chromed dual-tip exhaust on a Highlander. Black roof rails, mirror caps, and window moldings round out the look.
The Highlander isn’t the only vehicle getting the special edition treatment as the Tacoma, Tundra and 4Runner get updated with the automaker’s Trail Special Edition package. The package puts an emphasis on extra storage and convenience, with unique styling as well as exclusive content.
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 “Trails” are built on SR5 Upgrade Packages that features a 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.
They can be had in Army Green, Cement, Midnight Black, or 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.
Toyota also expanded its offerings with the Nightshade package for 2021 to include the Tacoma, Tundra and Sequoia. Unlike the Trails, the Nightshades focus on a more refined, yet equally aggressive look with 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.
Toyota already offers Nightshade Editions of the Corolla Sedan, Corolla Hatchback, Camry, 4Runner, and Sienna van. Toyota is planning to build 5,000 each of the Tacoma and Tundra Nightshade, and 2,500 Sequoia Nightshade.