2024 Toyota Highlander XSE: Review, Interior & Specs

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2024 Toyota Highlander XSE: Review, Interior & Specs -As in previous years, Toyota provides a Highlander that is suitable for any budget and any activity. The L, the LE, the XLE, the XSE, the Bronze Edition, the Limited, and the Platinum are the available trim levels. Only the gas-powered models are available in the base L trim level from Toyota, while the hybrid models can only be purchased in the unique Bronze Edition trim level with its distinctive bronze-colored exterior trim.

New 2024 Toyota Highlander XSE
New 2024 Toyota Highlander XSE

The gasoline-powered Highlander L front-wheel drive has a starting price of $36,420, while the Highlander Platinum all-wheel drive has a maximum price of $51,225. The price of the gas-electric hybrid begins at $40,220 for the front-wheel drive version of the Highlander LE and goes up to $52,625 for the all-wheel drive version of the Highlander Platinum. A destination fee of $1,335 is added to the purchase price of every Toyota grade. The 2024 Highlander is now on display at dealership showrooms.

I just recently got behind the wheel of a 2024 Toyota Highlander XSE AWD in the Nashville, Tennessee region. Cockpit Red upholstery, 20-inch alloy wheels with a black finish, an optional Audio Multimedia package that contains the biggest available 12.3-inch touchscreen for the infotainment system, and an 11-speaker JBL premium audio system were some of the features that Toyota included in this vehicle. The premium Wind Chill Pearl paint was an available option for the car that was tested. This car had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $48,500, which included a destination fee of $1,335.


Depending on whether the second-row seats are individual captain’s chairs (as they are in the XSE test vehicle) or a split bench with a 60/40 split, the Highlander has the capacity to transport either seven or eight people. The two different kinds of second-row seats are able to slide forward and backward in order to provide access to the more compact third-row bench seat that is split 60/40 and to allow for some legroom reallocation, with part of the legroom coming from the second row in order to provide passengers in the third row with long legs with some knee clearance.

A two-tone color scheme consisting of Cockpit Red and black was used in the Highlander XSE test vehicle’s interior, which was polished off by Toyota quite neatly. Even though it’s not a Lexus, the Highlander’s dashboard and center console both include nice accent stitching and generous application of materials with a pleasant soft-touch feel.

There is a choice between fabric and SoftTex covers for the front bucket seats, and leather upholstery is an option for the XSE, Limited, and Platinum trim levels. The front bucket seats are heated in all trim levels other than the basic L and LE models. A generous amount of bolstering on the seatbacks in the torso region helps hold the driver and front passenger in their seats during the tricky parts, but it doesn’t get in the way of getting in and out of the vehicle easily.

Midsize SUVs often provide a storage capacity that is comparable to that of full-size sedans, measuring 16 cubic feet behind the third row, 48.4 cubic feet with the 60/40 split third-row seats folded, and 84.3 cubic feet with both the second-and third-row chairs folded completely flat. Additionally, there is a concealed compartment that is above the mini-spare tire and has a good amount of space under the cargo floor. This compartment can easily fit a number of computer bags, purses, briefcases, cameras, and other smaller shopping items.

Access to the cargo area is provided via a liftgate that is either manually or electrically controlled, depending on the trim level. The basic L model has a manually operated liftgate. When the key fob is carried by the vehicle’s operator, the Limited and Platinum trim levels come standard with a hands-free liftgate that can be opened with a foot wave beneath the rear bumper. Except for the base L trim, the height at which the liftgate opens can be adjusted on all other trim levels.

The Highlander’s front cabin is equipped with a number of ingenious storage options. There is a convenient shelf that runs in two pieces under the dash center stack under the temperature and infotainment controls and above the glovebox. This shelf provides storage space for a variety of smaller goods and road-trip trash that the occupants of the cabin would wish to keep easily accessible. Except for the base L and LE trims, the shelf is equipped with a wireless charger that is compatible with Qi-compatible mobile devices.

The console itself comes equipped with two cupholders, a well in front of the shifter that has one USB-A connector and a couple of USB-C connections, and a handy storage compartment beneath the center armrest that can be opened via a tambour door that slides back and forth.

2024 Toyota Highlander Interior
2024 Toyota Highlander Interior


The Toyota Audio Multimedia entertainment system made its debut in some of Toyota’s models for the 2023 model year. The 2024 Highlander is one of many new Toyotas to adopt the system, which made its debut in some of Toyota’s products for the 2023 model year. The new system was developed at Toyota’s headquarters in the United States, which is located in Texas. It has various innovations, including improved controls for voice-activated functions, cloud navigation, and a point-of-interest search base that is maintained by Google. The following are some of the other components of the system:

  • standard infotainment touchscreen display of 8 inches on the L, LE, XLE, and XSE models
  • touchscreen information and entertainment system with a 12.3-inch display (standard on the Limited and Platinum trims; optional on the XLE and XSE).
  • Wireless Compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
  • There is one USB-A media connector and two USB-C charge ports in the front of the device, and there are two more USB-C charge ports in the back.
  • The capacity to couple two phones, one of which can be used for streaming while the other can be used for conversation.
    AT&T has 4G Wi-Fi service available for up to five devices.
  • A separate account is required in order to stream music from Apple Music and Amazon Music.
  • AM/FM audio system with six speakers is standard in the L, LE, XLE, and XSE trim levels.
  • 11-speaker JBL premium sound system (comes standard in the Limited and Platinum trims and is an available upgrade for the XSE).
  • Free trial of HD Radio with SiriusXM Platinum satellite radio for three months

The content of the infotainment screen is easy to reach thanks to touchscreen tiles that are clear to see and rationally placed, as well as buttons located on the steering wheel. On the other hand, Toyota eliminated the straightforward analog tuning knob that was part of the earlier configuration and could be used with a minimum of attention. Although it was relocated to the passenger side of the screen in the new system, Toyota did maintain an analog volume control knob for the new system.

Having said that, the new multimedia system’s enhanced voice control makes interacting with the information and entertainment features considerably less complicated. This is particularly the case in the event that the owner of the Highlander subscribes to Drive Connect, which is one of the linked services provided by Toyota. Drive Connect features Toyota’s always-improving Cloud Navigation, which is included in the package. In addition to that, it has the Toyota Intelligent Assistant, which is activated whenever the driver presses the icon button located on the steering wheel for voice control. It also works when the driver gives a wake-up command such as “Hey, Toyota,” at which time the Intelligent Assistant will inquire what it is that you would want to accomplish next. The temperature control settings could be adjusted, a location of interest could be located in the Google database, instructions could be provided for navigation, an audio selection could be made, and much more could be done in response to commands. The best part is that it understands standard English used in everyday speech.

The Highlander XSE test car that Toyota sent us was outfitted with the premium audio system from JBL that has a total output of 1,200 watts. Because it was outfitted with Clari-Fi audio-restoration technology, it was able to produce a high-fidelity sound that was free of distortion even when playing compressed files from my portable streaming audio source.

The Toyota Highlander 2024 comes standard with eight airbags, a backup camera with a projected-path view, and Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ (TSS 2.5+), all of which are features that are pertinent to its function as a vehicle for transporting families. Components of TSS 2.5+ include the following:

  • A pre-collision system that detects pedestrians and daytime bicyclists, as well as incoming vehicles at junctions, and automatically applies the brakes in an emergency situation
  • Adaptive cruise control (ACC) with full-speed capability and curve-speed management
  • Assisted lane-keeping technology combined with steering assistance
  • Assistance for centering the car inside the lane (operates in conjunction with ACC and lane-keeping to perform this function)
    Traffic-sign recognition
  • Headlights with automatic high-beam functionality

Both blind-spot warning and a rear cross-traffic warning system are standard on all Highlanders other than the basic L trim level, although they are not included in the Toyota Safety SenseTM 2.5+ package. These innovations, which Toyota regards to be “convenience” features, are still a significant improvement in terms of safety, despite the fact that the company refers to them as such. Additionally, desirable features, such as front and rear parking assist with automatic braking and a 360-degree surround-view camera, are not included on any trim level other than the top-tier Limited and Platinum models. The latter replaces the normal reversing camera and offers the driver an overhead view of the Highlander as well as its near surroundings when the driver chooses the gear for reverse.

2024 Toyota Highlander XSE
2024 Toyota Highlander XSE


The Highlander 2024 offers drivers an option between two different drivetrains. The gas-electric hybrid drivetrain from the 2023 model, which was rated by the EPA to get 35-36 mpg in combined city and highway driving and included 243 system horsepower with a continuously variable gearbox, is carried over into the 2024 model unaltered.

A step-shift 8-speed automatic gearbox is paired with a new turbocharged 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine that is standard on the 2024 Highlander. I had the opportunity to test drive this powertrain. The new 4-cylinder turbo produces 265 horsepower, which is 30 horsepower less than the 3.5-liter normally aspirated V6 from the previous year. However, the new turbo-four creates 310 pound-feet of torque, which is 47 more than the V6 from the previous year, which only produced 263 pound-feet of torque. It is also highly noteworthy that the new turbo 4-cylinder begins producing its maximum torque at only 1,700 rpm, which is 3,000 rpm earlier than the old V6 engine produced its maximum twisting force.

The new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine is much more responsive in daily driving around town. It has improved acceleration at lower throttle settings and reduces the requirement for the 8-speed automated gearbox to remain in lower ratios for a longer period of time. Because the turbo four does not have to rev as high, it experiences less friction and reduced pumping losses. Additionally, the driver does not have to press as deeply into the throttle to maintain spacing with the ebb and flow of traffic, which contributes to an improvement in fuel economy.

This is reflected in the official fuel efficiency estimates for the 2024 Highlander, which have a combined city/highway estimate of 25 mpg for vehicles with front-wheel drive and 24 mpg for those with all-wheel drive. Considering the enhanced torque and real-world, daily responsiveness of the new turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the boost in fuel economy of only one mpg may not seem like much, but it is substantial.

The Highlander’s primary function is that of a family transporter; yet, the XSE trim level and turbocharged 4-cylinder engine give the vehicle a sportier feel, despite its utility. The finely weighted power-assisted electronic rack-and-pinion steering of the Highlander is enhanced by the XSE’s blacked 20-inch wheels, which not only add aesthetic appeal but also mount lower aspect ratio P235/55R20 tires. This is because the shorter sidewalls of these tires contribute to a sharper reaction from the steering system. The XSE has higher-rate springs and a bigger rear stabilizer bar, both of which contribute to the vehicle’s somewhat quicker acceleration.

The on-demand all-wheel drive system of the Highlander, which defaults to front-wheel drive (FWD) when conditions have adequate grip but may send up to fifty percent of driving power to the rear wheels if the fronts start to slide, was not put to the test since the roads were paved and smooth and the weather was dry. This prevented the testing of the system’s traction advantages. However, the torque-vectoring feature of the all-wheel drive system of the Highlander XSE helps sharpen steering response and reduce understeer even when the weather is dry. This is accomplished by overdriving the outer rear tire when it is necessary for sharp corners. Additionally, it works hand in hand with the Integrated Management system of the SUV to customize the throttle response and gearbox shifts in order to keep the vehicle stable.