Chicago Auto Show 2020

Toyota adding Highlander XSE to lineup for 2021

Toyota has introduced a new Highlander grade.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

The Toyota Highlander is one of the best-selling SUVs in the country. Toyota is looking tp draw in even more customers by offering a high level sport grade to its Highlander lineup.

For the 2020 model year, the three-row SUV underwent a complete redesign giving it better passenger space, more high-tech features, and a cost-effective hybrid variant. This new trim level adds another sport-driven variation for customers to choose with a long list of enhancements. It is positioned between the XLE and Limited grades.

2021 Toyota Highlader XSE

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

The exterior of the Highlander XSE features machined-faced 20-inch wheels with black accents; a fresh front fascia, grille, and lower spoiler; and headlamps with black accents and light-strip daytime running lights. Black mirror caps, roof rails, and winndow moldings add to the look. There are also unique rocker panels and the first dual-tip exhaust on a Highlander.

The new model features the same power plat that is in the rest of the non-Hybrid models in the Highlander lineup, a 3.5-liter V6 that achieves 295 horsepower and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

Toyota will offer the model with standard front-wheel drive and make it available with all-wheel drive. Drivers will be able to choose the SUV's drive mode via the Multi-Terrain Select dial on the center console.

Its underpinnings feature higher-rate springs, a rear stabilizer bar, and shock absorbers that have been re-tuned for lower friction. The midsize SUV's steering has also be re-tuned to deliver a sportier steering feel. Toyota says that the enhancements allow the Highlander to keep its comfortable ride quality.

Inside are black Softex-trimmed seats with fabric inserts. Ambient lighting and carbon-fiber accents on the instrument panel are standard. A two-tone black and red leather is available and comes complete with a red-stitched instrument panel.

Like the other Highladers in Toyota's lineup, the XSE grade features Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and Amazon Alexa compatibility. There are five USB ports in the model and an available 11-speaker JBL sound system.

Toyota says that other updates to the 2021 Highlander will be announced later, but the XSE is slated for launch this fall. Pricing is expected to be announced closer to the model's on-sale date.

Toyota is celebrating the history of baseball's Negro Leagues in its new commercial.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

When baseball players in the Negro Leagues showed up, they showed out. That's what the redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander is trying to do with its sleek new exterior and refined interior. A new commercial from the Japanese automaker called "Home Team" looks to shine light on both.

This year marks the 100-year anniversary of Negro Leagues Baseball, the segregated alternative to Major League Baseball that existed prior to integration in the late 1940s. In honor of the centennial, Toyota opted to include a player from that era in their latest commercial.

James "Jim" Robinson, former captain of the Kansas City Monarchs is featured as the family patriarch in the spot, titled "Home Team." Robinson's career started after Jackie Robinson had made it to the Yankees, in 1947. The young Jim Robinson played his first Negro Leagues game for the Philadelphia Stars at Yankee Stadium.

After also playing for the Indianapolis Clowns, Robinson earned an invite to try out for the St. Louis Cardinals. The Korean War interrupted his chance to try out then, but after serving 21 months in the military, he got another chance. After his tryout, the Cardinals assigned him to a Class B minor-league team.

Instead of accepting his fate, Robinson instead left the Cardinals affiliate and took his chances with the Kansas City Monarchs. It's a replica of that Monarchs jersey that Robinson wears in the Highlander commercial.

The Toyota commercial was filmed partly at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.

"We are truly delighted that Toyota has chosen to honor the unsung heroes of the Negro Leagues this way," says Bob Kendrick, President, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. "The passion, determination, and unwavering spirit from these individuals is truly an American story."

"Home Team" will begin airing on March 30, 2020.

Go behind the scenes of the commercial below.

The Toyota Supra has two new iterations for the 2021 model year.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

The next chapter of the Toyota GR Supra is here. For the 2021 model year, the GR Supra 3.0 models get a power boost and retuned chassis, and new GR Supra 2.0 turbo-four joins the lineup. There is also a new special edition.

All the new models will arrive at dealerships in June.

2021 Toyota GR Supra 3.0

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Toyota is boosting the output of the model's inline six-cylinder engine from 335 horsepower to 382 horsepower. The torque rises from 365 pound-feet to 368 pound-feet. These upgrades are achieved by changing up engine and engine-related components including a new dual-branch exhaust manifold, with six ports instead of two, that improves heat management. A new piston design reduces the engine's compression ratio from 11:1 to 10.2:1. Toyota expects that the Supra's zero to 60 mph acceleration time will decrease from 4.1 seconds to 3.9.

The 2020 GR Supra won praise for its ride/handling balance, but even the exceptional can be improved. Seeking increased roll resistance and enhanced cornering stability, Toyota retuned the Supra 3.0 chassis, adding lightweight aluminum braces that tie the strut towers to the radiator support to increase lateral rigidity, along with front and rear bump stops and new damper tuning.

The company has also reprogrammed the electric power steering, adaptive suspension, vehicle stability control, and active differential, which work in concert with the hardware changes.

2021 Toyota GR Supra 2.0

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

The Supra 2.0 will be Toyota's new GR Supra base model. It shares much of its technology with the Supra 3.0 including a twin-scroll turbo, direct fuel injector, and continuously variable timing on the intake and exhaust camshafts, only with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine as its heart. The engine is paired with the same eight-speed automatic transmission that the 3.0 has.

This new version of the Supra has a power output is 255 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. It too has an electronically limited top track speed of 155 mph but will have lower fuel consumption than the Supra 3.0 thanks in large part to its 200 pound weight difference that maintains the car's 50:50 weight distribution.

To shed the weight, a few key changes were made. Supra 2.0 uses smaller front brake rotors with single piston calipers, it does not have an active differential or adaptive suspension, a four-speaker sound system is standard, and instead of 14-way power-adjustable seats, the Supra 2.0 has manually adjustable seats.

2020 vs. 2021 Models

2020 vs 2021 Toyota Supra

Chart courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

2021 Toyota GR Supra A91 Edition

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A., Inc.

Toyota will offer 1,000 A91 Editions of the Supra. They will all have the 3.0-liter inline-six-cylindner engine that was standard in 2020 and will be available in two colors: Nocturnal or Refraction. The Refraction paint ob is exclusive to the A91 Edition. The cars get a rear black carbon fiber lip spoiler, matte black wheels, C-pillar graphics, and carbon fiber mirror caps. Front Brembo brake calipers are painted red and feature the "Toyota Supra" logo.

In the cabin is a black Alcantara® leather-trimmed interior with blue contrast. Each special edition comes with two exclusive key gloves and trunk mat. A 8.8-inch infotainment touch screen is standard.

The Safety and Technology Package is new for 2021 and will be available on the 2.0 and 3.0 grades. That package includes:

  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
  • Blind Spot Monitor
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Parking Sensors with Emergency Braking Function
  • Navigation
  • 12-speaker 500-watt JBL Audio System
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay® compatible (iOS only)
  • Supra Connected Services: up to four-year trial includes Remote Services, Remote Maintenance, Automatic Emergency Call, Real Time Traffic Information, Concierge, Stolen Vehicle Recovery, and Map Updates.

The Driver's Assist Package will still be an available option on the 3.0 Premium and A91 Edition. That package includes:

  • Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (Full speed)
  • Blind Spot Monitor (BSM)
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA)
  • Parking Sensors with Emergency Braking Function

Expect the 2021 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 to be priced nearly the same for 2021 and the Supra 2.0 to have a lower MSRP than that model. The special edition will likely be sold at a premium.