The 2021 Toyota Highlander is an impressive and efficient mid-size SUV, seeing a full redesign in 2020 entering its fourth-generation. It’s not just a “show” SUV, either.
It may have Toyota’s signature refined looks and contemporary stylish curves, but this is a vehicle of power and capability. Below we’re looking specifically at what the Toyota Highlander is capable of towing and how drivers are helped along by on-board technology.
So, what’s the new Highlander’s pulling power?
First, let’s deal with that raw number. What is the towing capacity of Toyota Highlander? In short, it’s 5,000lbs (2,268kg) – the same specs as the outgoing 2019 model.
To get this capacity, a number of other things have to be in place. First of all, the Highlander needs to be paired with the available 3.5L V6 engine with 295hp. This is the powertrain that will deliver the maximum towing capability.
Here’s how it compares to some other mid-size SUV competitors – overall, most models, including the Highlander, offer pretty much the same pulling capacity across the board:
|Model||Towing Capacity (lbs)|
|2021 Toyota Highlander, gas||5,000|
|2021 Subaru Ascent||5,000|
|2021 Ford Explorer||5,600|
|2021 Toyota 4Runner||5,000|
|2021 Kia Telluride||5,000|
|2021 Hyundai Palisade||5,000|
Besides the powertrain, the Highlander also needs the available AWD option installed with the Dynamic Torque Vectoring (TV-AWD) feature. This feature improves on both the responsiveness and stability of the Highlander. It does this by sending up to half of the power to the rear and then basing distribution of the rest solely on who needs it most.
The third piece in the 5,000-pound puzzle is the drivetrain, specifically the available 8-speed automatic transmission. With these three things installed, your Highlander is ready to tow anything up that upper towing capacity of 5,000lbs.
Towing Capacity of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid?
Besides the regular gasoline models, the L, LE and XLE, there is also a hybrid option for the Highlander (here’s our 2020 Highlander Hybrid full review). Because the hybrid version only pairs with the 2.5L four-cylinder engine, it unfortunately doesn’t come with the same towing capacity as the gasoline version.
The 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid LE gets 243 net horsepower and 175lb-ft of torque. It can tow up to 3,500lbs (1,588kg).
If a you’re after a hybrid model with some distinction, check out this 2022 Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition built on the Highlander Hybrid XLE grade.
Toyota Highlander Towing Assist Technology
Both the regular Highlander and the hybrid model are capable towers, especially the gasoline version. The question though is how does the Highlander help you when you’re towing all that extra weight? The answer is that there are a number of drive features in place to assist.
The first is the Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ package which includes dynamic radar cruise control, lane departure warning with steering assist and lane tracing assist, all of which will keep you even and level when driving with extra weight, which can be challenging. Here’s more on the Toyota Safety Sense features.
Besides Toyota Safety Sense, there’s also hill start assist for those times you’re worried about getting restarted after having to stop on a gradient, perhaps in traffic, for example. It will help hold you in place and prevent you from rolling backwards while you build up the power you need to keep moving forward.
In addition, there’s a tire pressure monitor system so you’ll know you’re always on properly inflated tires.
Next, there are the various drive modes, including Snow Mode for additional traction if you’re towing in the winter. Finally, there’s blind spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert. All of these features will keep you level, alert and aware of what’s going on around your Highlander while you’re towing.
If you’re considering buying the fourth-generation Highlander, check out our 2020 Toyota Highlander interior review here.