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Exploring the Toyota Highlander: An In-Depth Look at the Trim Levels Features and Performance

The Toyota Highlander is a midsize SUV that has been a popular choice for families for decades. With its spacious interior, comfortable ride, and good fuel economy, the Highlander is an ideal vehicle for taking the kids to school, running errands, or embarking on a road trip.

But, with several trims available in the market, it can be a little overwhelming to know which one to choose. In this article, we will explore the various Toyota Highlander trim levels and their differences.

Overview of the Toyota Highlander

The Toyota Highlander has a sleek, modern exterior that features a bold grille, LED lighting, and a sporty silhouette. It also has a spacious interior that can seat up to eight passengers comfortably.

Furthermore, this car boasts ample cargo space that is perfect for packing up and heading out on a long road trip. Under the hood, the Highlander offers a standard 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque.

This engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission to provide a smooth and responsive driving experience. In terms of fuel economy, the Highlander gets an estimated 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway, making it one of the most fuel-efficient SUVs in its class.

The Highlander also offers an impressive range of safety features, including forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams, and adaptive cruise control. Additionally, it features the Toyota Safety Sense package that includes pre-collision assistance, pedestrian detection, and much more.

Differences between each Highlander trim level

The Toyota Highlander comes in six different trims: L, LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum. Each of these trims offers different features and options to meet the needs of different drivers and budgets.

1. L

The L trim is the base level Highlander.

It comes with a variety of features and is the most affordable of all Highlander trims. Standard features include a rearview camera, 18-inch alloy wheels, tri-zone climate control, a 6.1-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.

2. LE

The LE trim is the next step up from the L trim.

It includes all the features from the L plus a few extra features like automatic headlights, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. 3.


The XLE is a more advanced trim level that comes loaded with additional features. It includes all of the features from the LE as well as a power liftgate, a sunroof, a Wi-Fi hotspot, a wireless charging pad, and a 7-inch color display in the instrument cluster.

4. XSE

The XSE is a new addition to the Highlander lineup.

It has a sporty exterior with dark-colored accents and LED lighting. It also comes with a sport-tuned suspension, larger 20-inch wheels, and a panoramic sunroof.

Inside, the XSE features black leather seats with fabric inserts, a 7-inch color display in the instrument cluster, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. 5.


The Limited is the penultimate trim level for the Highlander. It includes all of the features from the XLE plus additional luxury amenities such as a JBL sound system, heated and ventilated front seats, leather upholstery, and ambient interior lighting.

6. Platinum

The Platinum is the most advanced Highlander trim level.

It includes all of the features from the Limited as well as additional exterior styling elements, a 360-degree parking camera, a panoramic sunroof, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation.


In summary, the Toyota Highlander is a feature-packed midsize SUV that offers something for everyone. Whether you are looking for a basic, affordable model or a fully loaded luxury vehicle, there is a Highlander trim level that will meet your needs.

Regardless of which Highlander model you choose, however, you can be confident that you are getting a reliable, safe, and efficient SUV that will serve your family well for years to come. 3.

Price ranges for each Highlander trim level

The pricing for the Toyota Highlander varies depending on the trim level and the features offered. Here is a breakdown of the starting price for each Highlander trim:

– L: $34,810

– LE: $37,010

– XLE: $41,010

– XSE: $42,810

– Limited: $44,510

– Platinum: $47,510

It is important to note that the prices listed above are the starting prices and may increase depending on the additional features added to the vehicle.

However, the Highlander has always been famously known for its reasonable pricing structure that appeals to different budgets. 4.

Features exclusive to the highest Highlander trim level

The Toyota Highlander Platinum is the highest-level trim of the SUV and comes with several exclusive features. Here are some of the features exclusive to the Platinum trim:


Bird’s eye view camera

One of the standout features of the Platinum trim is the bird’s eye view camera system. This camera provides a 360-degree view of the vehicle and its surroundings, making parking and maneuvering in tight spaces much easier.

2. Premium JBL sound system

Another exclusive feature of the Platinum trim is its 11-speaker JBL sound system.

The system delivers crisp and clear sound quality that audiophiles will appreciate. The audio system is further bolstered by the quiet cabin environment, which Toyota has made a priority in this high-end trim.

3. 12.3-inch touchscreen display

The Platinum edition Highlander also features a large 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display, an upgrade from the standard 8-inch display found on the LE and XLE trims.

The larger display improves visibility and allows drivers to easily access various multimedia features such as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and integrated navigation. 4.

Heated and ventilated front seats

For those living in colder or hotter regions, the Platinum trim offers front seats that are both heated and ventilated. The seats also come with an additional memory feature to allow drivers to save their seat settings for future drives.

5. Soft-touch materials

Soft-touch materials and leather upholstery are standard in all Highlander trims, but the Platinum takes it up a notch with a cozy ambiance in its rich leather interior.

Trying to strike the balance between luxury and practicality, Toyota has ensured comfort for passengers and driver alike with this feature. 6.

Hands-free power liftgate

Another feature exclusive to the Platinum trim level is the hands-free power liftgate. This feature allows you to open the rear hatch of the vehicle without having to use your hands and is ideal for when your hands are full of groceries or other items.

7. Exterior styling

The Platinum trim also features different exterior styling with a unique glossy chrome treatment on the grille, along with exclusive 20-inch wheels that give it a sporty and sophisticated look.


In conclusion, the 2021 Toyota Highlander is a versatile and feature-packed midsize SUV that offers a wide range of amenities for different budgets and lifestyles. Leading the way, the highest-level Toyota Highlander Platinum trim comes with a host of exclusive features, making it the most luxurious of all the different trims.

The singular focus of the Platinum trim level is to provide drivers with the best experience possible, whether it is composing a carefully curated playlist for the JBL sound system or making parking easier with the bird’s eye camera. With the Platinum, Toyota offers a standout option to drivers who are willing to go further and discover what lies in the upper echelons of the Highlander lineup.

5. Top Safety Features for the Toyota Highlander

Toyota has always been known for their commitment to safety, and the 2021 Toyota Highlander is no exception.

The Highlander is equipped with the latest safety technologies to keep passengers safe in all driving situations. These are the top safety features included in the Toyota Highlander:


Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+

The Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ system is standard on all Toyota Highlander models. This suite of safety features includes:

– Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection

– Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist

– Road Sign Assist

– Adaptive Cruise Control

– Lane Tracing Assist

Toyota Safety Sense 2.5+ provides drivers with an extra layer of protection, by improving the safety of both the passengers and other road-users.

The system includes impressive technologies like automatic emergency braking, pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and road sign assist. 2.

Blind-Spot Monitoring

Blind-spot monitoring is a safety feature that warns drivers when another vehicle is in their blind spot. This technology is available on select Highlander trims, including the XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum.

This makes changing lanes easier and safer even on higher-speed roads. 3.

Rear Cross Traffic Alert

Rear cross-traffic alert is another safety feature that warns drivers when a car is approaching from the side while reversing. This feature is also available on select Highlander trims such as the XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum.

The system can detect and alert the driver of oncoming traffic from either side, making reversing out of a tight parking spot less stressful. 4.

Parking Assistance

Parallel and perpendicular parking with the 2021 Toyota Highlander Platinum trim is a breeze with the bird’s eye view camera and parking assist features. Sensors around the vehicle make it easier to detect obstacles while parking.

6. Performance Specifications for the Highest Highlander Trim Level

The Toyota Highlander Platinum is the highest trim level and comes with a more powerful V6 engine.

Here are the performance specifications for the Platinum trim:

1. Engine

The Platinum trim comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque.

This engine is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission and allows the vehicle to accelerate smoothly and quickly. 2.

All-Wheel Drive

All-wheel drive is standard on the Highlander Platinum, making it perfect for tackling inclement weather or off-road trails. The all-wheel-drive system sends power to the wheels with the most traction, providing excellent stability and control.

3. Fuel Economy

The Highlander Platinum gets an EPA estimated 20 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

This efficient fuel consumption is impressive for a vehicle of its size and offers more mileage without sacrificing power. 4.


The Highlander Platinum comes with a sport-tuned suspension that provides a smooth, comfortable ride, as well as excellent handling and cornering. 5.

Performance Features

The Highlander Platinum includes additional performance features such as a panoramic moonroof, 20-inch alloy wheels, and a sportier design. The stance of this high-end SUV has been lowered to make it more appealing to sportier car enthusiasts, without compromising on the car’s practicality.


To sum up, the 2021 Toyota Highlander is an SUV that combines practicality, luxury, and safety, while the Platinum trim level delivers exceptional performance alongside advanced technology and exclusive features. The highest trim level of the Highlander is the perfect choice for those looking for top-tier luxury and a brand known for its safety record.

Offering exceptional performance, safety, and fuel economy, this family-friendly SUV is sure to deliver an enjoyable driving experience to its users at all levels of driving needs. Driving on the Highlander is effortless, smooth, and enjoyable, reflecting Toyota’s mission to develop a car that will cater to the needs of every potential customer while providing world-class comfort and safety.

7. Driving Experience of the Highest Highlander Trim Level

The driving experience of the highest Highlander trim level, the Toyota Highlander Platinum, is nothing short of exceptional.

This top-tier trim offers a combination of comfort, power, and advanced technologies to deliver a memorable driving experience. Here are some key aspects that make the driving experience of the Highlander Platinum stand out:


Smooth and Powerful Performance

Equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 engine, the Highlander Platinum delivers impressive power and acceleration. The 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque provide ample power for merging onto highways or overtaking slower vehicles.

The engine is paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission, which ensures smooth shifts and optimal performance in a variety of driving conditions. 2.

Comfortable and Quiet Ride

Toyota has put extra emphasis on creating a comfortable and quiet ride in the Highlander Platinum. The well-insulated cabin effectively reduces wind and road noise, creating a serene environment for both the driver and passengers.

The plush seats provide excellent support and are upholstered in high-quality leather, ensuring comfort even on longer drives. 3.

Sport-Tuned Suspension

The sport-tuned suspension in the Highlander Platinum contributes to its superior driving dynamics. This suspension enhances stability, responsiveness, and cornering abilities, providing a more engaging driving experience.

The Highlander Platinum strikes a balance between a comfortable ride quality and confident handling, making it enjoyable to drive on varying road conditions. 4.

All-Wheel Drive Capability

The Highlander Platinum comes equipped with all-wheel drive as standard. This feature enhances traction, particularly in inclement weather or when driving on slippery surfaces.

The all-wheel drive system contributes to the Highlander Platinum’s stability and control, providing a secure and confident driving experience. 5.

Advanced Safety Technologies

The Highlander Platinum incorporates advanced safety technologies that further enhance the driving experience. The included Toyota Safety Sense suite offers features such as lane departure alert, adaptive cruise control, and pre-collision assistance, providing an extra layer of safety and peace of mind while driving.

8. Comparison to Other Midsize SUV Competitors

When comparing the Toyota Highlander Platinum to its competitors in the midsize SUV category, it stands out as a strong contender.

Here is a comparison of the Highlander Platinum to two of its main rivals:

1. Honda Pilot Elite

The Honda Pilot Elite is a direct competitor to the Highlander Platinum in terms of price range, features, and size.

While both vehicles are equipped with similar advanced safety features and have spacious interiors, there are some key differences. The Highlander Platinum offers a more refined and luxurious cabin, with higher-quality materials and a quieter ride.

Additionally, the Highlander Platinum has a sportier and more engaging driving experience, thanks to its sport-tuned suspension and precise steering. 2.

Ford Explorer Platinum

The Ford Explorer Platinum is another main competitor in the midsize SUV segment. Similar to the Highlander Platinum, the Explorer Platinum offers a powerful engine, advanced safety features, and a luxurious interior.

However, the Highlander Platinum has a more fuel-efficient engine, providing better fuel economy without sacrificing performance. Additionally, the Highlander Platinum offers a more spacious third-row seating area, making it more comfortable for larger families.

Ultimately, the Toyota Highlander Platinum sets itself apart through its combination of comfort, safety, performance, and advanced technologies. With its superior driving experience, refined interior, and impressive features, the Highlander Platinum holds its ground against its competitors in the midsize SUV segment.

In conclusion, the Toyota Highlander Platinum delivers a refined and enjoyable driving experience, thanks to its powerful performance, comfortable ride, and advanced safety features. This highest-level Highlander trim stands out among its competitors with its luxurious interior, sport-tuned suspension, and all-wheel drive capability.

When compared to rivals such as the Honda Pilot Elite and Ford Explorer Platinum, the Highlander Platinum offers unique advantages in terms of fuel economy, interior spaciousness, and driving dynamics. Whether it is for daily commutes, family road trips, or adventures off the beaten path, the Highlander Platinum is a midsize SUV that truly excels in providing an exceptional driving experience.

9. Styling and Design Elements of the Highlander

The Toyota Highlander boasts a stylish and modern design that sets it apart from other midsize SUVs on the market.

From its exterior to its interior, the Highlander incorporates a range of design elements that enhance its overall appeal. Here are some key styling and design elements of the Toyota Highlander:


Bold Front Grille

The front grille of the Highlander makes a statement with its bold and distinctive design. The grille features intricate detailing and a chrome finish, giving the Highlander a strong and commanding presence on the road.

This design element adds a touch of sophistication to the front fascia. 2.

Sleek Body Contours

The Highlander’s exterior showcases sleek body contours and flowing lines that create a sense of motion and elegance. These design elements contribute to the Highlander’s aerodynamic profile and give it a visually striking appearance.

The sleek body contours not only enhance the vehicle’s aesthetics but also improve its overall efficiency. 3.

LED Lighting

LED lighting is integrated throughout the Highlander, adding both style and practicality. The headlights feature LED technology, which provides enhanced visibility and a distinctive look.

Additionally, LED daytime running lights and taillights further enhance the Highlander’s modern and upscale appearance. 4.

Roof Rails

The Highlander comes with roof rails as standard, offering both style and functionality. These roof rails not only contribute to the SUV’s sleek and sporty look but also provide additional storage options.

They allow for the easy installation of a roof rack or the attachment of cargo carriers, making it convenient for carrying extra gear on adventures. 5.

Spacious Interior Design

Inside the Highlander, a spacious and thoughtfully designed cabin awaits passengers. The interior showcases a combination of upscale materials and ergonomic design elements.

Soft-touch materials, leather-trimmed seating, and chrome accents elevate the overall interior ambiance. The layout of the controls and instruments is intuitive, ensuring ease of use and a user-friendly experience.

10. Technology Features in the Highest Highlander Trim

The Toyota Highlander Platinum is equipped with advanced technology features that enhance convenience, connectivity, and entertainment.

Here are some of the notable technology features found in the highest Highlander trim:

1. 12.3-Inch Touchscreen Display

The Highlander Platinum comes with a large 12.3-inch touchscreen display as standard.

This high-resolution display provides an intuitive interface for accessing various multimedia features, settings, and navigation controls. The large size ensures that information is easily visible and accessible for both the driver and passengers.

2. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Compatibility

The Highlander Platinum supports seamless smartphone integration through Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

This feature allows users to easily connect their compatible smartphones and access their favorite apps, make hands-free calls, send text messages, and stream music directly from their devices. The intuitive interface on the touchscreen display enhances safety and convenience on the road.

3. JBL Premium Sound System

The Highlander Platinum is equipped with a premium JBL sound system.

This high-quality audio system boasts 11 speakers strategically placed throughout the cabin, delivering crisp and immersive sound quality. Whether listening to your favorite music or enjoying a movie, the JBL sound system provides a captivating audio experience.

4. Panoramic Moonroof

To create an open and airy feel in the cabin, the Highlander Platinum features a panoramic moonroof.

This large extended moonroof spans across the front and second-row seats, allowing natural light to fill the interior and providing passengers with expansive views. The moonroof can be opened to let in fresh air and create a more enjoyable driving experience.

5. Wireless Charging Pad

Wireless charging is standard on the Highlander Platinum.

The wireless charging pad provides a convenient and clutter-free way to charge compatible smartphones and devices. No need for cords and cables simply place your device on the charging pad, and it will charge effortlessly.

6. Digital Rearview Mirror

An innovative technology feature found in the Highlander Platinum is the digital rearview mirror.

This feature uses a camera at the rear of the vehicle to provide a live video feed that appears in the rearview mirror. The digital rearview mirror enhances visibility, particularly when the rearview mirror is obstructed by passengers or cargo.


In conclusion, the Toyota Highlander showcases stylish and distinctive design elements both inside and out. From its bold front grille to its sleek body contours, the Highlander exudes a sense of sophistication and modernity.

The interior design of the Highlander focuses on spaciousness, comfort, and ergonomics, providing a luxurious cabin environment that is both functional and visually appealing. In terms of technology features, the Highlander Platinum offers a range of advanced options.

The large touchscreen display, compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, premium JBL sound system, wireless charging pad, and panoramic moonroof all contribute to a convenient, connected, and enjoyable driving experience. Overall, the styling and technology features of the Toyota Highlander elevate it above the competition in the midsize SUV segment.

Whether it’s the sleek and eye-catching exterior design or the array of advanced technologies in the Highlander Platinum, this SUV delivers in both aesthetics and functionality, making it a standout choice for those seeking a stylish and technologically advanced vehicle. 11.

Interior Comfort and Spaciousness

When it comes to interior comfort and spaciousness, the Toyota Highlander excels in providing a comfortable and inviting environment for both driver and passengers. The Highlander offers ample space for passengers to stretch out and relax.

Here are some key aspects of the Highlander’s interior that contribute to its comfort and spaciousness:

1. Seating Capacity

The Highlander can comfortably accommodate up to eight passengers, depending on the seating configuration.

The second row can be equipped with either a bench seat or captain’s chairs, which reduce the seating capacity to seven. Regardless of the seating layout, all passengers can enjoy comfortable seating with plenty of legroom and headroom.

2. Quality Materials

The Highlander’s interior features high-quality materials and finishes that enhance the overall comfort and luxury feel.

Soft-touch surfaces, premium upholstery options, and tasteful trim accents create a refined and inviting atmosphere throughout the cabin. The attention to detail and craftsmanship is evident in every aspect of the interior design.

3. Tri-Zone Automatic Climate Control

To ensure comfort for all passengers, the Highlander is equipped with tri-zone automatic climate control.

This feature allows the driver, front passenger, and rear passengers to independently set and control their preferred temperature settings. With the ability to adjust the airflow and temperature throughout the cabin, everyone can enjoy a comfortable climate, regardless of their seating position.

4. Quiet Cabin

Toyota has gone to great lengths to create a quiet cabin in the Highlander.

By using sound-deadening materials and insulation, road and wind noise are significantly reduced, providing a serene environment for both short and long drives. The quietness of the cabin enhances the overall comfort and enjoyment of the ride.

5. Versatile Seating and Configuration Options

The Highlander offers versatile seating and configuration options to accommodate varying passenger and cargo needs.

The second-row seats can slide forward and backward to create more legroom or allow for easier access to the third row. Additionally, the third-row seats can be folded down to create additional cargo space when needed.

12. Cargo Capacity and Storage Options

The Toyota Highlander offers generous cargo capacity and a range of storage options to accommodate all your hauling needs.

Here are some key aspects of the Highlander’s cargo capacity and storage options:

1. Cargo Capacity

With all seats in place, the Highlander provides 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row.

This is enough room to hold groceries, sports equipment, or smaller items. However, if you need more space for larger items, the third-row seats can be folded down, expanding the cargo area to 48.4 cubic feet.

For even greater cargo capacity, the second-row seats can also be folded, providing a maximum cargo capacity of 84.3 cubic feet. 2.

Power Liftgate

The Highlander comes with a power liftgate as standard or optional, depending on the trim level. This feature allows for convenient and hands-free access to the cargo area.

With a push of a button or a wave of the foot under the rear bumper (on select models), the liftgate will open or close automatically, making loading and unloading cargo effortless. 3.

Underfloor Storage

In addition to the standard cargo area, the Highlander provides convenient underfloor storage in the rear. This hidden storage compartment is perfect for storing smaller items or valuables, keeping them secure and out of sight.

4. Small Item Storage

The Highlander features various storage compartments throughout the cabin to keep smaller items organized and within reach.

These include spacious door pockets, a center console, cupholders, and a glove compartment. The inclusion of these storage options ensures that you can stow away items such as smartphones, keys, sunglasses, and beverages.

5. Roof Rails

To further enhance the Highlander’s storage options, roof rails come standard on all trims.

These roof rails allow for the easy installation of roof racks or the attachment of cargo carriers, providing extra storage space for items such as bikes, skis, or rooftop cargo boxes. The roof rails add versatility to the Highlander, ensuring that you can bring along additional gear on your adventures.


In conclusion, the Toyota Highlander offers a comfortable and spacious interior with a range of features designed to enhance passenger comfort and convenience. The ample seating capacity, high-quality materials, and attention to detail contribute to an inviting and luxurious cabin experience.

Furthermore, the Highlander provides generous cargo capacity and versatile storage options, ensuring that you can easily accommodate both passengers and cargo for all types of journeys. Whether it’s a family road trip or a daily commute, the Highlander’s interior comfort, spaciousness, and storage options make it a highly practical and enjoyable SUV to travel in.

13. Hybrid and Gas-Only Options Available

When choosing a Toyota Highlander, customers have the option to select either a hybrid or gas-only powertrain.

This flexibility allows drivers to choose the option that best suits their preferences and needs. Here is a closer look at the hybrid and gas-only options available in the Toyota Highlander lineup:


Hybrid Option

The Toyota Highlander Hybrid combines a gasoline engine with an electric motor to provide improved fuel efficiency. The hybrid powertrain consists of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine paired with two electric motors.

Together, they deliver a combined system output of 243 horsepower. The hybrid model also comes equipped with an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (ECVT), which optimizes power delivery and efficiency.

The Highlander Hybrid offers significant fuel savings compared to its gas-only counterparts, making it an appealing choice for those seeking a greener and more fuel-efficient SUV. It also provides seamless transitions between electric and hybrid power, resulting in a smooth and refined driving experience.

2. Gas-Only Option

For those who prefer a traditional gasoline-powered engine, the Toyota Highlander offers a gas-only option.

This model is powered by a robust 3.5-liter V6 engine that generates 295 horsepower and 263 lb-ft of torque. The V6 engine is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, delivering a responsive and engaging driving experience.

The gas-only Highlander also provides a blend of power and efficiency, offering ample performance for everyday driving and highway cruising. The Highlander’s V6 engine delivers a satisfying acceleration and smooth power delivery, making it an ideal choice for those who prioritize performance.

Whether you opt for the hybrid or gas-only option, the Toyota Highlander provides a capable and reliable SUV experience. 14.

Fuel Economy Ratings for Each Highlander Trim Level

The fuel economy of the Toyota Highlander varies slightly across the different trim levels. Here are the EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings for each Highlander trim:


L Trim (Gas-Only)

– City: 21 mpg

– Highway: 29 mpg

– Combined: 24 mpg

2. LE, XLE, XSE, Limited, and Platinum Trims (Gas-Only)

– City: 20 mpg

– Highway: 27 mpg

– Combined: 23 mpg


Hybrid LE Trim

– City: 36 mpg

– Highway: 35 mpg

– Combined: 36 mpg

4. Hybrid XLE, Limited, and Platinum Trims

– City: 35 mpg

– Highway: 34 mpg

– Combined: 35 mpg

It’s important to note that these fuel economy ratings are estimates and may vary depending on driving habits, road conditions, and other factors.

However, the Highlander impresses with its respectable fuel efficiency, particularly in the hybrid models. The hybrid versions

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