What is Grand? If you’re Toyota, Grand is bigger. An extra 6.5 inches of length and, crucially, 5.5 inches more legroom for passengers in the third row and 13.2 more cubic feet of cargo space. Those are the spec sheet changes that turn the Highlander into the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander.
Those on-paper differences don’t sound like a lot, but on the road the differences between the two models are significant. Because while they share most of a name, they are completely different vehicles.
Toyota has brought me to Hawaii’s Big Island — does that make it Grand Hawaii? — to get behind the wheel of its latest crossover. This is the automaker’s first entry in what it calls the “long trip” three-row segment.
In short: The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is much bigger than the Highlander. It’s even bigger inside than the Sequoia. With two hybrid choices, it is a powerful and fuel-efficient way to move up to eight people. A solid contender with loads of content and safety features, though it lacks in character.
- Engine 2.4L Turbo-four; 2.5L four-cylinder hybrid; 2.4L turbo-four with hybrid system
- HP 265; 245; 362
- Torque 310; N/A; N/A
- MPG (AWD) 21/27; 36/32; 26/27
- Cargo 20.6 behind third row, 57.9 behind second row, 97.5 all folded
- Towing 3,500 lbs (hybrid); 5,000 lbs (2.4T, Hybrid Max)
- Loads of standard features
- Excellent hybrid economy
- Massive interior space
- Lots of USB ports
- Big-power hybrid Max
- Top trims don't have bench seat
- Sluggish acceleration from hybrid
- No base trims brings up base price
- No power-fold rear seat
2024 Grand Highlander Gets Rugged 4Runner Looks
Grand Highlander’s styling is nothing like the standard Highlander. Instead, it looks much more like a giant 4Runner with a RAV4 tail. The design was penned by the company’s Calty studio in California and the GH will be built at Toyota’s plant in Princeton, Ind.
The crossover and SUV segment is getting crowded, so where does this model fit? It’s slightly bigger than the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride — bigger than the Ford Explorer, but slightly smaller than the Chevrolet Traverse.
It’s also about a hand’s width shorter than Toyota’s body-on-frame Sequoia SUV but has more cargo and passenger space. That doesn’t make either vehicle irrelevant, though. If you were looking at a Tundra-based body-on-frame SUV, it’s not likely that this crossover, which shares more with the Sienna minivan than any pickup, is going to meet your demands.
Top-of-Class Interior Space
Grand means 39.5 inches of second-seat legroom, just 1 inch shy of the commodious front seats. Passengers in row three get 33.5 inches, which is more knee room than your average commercial airliner. The third row isn’t big enough for three XXL adults, but it can seat two just fine. Including yours truly, at 6’3″. The Koreans and Ford can’t claim that, and neither can the Sequoia.
The 4Runner-like roofline means third-row passengers get 37.2 inches of headroom, within a hair of what the standard Highlander offers in its first row. The rearmost seat has an adjustable recline, too, and the vehicle’s length means you don’t need to sit bolt upright.
Getting in and out of the back seat isn’t a chore either. The second-row seat bases are mounted inward enough to leave a step beside them. There is also a grab handle mounted down low on the rear panel in just the right place for climbing in and out.
With all of the seats up, Grand Highlander has 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space. It’s enough to hold seven carry-on bags, and Toyota showed us photos of one loaded up that way.
Fold the back seats and there are 57.9 cubic feet of space, and with all the seats folded Grand Highlander has 97.5 cubic feet. That’s just half a cube shy of the gargantuan Traverse inside, and 10 cubic feet more than Hyundai, Kia, or Ford.
Cargo space behind the rear seat is almost double what Sequoia offers if you’re using the rearmost seat and is much larger in all configurations. Plus, unlike Sequoia, if you fold the seats flat they are all flat. The cargo space is nearly completely flat from end to end (perfect for car camping).
What the Grand Highlander is missing is power-fold seats. In a vehicle that’s already one of the more expensive in the class, this seems like quite the oversight. The fold mechanisms are a long reach if you have short arms, so power assist would be very welcome here.
Road Trip Ready
There’s more to a family road trip machine than just outright space, though, and Grand Highlander delivers comfort as well as convenience. There are seven standard USB ports, for a start, with each row getting at least two. The extra is in the front row, cleverly mounted to the right of the dash. Right beside the passenger’s phone shelf.
If you need more than USB power, Toyota can help with that, too. Hybrid versions of the Grand Highlander come with 1,500W house-style power plugs.
You can get heated and ventilated second-row seats on Platinum grade, nice to have and rare in the segment. Heated front seats are standard, and so is wireless device charging.
The center console is absolutely massive. Big enough to store a backpack, it has shelves and drawers to add utility. The shelves also make sure you don’t have to reach all the way down to the bottom every time. Ahead of the shifter is a wide swath to leave your phone, sunglasses, or whatever, and there are three cupholders for front-seat occupants.
A 14.3-inch screen is standard equipment on the Grand Highlander. It is Toyota’s latest, as found in Tundra, Highlander, and nearly every other new vehicle from the automaker.
The system is one of the better in the industry with plenty of processing power to make sure it does what you want quickly and with little to no map scroll lag. The voice command responses are immediate and intuitive, even understanding my colleagues with heavy Québécois accents just fine.
Three Engine Choices
Toyota is offering three drivelines on the Grand Highlander, two that are familiar and one that is about to be.
XLE and Limited trims come standard with a 2.4L turbo-four. The engine makes 265 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. The four-cylinder version will be offered with front and all-wheel drive, with both getting an eight-speed automatic.
The four-cylinder delivers adequate power, and it stacks up well against the naturally aspirated V6s used in most of the competition. The engine pulls well, and while I didn’t get to test it with a full load of people, I did drive it at over 4,000 feet of altitude. At altitude, it was feeling the effects but was still sufficiently quick.
A hybrid system will be available on XLE and Limited grades, and it is Toyota’s familiar 2.5L four-cylinder system. This isn’t the latest and greatest as found on the 2023 Prius, but it is one we’re very familiar with.
Like in the Highlander and Sienna, it isn’t fast and it isn’t always silent, but it is adequate. That’s really the best way to describe it, as this powertrain won’t really inspire anyone to hustle any vehicle it is in.
It will, however, save people some money at the pump. With this driveline, an XLE hybrid delivers an estimated 36 miles per gallon city and 32 highway. XLE can be front- or all-wheel drive, but both get that same figure. Limited is AWD-only and its extra kit means 35/31. The gas XLE gets an estimate of 21/28 with front-drive or 21/27 with AWD.
Hybrid Max Brings Big Power
Then there’s the fun one, the latest powertrain to wear Toyota’s Hybrid Max badging. Max is more of an idea than a specific engine, as it is now offered on V6s in the Tundra and with a turbo-four making less power in the Crown and now the 2024 Tacoma.
In this application, it is the same 2.4L turbo-four but connected to a beefy electric motor and a six-speed automatic. AWD is standard and (like in the non-max hybrid) is provided by an electric motor in the rear. There is no driveshaft running fore-aft in the Grand Highlander Hybrids.
The system makes 362 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. The six-speed auto and direct-acting rear motor instead of Toyota’s usual e-CVT make it much more responsive than you’d expect for a Toyota hybrid.
Mat the gas and the Grand Highlander’s wheel dart left and right. Yes, there’s torque steer in a three-row Toyota crossover. And it makes it fun. It’s the most personality that this vehicle has to offer.
Hybrid Max is offered on the Limited and Platinum grades. The former gets all three engines, the latter only gas and Hybrid Max.
The Hybrid Max system is rated for 26 mpg city and 27 highway, which seems like a solid number given the performance. If you want better fuel economy and this much space, there is a Sienna minivan sitting across the lot at your Toyota dealer.
With the Hybrid Max, you also get multi-terrain modes. I didn’t get a chance to try the Grand Highlander in the mud or off-road, but Toyota said that the system can send up to 80% of torque to the rear axle or 100% to the front when there is wheel slip. Just 8.0 inches of ground clearance means this isn’t going to replace a 4Runner or Sequoia off-road, but it seems more than capable of dirt roads and cottage driveways.
Even though it has the same gas engine at its heart, the Hybrid Max driveline feels completely different than the gas-only 2.4. In the Hybrid Max, it changes from a typical four-cylinder drone to a much more appealing burble under throttle. It sounds more like a big V6 or even a lazy V8.
How? Toyota said Hybrid Max comes with higher-flow mufflers than other trims. It also comes with active noise cancellation, which does a great job of making the cabin quieter. Does that noise cancellation system tweak the engine’s sounds? Company officials said it would alter high-frequency noises, but wouldn’t admit to any faux-engine-sound shenanigans.
Both Hybrid Max and gas-only Grand Highlanders can tow up to 5,000 pounds. If you’re planning on actually using that capacity, you’ll probably want the Max. Standard hybrids aren’t left out and are able to tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Grand Highlander comes with steering that has plenty of weight. It makes the crossover feel more stable on the highway, but Toyota is smart enough to make sure there’s plenty of power assist when you park. There’s nothing in the way of steering feel, and that’s probably how buyers will want it.
The big utility vehicle rides smoothly. There is no jarring over bumps and very little of the porpoising typical of these big and heavy crossovers. Part of that may be related to the Grand Highlander’s weight, which is nearly the same as the standard Highlander. From 4,555 pounds with all-wheel drive, the extra space adds only 180 pounds.
It won’t encourage you to dive into corners — that’s the Mazda CX-90‘s domain. But it won’t feel like it’s going to tip over if you do in the way that some of these larger crossovers can. In short, it rides and handles like a big people-mover should.
Loaded With Safety Features
In typical Toyota fashion, the Grand Highlander is loaded with standard safety assists. The Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 suite includes a pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, and lane tracing.
There are some new features this year. One is the Emergency Driving Stop System, which detects a non-responsive driver and can bring the vehicle to a halt. Also new is Proactive Driving Assist, which will brake for corners and even help steer in certain collision-avoiding circumstances. Lastly, there is an available attention monitoring system that beeps angrily at you if it sees you’re not watching the road. As it should.
Toyota Grand Highlander Pricing
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander pricing starts with the $43,070 XLE model, with AWD bringing the total to $44,670. A Hybrid starts from $44,670 with FWD. The grade gets SofTex faux leather seats, phone as key, blind-spot monitoring, and a power hatch.
Limited is $47,860 for FWD ($51,060 for Hybrid and $54,040 for Max) and gets 20-inch wheels, power-fold mirrors, and LED accent lights. On the inside, it has real leather, ventilated seats up front, and a heated steering wheel. It also replaces the 7.0-inch digital display with a 12.3-inch fully digital dash and adds JBL audio.
At the top of the line is the $58,125 Platinum which comes with bronze accents and its own set of wheels. It also gets multi-terrain select, a moonroof, and a digital rear-view mirror.
Those prices stack up well against Ford and Chevrolet, as well as the VW Atlas. It is higher than the Koreans, though, but Grand Highlander does offer more space.
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Review: Conclusion
The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander offers ample space for all but the largest families, and it gives them a trip-friendly crossover ride. It comes loaded with Toyota’s latest driver assistance features to help improve safety and it has two fuel-sipping hybrid options and a gas engine for those not ready for electrification.
The biggest surprise here is that it took Toyota this long to enter the segment. Expect the Toyota Grand Highlander at dealers later this year.