I Didn’t Get the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander at First. Now It’s the One I’d Buy: Review

If you need a three-row family crossover, this one absolutely hits the mark

Spacious third row and cargo area (unlike the smaller Highlander) Relatively pricey ($44.5K to $59.5K)
Comfortable ride No entry-level (XLE) Hybrid Max option
Powerful Hybrid Max option and 5,000-pound towing capacity
Well-executed interior

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Overview: Another SUV enters the chat

A couple years ago, it was fairly easy to parse out Toyota’s crossover/SUV lineup. You had the C-HR at the small end, followed by the RAV4, Highlander, and Sequoia if you wanted more of a truck with a body-on-frame setup. And now? You have the Corolla Cross (because Toyota capitalized on a recognizable name), the Venza (because Toyota had to bring back the old name for a midsize SUV), you’ll soon have the Crown SUV, and then there’s this: the Grand Highlander.

Clearly, you aren’t wanting for choice if you’re shopping for one of Toyota’s SUVs. And yes, if you were keeping score, I didn’t even mention the 4Runner or the bZ4X there. As its name suggests, though, the Grand Highlander is a stretched version of Toyota’s top-selling midsize SUV, so you can actually haul full-sized people and cargo. All at the same time! Isn’t that marvelous?

Riding on a 116.1-inch wheelbase, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander measures out to a substantial 201.4 inches in total length. Not only is that 6.5 inches longer than the standard model, but this grander version is 2.3 inches wider and 2 inches taller than its smaller sibling. Two of this car’s powertrains are shared between the two SUVs: a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-pot putting out 265 horsepower to the front or all four wheels, and a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated gas engine with two electric motors putting out 245 horsepower, mated up to Toyota’s eCVT system.

Top-spec Grand Highlanders like the one we’re testing here get another option, however, with the “Hybrid Max” powertrain. That yokes the 2.4-liter turbo to an electric motor, resulting in 362 horsepowwer and 400 lb-ft of torque. Instead of a CVT, the most potent version gets a 6-speed automatic transmission, as well as a seriously respectable 0-60 time of 5.6 seconds. Not only that, but both this powertrain and the standard 2.4-liter can tow up to 5,000 pounds (the Grand Highlander Hybrid caps out at 3,500). The higher figure matches a lot of midsize SUVs these days including the Honda Pilot, Mazda CX-90, Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade, though you’ll still want to go for a body-on-frame option if you want a serious hauler. The Dodge Durango, for example, can tow up to 8,700 pounds, while the Sequoia can manage a massive 9,520 pounds in certain configurations.

As equipped, this Storm Cloud-colored 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum tops out the range at $59,878. At this end of the spectrum, you certainly won’t waste your time with options since this has everything under the sun. The only additional charge beyond Toyota’s $1,395 destination fee was another $358 for all-weather floor mats and a rubber cargo tray.

Interior: The Grand Highlander sports a roomy and comfortable cabin

Step inside the new Grand Highlander, and you’ll find an interior layout that feels notably similar to the standard Highlander (as you’d expect), as well as the nearly-as-new Crown. The center stack is a bit different than the shorter Highlander, though you still get a 12.3-inch infotainment screen dead center as well as a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster. Lower-end hybrid and gas-powered models get a 7.0-inch digital gauge display, though the infotainment setup comes standard across the entire Grand Highlander range, running Toyota’s latest software.

For those who haven’t tried it out yet, Toyota’s latest media setup is a massive improvement on its old systems, so it’s definitely worth a test drive if you have a last-generation Highlander or are upgrading from any pre-2020 model in the brand’s lineup. All Grand Highlander models also get Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 driver assistance suite as standard fare. That means you get standard emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control, lane centering and automatic high-beam headlamps. Stepping up the range adds in more luxurious features like front and rear parking assist, traffic jam assist, ambient interior lighting, a panoramic roof and a digital rearview mirror.

Limited and Platinum models also get two 120-volt home power outlets sharing a 1,500-watt circuit, so there’s a decent amount of power if you want to run smaller appliances on a family road trip. You also get an 11-speaker JBL Premium Audio system, and unlike Toyota’s older JBL integrations, this one actually does pack some decent power once you fiddle around with the equalizer a bit.

All three passenger rows actually have space! But…

Of course, you can get most of the technology we’re talking about here on the short-wheelbase Highlander, as well as this Grand Highlander. What sets the latter apart is the sheer amount of space. Both SUVs offer seating for seven or eight passengers, though the bench seat’s availability depends on which model you get. Lower-end models get the bench by default while mid-range options offer second-row captain’s chairs as an option. Opt for the Hybrid Max powertrain, and you’ll only get seven seats.

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander offers more interior space on the whole than the Highlander, though you’ll obviously notice the largest difference on the third row. Headroom is nearly the same between the two models, though you do get an extra 1.1 inches if you’re on the last row. The larger model actually loses 0.3 inches in the front, though the trade-off is far better for the rear passengers. The second row gets an extra 0.8 inches of legroom (39.5 inches), while the third row gets 33.5 inches, which is all the difference in the world to the standard Highlander’s miserly 28.0 inches. Shoulder and hip room are mostly similar between the two, give or take a few tenths of an inch, though hip room is slightly tighter on the Grand Highlander by virtue of its wider center console.

Performance and fuel economy is a compromise for the Hybrid Max

If you’re shopping the entire 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander range, the 2.5-liter hybrid is the way to go for fuel efficiency. It’s the least powerful on paper, but it also returns a remarkable 37 mpg city / 34 mpg highway figure for front-wheel drive models. Opt for all-wheel drive, and you’re only knocking off 1-2 mpg.

For the combined 362 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque the Hybrid Max system provides, though, you’re taking a major hit to fuel economy. This Platinum model gets 20 city / 26 highway / 22 combined mpg per EPA figures. I could manage about 27 mpg in highway driving, which isn’t terrible given the extra power on tap, but it will still cost you more to run in the long haul. On top of that, you’re paying several thousand dollars more for the Hybrid Max powertrain on top of the standard hybrid model.

The less expensive, gas-only Grand Highlander rates as high as 21 mpg city / 28 mpg highway.

On the driving front, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander delivers a thoroughly competent experience, even if it didn’t get my heart racing. The Hybrid Max model is definitely quick, but it’s still not neck-snapping or responsive as a Mazda CX-90. Same goes for the handling: It holds on in the bends perfectly fine, but you can tell Toyota tuned the Grand Highlander’s steering toward ease-of-use than dynamism. And honestly, that’s just fine with me.

Verdict: The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander has admirably few flaws, and is absolutely worth a look

Weirdly, I haven’t been drawn to the standard Toyota Highlander, even with its most recent redesign. Perhaps it’s the rounder styling or the tight third-row quarters, but as popular as it is, I feel it’s a safe and somewhat anonymous choice than something I’d really want to spend my money on. At first, I thought the Grand Highlander was more of a cynical marketing exercise to fill a contrived gap between the Highlander and Sequoia, but it makes so much more sense after trying it out for a week or so.

After my time with this car, I walked away thinking this is what this generation Highlander should have been from the start — it’s that good.

The more angular styling of the Grand Highlander against its smaller, smoother sibling may put some people off, but I honestly like it. You could probably call it a big RAV4 if you want to take an adversarial stance, but at least it is actually different than the Highlander. Between the styling differences, the Hybrid Max powertrain and the interior design, it’s clear Toyota really thought out the details, and it hits the mark for the folks who are going to want this car most: Families that want a spacious, comfortable companion to tackle whatever life throws at them for many years to come.

Now, if your budget can’t stretch to the Hybrid Max, it makes a ton of sense to go for the base Hybrid XLE model. It’s unfortunate that the Hybrid Max doesn’t come in a cheaper XLE model, but there’s a suspicious gap in the Grand Highlander’s price walk that suggests it may happen at some point in the future. The Grand Highlander Hybrid XLE, with the 2.5-liter engine, offers most of the features you’ll really want, and comes in a full $13,750 cheaper, to say nothing of all the cash you’ll save on your annual fuel bills.

Toyota offers the industry-standard 3-year/36,000-mile limited warranty as well as 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain coverage, but you do get two years/25,000 miles of complimentary maintenance, which is something many rivals don’t offer. Get a Grand Highlander Hybrid, and you’ll get eight years or 100,000 miles of hybrid system warranty coverage, as well.