Saturday, September 23, 2023
First Reviews 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander First Drive Review: Just The Eight Of Us

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander First Drive Review: Just The Eight Of Us

Hybrid MAX for the win.

  • The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander starts at $44,405 in the United States and at $52,420 in Canada, freight and delivery charges included.

  • Cavernous cabin, fuel-efficient powertrains, brand reliability reputation is convincing.

  • Not that engaging to drive, regular hybrid powertrain lacks punch, costlier than a Sienna minivan that can do the same job.

WAIMEA, Hawaii – Do families go on road trips anymore? Well, they should, as some of my fondest childhood memories involve travelling while on vacation with my parents and my brother. Back in the day, we didn’t have the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander with its all its comfort, convenience and safety features to keep everyone on board happy.

Of course, not every moment of a road trip is joyful. Kids squabble, parents get impatient, and when the family gets home, they might not speak to each other for a day or two. And then the good memories start to sink in. Nowadays, captain’s chairs and three rows of seats help everyone claim their space. USB ports keep everyone’s portable devices juiced up so all occupants can keep up on social media, play games and find the next interesting attraction along the way. The Grand Highlander has all that, and obviously more.

So, what’s so grand about the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander arriving this summer? It’s big.

It’s bigger than the regular Toyota Highlander, of course. It rides on a wheelbase that’s 3.9 inches or 99 millimetres longer, while overall length is stretched by 6.5 inches or 165 mm. It’s also 2.3 inches or 58 mm wider, although overall height and ground clearance is about the same. The Highlander also features three rows of seats with a maximum capacity of eight passengers, but the Grand Highlander offers a smidge more headroom, along with 5.5 inches or 140 mm of third-row legroom. That makes the most rearward row notably more accommodating for both kids and adults. The second-row seats are easy to slide forward, and entry/exit is facilitated by an adequate-sized walkway.

Toyota says seven carry-on suitcases can be piled up to the ceiling in the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander, with all three rows occupied. On paper, that amounts to 20.6 cubic feet or 583 litres, while folding the third-row seat down increases that volume to 57.9 cubic feet or 1,640 litres. Gains of about 29 and 20 percent, respectively over the smaller, but still pretty big, Highlander.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

The Grand Highlander is now a more direct rival to the bigger crossovers in the segment, such as the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave, as well as the Ford Explorer. Passenger and cargo space are marginally smaller than those of the GM cousins, marginally bigger than those of the Ford, which shows just how puffy Toyota’s new crossover is. It’s worth noting that the Traverse will be redesigned for the 2024 model year, and so will the 2024 GMC Acadia, which will grow in size to become once again as big as the Chevy. The Enclave will get its redesign for 2025, and the Explorer will receive a mid-cycle refresh for the 2024 model year.

To move that extra girth forward, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander offers a choice of three powertrains, one of which isn’t available in the regular Highlander. They both share the base turbocharged 2.4L four-cylinder engine that develops 265 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission. A front-wheel drivetrain is standard in the United States, while AWD is optional. The latter is standard in Canada.

Both crossovers also share a hybrid powertrain consisting of a naturally aspirated 2.5L four with three electric motors and an electronically controlled continuously variable automatic, good for 245 combined horsepower and an all-wheel drivetrain.

The range-topping Grand Highlander trims get Toyota’s recently introduced Hybrid MAX powertrain that includes the turbo 2.4L four, a trio of electric motors and a six-speed automatic transmission to create a full-time AWD setup as well as generate 362 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. According to the automaker, the Hybrid MAX allows 0-60 mph sprints of 6.3 seconds, or 0-100 km/h sprints in 6.5 seconds.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

ModelDrivetrainCity/Highway/Combined MPG (USA)City/Highway/Combined L/100 km (Canada)
XLE HybridFWD36/32/34
XLE HybridAWD36/32/346.6/7.4/7.0
Limited HybridAWD35/31/336.6/7.4/7.0
Limited Hybrid MAXAWD26/27/27
Platinum Hybrid MAXAWD26/27/279.0/8.6/8.8

As seen in the table above, the mid-level hybrid powertrain is by far the most efficient, followed by the Hybrid MAX. All three can run on regular, 87-octane fuel, which is good news. The numbers for the gas-only four and the regular hybrid are barely highway than those of the smaller Highlander.

Other takeaways: the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander soaks up less fuel than the Traverse and Enclave, as well as every variant of the Explorer. The latter is available with a hybrid powertrain based on a 3.3L V6 engine, producing a combined 318 horsepower and 322 pound-feet. The Grand Highlander with the Hybrid MAX trumps it in both output and fuel economy.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

And let’s face it; up to 34 mpg or as low as 7.0 L/100 km for a big, family friendly chariot such as this one is mighty impressive. On the other hand, the 243-hp hybrid powertrain is the least interesting to drive, and although we didn’t sample it during our preview drive, we found it somewhat wheezy in the regular Highlander as well as in the new-for-2023 Lexus RX 350h. When fuel economy is the number one priority, this is the one to get.

The Hybrid MAX powertrain is muscular, yet not too violent, and it sounds pretty good at wide-open throttle too—with no artificial sound enhancement, according to Toyota. It definitely produces the punch of a big V6 engine, but without its thirst for fuel. As for the turbo four, it’s the adequate in-between, balancing power and consumption without being overly exciting. In a nutshell, it does the job and doesn’t feel overworked, at least not with two people on board.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

Both the base and Hybrid MAX powertrains allow a max towing capacity of 5,000 pounds of 2,268 kilograms, while the regular hybrid can tow up to 3,500 pounds or 1,588 kg—a little on the low side. Most midsize, three-row crossovers can pull 5,000 pounds, including the Explorer Hybrid, while the Dodge Durango and the Nissan Pathfinder can do better.

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander’s interior design is clean and elegant, with just the right amount of brightwork. SofTex simulated leather is found in the XLE trim, while leather adorns the Limited and Platinum’s cabin. Black is the only to go in Canada, but the U.S. market also gets Light Gray. The U.S.-only Limited Hybrid MAX as well as the Platinum Hybrid MAX get a mix of leather and Ultrasuede in either Black or Portobello hues, although again, Light Gray can also be selected in U.S. variants. Bronze accenting spruces up the range-topping trim level’s cabin, which sounds weird because it’s called the Platinum, but whatever. There’s a shift lever instead of an unintuitive row of buttons, which is nice, along with a good amount of storage points and a bunch of physical climate control buttons. We like that Toyota has resisted the temptation to relegate everything to the infotainment system touchscreen.

Speaking of which, it’s 12.3 inches in size in all trim levels. It houses Toyota’s new-generation interface that’s easier to use than the previous one, with a left-side vertical row of main menu buttons, and all the essential features we come to expect in a new vehicle, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, remote connectivity using a smartphone app. There are seven USB ports for everyone to plug into. On-board 4G Wi-Fi hotspot and over-the-air updates are also available for the U.S. market.

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander’s XLE trim includes 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, power-adjustable front seats, a seven-inch digital driving instrument cluster and a slew of active safety features along with blind-spot monitoring. The Canadian-spec XLE also gets a heated steering wheel. The mid-range Limited adds 20-inch wheels, a panoramic moonroof, ventilated front seats and heated second-row captain’s chairs, a 1,500-watt power outlet, ambient lighting, a 12.3-inch driver instrument panel, a hands-free tailgate and a 360-degree camera system, among other things. The Platinum grade upgrades to second-row ventilated seats, a Multi-Terrain Select dial with various drive modes, head-up display, a camera rearview mirror and more.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

Pricing ranges from $44,405 to $59,460 in the United States, and from $52,420 to $67,380 in Canada, freight and delivery charges included. That’s on par with the Enclave and the Explorer, and while the Traverse’s base price is lower, that’s for a less-equipped trim level. So the Grand Highlander is competitive from a cost standpoint.

ModelDrivetrainMSRP + F&DC (United States)MSRP + F&DC (Canada)
XLE HybridFWD$46,005
XLE HybridAWD$47,605$55,720
Limited HybridAWD$52,395$63,120
Limited Hybrid MAXAWD$55,375
Platinum Hybrid MAXAWD$59,460$67,380

Here’s the thing: the Japanese automaker is flaunting its new Grand Highlander as an awesome road tripping vehicle for families, but it already has a fuel-efficient, spacious, versatile model with available AWD in its lineup. That would be the Toyota Sienna, which ranges in price from $38,220 to $56,355 in the U.S., and from $44,080 to $62,575 in Canada. Hybrid MAX powertrain aside, the Grand Highlander isn’t particularly more entertaining to drive, it’s not more accommodating than the Sienna, and it’s more expensive. However, it will probably sell much better than the crafty minivan. The latter can’t keep up with demand anyway, so the more available models, the better, we guess.

Is the new 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander a better choice than its aforementioned rivals? If we can swing the monthly payments for one with the Hybrid MAX powertrain, it does offer the best balance between performance and efficiency, and it’s about as roomy as its rivals for eight people on board. The brand’s reputation for reliability and resale value also helps its consideration. On the other hand, fuel economy aside, there’s nothing innovative here to revolutionize the segment, and if we’re not always traveling with all seats occupied, the regular Highlander still does a commendable job for less coin.

Anyway, if my parents had a vehicle such as the Grand Highlander when I was a kid, I likely would have squabbled a lot less with my brother when we were on vacationing road trips.

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