2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Pros
– Extremely spacious and well-thought-out cabin
– Hybrid powertrain as efficient as always.
– Available Hybrid Max version will be a blast.
– $50,000 base XLE is impressively well kitted
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Cons
– Still not as versatile or spacious as a Sienna.
– The Sienna should be offered with a Hybrid Max powertrain and be sold as a GR Sienna! Oups, wrong review.
As I reflect on my recent experience with the all-new 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander, I’m struck by a realization: this SUV is a perfect representation of the current North American automotive market. More specifically, the problem with said market. Having spent a full week in its company, driving and living with it, I’ve come to understand its place in the evolving landscape of family vehicles.
The Grand Highlander emerges as a curious addition to Toyota’s lineup, positioned above the well-established Highlander and alongside the Sienna, Toyota’s unbeatable minivan. It’s a statement on the market’s relentless drive for bigger, more capable family haulers, even when the existing options like the Highlander already fulfill most family needs quite adeptly.
The Highlander is, without a doubt, one of the best midsize three-row SUVs in North America. It’s spacious, efficient, and reliable. Then there’s the Sienna, the undisputed champion of minivans, offering unmatched practicality and comfort. But the Grand Highlander? It’s Toyota’s response to a market that craves SUVs over minivans, regardless of the practicality compromise.
The 2024 Grand Highlander still strikes an interesting balance. It’s spacious, with a generous wheelbase and total length, offering ample room in all three rows. While it doesn’t quite match the cavernous space of the Sienna, especially behind the third row, it does offer considerable cargo space. In this six or seven-passenger configuration, comfort is not overlooked, with features like second-row captain’s chairs and generous headroom.
The SUV’s interior is thoughtfully designed, maximizing the benefits of its larger size. Behind the second row, the SUV offers a substantial 1,640L of space, ballooning to almost 2,800L behind the front row. The seating configuration is flexible and in the tested version, the second row featured captain seats. While the third row’s lower seat cushion’s proximity to the floor might affect leg comfort slightly, the ample headroom compensates. The second-row seats’ ability to slide forward and backward adds to the vehicle’s versatility, ensuring comfort for passengers of all sizes.
The Grand Highlander’s cabin exemplifies Toyota’s commitment to simplicity, efficiency, and robustness. The interior design is straightforward yet refined, featuring tasteful inlays that elevate the sense of quality. Comfort is a priority, with seats providing adequate support, including available power lumbar supports. The driver’s cockpit is equipped with a large 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, offering a plethora of configurable menus and settings.
Physical controls for the HVAC system are intuitively laid out and have a satisfying tactile feel. Storage solutions are smartly integrated throughout the cabin, including a large bin capable of holding modern smartphones, complete with a convenient USB-C port. This attention to detail extends to driving assistance features, with easily accessible drive modes, including an Eco mode for enhanced fuel efficiency. The overall visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent, thanks to thoughtfully designed pillars and windows.
The SUV impresses with its commanding presence thanks to its considerable length of 5,115 mm which is 165 mm longer than Toyota Highlander. This expanded size places it on par with the Sequoia in terms of overall length. The wheelbase also sees an increase, with an additional 100 mm, providing more space between the wheels.
In terms of styling, the 2024 Grand Highlander is instantly recognizable as a Toyota and a Highlander. The Japanese giant’s current design language infuses a fair dose of attitude into its vehicles. It is especially noticeable at each extremity. The front fascia is bullish and ever so slightly tilted forward at the top while the rear taillamps, from the side, look fast. Bottom line, it’s handsome.
Taking the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander for a drive reveals a lot about its character and capabilities. Under the hood lies a familiar 2.5L Hybrid Synergy Drive powertrain, similar to those found in various Lexus models, the beloved Sienna, and the RAV4. In the Grand Highlander, this engine delivers a respectable 243 horsepower. This powertrain setup, combining a petrol front-wheel drive with a rear electric motor, effectively makes the vehicle all-wheel drive, coupled with an ECVT transmission. A notable characteristic during the drive is the engine’s drone when accelerating hard. However, the Eco Drive mode significantly improves the driving experience by moderating throttle response and reducing engine revs, resulting in smoother acceleration without compromising on power.
Fuel efficiency is a standout feature particularly considering its size and power. Toyota estimates an average fuel consumption of around 7L/100km, a figure that’s quite impressive for a vehicle of its dimensions and nearly on par with the slightly smaller Highlander. The SUV is built on a modified version of the TNGA platform, which also underpins the regular Highlander, lending it a solid foundation. Despite its increased length and width, the ride quality is commendable, even with the larger 20-inch wheels. I found the handling to be reassuring and stable.
Grand for good
However, the key question remains: do families really need an SUV this big? While the Grand Highlander offers an attractive package, it feels like an answer to a question few are asking. Having said that, midsize SUVs keep getting bigger to meet consumer demands. A likely outcome following the Grand Highlander’s arrival is the end of the “regular” Highlander.
One way or another, Toyota’s family SUVs are among the most appealing with a number of efficient and powerful powertrains, and purposeful cabins. Shoppers in the segment should start here.