Whether it’s to carry kids to a soccer match or to add some extra cargo space, American motorists have avidly embraced three-row SUVs – and automakers have rushed to respond. Once rare, they’re an increasingly common sight, more and more coming to market each year. With the Sequoia, Toyota was an early entrant into the segment. For the coming model year, it’s adding another option, a three-row version of the popular Highlander.
While the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander uses the same platform as the two-row model, it’s more than just a stretched edition. It adds not only more room but significantly more features. And buyers will have the option to get the beefy new Hybrid Max powertrain that delivers 265 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque.
To get a sense of what the new Grand Highlander is all about, I set off for the Big Island of Hawaii where Toyota set up the first media drive of the three-row utility vehicle.
“Bigger is better,” or so the old adage would have us believe. While not quite as big as the Japanese brand’s Sequoia, the Highlander SUV already offered plenty of space, buyers now have the option of squeezing in more passengers and cargo with the arrival of the new 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander.
As Toyota explained during the debut of the new, three-row SUV last February, Grand Highlander offers an “adult-sized third row and ample cargo space.”
The big ute loads up on creature comfort and safety features, everything from 13 cupholders to an Alexa-style voice assistant that can operate most key vehicle functions. And the Grand Highlander now offers a choice of three different powertrains, from a fuel-efficient turbo-4 to the muscular new Hybrid Max.
Considering the U.S. is expected to be the primary market for the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander, it’s fitting that the big SUV was, for starters, designed at the automaker’s CALTY design center in Southern California. Engineering was handled at Toyota’s R&D center near Detroit. And it will be assembled in the States, as well.
While based on the same TNGA-K platform as the familiar, two-row Toyota Highlander, the new model is otherwise entirely new, Toyota claims. And that gave the product development team the opportunity to use Grand Highlander’s ample dimensions.
Wherever you look, Grand Highlander bulks it up. It gains an extra 6.5 inches in total length compared to the standard Highlander, at 201.4 inches. It’s 2.3 inches wider, at 78.3 inches, and stands two inches taller, at 70.1 inches.
The design of the Grand Highlander is polarizing, at least based on the initial reaction during my time in Hawaii. The overall shape is blocky, with an absolutely upright nose, a flat roof clearly meant to maximize rear headroom, and a tailgate with only the most modest tilt. Slit headlamps are linked by a thin upper grille. In contrast, the lower grille is positively massive.
Big shoulders give the rig a more muscular appearance, as do the big tires and wheel wells.
The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander makes good use of those added dimensions, whether you opt for the seven- or eight-passenger package. It’s positively huge inside and lives up to the automaker’s claim that it has an “adult-sized third row.” I readily fit my 6’2” frame into the back of the SUV. Compared to the two-row Highlander the Grand edition gets more head, hip and shoulder room.
And there really is “ample cargo space.” Even with all three rows occupied, the Grand Highlander can swallow up seven rollaboard suitcases. Fold down the third row and you’ve now got a substantial 60 cubic feet available. With the second row down, as well, it’s up to a cavernous 97.5 cf. That’s 13.2 cubic feet more than with the two-row Highlander.
The horizontal lines of the instrument panel — complemented by an extra-wide touchscreen help accentuate the width of the cabin.
The seats, especially in the front row, are plush and supportive. And there are several different material choices, including fabric, leather or, exclusive to the Hybrid Max package, Ultrasuede.
Passengers will stay well hydrated with 13 cupholders. And they’ll be able to stay occupied plugging into seven onboard USB ports. The Grand Highlander also has an available 120-volt AC outlet.
Where the two-road Highlander offers a pair of two powertrain choices, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander adds a third option, the Hybrid Max.
The Max package starts out with a modest-sized 2.4-liter internal combustion engine. But it pairs that with twin electric motors, one up front, another driving the rear wheels to create an electrified all-wheel-drive system. Toyota has been tweaking the numbers as it gets close to production but it claims the final figures are 265 horsepower and 332 pound-feet of torque.
That’s enough, the automaker says, to hit 60 in about 6.3 seconds, with a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds. Considering the size and weight of the Grand Highlander, fuel economy is a solid 26 mpg around town, 27 on the highway and 27 in the EPA combined cycle.
At the other extreme, Grand Highlander buyers have a more fuel-efficient, albeit far less sporty, hybrid. Though its displacement is a slightly larger 2.5 liters, it manages to deliver just 187 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque. But you’ll get as much as 36 mpg around town, 32 on the highway, and 34 in the combined cycle, according to the EPA. Available in both front and all-wheel-drive, it requires an estimated 7.8 seconds to hit 60.
The turbo-4 option displaces 2.4-liter and pushes out a solid 265 hp and 310 lb-ft. You’ll sacrifice in the mileage column, however. As with the base hybrid, the turbo engine is available in front or all-wheel drive. In the AWD Platinum package, however, you’ll muster just 20 mpg city, 26 highway and 22 in the EPA combined test.
Safety and Technology
The new Grand Highlander features a long list of technology, starting with its 12.2-inch panoramic touchscreen and either a 7.8 or 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster. Depending upon the trim package, Toyota also offers an Alexa-like voice assistant. Simply say, “Hey, Toyota,” and it comes to life, letting you plug in a destination or operate a wide variety of vehicle functions.
Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available, either as an option or standard features, depending upon the trim package. Same with wireless cellphone charging. There are seven USB-C charge ports scattered around the interior. And higher trims come standard with an 11-speaker JBL audiophile sound system. The Bluetooth system can pair with two phones simultaneously. And the SUV boasts an onboard WiFi hotspot.
The 2024 Grand Highlander also comes standard with an extensive array of advanced driver assistance systems.
On electrified models, there’s a 120-volt AC outlet delivering up to 1,500 watts of power. That’s enough to brew coffee, operate most LED TVs and even run some microwave ovens.
My driving partner and I started out for the day with a 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum edition. It gave us the chance to check out everything the automaker could pack into the three-row ute.
Out exploring the Big Island I was impressed by the power the Hybrid Max engine delivered. While that wasn’t entirely a surprise, I was pleased by the deep, resonant engine note the hybrid package made. It was far more inspiring than what most gas-electric drivetrains muster.
Taking the SUV out on Hawaii 250, the most challenging road on island, I found the steering to be reasonably responsive, albeit a bit numb — much like the base Highlander. One of the big surprises was how tight a turning circle the Grand Highlander could pull off, a real advantage in tight parking lots and out on narrow roads.
The overall ride was a bit too soft for my personal liking, though it would likely be appreciated with a car full of passengers.
After heading back to our “base camp,” we were able to take out a lower trim Grand Highlander with the base hybrid. We began that loop with diminished expectations — but were pleasantly surprised to discover it delivering a reasonable level of pep.
Overall, the new 2024 Grand Highlander should click with Toyota loyalists needing a three-row SUV. But it has enough going for it to attract some Toyota skeptics, as well.
The Toyota Highlander has a well-deserved reputation as a family-friendly SUV. Think of the 2024 Grand Highlander as a bigger family-friendly utility vehicle. While it might not handle an entire soccer team, it can come close — and pack in virtually all the gear you’d need, even with all three rows occupied.
While not the low-priced entry into the three-row SUV market, you can get into a base Grand Highlander XLE with the turbo-4 engine and front-wheel-drive for a reasonable $43,070. Add $1,600 to go all-wheel-drive. With the hybrid option, you’re looking at $44,670 for the XLE in FWD, and $46,270 to go AWD. The Hybrid Max starts at $54,040 in the Grand Highlander Limited grade, and $58,125 for the Platinum. That’s a steep jump but both models are loaded with standard features. (Add $1,335 to these numbers for destination charges.)
The 2024 Grand Highlander is a smart addition to Toyota’s already extensive line-up of SUVs. While it may not be the most stylish model within the three-row segment, nor the sportiest, it stands up nicely against the competition and should be worth checking out if you’re looking for an SUV that can handle seven or eight passengers.
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander — Frequently Asked Questions
Is the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander bigger and grander than the regular Highlander?
It’s certainly bigger, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander measuring 6.5 inches longer, 2.3 inches wider and 2 inches taller than the two-row Highlander. It’s also loaded up with plenty of new features, including the optional Hybrid Max powertrain.
What is the fuel economy for the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander?
That depends upon your powertrain and trim choices. You’ll get a low of 20 mpg City, 26 Highway and 22 Combined with the turbo-four engine in the Limited and Platinum trims all-wheel-drive packages. At the other extreme, the base hybrid gets you 36/32/34 mpg with XLE package in either front- or all-wheel drive.
What are the primary competitors to the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander?
They include the all-new Mazda CX-90, the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Honda Pilot and Subaru Ascent. Also worth considering: the Jeep Grand Cherokee-L, Dodge Durango, Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and Nissan Pathfinder.