The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is an all-new and different SUV ready to take on the competition from Palisade, Telluride.
Meet Toyota’s all-new 2024 Grand Highlander, which, despite its name, isn’t really just a bigger Highlander (or fancy, as Jeep’s Grand Wagoneer is to the regular Wagoneer). The three-row Grand Highlander SUV is actually an all-new vehicle, larger than the Highlander and meant to compete against the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Volkswagen Atlas, and even the Jeep Grand Cherokee L.
Visually, it’s easy enough to distinguish the Grand Highlander from its non-grandbrother. It’s a larger vehicle, measuring 4 inches longer, 2 inches taller, and 2.3 inches wider. From the front, the Highlander’s weed-sucking fascia is replaced with a more conventional dual grille arrangement. From the side, the Grand Highlander does away with the Highlander’s exaggerated door-to-fender character lines, instead featuring a shoulderline that runs nearly parallel to the ground, and has a thicker D-pillar. Blocked and solid, the Grand Highlander looks unashamedly like the family truck it is. It is a beautiful vehicle in the way that a Clydesdale is a beautiful horse.
The interior, though it differs in detail from the Highlander, features the same general design, its 12.3-inch center display sitting above the climate controls with the appropriate buttons and dials. As with the Highlander, there’s plenty of storage space, including a deep center console. The front seats are supportive and comfortable. We tested leather seats on the Platinum and Ultrasuede trim and exclusive leather on the Hybrid Max; Any configuration would do a Lexus proud. For the roomy second row, the Grand Highlander offers individual buckets or a three-row bench, for a total of seven or eight seats. Seven USB-C ports and 13(!) cup holders are scattered throughout the interior.
Toyota is making a big deal about the third row, saying it’s sized for two full-size adults. In fact, we found that a nearly 6-foot chair can fit back there with adequate headroom and a reasonable amount of legroom, provided second-row passengers are willing to compromise a bit. Just because it can fit doesn’t mean it can fit comfortably, though: The low-mounted bottom cushion makes for a knee-up seating position, and the seat itself feels hard and thinly padded. The amenities are there; each third-row occupant has their own USB-C port and a dual cup holder that doubles as a tablet stowage, and a well-positioned grab handle makes entry easy. Unfortunately, as soon as you’re in the third row, you may want to head back out.
One of the main advantages of an SUV of this size is the ability to carry cargo with all seats occupied. The Grand Highlander offers 20.6 cubic feet of cargo space with the third row in place, and its shape will accommodate bulky suitcases. With all seats folded down, the Grand Highlander offers 97.5 cubic feet of cargo volume.
Powertrains mimic those of the Highlander SUV, with either a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine or a 2.5-liter hybrid, both available with front- or all-wheel drive. (Horsepower numbers are still secret, but these powertrains make 265 and 243 hp, respectively, in the Highlander.) In addition, the Grand Highlander offers a Hybrid Max powertrain, similar to the 2023 Crown, employing a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine driven by an electric motor, plus a second motor to drive the rear axle. Toyota gave us a horsepower number for this powertrain: 362 for the entire system. Toyota anticipates a 0-60 time of 6.3 seconds for the Hybrid Max and a towing capacity of 5,000 pounds.
As with all of Toyota’s latest offerings, you can’t expect any shortage of safety, driver assistance, and infotainment technology. For the former, the Grand Highlander gets Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 package with dynamic cruise control, collision detection with automatic braking, traffic sign recognition, and lane keeping assist. The stereo is compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, pairs two Bluetooth phones and offers subscription-based 4G Internet connectivity with a comprehensive Wi-Fi hotspot.
Toyota will offer the Grand Highlander in XLE, Limited and Platinum trims; no humble LE (or sporty SE) model here. The entry-level standard equipment is impressive. It includes 18-inch alloy wheels, leatherette seats (power-adjustable and heated in the front) and a power liftgate, and upscale models, including genuine leather and a panoramic moonroof. Pricing hasn’t been announced—we should know more this spring—but competitors start in the mid-30s, and we expect the Grand Highlander to be at the higher end of that range.
While the name situation is a bit confusing, we understand Toyota’s decision: Launching a new nameplate is expensive and takes time for potential buyers to establish an association. (Just look at the slow growth in sales of Toyot’s competent Venza SUV.) The Highlander name is already associated with family motoring, and our first tour tells us that the Grand Highlander is about as family-friendly as a Toyota SUV can get. . The third-row seat may not be as practical an addition as Toyota implies, but there’s plenty of room for a growing family and friends. The 2024 Grand Highlander should be in dealerships this summer and we expect it to start running as a strong contender.