2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Review and Test Drive

Toyota adds more power, passenger room, and cargo space to a popular nameplate.

Ron Sessions | 
Jun 9, 2023 | 13 min read

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Limited white front quarter heroRon Sessions

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is an all-new sport-utility vehicle (SUV) with three-row seating. As you might guess from its name, the new Grand Highlander is larger than the popular midsize Highlander, and Toyota bases it on a stretched and widened version of the Highlander's platform. In addition, the 2024 Grand Highlander offers more passenger and cargo space than the more expensive Toyota Sequoia but in a more maneuverable, easier-to-park package offering fuel-economy advantages.

If Toyota already has a three-row Highlander and a full-size Sequoia, why is it building the Grand Highlander? The automaker says it will appeal to Millennials with growing families and SUV buyers who don't require much trailering capacity. However, the Grand Highlander also gives Toyota a midsize crossover SUV that can rival the larger models in the segment regarding third-row seat room and cargo space. As such, the Grand Highlander's primary competitors include the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Grand Cherokee L, Kia Telluride, and Volkswagen Atlas.

2024 Toyota Highlander limited rear front 3/4 viewRon Sessions

To successfully position the 2024 Grand Highlander, Toyota offers it with turbocharged gas, hybrid, and turbocharged hybrid powertrains with front-wheel drive (FWD) or all-wheel drive (AWD). Trim levels include XLE, Limited, and Platinum, and base prices range from the mid $40,000s to the high $50,000s, including the destination charge to ship the SUV from the Princeton, Indiana, factory that builds it to your local dealership.

For this Grand Highlander review, I test-drove the Limited Hybrid Max on the big island of Hawaii. It came with optional Wind Chill Pearl premium paint, a surround-view camera, and a panoramic roof, bringing the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) to $57,750, including the $1,335 destination charge. Toyota provided the vehicle for this Grand Highlander review and paid for airfare, lodging, and meals during the evaluation period.

2024 Toyota Highlander limited interior dashboardRon Sessions

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Review: The Design

Aside from its increased size, which adds 6.5 inches of length from bumper to bumper and two inches road to roof and side to side, the new, upsized Toyota Grand Highlander differentiates itself from the standard-issue Highlander with crisp and angular lines that give it a family resemblance to the compact RAV4.

The more expansive exterior dimensions of the Grand Highlander translate directly into increased passenger and cargo space. In addition, courtesy of a four-inch wheelbase stretch compared to the smaller Highlander, the Grand Highlander offers longer rear doors providing improved access to the third-row seats.

2024 Toyota Highlander limited second row seatsRon Sessions

A low-mounted dashboard that sweeps into the front doors and generously sized power-adjustable front seats facilitate a feeling of spaciousness in the Grand Highlander. The seats are nicely contoured and can offer a pleasing balance of support and comfort. With the Hybrid Max powertrain and Limited or Platinum trim, they're heated and ventilated, seat coverings are Ultrasuede and leather, and the cabin has bronze accented trim. Ambient lighting is also standard with these versions of the Grand Highlander.

Front storage space is generous courtesy of a wide center console. It houses three front cup holders, one big enough to handle a large refillable water bottle. A sizeable tray under the dashboard is ideal for the small items that accumulate on road trips, and it accommodates the standard wireless cellphone charger. Flanked by the console's padded armrests, a deep bin with a sliding cover can keep larger items out of sight. At floor level, the front passenger can access a tray for a purse or camera bag, and above the glovebox is a dash-level shelf ideal for a phone or charging cord. The Hybrid Max models also have a handy 1500-watt AC power outlet.

Although the base XLE trim has a 60/40 split bench seat in the second row, the Limited features individual heated captain's chairs that slide fore and aft and recline. A small center console with two cupholders lives between the captain's chairs. You can remove the console to improve through-the-vehicle access to the 60/40 split reclining third-row seat.

One-touch tilt-and-slide second-row seats ease access to the third row from outside the vehicle. As a result, I could slide my 6-foot, 2-inch frame into the third row with plenty of headroom and legroom left over, something I couldn't say about the regular-issue Highlander. Note, however, that seated comfort was slightly lacking, since Toyota had to keep the bottom seat cushions thin enough to facilitate folding them flat for carrying cargo.

2024 Toyota Highlander cargo spaceRon Sessions

Cargo volume is a generous 20.6 cubic feet behind the raised third-row seat, 57.9 with the third-row folded, and 97.6 with both the second-and third-row chairs folded flat. Not only is that more space than you'll find in the midsize Highlander, but it also tops the stowage space in the full-size Sequoia. In a demonstration, Toyota stacked seven airport roller bags, floor-to-ceiling, behind the third-row seat.

With Limited or Platinum trim, a standard hands-free liftgate provides access to the cargo area. You can use this feature by waving your foot under the rear bumper.

2024 Toyota Highlander surround view cameraRon Sessions

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Review: The Technology

Family-sized vehicles should provide family-sized entertainment, and the Grand Highlander can deliver.

Standard equipment includes a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system equipped with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity, SiriusXM satellite radio, USB charging ports in all three rows of seats, and several subscription-based connected service plans, including one that provides access to a Wi-Fi hotspot. My Grand Highlander Limited test vehicle also had an excellent-sounding 1,200-watt, 11-speaker JBL premium audio system.

Pairing my Android smartphone was quick and easy, and the system allows you to connect two devices simultaneously. In addition, the big touchscreen offers much to see, and you can access the content and settings using well-marked and laid-out tiles. Toyota provides a traditional analog volume control knob in a handy spot to the left of the screen, but there isn't a physical radio tuning knob. However, there are buttons for adjusting the volume and tuning on the steering wheel spokes.

2024 Toyota Highlander apple car playRon Sessions

With the Drive Connect subscription service plan, the Grand Highlander includes a cloud-based navigation system, conversational voice recognition technology, and a Google-maintained point-of-interest search database. Dubbed the Intelligent Assistant, Drive Connect's voice recognition system is always listening and waiting for you to push the steering wheel voice-control icon or utter a wake-up phrase like "Hey, Toyota." Using voice commands and the Intelligent Assistant, you can make an audio selection, adjust the cabin temperature, find a point of interest in the continuously updated Google database, give navigation instructions, and perform other tasks.

Digital Key turns your smartphone into a remote key fob and is a part of Remote Connect, another of the SUV's available subscription service plans. With Remote Connect, you can interact with the vehicle remotely to operate the door locks, start or stop the engine, and other functions.

2024 Toyota Highlander safety featuresRon Sessions

Turning to safety features, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander features the brand's latest Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 (TSS 3.0) collection of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). It includes adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist, lane-centering assist, traffic-sign recognition, and automatic high-beam headlights. In addition, the Grand Highlander has blind-spot monitoring and a rear cross-traffic alert system.

Enhancements give this version of Toyota Safety Sense a 3.0 designation. For example, the forward-collision warning system adds new motorcycle detection capability in addition to pedestrian and bicyclist detection. In addition, TSS 3.0 gains increased front sensing of other vehicles at intersections and expanded traffic-sign recognition capabilities to identify upcoming intersections and pedestrian crossings.

Driving assistance systems are improved, too. For example, the adaptive cruise control adds additional sensing of multiple vehicles ahead and ones in adjacent lanes for smoother lane changing and acceleration. In addition, the lane-keeping assist system now uses 3D objects such as guard rails to help define the edge of a road, where clearly marked white or yellow lane lines are absent.

When using the adaptive cruise control and lane centering systems simultaneously, a new Emergency Driving Stop system uses a driver-facing infrared camera to monitor for an inattentive or disabled driver. If the driver is unresponsive to system alerts, it can bring the SUV to a safe, gradual stop.

There is also a new Traffic Jam Assist system for low-speed hands-free semi-autonomous driving on limited-access highways. However, this feature is only available with the top Platinum trim and requires an active Drive Connect subscription.

The low speed limits and winding two-lane roads of the drive routes on Hawaii's Big Island presented few opportunities to use many of the Grand Highlander's ADAS features. However, the lane-keeping system worked well enough to prevent the SUV from wandering out of its lane, though it was no match for sharper curves that required my steering input to stay on course.

One system that kept me on my toes was the infrared driver monitoring camera checking to ensure my eyes were on the road. I got busted by the system multiple times as I searched for interesting side roads and photo locations. If my eyes strayed from straight ahead for more than a few seconds, the system sounded a warning beep and flashed a message on the driver's display, reminding me to keep my eyes on the road.

For a large vehicle, the Grand Highlander offers good all-around outward visibility. A low-mounted instrument panel, thin windshield pillars, and pedestal-mounted side mirrors aid the view to the front and sides. However, I was glad the Grand Highlander had front and rear parking sensors, automatic low-speed braking, and a rear cross-traffic alert system when navigating parking lots. In addition, my Limited test vehicle also had an optional 360-degree surround-view camera that regularly proved its worth.

Because the Grand Highlander is a new design, neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has performed crash tests on the SUV. However, both organizations will evaluate the SUV in the future, so check the NHTSA and IIHS websites for updates.

2024 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Max engineRon Sessions

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Review: The Drive

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is available with a choice of three powertrains. A 2.4-liter turbocharged gas four-cylinder engine with 265 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque is standard on all three trim levels. It uses an eight-speed automatic transmission to power the front or all four wheels.

Choose the XLE or Limited, and you can get a gas-electric hybrid powertrain based on a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It generates 245 system horsepower and 177 lb-ft of engine torque and employs a continuously variable transmission (CVT) to turn the front wheels. With AWD, a second electric motor adds traction at the rear wheels.

2024 Toyota Highlander limited white front 3/4 viewRon Sessions

The subject of this test is the Grand Highlander's Hybrid Max drivetrain. It pairs the 2.4-liter turbo four with two electric motors to deliver 362 system horsepower and 332 lb-ft of engine torque (400 lb-ft of system torque). The Hybrid Max upgrade is optional with Limited trim and standard with Platinum trim, and it includes a six-speed automatic transmission and full-time AWD. Grand Highlanders with the Hybrid Max drivetrain provide enhanced performance for buyers who like the idea of reducing their carbon emissions but don't want to be the last vehicle to reach the next stoplight.

Unlike the part-time on-demand AWD systems in other Grand Highlander models, the Hybrid Max's full-time AWD system continually sends drive torque to all four wheels for maximum performance and control. How much drive torque is delivered and where the system sends it varies between 70% front/30% rear, and 20% front/80% rear, depending on several factors, including accelerator pedal position, vehicle speed, and available traction.

Despite its expansive passenger and cargo space and nearly 5,000-pound curb weight, the Grand Highlander Hybrid Max can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds according to Toyota. While that's probably not going to press passengers back in their seats, it's likely enough to deliver pleasing around-town response as well as ideal freeway merging and passing ability.

Even with just six transmission gears, the Hybrid Max hardly gets caught flat-footed, thanks to the 2.4-liter turbo engine's generous low- and mid-range torque and the added power of the two electric motors. Punching the gas pedal in the Hybrid Max also delivers a pleasant baritone note from the SUV's dual exhaust outlets, which are not usually associated with hybrids.

Nevertheless, the Grand Highlander Hybrid Max proved fuel efficient for this size and type of vehicle. During my evaluation, I observed an indicated 25.2 mpg in the Hybrid Max Limited, not far from the Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy estimate of 27 mpg in combined driving. While those numbers probably wouldn't impress a Prius driver, they're highly competitive with the mileage estimates from the Grand Highlander's primary rivals.

2024 Toyota Highlander limited white rear 3/4 viewRon Sessions

Other than one straight gravel access path to a wind turbine farm, the smooth, dry roads on Hawaii's Big Island didn't provide much opportunity to explore the low-traction or off-road capabilities of the Hybrid Max's AWD system. However, on the twistier sections of two-lane rural roads, the big SUV's handling behavior was more stable, controlled, and characteristic of a sporty rear-drive SUV than a front-drive family hauler.

The Grand Highlander Limited's low-aspect-ratio 20-inch all-season Continental tires were well suited for touring the island, exhibiting good turn-in response and quiet running over various road surfaces. Generally, the speed limits were low, and the pace relaxed most of the time, although there were several surprise decreasing-radius turns that the tires handled in stride without squealing.

In addition, Toyota nicely weights the SUV's electrically boosted steering, so it's neither too heavy nor too light. And though Toyota doesn't offer adaptive shock absorbers for the Grand Highlander, the suspension tuning is in sync with the family mission of the SUV. It doesn't prioritize ultimate stick over good ride quality.

Up to keeping the hefty Hybrid Max Limited's speed in check over several long, curvy, 1,000-foot descents, the Grand Highlander's amply-sized ventilated four-wheel disc brakes performed flawlessly. In addition, they masterfully blend regenerative and mechanical braking with no discernible difference between the two. However, I did find that I needed to press the pedal harder than on a gas-powered model I drove earlier in the day to carry the same speed through a challenging set of downhill sweepers.

2024 Toyota Highlander limited white side viewRon Sessions

Is the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander a Good SUV?

Based on Toyota's reputation for making durable and reliable vehicles, I'd conclude that the new 2024 Grand Highlander is an intelligent buy for growing families who need more interior space but still want an SUV that fits into the garage and doesn't break the bank when it comes to fuel economy. So the only question I have is, "What took Toyota so long?"

All vehicle pricing includes MSRP plus destination charges (set at the time of publication), and will be rounded to the nearest thousand.

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