Toyota is on a roll.
Okay Brian, tell me something I don’t already know!
Seriously, Toyota and its luxury brand Lexus seem impervious to producing a vehicle that’s not a reliable, well-thought-out best seller.
For the 2024 model year Toyota’s introduction of the all-new Grand Highlander continues the string of hits for the brand.
The Grand Highlander joins a crowded but excellent field of Toyota SUV/CUV models including Highlander, Sequoia, RAV4, Corolla Cross, Venza, 4Runner, and the full electric bZ4X. And while the base Highlander comes in a three-row configuration, Grand Highlander’s extended wheelbase offers comfort to adult-sized occupants in the third row. At 6’9”, I don’t quite fit in any third row, but rest assured, folks up to 6’2” will be comfortable there, even on longer journeys. The Grand Highlander is underpinned with a modified TNGA-K platform with a wider track and longer wheelbase than the base Highlander.
Grand Highlander’s larger size also gives Toyota another weapon in a larger-SUV-crazed American marketplace.
Recently, Toyota invited media to drive the new Grand Highlander in Kona, Hawaii. Kona’s stunning beauty, and curvy roads that included elevations into rainforests, proved to be a great proving ground for Grand Highlander.
It’s surprisingly rugged! The first-generation Highlander was a real softie in terms of design and off-road chops. The Grand Highlander not only looks tough, it is tough as proven on some pretty rough trail roads in Kona.
While you won’t confuse the interior for a Lexus, the Grand Highlander is very well-appointed. Highlights include a soft-padded instrument panel and available wood-effect dash materials that lend a luxury flavor.
Cockpit controls are centered around the standard 12.3-inch multimedia display. The center stack features a wireless charger, a pair of USB ports, three cupholders, and a sliding console cover lid that can be opened and closed without having to move your arms from the armrests. There is an additional USB port and storage tray for the front passenger.
The second row includes an air conditioning control panel and separate left/right USB ports within easy reach of passengers. Cup holders are also provided, with water bottle storage areas in the doors.
Third-row passengers also receive two left/right individual USB ports, smartphone/tablet storage space, and two cup & bottle holders.
There are three powertrain options in the new Grand Highlander.
All trims get a 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder. Base trim outputs 265 horsepower. Hybrid trim offers 245 horsepower, and our test Hybrid MAX trim provides impressive performance with 362 horsepower on tap.
The Hybrid MAX powertrain also has 5,000 lbs. of towing capacity.
Fuel economy ranges from a combined 24 combined MPG for the base internal combustion engine, while hybrid versions offer an EPA-estimated 36 combined MPG for the XLE FWD and 27 combined MPG for Hybrid MAX.
All-wheel drive (AWD) is optional on the base gas and hybrid models and is standard on the Hybrid MAX.
All powertrains come with three Drive Modes (Sport, Eco, Normal) – while Multi-Terrain Select with three modes (Mud & Sand, Rock & Dirt, Snow) is offered on the gas AWD and Hybrid MAX powertrains.
On the roads and trails around Kona, the Hybrid MAX trim was an absolute joy to drive! It handles well, is as quiet as a Lexus, and the 362-horsepower drivetrain gets out of its own way in a hurry. We’re confident that the lesser power models drive and handle well, as the entire lineup is tailored for driver-specific needs. Don’t desire/need top performance? The base gas and hybrid models are perfect for you.
Grand Highlander comes standard with the latest Toyota Safety Sense generation, TSS 3.0. TSS 3.0 system adds a new Proactive Driving Assist system. When system operating conditions are met, using the vehicle’s camera and radar, this system provides gentle braking into curves or gentle braking and/or steering to help support driving tasks such as distance control between a preceding vehicle, pedestrian or bicyclist. Additional, new TSS 3.0 features include:
- Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection is designed to help detect a vehicle or pedestrian and provide an audio/visual forward-collision warning. If the driver doesn’t react, the system can trigger emergency braking
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist gains enhanced lane recognition that includes the detection of certain 3D objects, like guardrails, that may be used to help define the lane
- Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC) adds a fourth following distance setting in addition to the previously available three. Enhanced vehicle detection allows for the ability to detect more than one preceding vehicle, as well as vehicles in adjacent lanes
- When DRCC is enabled and lane markers are visible, Lane Tracing Assist uses the lines on the road and/or preceding vehicles to provide active driving assistance and help keep the vehicle centered and in its lane
- Road Sign Assist gets expanded sign detection capabilities that now include certain intersection signs and warning signs, like pedestrian crossings
Grand Highlander prices range from $43,070 (XLE Front Wheel-Drive) to $58,125 (Platinum Hybrid MAX), not including destination charges.
This new model from Toyota checks all of the boxes. Consider the Grand Highlander a “grand” choice when shopping for a reliable, safe, well-contented sport-utility vehicle.
Pursuitist automotive and lifestyle contributor Brian Armstead has been involved in print, radio, web and television for over 47 years. Brian has traveled to 79 countries. He is a North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) Juror.