Home » The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Ought To Come With Its Own Moon

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Ought To Come With Its Own Moon

Toyota Grand Highlander Topshot

Go big or go home is a cliché, but it’s also the law of the land in the three-row crossover kingdom. When you look around at what’s hot and what’s not, the spacious Kia Telluride is flying off the shelves while the somewhat cramped Subaru Ascent isn’t exactly at the top of most peoples’ lists. While the current Toyota Highlander is a good crossover, it just doesn’t have the roominess of the segment’s biggest contenders. Not wanting to go home, Toyota is going big with the 2024 Grand Highlander, and early signs are promising.

2024 Toyota Grand highlander Windchillpearl 001

On the outside, the Grand Highlander feels like a weird case of deja vu. There’s a bit of RAV4, a bit of Highlander, and a bit of Corolla Cross to the design that makes it look familiar even though we’re seeing it for the first time. If you want the most Toyota crossover of Toyota crossovers, this might be it. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing. Toyota customers like familiarity and the Grand Highlander won’t rock the boat. It’s not an offensive vehicle to look at and it’s certainly not as extroverted as the Sienna’s Shinkansen-like styling, so it should attract quite a few fans. I’d call that mission accomplished.

cargo area

Look, nobody buys a three-row crossover SUV to look at, they buy it because they don’t want a minivan and need a ton of space. Take that perspective, look inside the Grand Highlander, and it starts to weave a web of appeal. Fold every seat down and you’re looking at roughly 98 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s like an apartment. Speaking of practicality, the cockpit is capital C Clever when it comes to storage, something that can’t be said of every rival. The sliding console cover that allows storage cubby access without moving the armrests is brilliant, and the abbreviated version of the Highlander’s clever dash shelf should be quite useful. Toyota’s also paid great attention to charging port placement, with illuminated USB-C ports, including one right in front of the front passenger.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Stormcloud 012

What’s more, every control looks easy to use. The climate controls are chunky buttons and knobs that shouldn’t be troublesome to operate while wearing gloves, the door handles are huge, and the heated steering wheel has an actual button to control it. Oddly, there’s a massive amount of console real estate dedicated to drive modes and stability control on loaded models, features the average Grand Highlander owner will touch between twice and never. I get the vibe Toyota’s going for here, but all of this could’ve been consolidated into one button and one knob to make space for a fourteenth cupholder. I’m just saying, with 13 cupholders shared between seven seats if you opt for second-row captain’s chairs, someone’s going to be capped to one drink and nobody likes being singled out.

2024 Toyota Grand highlander Stormcloud 011

Hard stuff over, let’s talk tech. Standard even on the base model is a large 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system running Toyota’s latest infotainment software. Pop for at least the Limited trim, and that comes paired with a digital cluster of equal size. Both screens look slick with nice fonts and a cool blue glow, so they should do the job nicely. Here’s a more important cause for celebration: The rear exterior door handles get proximity key pads on all trim levels. If you need to carry something important like your child into a car, it’s way easier to unlock and open the rear door in one smooth motion than to fumble around with multiple handles. Rear door handle touchpads have previously been the domain of Lexus, so it’s good to see them on a mainline Toyota model.

second row

As for big features, the Platinum trim gets heated and ventilated second-row seats, a lovely luxury feature that’s now trickling down into large crossovers from retail brands. Unfortunately, the available panoramic moonroof and 360-degree camera system are also confined to the Platinum trim, which is a shame as both are big wow features that consumers love. Fortunately, the mid-range Limited and range-topping Platinum trim get an 11-speaker JBL audio system, ventilated front seats, and leather upholstery, while even the base XLE model gets a power liftgate, heated front seats, and wireless charging.


Entry-level Grand Highlander models get a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that Toyota describes as “well-balanced.” Take that to mean it’s a decent, inoffensive engine that should move the Grand Highlander around just fine. You probably won’t be surfing a wave of flavor when you drop the hammer, but the base Grand Highlander should get out of its own way and return decent fuel economy whether specced with front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. At the end of the day, that’s what most people are asking for. However, if for whatever reason you’re not satisfied with this perfectly cromulent base engine, there are two more options to choose from.

hybrid max powertrain

At the top of the range sits a high-output Hybrid MAX powertrain that pumps out 362 horsepower and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. Toyota claims that a Grand Highlander with this powertrain option can crank that Soulja Boy to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, which sounds surprisingly mediocre for something with that much chest-thumping output. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still objectively quick, but anyone hoping keep up with a less-powerful Acura MDX Type-S will likely be disappointed. What isn’t disappointing is a maximum towing capacity of 5,000 pounds and standard all-wheel-drive, plus I’m sure the Hybrid part of the Hybrid MAX equation will buoy fuel economy. As much as I love horsepower, I probably wouldn’t recommend the Hybrid MAX as the first-choice powertrain, but it sounds like a brilliant bit of engineering.

2024 Toyota Grand highlander Windchillpearl 005

This is going to sound a bit mad, but hear me out. The engine you really want is the mid-range 2.5-liter naturally-aspirated hybrid in either front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive form. A Grand Highlander with this engine will probably take many seconds to get to 60 mph from a dead stop and you know what? You’re going to love it. After all, this isn’t a sports car, sports sedan, sports bar, or sports drink. It’s a giant three-row crossover that’s bought for pragmatic reasons rather than sex appeal, and that 2.5-liter hybrid powertrain works absolute wonders for fuel economy with an estimated 34 mpg combined. If you don’t need to tow, it’s the way to go in just about every Toyota it’s offered in.

2024 Toyota Grand highlander Windchillpearl 002

If you can’t get your hands on a Toyota Sienna or want a three-row Toyota that isn’t a minivan, the Grand Highlander looks to be the next best thing. It’s huge, it’s well-thought-out, and it’s available with a variety of hybrid powertrains. However, we have no idea what it will cost. Surely it’ll be more expensive than the regular Highlander, which is a little bit of a problem as competition in the three-row crossover segment is stiff. The Kia Telluride and Hyundai Palisade offer a ton of interior room for regular Highlander money, the current Nissan Pathfinder is surprisingly good and I fit in the third row, the Honda Pilot is brand new for this year, and the incoming Mazda CX-90 looks awfully tempting.

If Toyota keeps pricing in check, the Grand Highlander should be a solid contender, especially with the psychological security of a Toyota badge. We’ll know for sure sometime this summer when Toyota plans on revealing pricing and the on-sale date of the Grand Highlander.

(Photo credits: Toyota)

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51 Responses

  1. I’d have to guess this is at least partially responsible for the Land Cruiser’s cancellation.

    Hopefully they’ve figured out some of the supply chain problems…this’ll probably be popular. A co-worker just got a March date for delivery of his new Highlander hybrid. He only ordered it 14 months ago.

    1. Orders aren’t a thing for Toyota – Toyota tells dealerships what they get to sell and the dealership metes them out to wait list depositholders accordingly. As for whether the supply chain is “fixed”, gas 2WD models will likely be readily available, but hybrids will be in short supply for months, as are normal Highlander and Sienna hybrids.

      Source: I sell Toyotas at a dealer that doesn’t mark up

  2. I’m a little surprised that the regular 2.5 hybrid is on offer, but with that being in the Sienna I guess I shouldn’t be. I think it’s more I expected a bit more differentiation under the hood from the regular Highlander but then I don’t know what they would have put in, especially with the V6 gone from most models.

    Dash looks much nicer than the regular Highlander. Toyota’s site says 153 cubic feet of passenger space which is a bit less than the Pilot, but still in keeping with the segment. That’s 12 more than the regular Highlander, and the 21 cubic feet behind the 3rd row is 5 more than the regular one too, so appreciable size gains.

  3. Have they released the hybrid MPG numbers? when they didn’t release them with the tundra/sequoia launch, once the numbers were out they were…underwhelming. hopefully the same isn’t the case here, but the “Hybrid MAX” has me concerned

    1. “2.5-liter hybrid powertrain works absolute wonders for fuel economy with an estimated 34 mpg combined.”
      Hybrid MAX is almost assuredly going to be considerably worse, but 34 mpg for this size is impressive, assuming they meet their estimates (and I think they have their estimates dialed in).

      I’m glad it’s not just a choice between non-hybrid or MAX. I think the regular hybrid is going to have a lot of takers.

      1. The great fuel economy of the 2.5 hybrid is just like that of the Sienna. A warm and fuzzy feeling that vanishes permanently the first time you have to merge on an interstate, where semi trailers are exceeding 70mph in the right lane. With one of those weighty behemoths bearing down on you, your foot to the floor gets you no response from the engine room. That is when it finally sinks in that there is a need for acceleration, and you ignored it to your peril. That’s the decision I faced when I had to buy a minivan last year. The only choices for me were the Sienna and the Odyssey.. I liked the Sienna a lot, but when I saw the bog slow acceleration, compared to the Odyssey, my choice was easy. Did I give up fantastic mpg? Yep. But the Odyssey accelerates much quicker, handles better, and was a better deal. Getting the same mpg as my 2005 Acura TL doesn’t bother me in the least.

        1. I’m not in the market for a minivan or 3-row SUV, but I suspect that a significant portion of that demographic is going to find the Sienna’s 8 second 0-60 reasonable for their use. I haven’t seen numbers for the regular hybrid in this, just the 6.3 seconds with the top engine, so I don’t know where it will land.

          It wasn’t that long ago that 8 seconds would have felt fairly quick. I drove a 99 Explorer for a long time, and that took nearly 11 seconds to get to 60.

          No shade that you wanted something quicker, but I think the gas mileage is going to be a bigger draw for a lot of folks.

          1. Most minivans were over the 10 second mark until the turn of the century too, like your Explorer.

            I think it’s that the older stuff that put up similar-ish numbers just felt much faster by the butt dyno. You’d dip your toe into an aggressive tip-in on a mechanical cable throttle, jump from fourth gear overdrive into third, engine revs rise…now you’ve got increasingly isolated interior noise, electronic throttle controls with soft tuning for efficiency, and in particular in the Toyota hybrids the eCVT humming at a continuous speed, with no tachometer – just a power gauge that zings to the not-green POWER section – feels like nothings happening.

            1. I think you’re right. My Niro is actually sluggish (around 9 seconds 0-60), but the DCT makes it feel faster than it is. And when I had a Civic, the CVT meant it didn’t feel as quick as it actually was (5.8 seconds).

          2. Currently the fastest car in my family fleet will do 0-60 in 11 or 12. My daily is more like 15. I manage to merge onto freeways fine.

            Remember that that semi in the right lane managed to get onto the freeway with 30+ seconds 0-60.

    2. Yeah I am not thrilled with Hybrid Max. The best guess might be the Lexus RX at the moment. The RX500h with 366 hp is 27/28 compared to 37/34 for the RX350h. In the Crown the 340 hp “Max” system is rated 29/32 compared to 42/41 for the regular hybrid motor.

      I mean 30 mpg isn’t “bad” for a vehicle of the RX’s size/power, but I don’t think it is necessary in a SUV like this.

      1. That’s a good point about the RX as a ballpark. I suppose it’s possible they tune the Lexus more for speed, and for the Grand Highlander try to squeeze a 30 mpg figure somewhere in there. The Lexus weighs 4750 lbs, so a Grand Highlander will probably be close despite its size increase (the regular Highlander is ~4400 lbs).

        The Hybrid Max is likely a better move-up for owners of the previous Highlander Hybrids that were powered by V6s than the current one with the 2.5L hybrid system is naturally down a lot on power by comparison. The last V6 Hybrid was 29/27, so if it’s the same as the RX500h that’s not a huge improvement alone without really arguing the size gains over past Highlander Hybrids.

        The standard-output CX-90 3.3 is estimated 24/28, but the PHEV version as another full hybrid with a turbo 4 will be an interesting comparison.

  4. We need an optimal bumper to grill ratio benchmark. Why so much (presumably) fake grill on this thing? I couldn’t even read the article because I was so off put by that krill sucker.

  5. This may be an unpopular take here, but I think it looks great. The interior is extremely well-designed, the exterior looks good, and 34 mpg combined out of a vehicle this size is practically magic. I predict they will sell approximately a billion of them, given the market’s love of 7 passenger crossovers.

  6. What’s sad is my 2013 Focus ST had proximity unlock on all 4 doors. It would only proximity lock from the front doors. I upgraded to a 2017 Focus RS and ford had removed the rear door unlock. This good idea wasn’t a Lexus only thing, it could be had in a fairly generic hot hatch. Sad that we are now looking at 50k vehicles to get things that used to be offered.

  7. All this does is compete with the Telluride/Palisade, Traverse and Atlas, who have been the same size all along. The Highlander, like the Explorer, Ascent, Acadia, Pilot, missing a bunch here are all smaller in the real world. The ones at the top could already fit a 6’+ person in the third row and decent cu ft behind the 3rd row. Toyota needs this to stay competitive.

  8. Recently due to the Southwest meltdown I had to make a change to get home from a vacation with my fiancee and parents, and ended up flying into an airport different from the one I left. We hit up Uber to get a ride home, sprang for an XL since we were 4 people plus a weeks worth of luggage, each, and got a brand new Highlander.

    Now the car was very nice and very comfortable, but a driver, 4 passengers and luggage was just about the limit of what could fit in it. I had to ride up front and one of the 3rd row seats had to be folded down to accommodate the luggage.

    While the Grand Highlander isn’t something I need, I’m glad it exists and I hope to see one the next time I need an Uber for 4 people plus luggage.

  9. Thomas, it took a while for me to get in sync with your off-beat sarc and cultural references but now that I have, your articles are killing it. And you are cranking some serious verbage. I hope Torch and Tracy are paying you more than rusty Jeep parts and castoff Amiga guts.

  10. My coworker recently bought a Tesla Model Y. Their family’s other vehicle is an RDX. Now me not having children was surprised to hear her story that her kids were begging them not to get another SUV during the process of getting the Y. They think it’s embarrassing to drive/be driven around in. We can only assume the SUV will go the way of the minivan as these youngsters grow to driving/vehicle ownership age. By the way my coworker was talking, her kids would rather be in Civics or some kind of small hatchbacks. Hopefully they make a comeback

  11. I get that a Sienna is a more logical choice, but as someone who has seen a Sienna on the road, and as someone who doesn’t want to walk backwards towards my parking spot so I don’t have to look at my car, I think this is a very compelling alternative.

    But given that I am not in danger of getting someone pregnant, I wouldn’t buy one anyway so what does my opinion really matter?

  12. This is not a good looking car. It seems a desperate attempt at combating sales losses to other similar vehicles. I’ve owned three tacomas, a 4 runner and now a 2.5 gen Tundra.

    I’ll probably never buy another Toyota again as long as they continue going in the direction they have. They have sold out their soul and replaced it with BLAH.

    I see Toyota losing out to Kia and friends in S. Korea long term. No way can they compete when they keep putting gross things like this out.

    1. Clearly I like Korean cars enough to own one but let’s not act like they don’t have a ways to go when it comes to reliability. Toyota still has that in spades.

      1. my wife owns a 21′ telluride and I agree. Front heater system sucked all our coolant out two weeks ago and blew up. Just got it back. Never had any issues on the Toyotas.

  13. Do we really need more of these damn things? Off the top of my head we already have the Pilot, Telluride, Palisade, Ascent, regular Highlander, Atlas, Traverse/whatever GMCs version of that platform is, Explorer, Durango, Mazda CX-9/90, Grand Cherokee L, etc in the not-a-minivan game and if you want to add body on frame stuff there’s Toyota’s own Sequoia, the Chevy Tahoe, the list is endless.

    What’s the point? All of them pretty much do the exact same thing with only minor variations in style, fuel economy, space, etc. Maybe I’m just a grouchy enthusiast but to say this market is saturated is a massive understatement. We don’t need to be convincing Murican customers to keep buying more car, we need to be convincing them they can make due with less, because they can.

    1. I don’t think there’s much more convincing to be made, people are buying what they want.

      From a loyalty standpoint – if you’re loyal to a brand, you’ll potentially lose that customer if you don’t have a vehicle for them to move up to. That said, consumers are actually less loyal these days with inventory shortages, which instead poses a conquest opportunity to rope someone in to the brand.

      To me it’s not really that different from the conversations on EV range or when people say “just rent a truck when you need it”. Sure 90% of the time you may not need more than a couple hundred miles of range or full truck capability. But that assumes availability of a vehicle to rent, added expenses, etc etc.

      Sure there’s the “just buy the minivan” argument, I think buyers view minivans as still a class beyond these large crossovers, even though they seat the same and have the same exterior footprints. If someone buys this over a Sienna, it’s not really any different in terms of resources.

    2. Well the standout feature here for me is the hybrid drivetrain. I might not be ready to commit to 2 EVs in my household, but I also would like to avoid another ~20 mpg vehicle.

      Yes, some of those other models have hybrids, and the CX-90 might be compelling once it actually hits the streets, but Toyota’s hybrids are rock solid.

      Arguably the Sienna already delivers much of what this offers, but if you are “anti-minivan” and still want something closer to 40 mpg than 20, this is it.

    1. Meh, the 13 cupholders for probably 6 or fewer people, as well as the larger overall size, tells me this has some audacity. If you just want a perfectly cromulent 3-row, there were already options on the market.

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