2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Is A Lot Cleverer Than I Expected

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2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

The Toyota Grand Highlander is a larger alternative to the regular Highlander for people that need more passenger room (including a roomy third row) and a lot more cargo capacity. Oddly enough for a vehicle this size, the base engine is a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. However, it’s not exactly a slouch with 265 horsepower.There are also two different hybrid configurations that deliver either 245 horsepower or 362 horsepower. The Grand Highlander won’t get your pulse racing on the performance front, but it makes for a great family vehicle.

Model
Grand Highlander Hybrid

Engine:
2.5L Hybrid I-4

Torque
Up to 400 LB-FT

Transmission
6-Speed Automatic / 8-Speed Automatic / CVT

Driveline
Front Engine, FWD or AWD

MSRP
$43,320 – $58,125

Towing Capacity
Up to 5,000 Pounds

Payload Capacity
Up To 1,710 Pounds

0-60 MPH
7.5 Seconds

Fuel Economy
Up To 36 MPG Combined

Horsepower
245 HP / 362 HP
Pros
  • Highly fuel-efficient hybrid drivetrain
  • Drives smaller than it looks
  • Fixes all of the regular Highlander’s cargo and passenger space problems
Cons
  • Not the best-handling SUV in the segment
  • Performance (2.5L hybrid) is only fine
  • Meh styling

I’ll be brutally honest here: when Toyota introduced the concept of a Grand Highlander, I remember thinking “oh great, another SUV from a company that didn’t need more SUVs”.



I’ve reached a point in my automotive journalism career that when I see a carmaker beat around the bush with nonsense products designed solely to generate profits rather than innovating and moving forward—i.e., building compelling EVs that help mitigate climate change—I simply stop caring. I find it frustrating to see a juggernaut like Toyota have the resources to quickly ramp up EV development and production but stepping back due to some weird relationship with hydrogen.

Do we really need a larger version of the Toyota Highlander? Of course, we don’t. But hey, large SUVs sell, and it only makes sense, from a market standpoint, for Toyota to correct some of its midsizer’s shortcomings, like a smallish cargo space and a cramped third row. In an attempt to try to convince me that it is, in fact, relevant, Toyota sat me in a 2024 Grand Highlander hybrid press unit for a week. And, well, shit. Consider me impressed. It’s definitely not what I was expecting. This is a very clever machine.

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander pictured here was provided by the Toyota Canada media relations department for a full week. The vehicle was delivered with a full tank of gas, and I needed to return it full at my expense. I assumed all the fuel bills during my time with the vehicle. For detailed insight into testing procedures and data collection, please review our methodology policy.


2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid First Impressions

I’ve never been a big fan of big, boxy SUVs. I just find that they all look like carbon copies of one another. The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is no exception. It looks like a cross between a Honda Pilot and a Nissan Pathfinder. There’s nothing really inspiring about its styling, but I will say that I appreciate this squared-off design language that Toyota has been employing for its latest trucks and SUVs. It allows the Grand Highlander to appear more rugged, less mall finder.

I also dig the low belt line, giving the Grand Highlander similar proportions to a large station wagon. Because, after all, that’s what these things are anyway. In typical Toyota fashion, build quality, panel gaps and the general application of paint are second to none. The moment you approach this vehicle, you get a sense that it’ll last forever.

Exterior Dimensions

Model

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid

Length

201.4 Inches

Width (Without Mirrors)

78.3 Inches

Height

70.1 Inches

Wheelbase

116.1 Inches

Front Track

65.3 Inches

Rear Track

65.4 Inches

Curb Weight

4,300 Pounds

Driving Impressions And Performance

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Rear Three Quarter View
William Clavey / TopSpeed / Valnet

The immediate characteristic that surprised me about driving the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander was that it never felt large. That feeling of driving something smaller than it is in reality mostly has to do with that low belt line I mentioned earlier. It creates a lot of real estate for glass, resulting in a consistent commanding view of the road. Instead of feeling drwarfed by thick pillars and high door sills, the Grand Highlander rather makes the cabin experience feel airy and light on your shoulders.

There’s also a neat design trick in the way the hood slops down forward towards the ground, further improving visibility. So, while its exterior design appears to be perfectly square, in reality, it’s not. From behind the wheel, the Grand Highlander basically disappears underneath you.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Front Section
William Clavey / TopSpeed / Valnet

This is a key characteristic for a vehicle in this segment. Considering how midsize SUVs have now become the go-to vehicle for families, essentially replacing the minivan, the fact that this Toyota is so easy to drive transforms it into a stress-free appliance, allowing parents to focus on their daily parenting grinds. As a parent myself who’s also a car guy, I can attest that during family-hauling activities, I don’t want to have to think about my car.

The Grand Highlander is also butter-smooth and supremely quiet inside, boasting near Lexus levels of refinement. I’m very impressed by how well Toyota masters hybrid technology. It’s by far the carmaker that builds the best hybrid engines in the world. And while we’ve seen this 2.5-liter application in other Toyota/Lexus vehicles, transitions between ICE to EV remain seamless. You never really know what’s running and when, which adds to this feeling of not having to worry about your car.

Transitions between ICE to EV remain seamless

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Engine
William Clavey / TopSpeed / Valnet

In this configuration, though, the Grand Highlander is not very quick. Toyota does sell a more potent 2.4-liter turbocharged model and a considerably more powerful Hybrid MAX version. I’m sure those have more kick off the line. This one, rather, only merely gets the job done. Stomping the accelerator pedal will simply generate more noise in the engine compartment as the CVT hunts for more grunt.

Drive it casually, and the Grand Highlander hybrid does what it needs to do without attracting too much attention to itself. There’s enough low-end torque for passing maneuvers and plenty of thrust for casual daily driving. Forget spirited handling. The body roll is immense, and the brakes are weak. Just don’t go canyon carving in your Grand Highlander and you’ll be fine.

Related
What Makes The Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Special

The Grand Highlander Hybrid is perhaps the most potent three-row SUV Toyota has ever built.

Performance Specifications

Model

Grand Highlander Hybrid

Engine

2.5L Hybrid I-4

Electric Motors

Dual Permanent Synchronous Magnet

Transmission

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT)

Horsepower

187 / 245 Combined HP @ 6,000 RPM

Torque

177 / NA combined LB-FT @ 4,300 RPM

Fuel Economy (CMB)

34 MPG

0-60 MPH

7.5 seconds

Top Speed

113 MPH

Towing Capacity

3,500 Pounds

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Fuel Economy

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Driver Display
William Clavey / TopSpeed / Valnet

On paper, the Grand Highlander Hybrid AWD will have a combined fuel economy rating of 34 MPG, as per EPA evaluations. Since I was driving it during early December here in Canada, temperatures were low, which led to a slightly lower 31 MPG rating after a full week and a little under 500 miles traveled. That’s still impressive considering the size and weight of the darn thing.

As a matter of fact, this is where the Grand Highlander proved to me that it wasn’t just some other midsize SUV. While several of its competitors still rely on a V-6 engine that has trouble staying over the 24 MPG mark, this massive utility vehicle consumes less fuel than my own Mazda6 midsize sedan, a front-wheel driven car powered by a 2.5-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder engine. I’ll add that at 161 grams of CO2 per kilometer traveled (0.62 miles), the Grand Highlander Hybrid emits less greenhouse gases than a Honda Civic powered by a 1.5-liter turbocharged engine (162 grams/km). What a time to be alive!

City

Highway

Combined

EPA Rated Economy

36 MPG

32 MPG

34 MPG

Fuel Economy As Tested

31 MPG

Interior Design And Comfort

Apart from the low belt line and lots of windows, the Grand Highlander’s interior is all Toyota in the sense that build quality is impeccable and material quality feels like it will last for decades. Seats are plush and comfortable, and you never feel like you’re going to run out of leg, hip or legroom. Rearward visibility is also great thanks to that massive back glass that’s installed low on the hatch.

The squared-off, adventurous design theme continues inside, which really drives the point home that Toyota now wants to be seen as the builder of rugged adventure-ready machines. I like it! General ergonomics are spot on, and I personally love how Toyota still puts at your disposal chunky knobs and buttons to operate vital functions such as climate control, heated seats and volume control.

I live in a northern climate. When I sit in my car when it’s dark and cold outside, I expect it to allow me to activate its heating features while wearing a pair of gloves. The Grand Highlander delivers.

Interior Dimensions

Front

Second Row

Third Row

Headroom

41.5 Inches

40.2 Inches

37.2 Inches

Shoulder Room

60.2 Inches

58.8 Inches

57.5 Inches

Hip Room

56.5 Inches

57 Inches

45.7 Inches

Legroom

41.7 InchesQ

39.5 Inches

33.5 Inches

Technology And Ease Of Use

A fully digital and customizable gauge pod allows Toyota to finally arrive in the 21st century. The infotainment system is now much more user-friendly than it once was. It’s basically what you expect from these systems now: it looks sharp, responds quickly, lets you find what you need easily and connects fast to your Android or iPhone. It also finally updates itself remotely, a feature Tesla’s been offering for a decade now. I do need to ask: why is the font so damn large?

Cargo And Storage Space

Toyota isn’t messing around when it says that the Grand Highlander is larger, more spacious and more practical than the regular model. For instance, its wheelbase, measuring 116.1 inches, is 3.9 inches longer than the normal Highlander. This allows it to be 4.0 inches longer overall, 2.3 inches wider and 2.0 inches taller.

Inevitably, this improves all metrics of space inside the cabin. Accessing the third row is no longer the contortionist act it once was, and once strapped back there, I was pleased to find a generous amount of hip, shoulder and legroom. It’s the same story for cargo space, which sees considerable increases in all configurations, seats up or down. See the table below for reference.

Minimum Cargo Capacity

20.6 CU-FT

Cargo Capacity Third-Row

57.9 CU-FT

Cargo Capacity Second-Row

97.5 CU-FT

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander vs 2024 Honda Pilot

  • 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum
    2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

    Model
    Grand Highlander Hybrid

    Engine:
    2.5L Hybrid I-4

    Torque
    Up to 400 LB-FT

    Transmission
    6-Speed Automatic / 8-Speed Automatic / CVT

    Driveline
    Front Engine, FWD or AWD
  • Blue Honda Pilot
    2023 Honda Pilot

    Model
    Pilot

    Engine:
    3.5-Liter V-6

    Torque
    262 LB-FT

    Transmission
    10-Speed Automatic

    Driveline
    FWD or AWD

The Grand Highlander’s obvious main competitor is the Honda Pilot. As a matter of fact, you get a sense that Toyota created this model to take on a much larger, fourth-generation Pilot, introduced for the 2023 model year. In terms of cargo space, the Toyota wins the fight thanks to slightly higher numbers with seats in place or not. Honda Pilot cargo space numbers are rated at 18.6 cu-ft with all seats in place, 48.5 cu-ft with the third row down, and 87 cu-ft with all seats lowered flat.

Red 2024 Honda Pilot in the Rainforest
Honda

The Pilot is also lagging behind in terms of its available engines. The sole powertrain is a tried and proven 3.5-liter V-6, contrary to the Grand Highlander that offers three engines, two of which are highly efficient hybrids. A Honda Pilot will tow 5,000 pounds out of the box, but so does the Grand Highlander powered by the 2.4-liter turbocharged engine Hybrid MAX drivetrain. The Pilot does have a pricing advantage with a starting MSRP of $37,090 versus $43,320 for the Toyota. However, considering that the Grand Highlander hybrid kicks off at $45,020, it becomes seriously interesting when you factor in the amount of money you’ll save at the pump.

Related
2023 Honda Pilot Vs. 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

The all-new Grand Highlander from Toyotas stands tall in the three-row mid-size SUV segment, here’s how it stacks up against the Honda Pilot

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Is The Smarter, More Efficient Choice

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Side Profile View
William Clavey / TopSpeed / Valnet

It’s obvious that with the 2024 Grand Highlander, Toyota really wanted to ensure dominance in a segment where it wasn’t exactly competitive. The regular Highlander sold well, but from a specification standpoint, it was outpaced by larger, more efficient and more sophisticated models. By making it Grand, Toyota basically resets the nameplate in order to better position itself in a highly competitive segment.

As I write this, no competitor offers the choice of two hybrid powerplants in this segment. The level of efficiency of this big guy is honestly impressive, allowing North American families to truly save on their energy costs. It is, in my opinion at least, the smartest choice if you’re going to commit to a gasoline-powered midsize SUV.

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