Before we start, the good old Highlander isn’t going anywhere, because everyone loves it. Don’t take my word, please go to the nearest Toyota dealer and ask how long you have to wait to get one. The “every day” Highlander is the bestseller 3-row SUV in North America, but the biggest compromise is the interior space, especially for larger families using the 3rd row on a regular basis. Toyota unveiled the Grand Highlander to satisfy customers looking for more rugged looks and much bigger interior space.
Same nameplate, longer wheelbase, better ride quality
The Grand Highlander is designed exclusively for North American families, and they are all being built at Toyota’s Indiana plant. However, it is not a stretched-out XL version of the standard Highlander. There are structural improvements due to extra spot welds and adhesives, offering reduced noise, vibration and harshness levels. It still rides on Toyota’s TGNA-K platform, but it is a completely new vehicle designed to compete with the larger 3-row entries like the Hyundai Palisade, VW Atlas and KIA Telluride.
It still carries over the original Highlander design language, but with sharper angles and straight body lines. The “hammerhead” front fascia makes it look similar to the RAV4 than the smaller Highlander. The distinctive styling gives the SUV a larger presence in the profile. That larger presence means the Grand Highlander fills the gap between the standard Highlander and Sequoia, and it is the most spacious unibody Toyota midsize SUV available today.
Bigger, better, boxier
Unlike the exterior, there are some similarities when it comes to the interior design, but it definitely feels like a bigger vehicle behind the wheel. There is a standard 12.3″ infotainment display, a big center console with a wireless charging pad, as well as physical controls for the HVAC unit. All three rows come with cubbies for smartphones, as well as dedicated USB-C charging ports. There are 7 USB ports for all passengers and 13 cup holders.
The Grand Highlander offers extra 6 inches of legroom over the “standard” Highlander. Getting in and out is still a challenge like any other 3-row, but once you sit in the third row, the headroom and legroom are totally fine even for large adults. The cargo space is still usable even when all of the seats are deployed, as it can take up to seven carry-on suitcases with no problem. It has 21 cubic feet (595 L) of cargo volume behind the third row, which can go all the way up to 98 cubic feet (2775 L), which is 14 cubic feet more than the smaller version.
Standard AWD, 3 engine options
Canadian Grand Highlanders will have an all-wheel-drive standard. Toyota isn’t fully ready to share all the details on what’s under the hood, but we already know that there will be three different engine options for the 2024 Grand Highlander. There will be two different hybrid platforms, and the rear wheels will only be powered by the electric motors while the gas-only version will send power through the rear differential.
The most significant addition to the Grand Highlander lineup is the performance-oriented Hybrid powertrain option. There will be a “Hybrid Max” version combining a 2.4L turbo 4-cylinder with two electric motors, generating 362 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. According to Toyota, it can tow up to 5000 lbs with this powertrain. That’s almost a 100 horsepower increase on the base motor which can take the Grand Highlander from 0 to 100 in less than 6.3 seconds.
If you are planning to use the third row often, and do not want to have a minivan, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander might be the right “Highlander” for you. Toyota has yet to release pricing information, but you should expect to see a slightly higher price tag than the smaller version. We will have more information once it is announced later this summer.