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  • Writer's pictureCory Fourniquet

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander First Drive

We were in Chicago earlier this year when Toyota took the wraps off their newest people mover in this big 3-row crossover that is currently on sale. This 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander slots above the “traditional” Highlander and below the truck-based Sequoia SUV in the lineup. This versatile people carrier is something most would say Toyota needed in their lineup, a big 3-row vehicle that is neither a minivan nor a truck-based SUV. Today I get to drive it for the first time to see if it is worth your time or if it is just a cash grab by Toyota in this SUV-hungry market.


Exterior Design and Features

The design of the Grand Highlander is a fusion of the best elements from the traditional Highlander, RAV4, and 4Runner. Built on Toyota’s New Global Architecture (TNGA-K) platform, the Grand Highlander offers a bigger and more spacious layout than any of those other models. The exterior boasts an SUV style with a boxy and rugged appearance, a design trend that is shaping the landscape of its competitors as well. Toyota incorporates various safety technologies, including Toyota Safety Sense 3.0, which is standard across all trims.


Interior Comfort and Convenience

Stepping inside, the Grand Highlander's interior exudes a premium feel, especially in the Platinum trim. Leather and suede accents create an upscale environment, with gold accents that reflect a touch of luxury. The cabin offers plenty of storage options and well-placed physical controls. The Platinum grade boasts a 12.3-inch gauge cluster and infotainment screen, running Toyota's latest in-house-designed infotainment system. The vehicle is equipped with a Qi wireless charger and numerous USB-C ports in all three rows ensuring all passengers well-connected on the go.


Seating and Cargo Space

The Grand Highlander offers versatile seating options to accommodate different passenger and cargo needs. Captain's chairs in the Platinum grade provide a comfortable second-row seating experience, along with manual sunshades for added privacy. Toyota offers a rear bench seat in XLE and Limited trims not powered by the HybridMAX powertrain. The second-row folds and slides forward with the pull of a lever making it easy to climb into the third row, though we wish the design allowed rear seat access even with a child seat in place. Grab handles that house USB-C ports on the sides of the vehicle paired with wide steps make accessing the back seat easier than most. The third-row seats offer decent legroom and comfort, making them suitable for adults as well, though I would probably still keep it to two adults back here despite the three seat belts.


Toyota adds top tethers on the back of the center and passenger-side rear seat as well as lower latches on the passenger side only, making the third row a handy additional spot to add some child safety seats. The third row also uses split-folding seats, providing flexibility for expanding cargo space when needed as well as allowing passengers in the way back to recline and relax.


Perhaps my favorite features of this family vehicle are the placement of the rear air vents and the updated Toyota remote vehicle start. Ceiling-mounted air vents help ensure all rear seat passengers in both rows have cool air blowing on them even in a hot Texas summer. Pair these well-placed vents with a remote start system that allows the vehicle to keep running even after a door has been unlocked or opened (something prior Toyota models would not allow) and we are able to load our child in a vehicle that is in the process of cooling off versus one that is over 100º in the middle of summer. When asked, Toyota said that this remote start upgrade should be available on any vehicle using Toyota Safety Sense 3.0.


Cargo space is ample thanks to the big boxy shape. Behind the third row of seats is a usable 20.6 cubic feet of storage space, provided the rear seat passengers are seated upright. Fold that 60/40 spit third-row flat and cargo space opens up to 57.9 cubic feet. Toyota hides a retractable cargo shade under the rear load floor that can also be put up to cover cargo in this configuration. Fold all the rear seats and cargo space jumps to 97.5 cubic feet behind the front row, better than the likes of Kia Telluride.


Powertrain and Performance

Under the hood of this Grand Highlander, you'll find the top-tier powertrain option: the HybridMAX powertrain. This setup combines a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with electric hybrid motors to deliver a remarkable 400 lb-ft of torque. HybridMAX is available exclusively in the all-wheel-drive here in this Platinum trim as well as in the mid-tier Limited trim. The Grand Highlander doesn't shy away from power, boasting a torque output comparable to the prior-generation Toyota Tundra’s V8. Getting it out on the streets of the Houston area I found it had plenty of power for quick bursts of acceleration as well as a transmission that was quick to find the correct gear, even if there are only 6 available.


On the Road Experience

Driving the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is not necessarily a remarkable experience. While the HybridMAX powertrain offers ample torque, making acceleration and passing effortless, you won’t be racing this three-row SUV either. The vehicle handles well on different road surfaces, absorbing bumps and imperfections without compromising comfort. The driving position is ergonomic and chair-like, visibility is good, and the inclusion of safety features like cross-traffic alerts enhances the overall driving experience.


Conclusion

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander stands out as a solid three-row crossover option for families and individuals seeking a versatile and powerful vehicle. With its HybridMAX powertrain, spacious interior, premium features, and comfortable driving dynamics, the Grand Highlander is a strong contender in the competitive SUV market.



2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum HybridMAX Features:

  • 2.4-liter 4-cylinder Turbo Hybrid MAX Engine

  • Full-time Electronic All-Wheel Drive

  • 362 Horsepower

  • 400 lb-ft of Torque

  • 6-Speed Automatic Transmission

  • 20-inch Alloy Wheels

  • 255/55R20 Yokohama Geolandar Tires

  • 360º Camera System

  • Seating for 7 (Seating for 8 is Optional on other trims without the HybridMAX powertrain)

  • Leather and Microsuede Seats

  • Heated and Ventilated Front Seats and Second-Row Captain’s Chairs

  • 10-Way Power Driver’s Seat

  • Heated Steering Wheel

  • Flip and Fold Second Row Seats

  • Tri-zone Automatic Climate Control with Rear Ceiling-mounted Vents

  • Seven USB-C Ports

  • Panoramic Glass Roof

  • Remote Start

  • Toyota Safety Sense 3.0

    • Pre-Collision

    • Front and Rear Parking Sensors

    • Blind Spot Monitor

    • Front and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert

  • 20.6 Cubic Feet of Storage Behind 3rd Row

  • 57.9 Cubic Feet of Storage Behind 2nd Row

  • 97.5 Cubic Feet of Storage with the 2nd Row Folded

  • Up to 5,000 lbs of Towing Capacity

  • 12.3-inch Digital Gauge Cluster

  • 12.3-inch Color Touchscreen Infotainment with Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

  • Color Head-Up Display

  • Proximity Key with Push Button Start

  • EPA Fuel Economy 26/27/27 (city/hwy/combined)

  • Starting MSRP $60,045 (Platinum)

  • Price as tested: $60,903



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