2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid: 10-Year Solution for Your Growing Family

Strong points
  • Third row can accommodate adults
  • Cargo capacity is at the top of the segment
  • Significant fuel savings to be had
  • High projected reliability and residual value
Weak points
  • Car thieves will have their eyes on it
  • Noisy 2.5L four-cylinder engine (base hybrid model)
  • Front seats could be more supportive
  • Harder to park
Full report

Was there really a void to fill between the Highlander and Sequoia? Not so long ago, we would have said no. Toyota has now decided to slot not one but two new models between them, namely the Land Cruiser and Grand Highlander, and you know what? It’s a pretty smart move.

The biggest problem with the Highlander, beyond high theft rates and uninspiring handling, is most definitely the lack of third-row space and cargo capacity. However, not every family needs or can afford to purchase a body-on-frame, expensive SUV like the Sequoia.

That’s precisely where the Grand Highlander comes in. Obviously based on the same platform (and built in the same Indiana plant) as the Highlander, it looks more like a truck and more like what American customers look for, while at the same time showing rivals like the Hyundai Palisade that you don’t necessarily need a polarizing fascia to make your presence felt. Toyota’s design team did a good job, here. Just a bit of warning, though: the available 20-inch wheels may look nice, but they compromise the fuel savings the hybrid models are designed to deliver. More on that later.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Where the Grand Highlander really shines—and outclasses its little brother—is inside. Let’s start with the third row, which can easily be accessed through large door openings, a generously sized entry step, as well as second-row seats (either a bench or captain’s chairs, depending on the configuration) that move out of the way handily, creating a wide path to the rear confines of the vehicle. It’s not just for kids anymore—adults can sit comfortably back there, too. Sure, the firm seat bottoms aren’t ideal for long trips, but the extra legroom and even headroom make quite a difference.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Comfort and space in the first two rows of the Grand Highlander are notable, too. That being said, long-legged drivers might find thigh support to be on the short side, while others will wish for more lateral support when cornering, despite the big SUV’s pleasantly stable ride. Yeah, we know, it’s hard to please everybody at the same time. Also, a bit more padding for the armrests would be appreciated. Visibility is better than in the Highlander.

Toyota wisely did away with piano black surfaces that can easily get scratched or dirty. Another thing we like is the ergonomic layout, combined with the multiple storage solutions throughout the cabin. As for cargo, trunk capacity is increased from 453 litres to 583 litres (a gain of nearly 30 percent), which is just perfect when shopping at Costco. If you fold all the rear seats down, you’ll get 2,761 litres of cargo room instead of 2,387 litres (an improvement of 15 percent). That makes the Grand Highlander a leader in the segment along with the new Chevrolet Traverse.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Three Powertrain Options FTW

Unlike most other three-row midsize SUVs that offer one or two powertrain options, Toyota’s new contender comes with three. Two of them are shared with the Highlander, starting with a turbocharged 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine and eight-speed transmission. In the Grand Highlander, output is rated at 265 horsepower, but more importantly, torque is a solid 310 lb-ft.

The more efficient alternative, which is the one we tested, is a naturally aspirated 2.5-litre engine mated to a pair of electric motors. The 245 net horsepower means towing capacity is limited to 3,500 lbs, while even moderate acceleration can be loud. The continuously variable transmission deserves part of the blame, but on the bright side, it helps the Grand Highlander Hybrid lower its fuel consumption average from 10-10.7 L/100 km to just 7 L/100 km according to Natural Resources Canada. Our tester returned a score of 8.7 L/100 km with winter tires on and temperatures rarely getting higher than the freezing point.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Around town, it’s best when you’re not in a hurry. Using Eco mode might be a good thing, as well, especially in traffic. With the large drive mode buttons on the centre console, it’s easy to switch to Normal or Sport for passing manoeuvres in express lanes or on the highway. Just so you know, there’s a Trail mode, too, but we didn’t really get to try it due to all the snow. When it comes to braking, the Grand Highlander is a steady and reassuring performer.

The best of both worlds can be found in the third available powertrain option, exclusive to the top-line Platinum MAX model. It combines the aforementioned turbo-four engine with two electric motors for a total of 362 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. What’s more, the CVT is replaced with a six-speed autobox, and maximum towing capacity goes back to 5,000 lbs—par for the segment. Fuel consumption is officially rated by NRC at 8.8 L/100 km, which makes the package even more attractive. Too bad you must spend as much as $68,401 (MSRP plus all applicable fees) to buy this one.

Photo: Guillaume Rivard

Our Verdict

Priced from $53,441, or about $4,000 more than the Highlander (just $1,000 when comparing similarly equipped models), the 2024 Grand Highlander is a sensible addition to the Toyota lineup. And we’re not the only ones who think so: the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) has just named it the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year (ahead of the Mazda CX-90 and Hyundai IONIQ 5), while ALG ranks it among the new 2024 vehicles with the highest projected residual value four years from now.

Being a thief magnet is a serious concern, not only in terms of peace of mind but also for car insurance. However, superior reliability and lower ownership costs in the long run should appease shoppers. For a growing family that plans to keep their vehicle a very long time, it’s hard to find a more compelling midsize SUV than the Grand Highlander.

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