Nearly every automaker offers a three-row SUV, but anyone that’s ever really had to sit in the third row, will quickly realize that the rearmost seat is better for children. The good news is that Toyota is ready to change that, with the introduction of the 2024 Grand Highlander, which is a bigger three-row SUV that slots in between the standard Highlander and the Sequoia in Toyota’s SUV lineup.
The Highlander already offers three rows of seats, but as we’ve already mentioned, the third row is not very friendly for adults or tall children. That’s where the Grand Highlander comes in. Although it shares part of its name with the Highlander, the Grand Highlander is not simply just a stretched Highlander. The Grand Highlander has a four inch longer wheelbase and measures about four inches longer than the regular Highlander. It’s also two inches taller and wider, which all translates into a much bigger interior for the whole family. Especially at the rear where’s there’s a grander space for passengers.
We spent some time in the third row on our drive around Kona and we’re easily impressed with how spacious and comfortable the third row is. Many automakers claim that their third row seats can fit adults, but when you actually try it out, it’s not entirely true. The Grand Highlander is different, it truly has space back there and it isn’t claustrophobic or make you feel like you’re on a “time out” like in some of its rivals. There’s even USB-C ports in the back to keep your devices charged.
There’s also more cargo space, with 20.6 cubic feet of space behind the third row, which is enough space to squeeze in seven suitcases without having to fold the third row. Yup not only can you take the whole family on the road trip, you also have space for all their gear as well. With the third row folded, 57.9 cubic feet of space and a nice 97.5 cubic feet of space with the second and third rows folded.
Under the hood, there are three different powertrains to choose from. The standard engine is the same 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder as the regular Highlander. It generates 265 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque. With a 0-60 mph time of 7.5 seconds, the four-cylinder is an adequate powertrain, since move the Grand Highlander down the road with an ok amount of oomph, but without much excitement. It’s available with either front- or all-wheel drive and gets up to 24 mpg combined. The greener choice is the 2.5-liter hybrid powertrain with 245 hp and 177 lb-ft. of torque, which gets an impressive 36 mpg city/32 mpg highway/34 mpg combined. As you’d expect with those numbers, the Grand Highlander hybrid places more emphasis on fuel efficiency that sport.
If you’re looking for the sportiest option, then check the box for the Grand Highlander Hybrid Max. The Hybrid Max uses a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with two electric motors and a six-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain generates a combined 362 horsepower and 332 lb-ft of torque. It gets a 27 mpg combined rating. You might recognize this powertrain, since its available in the Toyota Crown and powers the Lexus RX 500h. The all-wheel drive system can also distribute the torque 70/30 percent front/rear ratio or as much as 20/80. We enjoyed driving the Hybrid Max version the most out of all three versions, since the powertrain feels the most refined and also is quite punchy for such a big SUV. Toyota claims that the Grand Highlander Hybrid Max can accelerate from 0-60 mph in 6.3 seconds.
Given its size, the Grand Highlander drives quite well. On our drive around Hawaii’s Big Island, the Grand Highlander was easy to pilot with an ample amount of steering feel. The suspension also kept the Grand Highlander composed, even when we encountered a twisty road ahead. We were also impressed with how quiet the interior is, even at higher speeds. It’s Lexus-like quiet in the cabin.
The Grand Highlander’s cabin is also packed with Toyota’s latest tech features. it comes standard with a 12.3-inch infotainment system, with wireless phone charging and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Limited and Platinum trims also get a 12.3-inch multi-information display and a head-up display. Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 suite is standard, while higher trims get front and rear parking assist and a new traffic jam assist feature that allows for hands-free driving at speeds under 25 mph on the highway.
On the outside, the Grand Highlander gets a more conservative design than the regular Highlander, which neither offends or really exits you. It’s design is more toned down than some of its rivals, like the Hyundai Palisade.
The 2024 Grand Highlander is slated to arrive this summer and starts at $44,405.
At the end of the day, Toyota has been quite successful with its goal to create a larger three-row SUV, which means the 2024 Grand Highlander will easily find its spot in Toyota’s SUV lineup. The third-row can actually fit adults and the available Hybrid Max powertrain brings some excitement under the hood. There’s no doubt that Toyota is going to sell a ton of these.