The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is the inevitable outcome of the market in which we currently live in. Surprise surprise, people in North America are addicted to SUVs. The larger they are, the better, an irony in this age of melting glaciers and consistent forest fires, directly linked to increasing greenhouse gases. So here we are, Toyota is offering us yet another Highlander, but one that’s, well, Grand! It’s basically a longer version of an existing nameplate so it can better compete in its respective segment. Except this one does something much better than its rivals. It’s a large SUV that’s also smart.
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Review: Go Hybrids!
I count myself among those individuals that have been hammering Toyota on the head for not leading the way in the electric vehicle race. We all know that this juggernaut of a carmaker has the resources to mass-produce EVs, but doesn’t do it by choice or because of some weird addiction to hydrogen. That all being said though, Toyota currently masters hybrid technology, a type of drivetrain that continues to be highly relevant in this day and age. If you’re gonna buy a hybrid, buy a Toyota.Toyota owns this technology so well that it has tailored it to fit all types of vehicles, allowing even the largest, fattest SUVs – like this 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander – to consume basically the same amount of fuel as a compact car. What’s great about this vehicle is that no less than two hybrid drivetrains are offered, reducing CO2 emissions down to an impressive 161 grams per kilometer (for the model tested). For reference, a Honda Civic powered by the turbocharged 1.5-liter engine, emits 162 grams of CO2 per kilometer.Before I dig deeper into the Grand Highlander’s technical specifications, it’s important to mention how much larger this is compared to a conventional Highlander. Its wheelbase, measuring 116.1 inches, is 3.9 inches longer than the regular model. This therefore creates an SUV that’s 4.0 inches longer overall, 2.3 inches wider and 2.0 inches taller. According to Toyota, such a stretch allows the Grand Highlander to correct some of the regular Highlander’s shortcomings in terms of third row seating and cargo space. But I’ll get back to all that later. Under the hood is a variety of drivetrain options. For starters, there’s a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder that’s good for 265 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox. Next up is the one you see here, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid that develops 245 combined horsepower. It’s mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). And lastly, the almighty Hybrid Max engine, essentially that turbocharged 2.4-liter unit and eight-speed transmission, but converted to hybrid form. It’s good for a total combined output of 362 horsepower and a stonking 400 lb-ft of torque.All Grand Highlanders sold in Canada come standard with all-wheel drive. Towing ratings go from a 5,000-pound maximum with the 2.4T and Hybrid Max configurations, and 3,500 pounds for the regular hybrid version. Pricing, just like the drivetrain options, covers a very broad scope. There are five trim levels to choose from. A base XLE gas version kicks off at $50,490 before fees, while a top-spec Platinum Hybrid Max will set you back $68,830. Geez! My tester, a Limited hybrid which is second at the top of the trim hierarchy, costs $61,190. I know, that’s getting expensive.
Surprisingly Car-Like Driving Experience
I was expecting the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander to drive like all the other full-size SUV barges currently on sale, but to my astonishment, it felt rather small and, strangely enough, car-like. That sensation mostly has to do with the low dashboard and windshield, as well as a hood that slightly drops downwards towards the road. You can see the effect when you look at me in the car. I always set my driver’s seat at its lowest setting because I’m essentially a giant. See how high up I look in the cabin?That’s a very refreshing feeling as I find today’s cars are always too big and too clunky. Several new cars also have serious visibility issues, a problem I didn’t have in this Grand Highlander thanks, again, to windows that are set low on the car’s body. Those windows are also massive, so the entire vehicle feels spacious and airy inside. All of this allows this big brute to be an easy machine to live with on a daily basis, feeling more like a very big station wagon rather than a sport utility vehicle. Then again, that’s what these things are.Then there’s the smoothness of its quiet hybrid drivetrain. This is essentially the same setup that Toyota uses in other vehicles like the RAV4 hybrid, yet, in the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander, it felt considerably less buzzy, quieter and as if it ran on silk. Toyota is now an ace at ICE/EV transition points. You never really know what is operating and when, which adds to the serene experience.Because at the end of the day, that’s precisely what you want from a hybrid powerplant: seamlessness. You don’t want to bother with what’s happening underneath your butt. What counts is how much it costs you at the pump. And in this case, it’s not a lot, because I recorded a 7.4L/100 km average during the week I spent with it. Shit, that’s better than in my 2015 Mazda6 powered by a four-cylinder Skyactiv engine.Power is, fine. I mean there’s only so much a hybrid 2.5-liter four-pot can do, but the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is not slow by any means. It gets up and goes the way you want it to, enough to satisfy mom and dad during the school run. Just don’t expect to go canyon carving in one of these bad boys, because it’s not a handler. It basically feels exactly the way it looks: big, heavy and not particularly athletic.Inside, the Grand Highlander showcases the expected build quality of a Toyota product. Everything looks and feels like it will last forever, with neat materials here in there to spice up the experience.I like how Toyota is now heading down a more squared off design theme, as everything inside this big rig has sharp, straight lines and a utilitarian look and feel. Everywhere you look there’s storage space, from a massive center console to spacious cubbies in the door cards and inside the dashboard, not mentioning the full plethora of connectivity options front and rear.Perhaps where the Grand Highlander really proves its worth is in how spacious it is. The second row offers massive head and leg clearance. The long door opening eases third row access. I mean, climbing back there is now on par with segment juggernauts like the Honda Pilot and Nissan Pathfinder.Lower all seats flat, and you’ll be getting up to 2,761 liters of available cargo. That’s a fucking insane amount of cargo space. Honestly, if that’s still not enough for your family’s needs, then please, go buy a bus.The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is yet another stretched SUV that exists to satisfy the desires of the modern American family, the one that’s always complaining that it doesn’t have enough space. It is in fact, Grand! But what I like about this one is that Toyota did it smart. Instead of just fitting a V6 underneath its hood and calling it a day, it actually gave its big guy clean, fuel efficient drivetrains that work for the daily grind. Now if only Toyota could stuff a larger battery underneath its body and make it a true EV, the Grand Highlander could arguably become the perfect family shuttle.
Review of the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid by William Clavey
- Fuel-efficient hybrid drivetrain.
- Comfortable, smooth and well built.
- Plenty of room for the family and its gear.
- Clumsy handling.
- Performance is only meh.
- Gets expensive fast.
8.5 / 10
Clavey’s Corner is located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Prices and trim levels discussed in this article reflect the Canadian car market.
Special thanks: Toyota Canada
Photography: Guillaume Fournier
Contact the author: [email protected]