Ready For a Shot at the Crown


The Toyota Grand Highlander is more than just a three-row SUV. It’s a direct swipe at Kia and Hyundai, makers of the three-row, not-quite-full-size SUV models that are incredibly popular with North Americans.

Borrowing on name recognition and launching into an already-established market with the Toyota badge behind it, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander delivers space, premium appointments and robust power.

Like the Kia Telluride is bigger than the Kia Sorento, the Grand Highlander is larger than the Toyota Highlander. The American designed and made Grand Highlander has familiar design cues including a trapezoidal, hammerhead front grille as well as 20-inch wheels. That grille is shared with Toyota’s Prius, Crown and Crown Signia.

The profile view is simple and flowing while black-accented wheels darken the lower edge of vehicle alongside the dark lower cladding. Toyota says it prioritized exterior visibility with a low hood line and large side glass windows.

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A flush rear bumper complements the exposed dual exhaust tips on the Grand Highlander Hybrid Max, a high-powered and fuel-efficient version of the SUV.

Toyota offers the model in three powertrains: a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a hybrid 2.5-liter four-cylinder, and the Hybrid Max turbocharged, hybrid 2.4-liter four-cylinder.

The non-hybrid turbo returns an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated 21 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. The traditional hybrid gets 37 mpg in the city and 34 on the highway.

The new, available hybrid powertrain makes Grand Highlander the most powerful midsize SUV Toyota has ever built, with 362-horsepower (hp), 400 pound-feet (lb-ft) of torque and a 0-60 time of 6.3 seconds. It can also tow 5,000 pounds and returns an EPA-estimated 27 combined miles per gallon. Drive modes include Sport, Eco and Normal. Models equipped with Multi-Terrain Select have modes for Mud, Sand, Rock and Dirt, and Snow.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander
The drive mode selector in the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The 2025 Grand Highlander Hybrid Max is quiet at idle and smooth once at speed. The extra torque from the electric motor makes this SUV absolutely zippy taking off from a red light. Even on the highway passing maneuvers take just a medium press of the pedal as the continuously variable automatic transmission multiplies the power.

All Grand Highlanders are available with all-wheel drive, though there are several versions of the hardware.

Like the Highlander this SUV is almost Lexus-like in its softness on standard roads. Nothing but the biggest potholes upset the cabin’s balance, though some harsher ones can be heard from the driver’s seat. But it never wallows or rocks in turns and never gets into that harmonic bounciness that some SUVs exhibit. The steering effort is expectedly light, though the vehicle does go where it’s pointed.

Toyota, which sometimes struggles to deliver high-quality materials at the price point their vehicles command, hits the nail on the head. Like the new Toyota Crown and Crown Signia, the Grand Highlander treats guests to silver or brushed bronze trim on many of the controls and touchpoints, all surrounding the standard 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system in the center.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander
The dashboard, steering wheel, cup holders, shifter and infotainment system of the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

The touchscreen can be slow to respond and lack intuitive use for some functions. It’s not the best system, but it’s worlds ahead of the last operating system Toyota used to have.

The console has space for drinks and phones while the door pockets offer even more space for large water bottles. The system is easy to use and connect wirelessly to a smartphone and its simple to swap between a phone and the native system.

Thoughtful small team storage is a hallmark of Toyota’s SUVs, and the Grand Highlander is no exception, coming to market with number of solutions including a storage shelf near the front passenger.

The SUV’s seats are excellent and adjustable, far better than what you’ll find in the Crown and Prius sedans, with good headroom in all rows. Front-row seats are comfortable, soft and supportive.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander
Physical climate controls in the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Main controls for volume, climate and drive modes are done through big dials, which are easy to find while keeping your eyes on the road.

We wouldn’t say the cabin feels cavernous, though the big sunroof helps the perception of space and light, but the back seats are slidable and adjustable for any occupant, making it easy for kids to file in and out with little assistance.

The third row is expectedly smaller, though with the second row slid forward it can still accommodate adults. With all rows in place the Grand Highlander can still swallow 20 cubic feet of cargo; with all rows down the area measures 97.5 cubic feet. The regular Highlander has 84.3 cubic feet.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander
Second- and third-row seating in the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander.
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

Toyota is now offering a one-year Drive Connect trial subscription, which gives drivers and passengers access to Intelligent Assistant, Cloud Navigation and Destination Assist. With Intelligent Assistant, saying “Hey Toyota” wakes the system up. It can then be asked about directions, adjusting audio controls, changing cabin temperature and more. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and Wi-Fi is available.

The system can be glitchy, though. It doesn’t always wake when called upon and its ability to follow commands is subpar. This is not just the case in Grand Highlander. Toyota has similar issues in other models from the Tundra full-size pickup truck on down.

The Grand Highlander accepts over-the-air updates to keep its technology on the most recent offering.

As with all Toyotas the Grand Highlander comes loaded with safety and convenience features like adaptive cruise control, traffic jam assist and blind spot warnings as standard and available equipment. There’s no General Motors Super Cruise-like hands-off, eyes-on driving technology available on the Grand Highlander.

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander (base price of $43,070) competes with plenty of three row SUVs like the Ford Explorer ($36,760), Chevrolet Traverse ($34,520), Hyundai Palisade ($36,400), Mazda CX-90 ($39,595) and others. No matter the trim level, however, the Grand Highlander gives plenty of consideration power with the content it offers.

The 2024 Grand Highlander is a home run for Toyota, but not a grand slam. The competition is getting tougher and demands are increasing from customers. Toyota needs to get its voice command system in better working order and up the ante.