WAIMEA, Hawai’i — The three-row SUV section is likely one of the most hotly contested within the trade, and it is rising in additional methods than one. Not solely is the variety of entries rising, so too is the variety of measurement choices: we’re seeing a break up between smaller three-rows and bigger ones. Toyota’s sole entry, the Highlander, has been on the smaller facet of that divide by a number of generations, and though Toyota has stated that was simply tremendous for its loyal clients, clearly there was room (pardon the pun) for one thing larger. That one thing could be the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander.
Regardless of the title, the addition of “Grand” would not simply signify some added inches tacked on behind the rear wheels of a daily Highlander like an outdated Grand Caravan or the Lexus RX L. It makes use of the identical TNGA-Ok platform, nevertheless it’s lengthened and widened for Grand Highlander responsibility. It is about 6.5 inches longer general and a pair of inches wider and taller.. The complete design is exclusive, together with an exterior that appears extra like an extra-large RAV4 as a result of its straight edges and onerous creases. The Grand Highlander can be extra refined and presents a superb, unique powertrain that makes the SUV arguably even higher than the usual mannequin and a powerful contender among the many rising group of enormous three-rows.
Importantly, the Grand Highlander’s extra exterior measurement interprets to the inside, cargo area being the obvious enchancment over the usual Highlander. Behind the third row, there’s 4.6 extra cubic ft of area at 20.6, which on paper at the least, represents the distinction between one of many smallest and largest volumes. Behind the second row, there’s 57.9, a rise of 9.5 cubes. With all of the rear seats down, whole area reaches 97.5 cubic ft, amounting to a 13.2 cubic-foot improve.
Passenger area improves, too, largely for the third row. It is nonetheless not big, however now adults can occupy each row with out the danger of the rear passengers launching a revolution in opposition to the bourgeois entrance passengers. Third-row entry can be impressively straightforward with the sliding seats and a lowered ground that extends behind the second row for simple step-in. In actual fact, each place is straightforward to entry, significantly the driving force and entrance passenger seats with the low ground and tall roof. Loads of area in each path and usually plush seats preserve the entrance two rows fairly cozy, although the tall, extensive middle console and entrance wheel nicely intrude into the entrance row’s knee- and foot room. Nonetheless, it’s not a significant downside, just a bit odd for such an in any other case spacious SUV.
In addition to the additional area, the Grand Highlander has a revised inside design. It is somewhat extra typical, however nonetheless has trademark Toyota options just like the cabinets within the sprint and up-to-date touchscreen infotainment system. For higher or for worse, there is not an enormous distinction in inside high quality from the bottom fashions to the extremely specified variations. They’re all put collectively nicely and have comfortable, high quality plastics. Greater trims have enticing leather-based choices and a few upholstered sprint panels, however a few of the painted plastics and fake wooden trim do not feel good sufficient to justify the pricing, significantly when a number of opponents rival entry-level luxurious SUVs.
The powertrains are one other massive promoting level for the Grand Highlander with three decisions. Most opponents supply one, perhaps two. The primary two are acquainted, as they’re shared with the common Highlander. The usual engine is a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 265 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, and it is paired with an eight-speed computerized and both front- or all-wheel-drive. Most towing capability is 5,000 kilos. Whereas we suggest skipping it on the small Highlander in favor of the hybrid, we discover the other is true, right here, assuming that you just’re not on the lookout for most gas economic system. Toyota appears to have accomplished one thing, presumably extra noise insulation, that considerably reduces the coarse thrashing of the four-cylinder. With that lowered, the wholesome torque and responsive transmission shine. Mixed gas economic system is the bottom for this powertrain at 24 mpg with front-wheel drive, and 22-23 mpg with all-wheel drive, relying on the trim degree.
The Grand Highlander’s primary hybrid, which is identical naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder, e-CVT setup with front- or all-wheel drive, is way much less pleasurable. Its 245 hp is reaching its limits with 4,455 to 4,710 kilos of curb weight to haul round. Mixed with the hybrid powertrain’s electronically managed CVT, it strikes sluggish and sounds strained, the identical as it’s in our long-term Toyota Sienna. Towing capability can be lowered at 3,500 kilos most. However, like with our Sienna, the gas economic system is simply so gosh-darn spectacular that you just may be capable of forgive it. It has a mixed gas economic system of 34 mpg with front-drive and 33 with all-wheel drive, enormously surpassing the gas economic system of its gas-only opponents. The common Highlander Hybrid is simply barely higher at 35-36 mpg mixed relying on drivetrain and trim degree.
Distinctive to the Grand Highlander is the Hybrid Max powertrain. This one is intently associated to the one within the Toyota Crown, differing solely in tuning. It combines that turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder with larger electrical motors, significantly within the rear, than the common hybrid, in addition to a six-speed computerized transmission. The result’s 362 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, eclipsing most of the section’s V6s in output. It additionally options the identical 5,000-pound tow ranking because the gas-powered mannequin. It is not as environment friendly because the common hybrid — a sacrifice within the title of output — however at 27 mpg mixed, it nonetheless beats most V6s. It even matches the hybrid Ford Explorer’s effectivity, however with extra energy, extra torque and commonplace all-wheel drive. It is a sweetheart of a powertrain, with a meaty torque band that enables for easy, straightforward acceleration, and the six-speed means it is not always interrupted by shifts or looking for gears. It is a surprisingly growly powertrain, helped partly by even handed software of the seamless synthetic sound enhancement. And with the full-time all-wheel drive and beefier rear motor, the facility break up is extra evenly distributed. This leads to less-pronounced understeer when powering by corners. This all makes the Hybrid Max far and away essentially the most pleasurable powertrain, and we want Toyota would supply a detuned, extra environment friendly model to supplant the common hybrid.
Whereas there are important variations in powertrains, journey and dealing with are just about the identical throughout the road. Up entrance is a MacPherson strut setup with a multi-link unbiased association on the rear, and the shocks are non-adjustable. Every Grand Highlander does have totally different driving modes, however they primarily alter throttle and transmission response — even the steering appeared unaffected. The tuning is certainly towards consolation and management. It glides over bumps, and stays regular. Dealing with is not fairly as keen in consequence, what with the softness and physique roll. The cabin can be impressively quiet. So so long as you are not trying to hustle your sensible hauler, you will be happy with the Grand Highlander.
To get a Grand Highlander, you will be paying a premium. The bottom mannequin begins at $44,405, which is round $7,000 greater than the bottom Honda Pilot or Kia Telluride, amongst others. The Grand Highlander does supply a pair additional niceties that may carry the prices nearer, reminiscent of energy heated reminiscence entrance seats and wi-fi gadget charging, however much more comparably geared up, the Toyota is costlier. The common Highlander is priced nearer to its three-row opponents, nevertheless it’s additionally smaller inside. The common hybrid begins at $46,005, and the Hybrid Max at $55,375. These examine favorably in opposition to the Explorer Hybrid, about the one competitor on this measurement bracket, with benefits in gas economic system or energy, relying on the model.
Whereas costly, the Toyota Grand Highlander is a greater Highlander in quite a lot of key features, significantly refinement and area, and its powertrain choices make it a powerful possibility, significantly in case you’re trying to save gas. That being stated, that worth premium cannot be ignored, and choices from Honda, Kia and Hyundai can supply a lot of the identical refinement and area with higher dealing with, fashion and off-road functionality.