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First Drive: 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander – Bigger Is Better

by | April 19, 2024

With more space than its shorter stablemate, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is the perfect automotive family servant.

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is good looking, but not adventurous in design.

There’s so much in life that assaults our senses, distracts us, and keeps us busy every day. Life is so frantic, and lived at such a hectic pace, there never seems to be enough time between work and family. That’s why choosing a first-rate family bus is incredibly important. And you can’t do much better than the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander.

Exciting? Not in the least. But it excels at being the automotive family servant, there to accommodate you without causing any fear of unexpected repairs. After all, this is a Toyota.

BIGGER is better

Even more so than its shorter, three-row stablemate, the Toyota Highlander, the Grand Highlander has the extra square footage every family requires. In fact, it’s four inches longer, 2.3 inches wider, and 2-inches taller than the Highlander. The Grand Highlander inherits the shorter vehicle’s somewhat generic appearance, although it’s sure to age well.

Its conservative looks should age well.

Open the door and you’re greeted by an expansive interior with good space in all three rows. There’s also 21 cubic feet of cargo space in the rear, expanding to 58 or 97.5 cubic feet depending on how many rows you fold down.

Each row gets two USB-C ports, along with cupholders and smartphone slots. A 12.3-inch touchscreen is standard and stands out as if stuck to the top of the instrument panel, like so many touchscreens. Thoughtfully, rear seat occupants have their own climate control panel. Even more thoughtfully, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto comes standard.

Under the hood

While you can opt for it with a 265-horsepower turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine and eight-speed automatic transmission in XLE, Limited, and Platinum trim levels, we recommend going for any of the hybrid models for maximum value. Both front-wheel or all-wheel drive models are offered

A well-designed, ergonomically friendly interior.

It comes with one of two drivelines. The base XLE and upscale Limited Hybrids comes with a 245-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder hybrid powertrain, while Limited Max and Platinum Max buyers get the base 265-horsepower gas engine with an electric motor and six-speed automatic that work together to deliver a combined 365 horsepower and all-wheel drive. Toyota has invested heavily in hybrids as a whole, with the 2025 Toyota Camry featuring an all hybrid engine lineup

Sport, Eco, and Normal drive modes come standard on all models, as does Multi-Terrain Select with Mud & Sand, Rock & Dirt, and Snow modes on all-wheel-drive models. Towing is rated at 5,000 pounds.

Platinum models can be fitted with Traffic Jam Assist, which uses a radar and camera to operate the steering, gas, and brake pedals in traffic jams at speeds up to 25 mph under certain conditions. The option requires a subscription, however.

Driver-assistance safety systems include Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, Lane Tracing Assist, Road Sign Assist, Automatic High Beams, Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Electronic Brake-force Distribution, Brake Assist, Anti-lock Braking are standard.

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What’s it like?

All three rows offer room for adults.

As you might expect, the Grand Highlander drives much like a Highlander, except that it’s longer. This means perfectly adequate performance from the base gas engine and hybrid powertrains. However, the turbo 2.4-liter engine has a harsh character that appears out of place, while the hybrid drivetrain is the more refined of the two powertrains. But they’re so similar in performance, try them both before you decide. You’ll find that unless you’re pinched on price, the hybrid makes more sense than the conventional gas engine. Meanwhile, the Max hybrid trims deliver the kind of performance you’d naturally expect given the size of the vehicle.

As a family car, the Highlander delivers the kind of reliable handling and comfortable ride you would anticipate. This translates into a car that does not engage the driver, as you might expect. The steering is light, and the body leans in corners and—surprisingly—a suspension that rides unexpectedly hard at times. For a standard midsize SUV, the cabin’s level of quietness is rather good.

So no, there are no driving thrills. Then again, there are enough thrills in our lives that a vehicle like the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is the perfect respite, not to mention a practical conveyance. Family buyers will appreciate its mix of attributes that make it the perfect fit in their garage. Prices start at $43,320.

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