The Grand Highlander has three powertrain options, including an 362-hp hybrid setup from the Toyota Crown quasi-sedan.
To improve interior packaging and ride comfort versus the regular version, the Grand Highlander features a redesigned rear suspension.
Toyota will have to forgive folks who think the newly introduced Grand Highlander is simply an XL version of the regular Highlander. The new entry goes beyond just being bigger, but size-based assumptions are bound to happen when an adjective like grand is plopped into a popular nameplate—and the Highlander has proved pretty popular.
Making the Highlander More Popular
Over the past two years, Toyota has sold nearly 487,000 Highlanders, making the three-row mid-sizer its second-best-selling SUV in the U.S. behind only the compact RAV4. However, the brand believes there's more meat on the bone, so it's introducing the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander to satiate customers who crave a big interior without an overly bulky body.
Basically, Toyota expects the Grand Highlander to fill the space between the full-size Sequoia and the regular Highlander. Dimensionally, it does just that. At 201.4 inches front to back, the Grand Highlander is 6.5 inches longer than its smaller sibling and roughly 7 inches shorter than the Sequoia. The Grand also stands 2 inches taller and spans 2.3 inches wider than the regular Highlander. With about 116 inches between its axles, the bigger Highlander's wheelbase is approximately 4 inches longer than its counterpart.
Obviously, the Grand Highlander's increased exterior proportions translate to a roomier interior, particularly in the cargo area and third row. Compared with the regular Highlander, the Grand's rearmost row gains 5.5 inches of legroom (33.5 versus 28 inches). There's also an extra inch of headroom and over 2 inches of additional shoulder space.
This 5'10" author sat in the enlarged third row and found it to be genuinely comfortable, even with the second-row captain's chairs slid all the way back. It's also nice that Toyota includes a USB-C port and dual cupholders for outboard passengers back there. Unlike the regular Highlander, the Grand offers ventilated second-row captain's chairs, but only on the top-spec Platinum trim. The XLE and Limited are the only other models; both are available with a second-row bench seat that unlocks an extra spot for an eighth passenger.
With either seven or eight people onboard, the Grand Highlander boasts 21 cubic feet of cargo volume behind its third row (five more than the smaller version). Stowing the seats in the back two rows opens up 98 cubes of storage space, which is 14 more than the regular Highlander.
Grand Gets More than a Bigger Body
The Grand Highlander is built on the same TNGA-K platform that underpins the regular Highlander. Of course, Toyota did more than just stretch its proportions. We're told the Grand's structure is more rigid overall due to extra spot welds and additional adhesives, which are also expected to help reduce noise, vibration, and harshness levels.
Along with improved NVH, the Grand Highlander's interior packaging and ride comfort are said to benefit from a redesigned rear suspension. Toyota says structural changes to the multilink setup on the bigger Highlander were designed to maximize the space in the third row and cargo area as well as make the ride more comfortable.
Arguably the biggest difference between the two Highlanders is the Grand's exclusive hybrid powertrain (dubbed "Hybrid Max") that's cribbed from Toyota's quasi-sedan, the high-riding Crown. While it's retuned for use in the Grand Highlander—namely to support its 5000-pound max towing capacity—the hybrid setup is otherwise said to be similar.
Toyota hasn't released many technical specs about the Grand Highlander's Hybrid Max powertrain, except that it makes 362 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque. Still, the SUV should continue to pair a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder with two electric motors. One of them exclusively powers the rear axle (resulting in all-wheel drive), and the other goes between the gas engine and six-speed automatic transmission.
Multiple Powertrains and Mature Looks
As with the regular Highlander, the Grand is available with a gas-only turbo four and a less powerful hybrid option, giving customers a total of three choices. Toyota hasn't released outputs for either powertrain, but we're told both are essentially the same—besides the obligatory tuning changes, of course. In the smaller Highlander, that means a 265-hp turbocharged 2.4-liter four-pot with an eight-speed automatic and a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with a CVT and two electric motors that combine for 243 hp. Toyota estimates the latter will earn up to 34 mpg combined. Both powertrains are available with front- or all-wheel drive on the Grand.
While the regular Highlander has a rather distinctive look with prominent side surfacing, we think the Grand appears more mature. It has a boxier profile that's spearheaded by an assertive mug—and people say BMW's grilles are oversized? The rest of the design is requisite of most modern SUVs: a high beltline, lower body cladding, and available 20-inch wheels.
Inside, the Grand Highlander Platinum we saw first-hand gave off Lexus vibes with its attractive materials and soft-touch surfaces. While only the top-of-the-line trim has a digital rearview mirror and a head-up display, it shares a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster with the rung-below Limited. Both trims also have standard leather-trimmed upholstery, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated rear seats.
All three of the Grand Highlander's trims have a crisp 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. They all have a big center console with a wireless charging pad below the physical controls for the HVAC unit. We also appreciate the sliding cover for the large center-console bin, which Toyota says is big enough to hold a tablet.
As is the case with all Toyotas, every Grand Highlander has a host of standard driver-assistance technology that includes adaptive cruise control, automated emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, and even blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. The Platinum alone has a 360-degree camera system.
Toyota has yet to say how much the 2023 Grand Highlander will cost or when it will go on sale. Those details are expected to be announced sometime the coming months. If we had to guess, we'd expect the new XL version to range somewhere between $43K and $56K. That would make it a little pricier than the regular Highlander, but don't forget the Grand is more than just a size up.
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