A value-packed SUV

From the April 2024 print issue

Amid the already crowded and competitive three-row SUV segment, Toyota has dropped a vehicle most buyers didn’t even know we needed.

The all-new 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander fills a gap that’s existed in the brand’s line-up for some time. It’s larger than the Toyota Highlander, a slightly smaller three-row SUV long appreciated for its safety and reliability but isn’t roomy enough at the back for consistent third-row users. But it’s smaller than the Toyota Sequoia, a large body-on-frame SUV that’s often not practical for urban and suburban lifestyles.

The Grand Highlander falls neatly between these two vehicles as a safe, fuel-efficient, spacious, and value-packed SUV that’s bound to offer the great value retention Toyota is known for. It’s a winner all around, and the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada agrees: AJAC selected the Grand Highlander as the 2024 Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year.

Three powertrains are available on the Toyota Grand Highlander at launch, each with all-wheel drive as standard equipment in Canada. The base 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine has a power output of 265hp and 310lbs-ft of torque. This version has a rated fuel consumption average of 10.0L/100km combined and starts price from $53,553.

Cargo capacity measures up at 568 litres with all seats upright, 1,640 litres with the third-row seats down, and 2,761 litres behind the first row.

Next up is the efficiency-oriented hybrid. This powertrain combines a 2.5-litre, four-cylinder engine with two electric motors and a battery.
It offers 243 combined hp (Toyota doesn’t declare a combined torque figure for most hybrids), a fuel consumption average of 7.0L/100km combined, and a starting price of $56,853.

Hybrid powertrain
We tested the top trim, the Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum Hybrid Max. This version comes with Toyota’s performance-oriented hybrid powertrain, which strikes a balance between maximizing power output and fuel efficiency. Here, the 2.4-litre turbo four-cylinder and hybrid drive delivers a combined power output of 362hp and 400lbs-ft of torque, an average fuel efficiency of 8.8L/100km combined, and a price that starts at $68,513 in Canada.

This is a high asking price for a mainstream three-row SUV, but it’s fair for the premium package Toyota has put together. The interior finishes edge close enough toward luxury that you need to seek out the differences between this vehicle and the base Lexus TX that shares the same underpinnings, despite the latter starting roughly $5,000 higher.

In a strange way, Toyota may have undercut its own luxury brand here, to the benefit of savvy buyers. Power is more than sufficient and readily accessible thanks to the electrified powertrain and the use of a six-speed automatic transmission, which offers a more natural drive feel than the continuously variable transmission (CVT) commonly found in hybrids. Handling is also very impressive, given the Grand Highlander’s size. There’s relatively little body roll or pitch. Our only sense of the vehicle’s size comes when maneuvering in tight parking lots. In these situations, the panoramic view monitor that comes with each powertrain’s highest trim level comes in handy.

All versions of the vehicle include a wireless phone charger, USB-C ports, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Cargo capacity for all trims measures up at 568 litres with all seats upright, 1,640 litres with the third-row seats down, and 2,761 litres behind the first row. Note that the gas-only powertrain and the Platinum Hybrid Max can pull up to 5000lbs, while the Grand Highlander Hybrid is limited to a 3,500lbs max towing capacity.

Although there are only five trims available between the three powertrains, buyers have plenty of options. Seating capacity tops out at eight with the standard second-row bench seat, while the captain’s chairs available on each powertrain’s top trim bring this down to seven but add a centre console that puts cupholders within easy reach. Heated front seats and a heated steering wheel are standard, while ventilated front seats and heated outboard second-row seats are equipped on higher trims. Ventilated second-row captain’s chairs are included with the Platinum Hybrid Max. All versions of the Grand Highlander include a wireless phone charger, USB-C ports for all three rows, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Safety features
Impressively, a long list of standard safety features is included under the Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 banner, including lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams, dynamic radar cruise control, road sign recognition, lane tracing assist, sway warning, left turn oncoming vehicle detection and braking, blind spot monitoring with safe exit alert, and semi-automated emergency steering for pedestrian, cyclist or vehicle collision avoidance.

The Toyota Grand Highlander drops in among the current crowd of popular mid-size three-row SUVs like the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride, Mazda CX-90, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, and others, and immediately elbows its way to the top of the list.

As tested:
Price (incl. freight and PDI): Starts at $68,513
Engine: 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder plus hybrid drive
Power: 362hp, 400lbs-ft of torque
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Rated Fuel Economy (L/100km):
9.0 city/8.8 hwy/8.8 combined
Observed Combined Fuel Economy (L/100km): 10.2L/100km combined