If you have four children and they’re getting into their teens, they need to continue to be comfortable.
At this year’s Chicago Auto Show, George and I were among the first who witnessed the debut of the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander on the McCormick Place show floor. It was a curious vehicle for us, as we tried to sort out what makes this different than the Highlander. And, why did they create such a vehicle.
The Grand Highlander is considered a transportation solution for growing families. If you have four children and they’re getting into their teens, they need to continue to be comfortable. A lot of three-row SUVs might just work, but growing children might outgrow the third row. You can go with a larger SUV – preferably a long wheelbase model – but the fuel economy may take a bit out of your budget. That, along with the sticker prices they’re asking you to shell out of your pocket.
Another solution is the minivan. A lot of families prefer SUVs over minivans because of the perceived image they acquired as the former proliferated and took over the marketplace.
However, families have another option. That is where the Toyota Grand Highlander comes into play.
Toyota took the popular Highlander and stretched the wheelbase by four inches. That resulted in a six-inch increase in overall length. The purpose of this stretch is to create a larger space in the third-row seating area for not only growing children, but also for adults.
They went a few steps further by distinguishing the Grand Highlander from its namesake. A new exterior design was in order. It starts with an upright front end that takes its cues from the 4Runner. The roofline is extended and more upright, as well. The side profile seems normal to us. At the rear, a set of horizontal taillight units finish off a nicely done tailgate area.
The only thing distinguishable about this Premium tester are its 20-inch alloy wheels. You also geta. set of LED fog lamps and a panoramic roof as part of the trim package. It is a handsome vehicle, nonetheless.
Its handsomeness becomes usefulness when you step behind the wheel. You are greeted with a customizable 12.3-inch fully digital instrument cluster. It is augmented by a 10-inch head-up display. On the console is Toyota’s shift-by-wire shifter, along with a set of familiar switches and controls.
The infotainment system is controlled through a 12.3-inch touchscreen. You get wireless smartphone mirroring and charging, along with the usual playback options. JBL provided 11 Premium sound speakers with solid sound throughout the large cabin.
Seven passengers sit in a saddle-finished leather and Ultrasuede comfort inside the Grand Highlander. The driver and front passenger get a decent seat each with some support and comfort. Second row captain’s chairs are adjustable for rake and have a mini console in-between them.
The big news is back in the third row. The reason for the stretch in length and wheelbase is for Toyota to accommodate adults in the far back of the Grand Highlander. In our unscientific test, that claim proved to be true. You can fit adults in the third row. Can you fit three adults? Maybe…
Cargo space behind the third row is a generous 20.6 cubic feet. Fold down the third row, and that space expands to 57.9 cubic feet of space. However, when you drop the second and third rows of seats, you can stow a maximum of 97.5 cubic feet. This is comparable to equally large mid-size, three-row SUVs.
Toyota offers three different drivelines for the Grand Highlander, including two hybrids. This tester had the Hybrid MAX driveline combining a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, an electric motor, a six-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive. All told, the Hybrid MAX yielded 362 net total horsepower.
This driveline exudes a lot of power. It does very well on the highway, as well as around town. Plus, it’s also quiet. As for fuel economy, this Grand Highlander delivered an average of 23.8 MPG.
The ride quality was smooth and absorbent. Perfect for a family outing! This is exactly what you want a larger SUV that can seat seven, right? Handling was more controlled with great distribution without any issues on lean and roll. Evasive maneuvers were accomplished without drama.
Steering-wise, the system works well, Turns may be larger than you want, but the system responds well to the wheel. On-center feel is pretty good. The brakes worked quite well. Pedal feel is fine, and response to the wheels yielded good stops in normal and panic situations.
The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is offered in seven distinct trim levels. Two of them have the 2.5-liter Hybrid driveline, while two others have the Hybrid MAX as its power source. The other three trims have just a 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine without any electrification. Pricing starts from $43,070. This Hybrid MAX-powered Platinum AWD tester arrived with a sticker price of $61,705.
I’ll come out and say it: This is a very well execute family hauler. It solves the problem of not having to go to a large, long-wheelbase truck-based SUV in order to fit a family of seven. Rather to transport more than a few adults around. On the other hand, it has a better perceived image than a minivan…
Should you just get the Toyota Grand Highlander for the sake of not getting a minivan? Good question! All of these three-row vehicles have their merits. It is a matter of fitting your needs and your potential passengers before taking one home.
If you choose the Toyota Grand Highlander, know that you had options. If this is your option, you’re going to enjoy it!
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle provided by Toyota Motor North America
All photos by Randy Stern