Update: ‘Electrified powertrains’ and ‘Price & Release date’ sections updated.
The highly anticipated Toyota Grand Highlander received an online debut a day before its world premiere at the 2023 Chicago Auto Show and is currently on display at the 2023 New York International Auto Show. Billed “the ultimate road-trip vehicle,” the new high-riding people mover comes with adult-sized third-row seats and two hybrid powertrain options.
The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander, a work of Calty Design Studios, is an extension and an evolution of the Highlander. Its origins are clearly evident, but it has ample differentiation to make it sufficiently distinguishable.
The 2024 Grand Highlander has an almost entirely new front-end. It features straight and narrow headlamps, a compact upper grille, a trapezoidal, hammerhead central grille, and a slim lower grille. The horizontal air inlets beside the lower grille are just decor pieces. However, there are air curtains below the fog lamps, which is the only element that looks quite close to the Highlander.
On the sides, the 2024 Grand Highlander doesn’t feature the donor model’s S-shaped character line, which leads to a simpler design for its door panels and shoulders. Its greenhouse is bigger due to squarer rear windows and quarter glasses that are taller at the back. Its roofline is comparatively flatter, obviously.
At the rear, the 2024 Grand Highlander isn’t as forward-leaning as the Highlander, for increased cargo space. In addition to a relatively straighter angle, its liftgate has a larger glass for better exterior visibility and its third brake light integrated into its spoiler is significantly wider for enhanced safety. We can also see the cutouts and recessed area for the license plate is more subdued. C-shaped, angular tail lamps, a unique bumper, a chunkier skid plate, and an available dual exhaust system with exposed circular outlets further differentiate the larger SUV at the back.
The Highlander has been the perfect mid-size SUV in many ways for years, but Toyota knew it didn’t offer generous space in all three rows. A proper three-row SUV was still missing in the line-up, and that’s where the Grand Highlander stepped in. The Grand version elevates the legacy of the Highlander to a new level, offering more space, comfort, and convenience to give customers the ultimate family hauler that doesn’t break the bank like a European luxury model. With that said, let’s take a detailed look at the interior.
The wide, horizontal plane and reductive design of the sleek dashboard give a sense of spaciousness and elegance in the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander. The 12.3-inch touchscreen of the Toyota Audio Multimedia infotainment system has fewer bezels compared to that of the Highlander. Moreover, its volume knob and power button are located on the driver’s side for more convenience and lesser distraction.
Designed and engineered in-house in Texas, the Toyota Audio Multimedia infotainment system has OTA update capability, dual-Bluetooth connectivity, standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and Connected Service Drive Connect, including a voice assistant that responds to prompts starting with “Hey Toyota.” Available subscriptions will include Wi-Fi hotspot running on AT&T’s 4G network, Apple Music and Amazon Music streaming, and SiriusXM satellite radio.
The central air vents have a little more upmarket look. The center console is new and houses the engine start-stop button conveniently right ahead of the gearshift lever. The bigger three-row SUV has plenty of storage and convenience features in the cabin. There are 13 cup holders and seven USB-C charging ports across all three rows.
Better third-row room & boot space
Toyota will offer two seating layout options for the 2024 Grand Highlander, one with a capacity of seven people and featuring captains chairs in the second row and one with a capacity of eight people and featuring a bench seat in the second row.
Toyota is confident customers will find the third row of the Grand Highlander very spacious. The company says adults will call dibs on third-row seats, which we bet rarely ever happens in the Highlander. There’s ample legroom for both children and adults, along with enough cargo space to fit seven pieces of luggage in the back.
The Grand Highlander is roomier than the normal Highlander, obviously, which offers 27.7 in. of legroom, 36.1 in. of headroom, 55.0 in. of shoulder room, and 45.6 in. of hip room in the third row. 16 cu. ft. of cargo volume is available in the latter, expandable to up to 84.3 cu. ft. For now, all that we know is that its maximum cargo volume is 98 cu. ft., 13.7 cu. ft. more than that of the Highlander.
The shape of the Highlander prioritizes space and comfort, and the same applies to the Grand Highlander, but to a greater degree. Its larger rear quarter glass panels give third-row occupants better visibility of the surroundings. Also, a panoramic sunroof makes the cabin feel airier and more spacious.
The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid includes Toyota Safety Sense 3.0 (TSS 3.0) as standard. The Japanese automaker’s latest active safety technologies and advanced driver assistance systems include upgraded forward-facing cameras with higher resolution and wider angles and improved radar sensors for a longer and wider field of view. Toyota offers the following safety features in the 2024 Grand Highlander as part of TSS 3.0:
- Pre-Collision System with Pedestrian Detection
- Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist
- Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control
- Lane Tracing Assist
- Road Sign Assist
- Automatic High Beams
- Proactive Driving Assist
Standard safety features of the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid include Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert as well. Front and Rear Parking Assist with Automatic Braking and a 360º camera system are on the list of optional features.
In 2005, the Highlander became the first model in its segment to be available as a hybrid. CNN Money had then said in its review that the standard third-row seats were “virtually useless” and like a punishment for small children. Four generations later, the Grand version takes not only third-row space but also electrification seriously. Customers can choose from two different hybrid systems.
Customers looking for maximum efficiency will be able to purchase the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid with the same 243 hp powertrain as the Highlander. Based on a 2.5-liter engine, this system delivers an EPA-est. fuel economy of up to 36 mpg (combined).
For its most discerning customers, Toyota has announced its new Hybrid Max powertrain. Based on a 2.4-liter turbocharged engine, this system develops 362 hp and 400 lb.-ft. of torque. It allows accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.3 seconds and offers a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs. Its EPA-est. fuel economy rating is 27 MPG (combined). Hybrid Max configurations will have AWD as standard.
In addition to more power and torque, the 2024 Grand Highlander Hybrid Max packs more off-road capability, thanks to Multi-Terrain Select. This system automatically adjusts the engine throttle and brakes to improve traction in tricky off-road situations. The driver can choose from three modes – Mud & Sand, Rock & Dirt, and Snow modes.
In the future, Toyota could offer the Grand Highlander with a plug-in hybrid system as well. Speaking to Green Car Reports in late 2021, Cooper Ericksen, senior vice president, Product, BEV and Mobility Planning and Strategy, Toyota Motor North America, explained the need to electrify large SUVs like the Grand Highlander and hinted at the targeted EV range. Reducing emissions of three-row SUVs and trucks will have a big impact on the environment, Ericksen said. That’s why the company sees a use case for plug-in hybrid technology on larger vehicles.
Toyota raised the bar for PHEVs in the U.S. with the RAV4 Prime in 2020. Despite doing 0-60 mph in just 5.7 seconds, the SUV offers 42 miles of EPA-est. electric range. The Californian government proposes that PHEVs in the future should travel at least 50 miles in EV mode. Ericksen said customers aren’t demanding that high a range. While Toyota can offer 50 miles on a car or a compact SUV (as the battery cost is manageable within the price of the car), for a heavy SUV, 25-30 miles of electric range is more feasible, he said. That’s the figure we expect for the potential Toyota Grand Highlander PHEV.
Benefits of electrification in the Grand Highlander
The expanded interior volume and family-friendly approach to the design mean that the extra heft of the Grand Highlander stands to benefit from the adoption of an electrified powertrain. The hybrid variant should provide sufficient pulling power even with passengers in all seats, while also being frugal.
|Aspect||2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Specification||2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Specification|
|Engine||2.5L gasoline||2.4L turbocharged gasoline|
|System Power||243 hp||362 hp|
|System Torque||TBA||400 lb.-ft.|
|0-60 mph Acceleration Time||TBA||6.3 seconds|
|Towing Capacity||3,500 lbs.||5,000 lbs.|
|EPA-est. Fuel Economy (Combined)||Up to 36 MPG||27 MPG|
Toyota Grand Highlander vs. Toyota Sequoia
Steve Gates, Chairman, Toyota National Dealer Advisory Council, says the Toyota Grand Highlander will suit some customers whose families are growing and need something bigger than the Highlander but not a truck model (Sequoia), Automotive News reported on January 26, 2023. Not all buyers desire a minivan (Sienna) either, he added, further profiling the target customer of the new SUV.
The Grand Highlander should easily carve a place in the line-up, even though the well-established Toyota Sequoia has just received a complete redesign, offering the convenience of seven seats. The Grand Highlander will be more of a family hauler designed for road trips, while the Sequoia is for adventurous drives in relatively more challenging driving conditions.
The Sequoia targets adventure-minded families with an active lifestyle who get off the beaten path regularly. Its body-on-frame chassis would make it a more robust model than the Grand Highlander. Don’t expect the Grand Highlander to match the Sequoia’s off-roading and towing capabilities. However, the former would be lighter and thus easier to drive and maneuver. Toyota may also throw in better comfort and convenience features and pitch it as a plusher offering.
A big upside of the Grand Highlander is efficiency. It delivers an EPA-est. fuel economy of up to 36 mpg (combined), while the Sequoia can return only up to 22 mpg (combined).
Price & Release date
The 2023 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid’s prices start at USD 44,670 (excl. USD 1,335 DPH fee). Manufactured locally at the Princeton plant in Indiana, the new hybrid SUV will begin arriving at dealerships soon.
|Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Configuration||Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Price|
|XLE Hybrid FWD||USD 44,670|
|XLE Hybrid AWD||USD 46,270|
|Limited Hybrid AWD||USD 51,060|
|Limited Hybrid Max AWD||USD 54,040|
|Platinum Hybrid Max AWD||USD 58,125|
Full electrification unlikely for Toyota Grand Highlander/Highlander
Toyota is unlikely to offer the Highlander or the Grand Highlander with a pure-electric powertrain anytime soon. Jack Hollis, executive vice president, Sales, Toyota Motor North America, and president, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., thinks that the U.S. “isn’t mature enough” for EVs, The Wall Street Journal reported on August 18, 2022. He suggests that costliness and the poor public charging infrastructure will likely hinder large-scale EV adoption. The company may consider replacing the Highlander and/or Grand Highlander with a large bZ SUV eventually, but such a move may not be in the foreseeable future.
The Toyota Grand Highlander has plenty of space for adults in the third row, overcoming the biggest limitation of the current model. In addition, it offers more cargo volume than the donor model. Plus, the new looks and more modern features, including the new hybrid systems, should make the Grand Highlander more premium and appealing than the Highlander, provided Toyota prices it right.
Toyota Grand Highlander FAQs
What is the Toyota Grand Highlander release date?
The Toyota Grand Highlander will begin arriving at U.S. dealerships in Summer 2023.
What will be the Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid price?
The Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid’s prices start at USD 44,670 (excl. USD 1,335 DPH fee).
Featured Image Source: Toyota