As I walked back towards this 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Limited, key in hand, I could not help but wonder who, exactly, asked Toyota for yet another SUV.
Before the Grand Highlander’s debut last year, Toyota already had seven SUVs and crossovers in its lineup, plus another two — the Crown Signia and the Land Cruiser — are slated to arrive in the near future. Toyota’s lineup is already filled with models in all sizes, ranging from the subcompact Corolla Cross to the full-size, body-on-frame Sequoia, not to mention many offering multiple powertrain choices. So, when I heard Toyota was adding another three-row SUV to its lineup, with no less than three powertrain options, I was skeptical about how the Grand Highlander fits into the Canadian market, and more importantly, whether it is filling a void no one knew existed.
Market relevance aside, walking up to our Grand Highlander tester for the first time, finished in the gorgeous Ruby Flare Pearl, I immediately noticed it combined some of the best styling bits from several popular Toyota SUV models. There is a hint of 4Runner ruggedness, RAV4-inspired styling around back, and it even gives off Lexus LX vibes from the side. Despite the mishmash, the Grand Highlander’s look comes together quite cohesively for what I think is one of the better-looking crossovers in its class.
There is a lot to like inside the Grand Highlander. It feels upscale with inviting premium materials throughout, and the dashboard layout is quite intuitive. I like the physical switchgear for climate controls — including a click-on/click-off button for the heated steering wheel, meaning it stays on every time you restart it — and there is loads of storage space throughout the cabin. There is plenty of dedicated cell phone storage in all three rows, which is way underrated as a design function in modern cars, plus a host of USB ports and one wireless charging pad to keep these devices charged up throughout the journey.
The biggest selling point of the Grand Highlander is its class-leading interior space. There is usable space throughout all three rows, and we especially love the wide opening angle of the rear doors as well as how far up the second row folds forward when you pull on the lever, making for very easy ingress to its adult-friendly third row. Cargo space is rated at 586 litres behind the third row, expanding to 1,640 litres with it folded. Towing capacity is rated at a maximum of 5,000 pounds which is the same as the Honda Pilot, and more than the Mazda CX-90’s 3,500-pound max limit.
The interior is very well-designed. The layout is simple yet elegant, and materials felt more premium than most mainstream brands. We like the standard 12.3-inch oversized touchscreen that houses the infotainment system. The infotainment itself is easy to use, albeit a little bland with minimal graphics and a utility design. But the display is vivid and responsive, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay both connect wirelessly. Limited and Platinum trims receive an upgraded 11-speaker JBL audio system.
There are three powertrains lining the Grand Highlander. The gas-only 2.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and 2.5L hybrid powertrains are shared with the standard Highlander, while the range-topping Hybrid Max powertrain — combining the 2.4L turbo-four with a more powerful hybrid system — is exclusive to the Grand Highlander. Our tester is powered by the turbo-four, producing 265 horsepower and enabling the Grand Highlander to run from zero to 100 km/h in 7.7 seconds. Though these figures do not particularly stand out, the power is quite plentiful to get the Grand Highlander going effortlessly. If you stay on the throttle, it does run out of breath like most other three-row powered by a turbo-four, but we never felt it lacking or underpowered.
With most mainstream crossovers, handling at the limit is not particularly relevant and the Grand Highlander is just as uninspiring as its peers. However, unlike some of them, we do enjoy the Grand Highlander for how well-insulated it is from unwanted harshness, vibration, and noise. The suspensions soak up road imperfections quite well, and there is a sense of confidence and dependability behind the wheel of the Grand Highlander.
Fuel consumption is rated at 11.6 L/100 kilometres in the city, 9.0 highway, and 10.7 combined. Our observed, real-world figure came in a little higher at 12.2 L/100 km over a city-heavy commute, but it is still not too bad compared other family haulers of its size. Regular gasoline is accepted, and buyers who are looking for the most fuel-sipping option should the Grand Highlander Hybrid and its 7.0 L/100 km rating.
All Grand Highlanders come with Toyota’s latest Safety Sense 3.0 driving assist system that includes a new Proactive Driving Assist feature to help with braking and steering. Other features include Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist, automatic high beams, Front-to-Front Risk Detection, Blind-Spot Monitoring with Safe Exit Alert, and Rear Cross-Traffic Alert.
The Grand Highlander starts at $50,490 for the base XLE trim. Our mid-range Limited trim tester only rung up at $57,945 as-tested, including $255 for the fancy red paint. We don’t typically associate Toyotas as a total value play — at least, not over the last two decades — but looking around the rest of the segment among the newer options, the Limited trim can be considered a real bargain. The Pilot, CX-90, and Volkswagen Atlas are all around the $60,000 mark when similarly equipped; the CX-90 drives better, the Atlas feels slightly faster, and the Pilot is a bit more rugged, but the Grand Highlander offers the most spacious third row. Depending on your priorities, it is hard to argue against the Grand Highlander’s most spacious third row, well-appointed interior, and sub-$60,000 price tag.
Walking back to drop off the key to the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Limited, I finally answered my own question. Toyota saw a need for a three-row crossover for families looking for three usable rows and plenty of cargo space, but who do not want a minivan or a full-size, body-on-frame SUV. And in typical Toyota fashion, it more than delivered with yet another rock-solid choice for the masses.