Grand Highlander Offers “Just Right” 3-Row SUV

CHATHAM, Mass. – Toyota continues to incrementally expand its sport-utility/crossover (SUV/CUV) family with the introduction of the three-row 2024 Grand Highlander offering more interior room than the popular Highlander mid-size SUV while being more maneuverable than the Sequoia, an SUV based upon the Tundra full-size pickup truck.

The added interior space of the Grand Highlander is especially pronounced at the rear where the third row gains 5.5 inches of legroom (33.5 versus 28 inches). In addition, there is an extra inch of headroom and more than two inches of additional shoulder space (when compared to the Highlander).

When it comes to cargo volume, the Grand offers major advantages compared to the lesser Highlander: 97.5 cubic feet vs 84.3 with the second and third-row seats folded; 57.9 vs 48.4 behind the second row, and 20.6 vs.16.0 behind the third row.

I spent an extended period driving a 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander AWD Platinum during the holidays, a very relaxing, enjoyable experience in an SUV Goldilocks might have compared to Momma Bear’s chair and porridge – ones which were just right.

Motivating the Grand Highlander

The review unit powertrain included the 2.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder internal-combustion engine (there are two different hybrid variants offered as well) producing 265 horsepower and 310 pounds-feet of torque.

The power flows through an automatic eight-speed transmission into, in the case of the AWD tester, the Dynamic Torque Control all-wheel-drive system which works to actively distribute torque between the front and rear axles, as well as the two rear wheels. It uses an electromagnetic coupling ahead of the rear differential to engage or disengage the rear wheels as needed — the result is improved traction and enhanced driving stability.

The various powertrain computers and sensors allow for selectable drive modes (sport, eco, normal) while Multi-Terrain Select with three additional modes (mud & sand, rock & dirt, snow) is part of the AWD system allowing for further customization to match the vehicle to road conditions.

The result of these components is a 4,575-pound SUV capable of accelerating from rest to 60 miles per hour in a quick seven seconds (according to both Car and Driver magazine and Toyota’s internal figures). And it was capable during my primarily around-town driving (average speed below 30 mph) of averaging 23.4 miles per gallon (compared to the federal Environmental Protection Agency rating of 22 mpg overall, 20 urban, 26 highway).

It is also capable of towing a 5,000-pound trailer.

A solid underpinning

The basic platform, TNGA-K in Toyota speak, underpins the Highlander as well as the new Grand version, featuring four-wheel independent suspension. The front includes MacPherson-type struts with a stabilizer bar, the rear a multi-link setup with a stabilizer bar.

The power-assisted anti-lock (ABS) equipped brake system features ventilated rotors front and rear. The fronts measure 13.38 inches in diameter, the rears 13.3. The parking brake is electronic.

The brakes live within 20-inch aluminum wheels wearing 255/55R20 all-season tires.

Latest Toyota ADAS, TSS 3.0, standard

Toyota calls its basic advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) Toyota Safety Sense (TSS) and the Grand Highlander features TSS 3.0, the latest version. This version’s enhancements include Pre-Collision with Pedestrian/Cyclist/Motorcyclist Detection; Lane-Departure Alert with Steering Assist; Full-Speed Range Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Lane-Tracing Assist (which works in conjunction with the cruise control and uses the lines on the road and/or preceding vehicles to provide active driving assistance and help keep the vehicle centered and in its lane).

An Emergency Driving Stop System has been added to Lane Tracing Assist. Its design helps detect a driver who is inattentive or non-responsive, such as during a medical emergency. This feature can bring the vehicle to a stop if the driver does not respond to alerts to take control.

In addition, TSS 3.0 adds Proactive Driving Assist which utilizes the Grand Highlander’s camera and radar to provide gentle braking into curves or gentle braking and/or steering to help support driving tasks such as distance control between a preceding vehicle, pedestrian or bicyclist.

Other ADAS include blind-spot monitor; front and rear parking assist with automated braking; rain-sensing wipers, and panoramic-view monitor.

Somewhere between ADAS and a convenience feature is the heads-up display, standard on the Platinum level Grand Highlander.

The ADAS works, at least the Lane Departure with Steering Assist, as the Grand Highlander gently brought me back into the driving lane if I let the SUV drift onto or over a lane stripe.

Comprehensive technology, amenities and conveniences inside

Apropos of the Platinum top-of-the range position, the test vehicle was filled with a luxury vehicle’s roster of technology, amenities and convenience features.

Leather adorns all seven (captains chairs in the second row) seating positions with the first and second rows heated and ventilated while the first has power adjustment. Speaking of heating and cooling, an automatic three-zone climate-control system manages the overall environment.

Front and center at the at the top center of the dash is the 12.3-inch color touchscreen, the heart of the Toyota Audio Multimedia infotainment system with navigation. Sound is courtesy of the 11-speaker JBL audio system. Further infotainment enhancements include wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and Sirius XM satellite radio.

All the seating positions are an arm’s length away from a USB-C port to power a mobile device or those in the front can recharge using a wireless platform.

And letting the sunshine – or moonlight – in is the panoramic moonroof.

Another superb Toyota SUV

All these pieces add up to a three-row SUV which is comfortable to drive and in which to be driven. Its size and weight mean the Grand Highlander is no sports car, but it is not a ponderous road beast. I never felt like it was difficult to maneuver through the tight streets of Cape Cod towns and villages, nor was twisting bay-side roads a challenge in my aggressive style. And thanks to the various ADAS, parking was not difficult, much easier than the larger SUVs and pickup trucks.

As impressive as the hardware and vehicle-systems were, the Grand Highlander AWD Platinum’s pricing made just as positive an impression. The overall Grand Highlander ICE range starts at $43,070 for a front-wheel-drive XLE version, building up in four steps to the fully equipped Platinum like I drove for a VERY competitive $53,545 (the as-tested price of $55,298 includes $358 for the carpeted floor mats and $1,395 for delivery, processing and handling).

Toyota now offers 13 different SUVs/CUVs, all offering an electrified version (either hybrid, plug-in hybrid or full battery electric). When it comes to anyone in need of a three-row SUV, if pickup-based Sequoia is just too big and the popular Highlander not quite large enough, like momma’s chair in the Three Bears fairy tale, the new 2024 Grand Highlander might be perfect.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.