I don't have kids, but I can relate to parents eyeing the new Toyota Grand Highlander for its combination of interior space and versatility. In this business, we do all sorts of big tests, from multi-car comparisons to end-of-the-year blowouts. These exercises always require a support vehicle to haul people and things. The best support vehicles are very large and ask very little of their drivers.

Typically, the ideal support vehicle is a minivan. They’re great: comfortable haulers of people and things, with sliding doors and a low cargo floor that seem tailor made for capturing car-to-car photography. In a pinch, a big SUV will do the trick too.

You can see where this is going. Almost immediately upon getting in the new three-row Toyota Grand Highlander, I realized it'd make it an excellent support car. It's a big and usable rig that fades into the background on a journey, allowing its driver and occupants to focus on the journey at hand. Isn't that what a family vehicle is all about?

Quick Specs 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max
Engine Turbocharged 2.4-Liter Four-Cylinder
Output 365 Horsepower / 400 Pound-Feet
Cargo Capacity 20.6 / 57.9 / 97.5 Cubic Feet
Base Price $58,475
As-Tested Price $59,870

The Grand Highlander debuted last year to fill what seems like an incredibly small gap in Toyota’s lineup between the Highlander and Sequoia. It’s actually a savvy product, appealing to those who need lots of space, but don’t like the style of a minivan, and prefer unibody driving dynamics to ladder-frame SUVs like the Sequoia.

Unsurprisingly, the Grand Highlander's a hit. Toyota only began sales last June, but through December 2023, it moved more than 48,000 examples. Considering Toyota sold less than half that many Sequoias across the entirety of 2023, the Grand Highlander’s niche doesn’t seem so small.

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In today’s tech-for-tech’s-sake world, the Grand Highlander seems refreshing. The infotainment screen is big, but not comically so, and it's easy to use. There are physical climate controls with nice big knobs for temperature adjustment. The gauge cluster screen is a little baffling to configure at first, but once you figure it out, you set it and forget it. Other than that, there’s no learning curve to the Grand Highlander. 

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum
Pros: Big, Smooth And Powerful Hybrid Drivetrain, Unobtrusive Tech

It’s got tons of family-friendly features, too. There are USB charge ports everywhere, lots of storage, and a neat cup/phone holder that sits between the second row captain’s chairs that’s removable. So you can climb through to the third row, or clean it when your kid (or elder-millennial auto journalist) inevitably spills their drink. Six footers might not love the third row, but it’s big enough for anyone of shorter stature, and there’s decent cargo room with all chairs in place. Fold down the third row, and the rear is huge.

Our tester was a top-of-the-line Platinum edition with Toyota’s new Hybrid Max powertrain stickering for $59,870. The interior was trimmed with nice brown leather and Ultrasuede in a hue Toyota calls Portobello, and while I wouldn’t say it’s downright luxurious, it is nice. In other words, it’s not a Lexus, but doesn’t feel cheap either.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum

The Hybrid Max system is interesting. Whereas the long-running Toyota Hybrid System – available on lower Grand Highlander trims – eschews a traditional gearbox, Hybrid Max has an electric motor sandwiched between the engine and a six-speed automatic. Plus in all-wheel drive models like this, there’s an additional motor at the rear axle. It’s less efficient than the regular hybrid system, but Hybrid Max brings a lot of power and torque to the table, 362 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque.

On the road, the powertrain works excellently. There’s ample torque, and the handoff between electric and gas power feels seamless. The 2.4-liter turbo four-cylinder, shared with the new Tacoma among other models, sounds vaguely like a V-6, and while it’s not as smooth as musical as Toyota’s old 3.5-liter V-6, its got way more grunt. Especially when aided by the electric motors. If you come out of a full-size SUV with a V-8 into this, you won’t be disappointed. 

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum
Cons: Drives Big, Complicated Gauge Cluster, Four-Cylinder Not As Smooth As Old Toyota V6

The powertrain is definitely the highlight here. Otherwise, the Grand Highlander drives fine. It’s a big, heavy SUV, and it feels like every pound of its curb weight. There’s a lot of body roll and a good sense of heft under braking.

Ride quality is generally good, but certain bumps in the road reveal just how much work the suspension has to do to keep this big guy under control. It also leaves room for the Grand Highlander’s pricier sibling, the Lexus TX. A Mazda CX-90 may be a little sweeter to drive, but it’s also quite a bit less roomy inside, and I imagine that’ll sway a lot of three-row buyers towards the Toyota.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum

In any case, the Grand Highlander buyer is likely consumed by things in life beyond their car. They want something nice enough that swallows up lots of people and stuff. 

I’ve wanted the same thing. Try driving around three to six of your tired, peckish colleagues at the end of a 12-hour day. You just need a car to move stuff and get out of the way. The next time I’m on a big photoshoot, or find myself the father of three, I'll give this Toyota a try.  

Competitor Reviews

Toyota Highlander / Grand Highlander

Engine Turbocharged 2.4-Liter Four-Cylinder Hybrid
Output 362 Horsepower / 400 Pound-Feet
Transmission Six-Speed Automatic
Drive Type All-Wheel Drive
Weight 4,920 Pounds
Efficiency 26 City / 27 Highway / 27 Combined
Seating Capacity 7
Towing 5,000 Pounds (Max)
Cargo Volume 20.6 / 57.9 / 97.5 Cubic Feet
On Sale Now
Base Price $58,475
As-Tested Price $59,870
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