2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid MAX Review, it delivers a knockout punch
The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid MAX enters the 3-Row ring up against some very stiff competition in the shape of the Kia Telluride and the Hyundai Palisade, but things look quite promising after glancing at the spec sheet, and it’s obvious the Korean SUVs are in for a tough time.
First off it’s a completely new vehicle that is not just a stretched Highlander, in fact, it’s considerably larger in every other dimension too. It fits into the Toyota lineup between the standard Highlander which is too small to be a three-row and the larger Sequoia.
The Grand Highlander is not the best-looking SUV in the class, the proportions are slightly odd and there’s a lot of car fore and aft of the wheels, especially at the front. It does have the Toyota huge front grille and I’ll be honest it’s hard to tell it from the Highlander in your rearview mirror. I would recommend getting bigger wheels and tires since the standard 18-inch ones barely fill out the wheel wells. Luckily my tester which was a Limited trim had 20-inch multi-spoke wheels and 255/55 all-season tires.
It does look very much like the Highlander, only bigger, the Grand Higlander’s 116.1-inch wheelbase is 3.9 inches longer than the Highlander’s and it’s also 4.0 inches longer overall than the longest Highlander XSE. It’s also 2.3 inches wider and stands 2.0 inches taller. Having said that it is still smaller than a Sequoia because its overall length is 6.7 inches less, the roof is 4.4 inches lower, and the body is 1.3 inches narrower. Weirdly though it has more cargo space than its Sequoia sibling.
Under the hood
Let’s talk about this Hybrid MAX limited version first because it’s the most powerful and we like power.
It combines the base 265-hp turbo four with a single electric motor sandwiched between its engine and transmission, which has six speeds instead of the eight offered in the other powertrains because the electric motor’s added torque doesn’t need so many ratios. There’s a second motor at the rear providing the AWD so combined you get 362 horsepower and a massive 400 pound-feet of torque, which is more than the Jeep Grand Cherokee L’s 5.7-liter Hemi V-8.
Fuel economy is an estimated 27 mpg combined with a light right foot, but if you mash the throttle it will get from 0-60 mph in 5.6 seconds accompanied by chuckling and grinning.
If you don’t need quite so much power there’s the base turbocharged 2.4-liter inline-four which is good for 265 horsepower and 310 pound-feet of torque, or the standard hybrid with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine that makes 187 horses and 177 pound-feet on its own, and when you add the electric motors you get a combined 245 horsepower.
Equipped with the Hybrid Max powertrain the Grand Highlander is surprisingly fast, feeling quicker than the Tundra TRD PRO with the larger 6-cylinder MAX engine. Mash the throttle at any speed, the front end lifts and you pile on speed like no other 5,000 lb four-cylinder car has ever done.
The transmission offers three on-road driving modes, ECO, Normal, and Sport the latter offering a decent level of back road prowess. Yes, there is still body roll in this setting but the car feels planted, and if you opt for a slow-in-fast-out style you really get the feeling that this car can hustle.
Steering is a bit of a letdown considering the level of power it has, I wasn’t expecting Alfa Romeo Stelvio precision but a bit more feel would be nice. The brakes do require a fairly hard push to get the initial bite and it took me a while to get used to the pedal feel but they are reassuring and powerful when needed.
Since it had all-wheel drive we had to take it off-road and headed out to our usual course for some mild dirt trails and inclines. The suspension does iron out all but the worst swash board surfaces and the light steering effort is much more appreciated here. We were a little worried about the first small hill we tackled since it crests quite sharply and the GH has a longer wheelbase. No need to worry though. it powered up with no problem, the AWD system provided power to the wheels that needed it and cut power to any wheel that slipped.
We tried a second more rocky hill going downhill this time so we were able to test both the Hill Descent Control and the Rock/Dirt mode and the GH didn’t put a tire wrong.
It’s huge inside and the overall packaging is excellent with a multitude of storage spaces and cubbies. The cubby at the bottom of the center stack on the passenger side is great for small items and the front passenger shelf, now with its own USB-C port is genius. I really like the center console cubby in the armrest which allows you to leave it open but still gives you somewhere to rest your arm.
It’s spacious too, if you stick your arm in it feels like it goes into the bowels of the earth with an added shelf that is removable and can slide back and forth.
You get a pair of 12.3-inch displays one ahead of the driver the other is the infotainment touchscreen which runs Toyota’s latest software and for the most part is fast and easy to use. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard and the optional 360-degree camera is perfect especially off-road.
In total, there are seven USB-C ports and two 120-volt outlets as standard on the Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Limited as well as 13 cupholders, which seems a lot since there are only seven seats.
Second-row passengers get captain’s chairs with their own HVAC controls and tablet cubbies in the removable center console between two chairs. In the third row, you get a lot more legroom and headroom and the outboard passengers get USB-C ports, vents, and lights.
Overall the interior is solid effort although the front seats need more lateral and thigh support, especially in the Hybrid MAX model, and the interior in my Limited tester was all black and somewhat dour.
You get 21 cubic feet of luggage space behind the third row, 58 cubic feet behind the middle row, and a huge 98 cubic feet behind the front seats, which is more than the Sequoia’s 49 and 87 cubic feet respectively efforts and adding more insult to the competition it’s 10 cubic feet bigger than them.
Safety Sense 3.0 is standard across all trims, and that includes a pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, full-speed adaptive cruise control, lane-tracing, and road-sign assist. Opt for the Platinum model and you get a traffic jam assist function, which brings the Grand Highlander all the way down to zero in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Estimated pricing since this is a pre-production vehicle is $54,040 and this one has about $2,400 of options including a Panoramic Rear-View Monitor with 360 overhead cam view, and a Panoramic Roof taking the price including destination to $57,750.
So, is the Hybrid Max 2024 Grand Highlander better than the Telluride, well it depends, the Grand Highlander is quicker, (With the MAX Hybrid). With either of the hybrid powertrains, it returns better fuel economy and with one or both rear rows folded, the Toyota SUV has more cargo space.
The Kia has a slightly more premium feel inside, but that MAX powertrain seals it for me.
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid MAX numbers
ESTIMATED BASE PRICE: $54,040
ESTIMATED PRICE AS TESTED: $57,750
VEHICLE LAYOUT: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive, 7 passenger, 4-door SUV
ENGINE: 2.4 liter turbocharged four plus two electric motors
COMBINED POWER: 362 hp
COMBINED TORQUE: 400 ft-lbs
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
0-60 MPH: 5.6 seconds
CURB WEIGHT: 4,985 lb
CARGO VOLUME: 21 ft3 behind 3rd row, 58 ft3 behind 2nd row, 98 ft3 all seats folded
FUEL ECONOMY Combined/city/highway: 27/26/27 mpg
OUR OBSERVED: 19.7 mpg
PROS: Wildly quick, smooth ride, cavernous inside
CONS: Imprecise steering, not much grip