Toyota Grand Highlander Luxury 3 Row SUV: Bigger, More Spacious and … More Powerful Hybrid!

Toyota Grand Highlander Featured Image

The big news: space and luxury are standard.

It’s the holy grail of American cars: It carries everyone and everything, uses very little gas, is filled with luxury finishes and features, is fun to drive, and looks good doing all that. 

That’s the space that the Toyota Grand Highlander fills, and it’s going to have luxury car shoppers (I’m looking at you, Lexus) turning their heads at the Platinum AWD edition.

We got a sneak peek of the Grand Highlander – which will hit dealerships this summer, and no, pricing isn’t yet available – when it made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show.

It comes with some really great luxuries as standard equipment and offers all wheel drive with off road settings (and, ostensibly, capability) as well as front wheel drive for those who will never need AWD. There are two different hybrid options, one designed to be faster and more fun, producing 362 horsepower. It has theater-style seating for 7 or 8 with plenty of head and leg room for all. A panoramic sunroof is available on all models and standard on the Platinum edition. And at the basic level there are conveniences for all passengers such as USB ports for almost every seat, large cup holders and lots of cubbies to hold stuff.

Related: 2021 Toyota Highlander Hybrid: This Transformer Can Do It All For A Reasonable Price

The Third Row Photo Toyota

The third row in the Toyota Grand Highlander. Photo: Toyota

Longer and Taller = More Interior Space

The big news here is the size of this SUV: it’s 6” longer and 2” taller than the Highlander. This increases the cargo space behind the third row to 20 cubic feet from 16 and overall, to 97.5 cubic feet with all the seats down. And, there is more center and third row leg room; the third row has 33.5” of leg room, which is 2” more than a standard airplane seat. 

The third row isn’t just wider, it’s also taller; seats sit higher from the floor so passengers can sit with a more natural posture. Still, there’s plenty of headroom and visibility is good. All that matters to anyone in the third row.

Related: My Whirlwind Romance With the 2023 Toyota Sequoia TRD Pro

The Command Center

The command center features a wireless phone charge pad, 3 large cup holders and drive mode functions. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Even More Hybrid Options in the Grand Highlander

Toyota has always been ahead of the game when it comes to fuel efficient SUVs, but buyers who want a hybrid and need a 3rd row have more choices than they did a few years ago.

To stay ahead of that curve, the Grand Highlander delivers two hybrid choices — a 4 cylinder hybrid that has essentially the same engine and hybrid system in the Highlander and estimated to get 34 MPG; and a Hybrid Max system with more power (362 horsepower) and fuel economy yet to be announced. And for those who just want the car and are not as concerned about fuel efficiency, there’s a 4 cylinder turbo, also the same engine that’s found in the Highlander non-hybrid models.

All Grand Highlander models have three drive modes — sport, eco, and normal, so you can pick your efficiency. And there are off road modes — mud & sand, rock & dirt and snow — in the non-hybrid AWD and Hybrid Max models.

Related: I’m Now A Hybrid Fan, Thanks to the 2022 Toyota Venza Limited Hybrid SUV

The Front Seat Photo Toyota

The front seat of the Grand Highlander. Photo: Toyota

Highlander vs Grand Highlander: From Really Good to Great

As a long time Toyota Highlander driver, I can attest: I LOVE the fuel economy in this 3 row SUV, which sits at an admirable 35-ish MPG even when every seat is full and you’re late for school. 

But, there are compromises. Your son turns 14 and shoots to 6’2” and is uncomfortable in the third row even though that’s where he’d rather be. And climbing past your daughter’s car seat in the center row is tough, even with the seat pushed all the way back. It’s a constant puzzle to get everyone settled. Still, I always held on to my Highlander for the convenience of the third row when we needed it. 

Just like many SUV shoppers, I wanted more luxury: top features like head up display, pampering touches like supple leather with contrast stitching, and cutting edge technology such as wireless Apple CarPlay. Even with all the upgrades available on the Highlander, it was a difficult choice between it and the Infiniti QX60, Mazda CX-9 and Acura MDX. But the Highlander’s fuel economy — and the luxury of NOT going to the gas station so often— put Highlander solidly over the top. 

Luxe Details Include A Leather Covered Dashboard With A Usb Port For The Passenger

Luxe details include a leather covered dashboard with a USB port for the passenger. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Compromises You Won’t Have to Make in the Grand Highlander 

In addition to the extra space and great fuel efficient options, the Grand Highlander brings luxury to the XLE base model. This starts with standard features including:  

  • SofTex leather-like seating
  • Digital key phone app that functions as a key and is sharable
  • Wireless phone charging and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Toyota’s new 12” multimedia touchscreen system with “Hey Toyota” voice activated assistance
  • Heated front seats
  • Second row window sunshades 
  • 18” wheels
  • Enhanced Toyota Safety Sense driver assist and safety system, with enhanced features including with pre collision and pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, road sign assist, proactive driving assist — new, provides braking and speed adjustment on curves
Slide And Tilt Seats Allow Seats To Move With A Forward Facing Car Seat Installed

Slide and tilt seats allow seats to move with a forward facing car seat installed. Photo: Scotty Reiss

The Limited edition adds even more luxury features, including: 

  • Heated and vented leather seats
  • Heated second row seats
  • Household outlet 
  • Removable second row console between the captains chairs 
  • Digital drivers information screen
  • Puddle lights that illuminate the ground outside the doors when you unlock the car 
  • 19” wheels
The Panoramic Sunroof Is A Feature In The Platinum Edition

The panoramic sunroof is a luxe feature, optional in XLE and Limited, standard in the Platinum edition. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Platinum edition buyers will also get: 

  • Heated and vented second row seats
  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Paddle shifters 
  • Multi-terrain drive modes including sand, mud, snow and eco in the AWD 4 cylinder turbo and Hybrid Max models)
  • Head up display
  • Surround view camera system
  • Video rear view mirror
  • 20” wheels
The Center Row Has A Lot Of Leg And Head Room

The center row has a lot of leg and head room. Photo: Scotty Reiss

And Then, The Lovely Little Touches That Matter Most

I love this so much: there is more than one PtPYP — Place to Put Your Purse. First, the center arm rest has a retractable top and inside, there’s a huge well. It’s large enough to drop in a purse or backpack as long as it’ll fit through the opening. Then, there’s a small cubby on the passenger’s side that will fit a small cosmetic bag. And, there’s a cubby next to the phone charger that will fit that same cosmetic bag. Finally, there’s a shelf on the dashboard that will also fit a small cosmetic bag. 

The rear floor is not quite flat, but almost; the space in front of the middle seat or passthrough is slightly elevated and flat, so a handbag or backpack would rest comfortably there. And then, there are 7 USB ports, including two in the third row, one on the front dash next to the dash shelf, and two for the middle row. There is wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a wireless phone charge pad and digital phone-as-key accessible via a phone app. And did I mention the panoramic sun roof, an option on all models and standard on Platinum? That is a game changer for so many families.

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Carries A New Front Face

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander carries a new front face. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A New Look for Toyota 

The Grand Highlander presents a nice option between the Highlander and the Sequoia, offering more space and luxuries than the Highlander but in what should be an easier to drive and easier to park SUV. And, it stands out on its own with a distinct, more squarish front end and the Grand Highlander name spanning the tail gate. No doubt it’ll turn heads when it hits the streets this summer, both among luxury SUV shoppers and those seeing it drive by for the first time.

Hopping Into The Grand Highlander With Mike From Toyota

Hopping into the Grand Highlander with Mike from Toyota. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Disclosure: I was a guest of the Chicago Auto Show and Toyota for this preview; travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own. 

Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss