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Say hello to Highlander’s grander, more refined sibling.
Apr 1, 2024
Barry Spyker

Some day someone is bound to say, “Hey. Nice SUV. What is it?” Try to keep up here: This is the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max Platinum AWD. Might want to practice that before reciting it to neighbors. 

Here’s all you need to know: Toyota took the popular Highlander, expanded it by 6.5 inches so even adults can fit in the third row, introduced it as an all-new model and included a choice of hybrid powertrains for improved fuel economy. One of the hybrids aims for peak efficiency, the other — the Max — goes big on power and performance. 

Ok, that’s not all you need to know about this family hauler. It’s also among the best in its class on cargo space, has an upscale cabin and a list of tech goodies, especially in the top-tier Platinum trim. And, it’s assembled right here in Indiana.

Riding atop 20-inch two-tone alloy wheels, the boxy three-row SUV bears strong resemblance to its kin with a broad grille, fog lights and thin LEDs up front, but this one has a high spoiler and dual exhausts with prominent tips at the rear. 

Two hybrids cover four trim levels and the less expensive system gets the better fuel economy, but sacrifices power to do it. The higher-end Max Limited and Platinum get their power from a turbocharged 2.4-liter engine paired with two electric motors — one in front and one in the rear to accommodate all-wheel-drive. A non-hybrid version has the turbo four minus the electric.

Go for the Max hybrid and enjoy a combined output of 362 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, enough to haul up to 5,000 pounds. 

Doling out the power is a six-speed automatic geared for performance. The Hybrid Max jumps off the line quickly and runs to 60 mph in 5.6 seconds. That tops both the standard hybrid at 7.5 seconds and the gas-engine model at 8.3.

Steering is responsive and the ride is mostly smooth and comfortable, but its 16.8-foot length does have its caveats. Handling suffers some with body roll on corners, and the ride is a bit firm

(no adaptive dampers here) so potholes and speed bumps will not go unnoticed. The electric all-wheel-drive system offers good grip in the turns, though.

Drive modes include Normal, Eco and Sport, the last one providing sharper acceleration. When leaving the paved roads, it tackles trails with four multi-terrain modes that regulate wheel spin for rougher conditions like Snow, Mud & Sand, and Rock & Dirt.

As aforementioned, the less-powerful hybrid gets the better fuel economy with mpg numbers in the mid-30s, but the Maxes do ok for themselves with a combined city/highway figure of 27 mpg.

Inside, the Max Platinum cabin is grand with a sophisticated look and exceptional space for passengers and cargo. Little cubbies are plentiful, as are cup holders (13!). 

Front seats are trimmed in leather, heated and ventilated, supportive and comfortable. They have more legroom than the standard Highlander, 10-way power and lumbar adjustments. The third row has unusual legroom — Toyota claims 33 inches plus an extra inch of headroom. 

The cabin can accommodate as many as eight if you opt for a second-row bench. Captain’s chairs are better for comfort with good shoulder and leg room. Manual sunshades make napping easier, and the second row has USB-C ports and its own climate vents.

The cargo hold in the Grand grows from 16 to 20.6 cubic feet behind the third row. Folding the third row opens 58 cubic feet, and dropping both rows delivers 98 cubes — 13 more than the regular Highlander. These are all impressive figures in the world of hybrid SUVs. 

There’s a 1,500-watt outlet back there for camping and tailgating, and the automatic lift back has a hands-free swipe for easy access.

A 12.3-inch multimedia touchscreen offers crisp graphics and the system is user-friendly. It includes wireless connection for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Amazon Alexa, and it has a wireless charging pad, Bluetooth and a Wi-Fi hotspot.

A second 12.3-inch screen manages the digital gauge display, while a color head-up display brings at-a-glance data on the windshield. Other upscale Platinum features include an 11-speaker JBL audio system, ambient lighting, power-folding mirrors and puddle lamps at the door sills. A digital rear-view mirror offers unobstructed views.

Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 comes standard and offers adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane-keep assist, traffic-sign alert, and front and rear parking assist. The Platinum also has a hands-free driving system, called Traffic Jam Assist, which handles the chore of negotiating traffic under 25 mph. Another feature adds extra braking when needed around curves.

Beyond the longer name, the Grand Highlander Max Platinum costs a bit more than some attractive rivals from Jeep, Kia, Honda and Mazda. But its strong hybrid powertrain, refined and capacious interior keep it worthy of consideration.

And, hey, it’s made right here in Indiana. 

Barry Spyker was the automotive editor and columnist for the Miami Herald


2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Max Platinum

MSRP: $58,483 (Platinum trim includes 20-inch wheels, special carpeted mats at $358, panoramic sunroof, ventilated second-row seats, color head-up display, digital rear mirror, 360-degree parking cameras, Traffic Jam Assist)

What’s all the excitement about? Highlander gets longer and grander with unusual third-row space for six-footers, and it’s near tops in cargo space, too

Powertrain: Max Platinum gets turbocharged 2.4-liter engine and electric motors in front and rear; Combined power is 362 hp and 400 pound-feet of torque; Mated to six-speed transmission

How’s the performance? Mostly smooth and comfortable, responsive steering and modest handling; Brisk enough with 0-60 mph at 5.6 seconds

Fuel economy: EPA-estimates 26 mpg city, 27 highway

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