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Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace.

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum Hybrid review

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum Hybrid right front
Mark Savage
Savage On Wheels
2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum Hybrid right front

Seemingly not all that long ago, comedian and wordsmith George Carlin created a hysterical bit about how all Your stuff was Stuff and how another person’s stuff, was well, junk by another expression.

Certainly, it seems we can’t get enough stuff and naturally all that needs to go with us on trips, along with our friends and family. The upshot is a preponderance of bigger and bigger vehicles, witness all the monster pickups and SUVs.

Last remake of Toyota’s mid-size Highlander SUV added a few inches and a third-row seat. But one would be hard put to slide more than baby seats and legless animals in row three. So, what next? Naturally Toyota goes bigger with its newest creation, the Grand Highlander.

Jeep started this Grand thing with SUVs in the 1980s with Grand Wagoneer, a bigger Wagoneer and then in the 1990s with Grand Cherokee, a bigger Cherokee. Now, Toyota usurps Grand for Highlander, and it is pretty grand in several ways.

First, the Grand Highlander is 6.5 inches longer than Highlander while riding on a wheelbase stretched 3.9 inches and a body taffy-pulled a full 2.3 inches wider. Most all of that stretching has gone into creating a useful and roomy third row seat, plus a mammoth cargo hold for all Your Stuff.

With both rear row seats down the Grand Highlander’s tail holds 97.5 cubic feet of stuff, and even with all three rows in place, it snuggles 20.6 cubic feet of belongings. That first number is more than 10 cubic feet better than last week’s pricier and larger Toyota Sequoia, the second figure a bit less. But at least the Grand Highlander’s floor is flat for easy cargo carrying.

Sequoia is more for off-roading while the Grand Highlander is decidedly more refined and people friendly, including a gaggle of USB and other electronic hookups in all three rows. Wisely, all are raised above cupholders and such so there’ll be less tangling of cables.

But let’s consider its roadworthiness first.

The tested handsome dark blue-gray (Storm Cloud) Platinum Hybrid version was the absolute top of the line packing Toyota’s relatively new Max Hybrid powertrain to increase oomph while moderating gas consumption and pollution. This system mates a 2.4-liter turbo I4 with an electronic motor to generate 362 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque.

Hard to imagine big SUVs as being quick, but this one is pretty peppy while putting the power to all four wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission that feels luxury smooth.

Go for a lower level hybrid GH and you’ll still have good power from its 2.5-liter turbo I4 and hybrid system that makes 245 horsepower. Those preferring gas-only power can choose a 2.4-liter turbo I4 making 265 horsepower. So many choices and pricing is fairly close on all these. More on that in a bit.

Steering, as with the regular length Highlander, is light and easy. Some reviewers say it’s too light, but not in my book. It’s comfortable for short or longer drives and that lighter feel makes it easy to slip into a parking spot.

Both that feeling and the ride, which is pretty well controlled but still allows for a few bumps and jiggles, reminds of a minivan. There’s a bit of a hollow road roar inside at higher speeds or on snow (plenty during the test). Load a few more people in the SUV and it quiets down. Also closing the sunroof’s power sun shade helps tamp down the sound levels.

Braking and the AWD traction are good. I appreciated the Snow setting button on the console that helped keep me from slip-sliding away down our icy suburban side street. Traction was also stellar when there were still a couple fresh inches of snow.

A dial allows a driver to also select Mud/Sand or Rock/Dirt traction settings if venturing off road. Likewise, there’s a Hill Descent button for creeping down steep inclines. Toyota also provides three drive modes, Eco, Normal and Sport to control acceleration aggressiveness.

I drove mostly in Normal mode and managed 23.5 mpg while the trip computer was registering a bit lower. The EPA rates this at 26 mpg city and 27 highway as the hybrid system helps pump up the electric power for initial acceleration, allowing the gas engine to do the work when it’s most efficient.

By comparison, the recently tested Sequoia, which also weighs 1,200 pounds more as it’s based on the Tundra pickup chassis, got just 13.4 in snow and frigid cold. It’s rated 19/22 with a mild hybrid system.

Inside, the tested Platinum edition is luxury leaning in look and feel. This one featured a black over brown leather interior with brown perforated well-shaped seats, powered of course, and with two memory settings for the driver’s seat.

The dash trim was black fake carbon fiber with an unusual gold trim around the air vents, console and steering wheel controls. Unusual!

Platinum editions come with Toyota’s 12-inch driver gauge display, plus a 12-inch info screen that is incredibly simple to use. The base XLE models come with a 7-inch gauge pod. This trim also features an 11-speaker JBL sound system. Some fancy vehicles are now packing up to 23 speakers, which seems like overkill, but a way to justify a higher price.

I mean we can all only hear with two ears, right?

The seats are heated and cooled in both the front and middle rows and the Platinum includes captain’s chairs for the middle row, meaning seven folks will fit in this model. Lower trims with a middle bench will seat eight.

Flip a lever on the second row seat’s back and it’ll slide forward for easy access to row three. But it took me a bit to find the lower seat lever at its front corner to move the seat back and forth. Even with the seat back to the max, I had legroom in row three. And if middle-row folks are shorter, the seats can move forward to allow even more spacious third row accommodations.

All seats are manually lowered, so no power buttons inside the rear hatch, but the seats flip forward easily and the hatch is powered.

Other pluses include Toyota’s Safety Sense 3.0 with smart cruise and all the various warnings and alerts one expects. There’s also a 360-degree camera for better visibility when parking or backing.

One bit of the safety system can become annoying, the overly sensitive driver alertness warning. It does not like a driver wearing sunglasses, beeping more when I had those on. I figured it couldn’t see my eyes. It would be best if this system could just be engaged only during highway driving to avoid a driver dozing at the wheel. It’s not needed in city driving.

There’s also the panoramic sunroof and power shade overhead, a digital camera rearview mirror, a wireless phone charger in the console’s front bin, and this one added a dash cam for $499, although that seems superfluous.

Other add-ons where door edge guards, carpeted floor and trunk mats, puddle lights, mud guards and a tow hitch. Those only pushed the price up about $2 grand. The Platinum hybrid starts at the luxury leaning $59,520 including delivery, so this had a $61,705 out-the-door price.

Go for the base XLE trim, and you get a lot of goodies but pay less. Standard are heated power seats, the 12.3-inch info screen, power hatch, wireless phone charger and full safety suite for $46,065 for a front-drive hybrid model. Adding AWD raises that by $1,600, also on the Limited trim which starts at $52,455.

To get the higher-horse Max Hybrid model of the Limited bumps that to $55,435.

Remember there are gas-only models too, starting at XLE trim for $44,655 and has the 265-horse engine and a gas mileage rating of 21 mpg city and 28 highway. AWD is $1,600 extra.

All Platinum models, no matter the powerplant, come with AWD standard.

Key competitors are the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade, Mazda MX-90, Chevy Traverse, and Honda Pilot.

FAST STATS: 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Platinum Hybrid

Hits: Roomy people hauler with adult-friendly three-row seating, hybrid aids gas mileage, good power, ride, easy handling, and AWD. Big info screen, heated wheel and heat/cool front and rear seats, 360-degree camera, panoramic sunroof, wireless charging, power hatch, solid safety systems.

Misses: Super sensitive and annoying driver attention alert and price is now luxury level.

Made in: Princeton, Ind.

Engine: 2.4-liter turbo I4, 362 hp/400 torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 4,920 lbs.

Wheelbase: 116 in.

Length: 201.4 in.

Tow: 5,000 lbs.

MPG: 26/27

MPG: 23.5 (tested)

Base Price: $59,520 (includes delivery)

Invoice: $55,945

Major Options:

Logo side puddle lamps, $175

Dash cam, $499

Mudguards, $149

Door edge guards, $155

Tow hitch, $849

Carpeted floor/cargo mats, $350

Test vehicle: $61,705

Sources: Toyota, www.kbb.com

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is the former executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.
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