Toyota has revealed a somewhat larger, more passenger-friendly version of its three-row Highlander, called Grand Highlander.
Simply put, the Grand Highlander offers a similar look and packaging to the Highlander, and the same eight-passenger capacity, but with a more upright design in back—plus what appears to be a little added wheelbase and length.
The sacrifice? Hybrid versions of the Grand Highlander are expected to check in at 34 mpg—versus 36 mpg for Highlander models. You might also be hauling around a little more weight, and it might be a little harder to park. But compared to the Ford Explorer Hybrid or Kia Sorento Hybrid, the Grand Highlander looks like more space per mpg.
That’s all ahead of the expected arrival of a Highlander Prime plug-in hybrid, to follow on the success of the standout RAV4 Prime.
Hybrid options to the Max
For now, Toyota says that the Grand Highlander will be offered with a choice of three different powertrains, all with an internal-combustion engine under the hood: a 2.4-liter turbo-4 with front- or all-wheel drive; a 2.5-liter inline-4 with front- or all-wheel drive, as part of Toyota’s well-established planetary hybrid system (and the pick for that 34-mpg efficiency); and Toyota’s new Hybrid Max system, offered only with all-wheel drive.
The second hybrid option Toyota describes as “performance-seeking,” with 362 horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque. Toyota says that with this powertrain, which we interpret like the Toyota Crown Max to use a motor-equipped automatic transmission in front and a separate motor for the rear wheels, the Grand Highlander can accelerate to 60 mph in 6.3 seconds, and it offers a towing capacity of up to 5,000 pounds.
The Grand Highlander was designed at the company’s Calty Design Studios, which are split between California and Michigan, and it’s due to be made alongside the Highlander in Princeton, Indiana.
It’s built on the same underpinnings as the Highlander, and the designs of the two models are close companions, although it appears to be stretched slightly in wheelbase as well as overall length. Strangely—and perhaps underscoring how trivial dimensional differences might be—Toyota didn’t reveal how much.
No hurry to point out what makes it Grand
To provide clues, Toyota lists a total of about 98 cubic feet of cargo space with both rear rows folded down, versus 84.3 cubic feet with the standard Highlander. It also describes the model as having “a spacious adult-sized third row.” Toyota hasn’t yet said whether second-row seating has been redesigned to accommodate easier access to the third row, but it appears that the door cut is different and that would certainly help.
The Grand Highlander will be offered in XLE, Limited, and Platinum grades. XLE versions include roof rails, heated mirrors, a power driver’s seat, a power tailgate, heated front seats, a wireless device charger, and a digital key system. Limited models step up to leather upholstery, LED fog lamps, heated second-row seats, a heated steering wheel, parking sensors, ambient lighting, 20-inch alloys, and a 1,500-watt (in hybrids) power outlet, plus the digital gauge cluster. Top Platinum grades get heated and cooled second-row seats, a panoramic sunroof, a head-up display, digital rearview mirror, and a multi-terrain selector in some versions.
Toyota is also wrapping in cloud-based navigation, agent-assisted destination services, and other connected features by subscription. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is included, as is HD Radio, a three-month SiriusXM satellite radio trial, and a one-month trial of the system’s 4G wifi hotspot capability. Limited and Platinum models include 11-speaker JBL audio.
Leather-trimmed seats are available on the Limited and Platinum Grand Highlander, and Hybrid Max versions specifically will get bronze-accented seats trimmed in leather and faux suede.
The Hybrid Max version also, according to Toyota, has “an available dual exhaust.”
Little difference, but a refresh throughout
You have to pretty much hold the two models up next to each other in photos to see the difference. Versus the Highlander, the Grand Highlander has an extended, more formal roofline, as well as smoother, less curvaceous rear flanks that may result in significantly more third-row space.
Inside, the Grand Highlander shows off a refresh that’s not radically different but both functionally and aesthetically better. The center console appears reshaped and redesigned, with a different vent design, new door trim, and that new gauge display. Passengers in the third row may see the most difference, of course.
Toyota says that the Grand Highlander—and, we would assume, the 2024 Highlander—adopts Toyota’s full Safety System 3.0 suite, which includes full-speed adaptive cruise control, bicyclist and pedestrian recognition for its automatic emergency braking, road-sign recognition, and an active lane control system that studies vehicles in adjacent lanes.
Pricing and an on-sale date will be announced for the Grand Highlander later this summer, so to speculate, expect it this fall. By then, expect more details about exactly how much bigger the Grand is and why you should want it.
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