Car Buying Tips

2024 Toyota Highlander vs Toyota Grand Highlander: Which Is Right for You?

When dealing with all four Canadian driving seasons and loads of people and their gear, there's nothing like a family SUV with three rows of seats.

Thankfully, Toyota offers two similar but distinctive Highlander models for buyers looking for such a new vehicle. For more than 20 years, it’s been a popular choice for buyers looking for a functional, durable, and comfortable sport utility.

It is, however, a little short on space, which is where the Grand Highlander comes in. Riffing off the nameplate's hard-earned reputation, this bigger model is more than a stretched Highlander – it rides on a fresher unibody platform that’s closer in size to the truck-based Toyota Sequoia. Plus, it boasts distinctive exterior and interior styling, unique features, and a unique powertrain that isn’t offered under the hood of its namesake.

So which one to choose? Read on to discover which of these Toyota three-row SUVs is right for you.

Price

The 2024 Toyota Highlander starts at $46,790 for the eight-passenger base LE trim. That’s before tax and a non-negotiable $1,930 freight charge.

Standard features include a turbocharged 2.4L four-cylinder gas engine and eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive, an eight-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, and a robust safety suite that includes adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Meanwhile, the same trim with a gas-electric hybrid powertrain commands a $3,000 premium.

The XLE trim is also offered with the choice of gas-only or hybrid power, with the former starting at $49,650 and the latter $52,650. The hybrid version can also be brushed up with a blacked out Nightshade package for $1,570 more.

Opting for the gas-only Highlander XSE trim – at a price of $53,350 before freight and tax – adds a firmer suspension, twin-tip exhaust, and second-row captain chairs (taking the seating maximum down to seven), as well as other unique interior touches. Finally, the top Highlander Limited trim ($55,050 for the gas engine; $58,050 for the hybrid) adds goodies like an 11-speaker stereo, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, and 20-inch chrome wheels. That trim’s optional Platinum package goes for $2,320 when added to the gas version and $1,870 for the hybrid.

Like its XL size, the Grand Highlander's price tag is larger than its sibling’s – although it skips that model’s entry-level LE trim and jumps right to the XLE starting at $50,490 before freight and tax. Although the larger Grand Highlander uses the same gas-only drivetrain as the Highlander, there's more standard equipment: a 12.3-inch touchscreen, wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto and charging, power-adjustable and heated front seats, and a more comprehensive safety suite.

The $53,790 Grand Highlander Hybrid XLE also shares its gas-electric drivetrain with the smaller SUV. From there, there’s the Limited that starts at $57,945 for the gas version and $61,190 for the hybrid, while the top-of-the-line Platinum gets an exclusive – and more powerful – turbocharged hybrid powertrain for its $65,450 price tag.

Interior

While both SUVs offer three rows of seats, with room for seven or eight occupants, depending on configuration, the Grand Highlander lives up to its name with more interior space. A handy chart below outlines the size and space differences inside, but the simple matter is there’s more room for people and stuff in the Grand Highlander.

The newer of the two models also benefits from a fresher interior design and more technology. The older Highlander comes with an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen and a seven-inch instrument display, with an available 12.3-inch touchscreen and gauge display. However, the Grand Highlander's 12.3-inch touchscreen is standard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are found in both, with wireless connectivity mated with the larger screen and wireless charging optional in the Highlander but standard in the Grand Highlander. The Highlander has two fewer USB ports than the seven found in the Grand Highlander – plus the Grand has third-row ports, while its sibling doesn’t.

Performance and Efficiency

Producing 265 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, Toyota's turbocharged 2.4L four-cylinder gas engine is the base power unit for both SUVs. So it's no surprise that the estimated city and highway combined fuel economy is almost equal: 9.9 L/100 km for the Highlander, and either 10.0 or 10.7 for the gas-only Grand Highlander, depending on trim.

Sharing a 2.5L gas engine and electric power source, the hybrid models are nearly equal, too: 6.7 L/100 km for the Highlander and 7.0 for the Grand Highlander. Where they go their separate ways is with the latter’s third power plant: the turbo hybrid setup that generates 362 hp and 400 b-ft, with an 8.8 L/100 km fuel economy rating.

Despite the Hybrid Max’s extra power, it offers no advantage if you need to tow. Toyota quotes identical maximum towing capacities of 2,268 kg (5,000 lb) for the gas versions, and 1,588 kg (3,500 lb) for the hybrids.
Ride and Handling

Typical of many Toyota vehicles, the 2024 Highlander and the 2024 Grand Highlander are comfortable, refined, quiet, and capable family vehicles when the rubber hits the road. Standard all-wheel drive also adds confidence to deal with challenging Canadian roads and driving scenarios year-round. Depending on the trim level, the Grand Highlander carries about 200 kg (441 lb) more weight. Combined with its bigger dimensions, it can feel less agile by comparison, but it’s far from ungainly.

Safety

Both of these Toyotas come standard with a comprehensive range of driver assist and advanced safety technologies. These include adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and keeping assist, front automatic emergency braking, and automatic high-beam control.

However, the Highlander gets an older version of the Toyota Safety Sense suite. That means most systems in the Grand Highlander are improved and refined, specifically the blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Additionally, it has Proactive Driving Assist, which provides automated speed control based on traffic and road conditions ahead.

Final Thoughts

With room for plenty of people and their gear and the ability to handle unpredictable Canadian driving conditions, three-row SUVs like these Toyota siblings are popular choices for many reasons. If you want a slightly smaller footprint to negotiate tight driving situations, the venerable 2024 Toyota Highlander remains a very capable three-row SUV. However, if your budget can accommodate its higher pricing, the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander offers a roomier cabin, a high-output hybrid powertrain, and more of the latest in Toyota's extensive safety technologies, making it our pick as one of the segment’s very best.