Toyota's New Grand Highlander SUV Is A Family Car With The Extra Room You Need

Just in time for the Chicago Motor Show, Toyota has debuted its new Grand Highlander — the mid-sized SUV with optional hybrid drivetrain that the Aichi-based automaker intends to challenge school-run stalwarts like the Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.

In addition to the attention-grabbing hybrid powertrain, Toyota makes serious claims about passenger comfort and convenience within the mid-sized body plan. According to the press release, Lisa Matarazzo, group vice president of Toyota Marketing, said, "There is definitely a need in the market for a midsize-SUV that prioritizes interior comfort in all three rows and Grand Highlander is the ultimate option."

Built on the bones of the Toyota Highlander, which Kelley Blue Book ranks among the top five SUVs available in America, the goal of the Grand Highlander seems to be to deliver fuller features and an easier, more comfortable driving experience while keeping size and attendant costs under control. Whether they've succeeded or not will come down to the statistics.

Biggest little SUV on the market

The Grand Highlander will hit market with three basic build levels: a 2.4L turbo gas engine, a 2.5L hybrid boasting an estimated 34 mpg, and the attention-grabbing performance Hybrid Max, which will deliver an impressive 362 horsepower.

Reflective of Toyota's ongoing commitment to reducing its carbon footprint, despite the company's documented struggles to bring a fully electric vehicle to market, the Grand Highlander will join the 2024 Prius as a "Beyond Zero" design. Per Toyota Global, Beyond Zero is a strategy in which Toyota is exploring solar, hydrogen, plug-in electric, and other technologies that promise a long-term positive impact on the environment.

In addition to wanting to protect the planet, Toyota claims the Grand Highlander will deliver a top-level experience for drivers and passengers. The Grand Highlander was designed with a full adult-sized third row of seats, meant to increase comfort and adding cargo space. The standard Highlander onboard technology has also gotten an overhaul, delivering quality-of-life improvements like USB charging ports available in all three rows and a near-startling 13 cupholders.

Toyota's bet on the future

The Toyota Grand Highlander will be debuting several features intended to improve safety, convenience, and customer-centric customization. All three drive trains will be available in front-wheel or all-wheel-drive, and both the gas AWD and Hybrid Max models will offer three terrain modes (Mud & Sand, Rock & Dirt, Snow) for superior off-road handling. Adding to its off-road capability, the Hybrid MAX offers a 6.3 second zero to 60 and 5,000 pounds of towing potential.

Onboard electronics are also getting an overhaul. The Grand Highlander will come standard with a voice-activated assistant to control GPS, temperature, and other in-car settings, all without the driver letting go of the wheel. The SUV is also set up for Bluetooth and can function as an AT&T wireless hotspot. 

Toyota has not yet committed to a release date for the Grand Highlander. The company is due to release more information on the upcoming SUV by the summer of 2023.