Two Toyota Highlander Options: Familiar vs Fresh

April 21st, 2023 by

A silver 2023 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Bronze Edition, a popular Toyota Highlander for sale near Tuckahoe, VA, is shown in a lobby.

One of Toyota’s top-selling SUV models is the Highlander, and it performs as well as it does thanks to its flexible interior, generous powertrains, and affordable price point. It checks the boxes for a wide range of consumers by offering efficient yet powerful engine options and a solid history of reliability. Drawing people in with a timeless aesthetic that stays relevant for years, the overall design of the Highlander reflects Toyota’s commitment to quality exteriors and interiors alike. Regardless of whether you’ve driven a Highlander before, it has a distinctly familiar feel and welcoming presence.

Are you due for a new vehicle and unsure which direction to go? The Highlander presents an excellent opportunity to get behind the wheel of a high-class SUV that will meet your criteria. But that begs the question: which exact model should you buy? As we round the corner into the summer of 2023, automakers have released both the 2023 and 2024 renditions of their lineups—and this means big changes for the Highlander. For 2024, Toyota is releasing a Grand Highlander, a spin-off that salutes the already-successful Highlander. So when you’re shopping for a Toyota Highlander for sale near Tuckahoe, VA, which should you choose? Let’s explore the long-running Highlander and the brand-new Grand Highlander and see what makes them stand apart.

Introducing the Grand Highlander

This year marks the debut of the first-ever Grand Highlander. The midsize SUV was born of a need for an SUV in this class that prioritizes comfort in the third row while simultaneously treating fuel efficiency as a top priority. In fact, the Grand Highlander features a third row that’s so large and thoughtfully designed that it can comfortably accommodate three adults. Group Vice President of Toyota Marketing, Lisa Materazzo says, “This three-row model takes the Highlander legacy to an entirely new space while also keeping on our promise to deliver on electrification. Highlander was the first model in its segment to offer a hybrid powertrain in 2006, and Grand Highlander further expands on our electrification leadership.”

The Grand Highlander can comfortably seat up to eight passengers and grants third-row passengers access to features they’ve historically been denied by other vehicles in its class. Those features include individual USB ports, small storage spaces for belongings, and cup and bottle holders, for a total of 13 cup holders throughout the interior and seven USB-C charging ports. The total cargo space measures 98 cu.ft. when you fold down the seats. Furthermore, the Grand Highlander can tow up to 5,000 lbs. It will be released with seven trim levels to choose from, including the XLE, Limited, XLE Hybrid, Limited Hybrid, Platinum, Limited Hybrid Max, and Platinum Hybrid Max.

A grey 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander is shown near a lake and a family.

Side By Side: Powertrains

Both the 2023 Highlander and the 2024 Grand Highlander are designed in congruence with Toyota’s mission to move towards more efficient and electrified powertrains in their lineup. As a brand, Toyota is an industry leader in popularizing hybrid technology and blending it with exciting performance. Who says efficiency has to be bland? Both SUVs offer platforms of gas-powered and hybrid engines that earn top ratings from the EPA and save drivers from pain at the pump.

For the 2023 Toyota Highlander, customers have a choice of hybrid and non-hybrid powertrains. The standard setup is a 2.4L turbocharged four-cylinder that delivers 265 hp. This turbocharged configuration replaces the last model’s V6 while offering an improved 309 lb-ft of torque. Or, you can opt for the hybrid 2.5L four-cylinder that works alongside two electric motors for an output of 243 hp. The base gas engine pairs with an eight-speed automatic transmission, while the hybrid works on a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), and both come with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive and handle exquisitely, whether you’re driving within city limits or off-roading.

As for the 2024 Grand Highlander, there are three available powertrains for this all-new SUV. The base powertrain features a 2.4L turbocharged four-cylinder engine with an output of 265 hp. The second available powertrain is a 2.5L hybrid four-cylinder with two electric motors that delivers 243 hp. This variation is the same platform used by the 2023 Highlander Hybrid. Finally, the fastest available powertrain is the Hybrid Max. Equipped with a turbocharged 2.4L and an electric motor, the Hybrid Max delivers a thrilling 362 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. This powertrain is capable of going from zero to sixty in just 6.3 seconds. As the most powerful midsize SUV Toyota has ever built, the Hybrid Max is in a league of its own.

Every Grand Highlander has the option to pair with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Plus, all three come with selectable Drive Modes that allow you to select for maximum efficiency, maximum performance, or the perfect blend of both; respectively, these Drive Modes are Eco, Sport, and Normal. There is also an option for Multi-Terrain Select to adjust your Grand Highlander for mud, sand, rock, dirt, or snow.

Side By Side: Interiors

Since the Grand Highlander is a spin-off of the Highlander, it’s no surprise that these two vehicles offer similar interiors. Each design is focused on comfort and convenience, with the base models offering a more simple layout and the higher-end trims offering more luxurious touches.

The 2023 Highlander offers a similar, albeit slightly smaller, cabin that has a third row of seating and room for up to eight. If that’s more seating than you need, a seven-passenger setup is available with captain’s chairs instead of a second row. It offers upscale touches like a 12.3-inch fully digital gauge cluster on the Limited and Platinum trims; this displays helpful information like turn-by-turn directions, safety information, and alerts. There is also available Qi-compatible wireless smartphone charging so you can ditch the cords; other available deluxe features include heated and ventilated seats and a panoramic moonroof.

When we explore the interior of the 2024 Grand Highlander, it’s obvious that comfort is a major priority. With the total interior space measuring 153 cu.ft., you have plenty of space to spread out and bring all your belongings on any journey. The second row gets its own air conditioning control panel, separate USB ports for charging devices, a smartphone storage slot, and a multi-purpose tray. There is connectivity for two Bluetooth devices and standard wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Want to stay connected on the go? Available 4G WiFi makes it easier than ever and can support up to five devices simultaneously. Interior materials will depend on the trim level; however, the standard soft-padded instrument panel is refreshing and can be paired with wood-effect ornamentation that blends with the materials on the door trim. The Grand Highlander is a perfect blend of cozy and modern, all wrapped into one.

An architect is shown loading gear into a grey 2023 Toyota Highlander Platinum.

So, Which to Choose?

The similarities between the 2023 Highlander and the 2024 Grand Highlander are staggering, which makes sense since they’re basically cousins. Toyota includes many similar safety and entertainment features on both. However, the Grand Highlander offers more hybrid powertrain options, while the Highlander offers several more trim options for customizing, in addition to a hybrid variant available for only a little extra. They both have a third row, but the Grand Highlander offers a touch more space, making it more suitable for adult passengers. The Highlander offers drivers more familiarity, while the Grand Highlander is a totally new endeavor. Whichever you find yourself leaning towards, you’ll be blown away by Toyota’s reliability and versatility. Happy hunting.