God knows I’m a big proponent of the minivan. I’ve owned a few, though my rapidly-emptying nest no longer requires the flexible cargo area behind the seats that roughly resembles a small airport hangar. It’s hard to argue against the versatility of the big square box where stale french fries and the dreams of DINKs go to die.
But minivans have been in a massive decline ever since someone – that mythical someone – decided they were uncool. While I’ve never been accused of being anything remotely associated with cool, I do struggle to see where a slightly smaller box than the big square box of a minivan, caused by the lifted floor to accommodate the offroading that absolutely no first owner of a three-row crossover will ever do, is that much more hip. It is a large device meant for hauling families in comfort – that’s it.
Toyota soldiers on as one of the few remaining automakers still carrying the minivan torch, now as an all-hybrid lineup. But despite the sliding side doors that make a van better for careless tots and their parking lot exuberance, it remains a bit player compared to this 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max. Toyota seems to be swinging for the “ultimate family vehicle” fence here.
There’s a lot to grok on the nameplate, so let’s dive in. Grand Highlander, of course, is the extended-wheelbase (116.1 versus 112.2 inches) version of the incredibly popular Highlander. Hybrid, of course, sticks something resembling a Prius beneath said Grandness. The Max adds another wrinkle – turbocharging. Yep, a turbo atop a hybrid. This gives 362 total system horsepower on a Max, over the 245hp on the typical hybrid. A healthy 400 lb-ft of torque is on tap, giving the Hybrid Max a 5,000 towing capacity, versus 3,500 for the usual hybrid. And for those allergic to the CVT found on most hybrids, the Hybrid Max features a good old-fashioned six-speed automatic gearbox that shifts seamlessly.
It’s a heckuva package, showing 27 mpg in both my testing and on the window sticker. No matter how I drove – though, admittedly, I didn’t manage to fit in either a triple-digit-speed highway cruise nor a towing session in my week with the Grand Highlander Hybrid Max – the fuel efficiency remained rock steady. The standard hybrid, with CVT and sans turbo, can manage around 33 mpg, give or take depending on front- or all-wheel drive configuration.
While my fingers are hovering around the top row of the keyboard, let’s discuss another number – that price. It’s incredibly hard for me, a kid who recalls walking into a Toyota dealership in 1990 before my mother drove away in a base-model Corolla for right around ten grand, imagine spending over sixty thousand dollars at a Toyota dealership unless the entire truckload of vehicles was included. Now, that Corolla had neither a right-side mirror or a clock, where this beast is loaded up with just about everything you could imagine from heated/cooled seats up front, heated seats in the middle row, wireless Apple CarPlay and wireless Android Auto, and a 12.3-inch touchscreen. Heck, I can’t even imagine what young Chris would have thought of an iPhone, let alone everything packed within a modern family car.
If you choose, you can get into a well-equipped Grand Highlander Hybrid (non-Max) for around $46K with front-wheel drive, or $48K with all four wheels driven. That’s right around the price of the average new vehicle selling price (gulp) so it’s reasonable, considering the market.
No matter the Grand Highlander Hybrid you pick, you’ll get something comfortable and roomy for six or seven that will last essentially forever. It rides well, drives benignly, and is easy to live with. If I’m picking nits, I’d argue that the touchscreen is maybe a bit far away from my reach, especially when trying to hit the “Now Playing” button at the top right of the screen when using Spotify with Apple CarPlay, but the distance makes for comfortable viewing. Everything works intuitively.
As a family vehicle, actually, one seeming downside to the Hybrid Max is the interior material. It appears that every Grand Highlander Hybrid Max is fitted with leather and UltraSuede seating. The leather is fine, but that UltraSuede tends to grab a bit more tenaciously to staining liquids and french fry grease. It might never be a problem – especially if the kids have aged out of baby bottles and juice boxes – but it’s something to consider. The standard hybrid models have either Toyota’s excellent SofTex material for the seats or solid leather.
Yeah, there are times – like the day I had to go bring home a new dishwasher since we couldn’t wait for delivery – when I miss my minivan. But I’ll grant that they aren’t for everyone, and those dishwasher install days are likely few and far between. Rent the pickup from the home store when you need it, and something like this 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander Hybrid Max will fit just about every other need nicely.
[Images © 2024 Chris Tonn/TTAC.com]
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