(Waimea, Hawaii) As the holidays approach, Toyota is offering an enlarged version of its Highlander. For families with children and lots of luggage.

Let’s face it, Toyota’s Grand Highlander hasn’t been a hit. No more than some of his fellows. Marketed for a few days, this elongated version of the Highlander can hardly pass for a major innovation.

No one is going to blame Toyota’s strategists for scrupulously carrying over the trappings of the standard Highlander in creating the Grand Highlander. This one meets a need: to be able to comfortably accommodate up to eight people on board. A feat that the Highlander was already accomplishing, of course, but only young children can put up with the Spartan comfort of its additional seats. In addition, for the travelers, another problem arose: impossible to transport all these beautiful people and their luggage. They must stay on the sidewalk. The Grand Highlander offers up to 29% more cargo volume than the “standard” Highlander when all seats on board are occupied.

Longer (165mm) and wider (58mm), the Grand Highlander extends its wheelbase by 99mm to introduce a more spacious third row of seats. More massive, the silhouette of the Grand Highlander appears balanced and not too heavy. A design that perfectly bears comparison with the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride, whose mannered lines tend to age before their time.

As Toyota has a sense of sharing and business, this Highlander is based on an architecture (TNGA-K) mastered by the Japanese automotive giant. Also, the Grand Highlander fully incorporates the mechanics already offered by the Highlander, but benefits as a bonus from an additional hybrid engine called Hybrid MAX. Only the Platinum livery, the most expensive, is entitled to it. Just like this one, the most sophisticated four-wheel drive – standard on the entire range – is exclusively available. This drive mode, when combined with the Hybrid MAX engine, allows greater torque transfers between the running gear to optimize traction as well as the dynamics of its behavior.

Generous armchairs welcome you in a much more modern and better finished environment.

Unless you opt for the Platinum version, which benefits from a number of small bonuses, including a panoramic roof and seats in the middle row that are both heated and ventilated. That said, no matter how much you spend, the Grand Highlander offers convenient onboard storage. A significant number of cup holders (13) and a large number of auxiliary sockets (7) to connect these electronic devices that are said to be essential to modern life.

But the raison d’etre of this “new” model lies mainly in the space it gives to the “bottom” occupants, and in this regard, the Grand Highlander does very well. Without being as opulent as the other two, the seats in the third row are relatively easy to access and spacious enough to undertake a long-distance trip.

This vehicle, which places its occupants high above the traffic, exudes a certain serenity, the impression of being able to trace its quiet route. It’s that feeling of peace that so appeals to owners of these wheeled behemoths.

On the highway, you drive like on rails. We retain a pleasant direction, just firm enough, which correctly transmits the work of the steering wheels. On the other hand, this Toyota displays a rather clumsy behavior on the sequences of turns. We wouldn’t mind if the suspension elements displayed more flexibility when passing the deformations of the roadway. These are reflected in jerks of the rear axle, which gives the impression of exercising its pas de deux, to use a consecrated ballet expression. Around town, this utility steers moderately well and makes you forget about its size and weight.

Of the three mechanics offered, the hybrid version appears to be the most logical and the most in line with this model. And this, even if its pure performance (acceleration, times) relegates it to the back of the pack against its main competitors. This 2.5L hybrid engine takes its revenge at the pumps with an average of 7 L/100 km. In addition to its lack of vitality, the hum of this engine annoys the ear, when strongly solicited. The presence of a continuously variable gearbox greatly contributes to this. We are probably more sorry for its limited towing capacity (1588 kg). The other two engines offered by Toyota have higher capacities (2268 kg).

The beefier, turbocharged 2.4L offered at the entry level has more spirit, but at the cost of significantly higher fuel consumption (more than 10 L/100 km). Unless towing capacity is at the top of your list of criteria, the hybrid version seems more adequate. And the extra charge (around $3000) is justifiable, even more so than that required to animate the Grand Highlander with the Hybrid MAX engine! However, this mechanism instantly seems like the best choice: flexible, silent and furious when necessary (0-100 km / h in 6.5 s). Yes, but not at this price. Americans can retain its services from the Limited version, which is less expensive. Canadians, on the other hand, have to dig deeper into their pockets and afford the Platinum. The question to ask now: is your budget as stretchy as this Toyota?

From $53,870 to $68,830

Summer 2023

Requires a budget as stretchy as the Grand Highlander to afford the best

La Presse will soon publish the test of the following vehicles: Audi RS7, Buick Encore, Jeep Wrangler and Volkswagen Atlas. If you own one of these vehicles or are considering one, we would love to hear from you.

The trunk pictured here is that of the Highlander. When all the seats are occupied, its volume is equivalent to 453 L, which is 141 less than that of the Grand Highlander. The other significant difference concerns the clearance for the occupants of the third bench seat. These benefit from more legroom (139.7mm), headroom (40.06mm), shoulders (63mm) and hips (3mm) aboard the Grand Highlander.

The Grand Highlander has space to spare, but what about the Sienna? Although the minivan is no longer in the odor of holiness with families, it remains the smartest purchase there is. By opting for the Sienna, not only will you benefit from even more space, but you will also realize significant savings. Indeed, with the same engine (4-cylinder 2.5L hybrid), the Sienna LE costs $8,536 ($6,515 if you opt for all-wheel drive) less than a Grand Highlander XLE hybrid. For this price, you of course have fewer accessories, but if the important thing is to travel with the family while respecting your budget, the van is a smarter choice.