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Exploring Kona, Hawaii in the First-Ever 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander

Experienced by Kimatni D. Rawlins

Toyotas are popular vehicles on the big island of Hawaii, especially the Tacoma midsize pickup truck, so it was most fitting for the Japanese automaker to host the national media drive of its first-ever 2024 Grand Highlander in Kona. Dubbed the “Ultimate Family SUV” by company insiders, the new utility slots between the top-of-the-line Sequoia and the original Highlander launched back in 2001. It’s perfect in size for larger households, versatile enough for adventurous voyages, and comes in an array of variations including a HYBRID MAX.

Kona’s weather was beautiful for the weeklong test-drive, and the surrounding landscape represented the ideal backdrop for a Toyota SUV experience, especially the volcanic rock formations omnipresent across the land. Trail hiking, kayaking, jet skiing, and parasailing come to mind when you stare down the Grand Highlander and envision its capabilities in the tropical environment. For interested parties,  the latest SUV from Toyota is hitting dealerships this summer with a starting MSRP of $43,070 for the gas engine model, $44,670 for the hybrid, and $54,040 for the Hybrid MAX powertrain. Moreover, the two hybrids are helping Toyota meet its “Beyond Zero” vision to reach carbon neutrality with ec-friendly products, services, and operations; and finding new ways to positively impact society.

“Grand Highlander will serve as the ultimate tool that can take our customers anywhere from the school pickup line to the ultimate long weekend road-trip,” said Lisa Materazzo, Group Vice President of Toyota Marketing. “We’ve sold over 3.3 million Highlanders in the U.S. and developed a loyal customer base in the process – and we think customers will give Grand Highlander similar praise when it comes to dealerships this Summer.”

Built from the ground up, the Grand Highlander is strong on the road for quick bursts of acceleration when required and pretty agile for its size. I felt no qualms prancing through the island towns and off-road beaten paths, especially with the Hybrid MAX and its 362-horsepower and 400 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 to 3,000 RPM. Additionally, the stealthy Hybrid MAX powertrain is backed by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder turbo engine with a 5,000-lb towing capacity, Direct Shift 6-speed automatic transmission, and full-time electronic AWD. With grippy Continental Crosscontact all-season tires, I was assured extended safety knowing all four wheels were working for both my safety and convenience. To help tackle all types of terrain, the Grand Highlander features three Drive Modes (Sport, Eco, Normal) while Multi-Terrain Select adds Mud & Sand, Rock & Dirt, and Snow mode (gas AWD and Hybrid MAX) to elevate your journey to trail-rated status. However, I would swap to an all-terrain tire if frequenting mother nature is your jam.

Three trim options include the Grand Highlander XLE, Grand Highlander Limited, and Grand Highlander Platinum, along with three engine choices. The gas engine receives a respectable 265-horsepower and the standard hybrid inherits 245-horsepower. If you want the best efficiency, select the Hybrid XLE with 36 combined mpg. In fact, for the remainder of 2023 Toyota expects the two hybrids to represent 25% of sales and then jump to 36% in a full calendar year. This is a testament that shoppers are looking for alternative routes to reducing gasoline requirements and extending their drives with fewer fill-ups.

Step inside Grand Highlander to welcome yourself to a brave new world of technology, comfort, and safety. Toyota instilled the urbane cabin with elements to support sophisticated families, their habits, and gear. The SUV has three rows of seating, including reclining middle-row captain chairs, an 11-speaker JBL Audio sound system, oversized cup holders and storage pockets, 7 USB ports, and an available panoramic glass roof. The cabin is cozy, roomy, and free from outside road noise. The 12.3” center touchscreen featuring Wireless Android Auto or Apple CarPlay commands your infotainment and visual needs. In addition, the Grand Highlander specifically incorporates Facial Recognition that identifies your mug to set up your profile from music to seat settings. And if you select the Hybrid MAX, your Toyota will come with Ultrasuede, leather-trimmed seats, and bronze-themed touchpoints. As well, there is room for up to 7 carry-on suitcases behind the 3rd row!

When cross-shopping compare the 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander to the VW Atlas, Jeep Grand Cherokee L, and other similar-sized SUVs. Its new styling, advancements, and venturesome capabilities will pleasantly appease you. Various color options to ensure your midsize SUV stands apart include Storm Cloud, Wind Chill Pearl, Ruby Flare Pearl, Midnight Black Metallic, Blueprint, Coastal Cream, and Celestial Silver Metallic. Ready for some exploratory driving with Toyota? Well, the Grand Highlander is patiently awaiting.

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