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Toyota RAV4 Vs Highlander Vs Grand Highlander: Which One To Get?

Toyota RAV4 is an over-achiever, but the Highlander and Grand Highlander make a very strong case regarding value for money.

Toyota's SUV models are legendary for their dependability, array of standard equipment, and ability to retain value. With eight SUV models currently on offer, both, in North America and Europe (alongside a few more Asia-exclusive ones), it seems Toyota has a high-riding model for everyone. This also puts the current Highlander straight in the middle of the pack in terms of size and price.

Looking at the stats of Toyota's Highlander and comparing it to other models, it seems the model has become a true jack of all trades. The Grand Highlander offers more of the same, at a slightly steeper price, but do you need it? Meanwhile, the RAV4 might regain its advantage with the 2025 redesign

To determine, which is best, I am comparing the Highlander to the RAV4 and Grand Highlander across multiple parameters, including price, practicality, features, fuel economy, and drivetrain options.  

How do the RAV4, Highlander, and Grand Highlander compare price-wise? 

2024 Toyota RAV4 Woodland

Unsurprisingly, Toyota RAV4 is the smallest of the bunch. It's also the most affordable, but that mostly depends on which trim you go for. The 2024 Toyota RAV4 starts at $30,025 for the base, LE trim, but the range-topping RAV4 Prime XSE hybrid model will cost you at least $48,910. If it needs to be a hybrid, we recommend the RAV4's XLE Premium trim, at $37,475. 

The 2024 Toyota Highlander sits in the middle with a starting price of $40,665 for the base, LE trim. The Hybrid Platinum is the most expensive and it will cost you $52,820. We think the non-hybrid Platinum trim of the Highlander is a solid pick at $51,120 as it gives you plenty of equipment with the only significant sacrifice being the hybrid powertrain. 

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander starts at $44,465 – near as makes no difference, $4,000 more expensive than the regular Highlander's starting price. The range-topping, Premium trim will set you back $54,940, but I think the Limited trim is the best value for money, at $49,255. 

How do the Toyota RAV4, Highlander, and Grand Highlander compare in terms of drivetrain options?

In its base trim, Toyota RAV4 relies on a 2.5-liter, Atkinson-cycle inline-four producing 203 horsepower and 183 pound-feet. All RAV4 trims, currently rely on the same engine in different states of electrification. This includes the 302-horsepower RAV4 Prime PHEV. For 2025, the RAV4 is expected to be hybrid-only, adopting the fifth-generation Toyota hybrid architecture. This would mean stronger electric motors to aid the combustion engine. 

As for Toyota's Highlander, 2023 saw the retirement of the V-6 in favor of a 2.4-liter, turbocharged inline-four, which makes 265 horsepower and 310 pound-feet.  

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander over the same engine options as the Highlander, but also includes a hybrid variant, based on the 2.4-liter turbo-four, called the Hybrid MAX. It puts out 362 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque.

The base, 2.5-liter hybrid variant also makes a comeback with 247 horsepower and 175 pound-feet plus another 238 pound-feet from the two electric motors. 

What's the fuel economy of the Toyota RAV4, Highlander, and Grand Highlander?

I gathered data from the most efficient and most powerful engine options for all three models by using data from 

2024 Toyota RAV4 base fuel economy 

The base, non-hybrid Toyota RAV4 gets a combined fuel economy of 28 MPG, according to the EPA cycle, with 25 city and 32 on the highway. 

2024 Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV fuel economy 

The Toyota RAV4 Prime PHEV gets a combined EPA rating of 39 MPG, with 41 city and 38 on the highway.  

2024 Toyota Highlander base fuel economy 

The base Toyota Highlander relies on the familiar, FHEV powertrain, found in Camry and RAV4. It revolves around the 2.5-liter inline-four engine and in this case, it's good for up to 36 MPG combined EPA, with 36 in the city and 35 on the highway. 

2024 Toyota Highlander 2.4 Turbo 

With the range-topping, turbo-four engine, the 2024 Highlander gets a combined fuel economy of up to 25 MPG, according to the EPA cycle, with 22 city and 29 on the highway. 

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander base fuel economy 

The Grand Highlander is a bit of a pleasant surprise in the fuel economy department. According to the EPA ratings, the base 2.5-liter hybrid model gets 36 MPG EPA, which is identical to the smaller Highlander. This translates to 37 MPG city and 34 on the highway. 

2024 Toyota Grand Highlander 2.4 PHEV fuel economy 

The 2024 Grand Highlander one-ups the Highlander, with a very potent, plug-in hybrid powertrain, revolving around the 2.4-liter turbo-four engine. It manages 27 combined MPG EPA, with 26 city and 27 on the highway.  

The non-hybrid 2.4-liter turbo-four is also here and manages 24 MPG combined – 21 city and 28 highway – which is only slightly worse than the Highlander with the same engine. 

How practical are the RAV4, Highlander, and Grand Highlander?

2024 Toyota Highlander Limited

The RAV4 is the smallest and unlike the other two, it doesn't offer third-row seats. Still, the 2024 Toyota RAV4 offers an impressive for its size 36.7 cubic feet of cargo space, which increases to 69.8 cubic feet, once the rear seats fold.  

The 2024 Toyota Highlander provides a minimum cargo space of 16.0, behind the third-row seats. Once the third row is folded, cargo capacity increases to 48.4 cubic feet. With the second and third-row seats folded, cargo capacity increases to 84.3 cubic feet. 

The 2024 Toyota Grand Highlander one-ups the Highlander in terms of cargo space, with a minimum of 20.6 cubic feet. With the third-row seats folded, you get 57.9 cubic feet. With the second and third rows folded, the Grand Highlander provides 97.5 cubic feet.

Toyota Grand Highlander also offers more legroom and headroom, compared to the Highlander. While the 2024 Toyota Highlander offers 36.0 inches of headroom and 28.0 inches of legroom on the third-row seats, the 2024 Grand Highlander offers 37.2 inches of headroom and 33.5 inches of legroom.  

How the RAV4, Highlander, and Grand Highlander stack up in terms of features? 

In true fashion, all three Japanese SUV models come with a comprehensive array of safety features, including Toyota Safety Sense (TSS). The RAV4 gets TSS 2.5, and Highlander gets TSS 2.5+ while the Grand Highlander gets TSS 3.0.

One of the main differences between the systems is the forward cameras, which in newer versions feature a larger area of coverage. It is expected that in 2025, all models will adopt the TSS 3.0.  

In terms of infotainment features, all three models get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In the case of Toyota RAV4, you get an 8.0-inch touchscreen as standard. Smartphone connectivity is not wireless unless you upgrade to the 10.5-inch screen, which is available on the Limited and TRD Off-road trims.  

Toyota Highlander also gets an 8.0-inch infotainment screen as standard. Once again, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are wireless with a larger screen, which in this case is 12.3 inches. 

Toyota Grand Highlander comes standard with a 12.3-inch touchscreen and wireless smartphone connectivity. The RAV4, Highlander, and Grand Highlander can be had with an 11-speaker, JBL premium sound system, if the six-speaker base system isn't good enough for you. 

I asked about how these vehicles stack up in terms of features to Torque News editor Armen Hareyan, who said, "Choosing between the RAV4, Highlander, and Grand Highlander depends on your priorities. The RAV4 is the most compact and budget-friendly option, offering good fuel efficiency and optional third-row seating. However, it sacrifices some comfort and convenience features on lower trims. The Highlander strikes a good balance between size, features, and price. It offers more comfort features, a powerful engine option, and both gas and hybrid choices. Finally, the Grand Highlander offers the most luxurious interior with standard features like a panoramic moonroof and heated/ventilated seats (optional). It also comes standard with comfortable captain's chairs in the second row and only in a powerful hybrid option. While the Grand Highlander is the most feature-rich, it's important to consider its larger size and higher price tag."

So which one to get out of the RAV4, Highlander, and Grand Highlander?

The Toyota RAV4 is a great compact SUV, but I think spending nearly $50,000 is asking for a bit too much. At this price point, it's also getting a bit too close to a high-spec Toyota Highlander. If you keep things under $40,000, your best bet would be the XLE Premium or TRD Off-road trims. Both are generously equipped. The RAV4 XLE Premium offers an efficient hybrid powertrain while the RAV4 TRD Off-road offers the greatest versatility

The Highlander can provide an excellent value for money in the world of three-row SUVs. I think the Hybrid XLE is the best pick if you are looking to blend fuel economy and generous equipment for a reasonable price. The hybrid variant also doesn't sacrifice much performance compared to the turbo-four unit. Yes, it has 20 horsepower fewer, but it more than makes up for it with electric torque. 

Things are getting a bit more expensive with the Grand Highlander, but you can still get a generously-equipped model for under $50,000. The XLE trim with optional all-wheel drive is all you need, and it would set you back $46,620. If performance is what you are after, the Hybrid MAX Limited is available at $54,390.  

My pick? I would get the 2024 Toyota Highlander Hybrid XLE. Its efficient, hybrid powertrain, generous equipment, and (in my opinion) perfect size, make it a true jack of all trades, for way under $50,000. 

About the author

Dimitar Angelov's automotive interests made him an expert in a wide variety of vehicles. Japanese brands like Toyota are closest to his heart, although performance cars in general are his favorite segment, which is why he is constantly on the lookout for the best deals on the market. Dimitar Angelov's car passion and knack for the written word led him to complete a Master of Arts in Media and Communications, and classic car restoration. Dim is happy to get behind the wheel of any car and share his impressions. You can follow Dimitar on XLinked-inInstagram, and Facebook.