You may be under the impression that I am some sort of hippie. Yes, I live in Santa Cruz. Yes, I eat organic. (No, I don’t poop rainbows.) But before you start to question the furriness of my armpits, let me stop you right there. I drove and enjoyed a non-hybrid, gasoline powered SUV. Shocking, right? Well let me tell you the story…
Last week, you may have heard that my oldest daughter Amelia had brain surgery up at Stanford. While my home in Santa Cruz isn’t too far away, the last thing we wanted to worry about was our beach car dying on the back-and-forth trips over the hill (“The Hill” is a huge understatement… Highway 17 is twisty, dangerous and a total hassle to commute over).
Thank goodness for the Toyota Highlander LTE! We were lucky enough to test this swanky ride for the entire week and its usefulness and comfort were uh-may-zing.
First off, the Highlander is pretty. It looks like a fancy-schmancy SUV without being overbearingly huge or wide. The interior is immaculate, with heated leather seats, moonroof, touch screen navigation system and glowy push-button to start it up. It also has a fold-flat hidden 3rd row seat in the cargo area! The Highlander is also roomy to the point of clown-car status. I mean, yes, its an SUV but it’s a smaller SUV so how the heck does it feel SO BIG?! It’s a mystery. I also liked that you can save the settings for four different phones for Bluetooth pairing, so as soon as you hop in, your phone is paired and ready for hands-free use, with controls on the steering wheel as well.
The Highlander drives smoothly too. No bumps, pitches or excessive vibrations. The estimated mpg for the V6 LTE model is 17-22, but I got about 19. Not horrible for an SUV, but It might be worthwhile to look into the hybrid model if you’ve got your heart set on high mpg. The Highlander also had a back-up camera, which is pretty cool but its not the most accurate of gadgets. It has a fish-eye lens, so take that into consideration before you just start backing up all willy nilly (please use common sense and use your mirrors when you back up, guys… don’t be like those people who use cruise control and get in the backseat!)
My favorite things:
The lift gate (rear hatch) opens itself like magic, with a press of a button. It doesn’t just pop open. It opens and closes itself, as smooth as butter. That made getting luggage out soooo much easier!
Driver, Passenger and Rear Air Conditioning… all controlled separately! My kids are never happy, climate-wise. Its always too hot, too cold, too windy. I’ve even heard that it was “too fluffy.” With the a/c controlling each area independently, everyone can be happy and comfortable.
The LATCH system. Yes, all newer cars have the LATCH system for car seats, but this one didn’t require any bizarre maneuvering or excessive sweating, panicking and cursing. The hooks were perfectly aligned and I didn’t have to smash my fingers to get the seats secure.
The Highlander also comes equipped with a hidden treasure, where you would normally expect to stow your sunglasses. A kid-view mirror! This thing makes those, “I WILL TURN THIS CAR AROUND,” threats a lot more realistic. That and you can make sure that Child A really is keeping their hands off Child B
All in all, the 2011 Highlander is a great choice for families who want comfort and lots of space, without compromising style. My family LOVED this vehicle and I’m sure yours will too.
*While Toyota loaned me a vehicle to drive, I was not monetarily compensated for this review and all opinions are my own!*