We spent Labor Day weekend 2015 on a road trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee to review the Ripley's Believe it or Not brand of family attractions. Thanks to the kind people working with Toyota, we were able to travel in comfort and style using a 2015 Toyota Highlander. Here are some thoughts on the Highlander from me, a (2005) Toyota Highlander owner and traveling, chauffeuring, working mom of two.
When the shiny and clean deep burgundy Highlander arrived in my driveway, I immediately noticed the sporty shape and gorgeous lines. My Highlander is a decade old, and I love the more modern and softer (less boxy) design of the recent Highlander models. And by the way... the official color name is Ooh La La Rouge Mica - how fun is that?!
We enjoyed a comfortable 4-hour drive from the Atlanta area to Gatlinburg, getting to know all of the fancy electronics and gadgets. The Highlander model we tested was a Limited Platinum series, so it had all of the "bells and whistles" like navigation, back-up camera, Sirius XM radio, luxurious captain's chairs in the second row, a panoramic moonroof, heated and cooled leather seats in the front and second row, dual front and rear climate control, plus a pop-up third row that was much larger than the cramped third row I have in my 2005 Highlander.
The 2015 Toyota Highlander was large enough to very comfortably fit my family of four (including one booster seat and one car seat), luggage, stroller, toys/blankets/stuffed animals, and the pack-n-play with ease. The drive was very smooth. The electronics package was convenient to have, and the kids absolutely loved the panoramic moonroof that extended back above their heads. We drove through a rainstorm in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and both kids were fascinated to see the raindrops pelt the glass above their heads.
When I drove, I could not get enough of the velvety soft leather steering wheel; it was unlike any leather I have known. Really soothing! If it weren't 90 degrees that weekend, I would have tested out the steering wheel heat. I bet that is fantastic in winter months.
The dynamic cruise control was interesting and difficult to get used to. It supplements cruise control with forward radar technology and slows the vehicle when it senses narrowing of the car-to-car distance. I am not sure I really want my car to think for me that much at this point, but I do see how it can be helpful and safer on the road. Note: we did figure out how to adjust the distance of the radar and also to turn it off entirely for "old school" cruise control.
As someone who is familiar with the Toyota brand and Highlander product, I already planned to consider a Highlander in a couple years when I want to buy my next vehicle. While I pretty much drooled over the features of the limited platinum model, it is priced around $43,000 - which is more than I plan to spend on a vehicle. However, the Toyota Highlander has several levels and it actually starts around $30,000. I will need to do more research to decide what awesome features I will need to remove. The size, style, fantastic drive, and comfort level of the Highlander will remain - regardless of how fancy (or plain) I make it via the various options and packages. And the Toyota quality will be there too!
I recommend the Toyota Highlander to families who want the option of extra seating via a third row but who do not need the third row all the time. In a Highlander, I can accommodate my kids' friends or the grandparents with the ease of a pop-up third row and I can haul 15 bags of mulch home from the store when the third row isn't needed. It is a versatile and upscale vehicle and it is ideal for on-the-go families. Learn more about the Highlander and all Toyota vehicles at Toyota.com.