Highlander 2014 - Big, Bold, and Beautiful
By Kathy Chin Leong
The Highlander 2014 is tough, rugged, and a behemoth of a Toyota SUV, and on a recent jaunt to Napa Valley with five of my friends who filled up the back of the car, they gave it a thumbs up for comfort and security and a ride well worth it.
I was surprised when I was the one asked to drive to see some property on a hillside. I am not much of a country road warrior when it comes to tackling challenging terrain. However, I mustered my nerve and successfully handled a steep mountain drive which was full of curves, rocks, and narrow passages. "Keep pressing the gas!" my friends encouraged. "Don't let up, and watch out for that bump. Look out for the grate on the left and then the right! We're almost there!"
Thanks to my cheerleaders and the reliability of the Highlander, we made it to the ridge of Diamond Mountain to look at the fantastic view of the Mayacama Mountains. Later, my white knuckles and sweaty palms ceased as we crept down on the mountain, myself breaking the entire way. I felt like I was riding atop a buffalo with no saddle, and I was talking to it, whispering, "Here we go, here we go, we're gonna do it." Before I knew it, we were at the base with everyone cheering enthusiastically with applause.
Driving the Highlander on country roads gives you a safety net. It turns well, moves smoothly, offers steady pickup and sensible breaking, and provides the power and grippy tires to make it up and over rocks and steep hills. Whew!
The Highlander and I spent a week together, moving through residential streets, freeways, and country dirt lanes and, again, hillsides that scared the heck out of me. Through thick and thin, it was a true gentleman. It never did anything I felt uncomfortable doing, nor did it make me feel out of control of the situation.
However, I am not used to driving such large cars, and it would probably take me a few weeks to get accustomed to it. The step rise is higher than a sedan, about 8 inches, so you do have to hoist yourself in like getting into a truck. It is just under 16 feet long and 6 feet, 3.8 inches wide. It is 5 feet 8.1 inches tall. Thank God for its rear view camera system. Even then, I felt nervous as I would make three, four, and even five point turns to make sure I did not nick anybody or anything. I was EXTREMELY CAREFUL!
Being a Toyota fan, I know that if I purchased the $44,450 model known as the Highlander Limited, V6 AWD, I would have a long lasting car that I would grow to love. (I mean, we all get somewhat attached to our vehicles, don't we?)
My test car featured an orca black finish, smart key ignition, seats enough for seven, and enough front and side curtain airbags to float the Titanic. Like other luxury cars, I was pleased with the driver's seat that offers the electronic memory to record how high up, how far up, and how much lower back support I need so that it would adjust itself. Two drivers can establish these presets. What is important to me is that the seats are comfortable, and the lumbar support is exceptional. Even folks in the back said the seats were soft enough, roomy, and just right.
The information the dashbroad is particularly useful. I like the readout that calls attention to how many miles you have left on your tank before you get to empty. A refueling light will come on and that means you have only 2.9 gallons left or less! There's also a tire pressure warning light that tells you when your tires are too low.
Much work has been focused on temperature and climate control throughout the car. The side mirrors have heaters on them to melt away snow. The steering wheel can be warmed as well so as not to freeze off your dainty fingers. Then there are bun warmers and coolers for the driver and passenger. In the second row, everyone gets a seat warmer that can be adjusted to warm or hot. That makes folks in the second row feel pretty special, yes? There's also a middle foldout cupholder between the captain seats to set down two cups.
Plenty of reading lights for Row 2 and 3 are available for night owls who like to catch up on the latest novel. This is also the case for air vents. Back seat folks in Row 2 can also adjust their own climate temperature.
Now for fueling. The car is rated as 18 mpg in the city and 24 on the highway. Over the cost of a year, it is estimated that you'll spend $2,600. There is a 19.2 gallon capacity in the fuel tank which requires unleaded gasoline. Open the gas tank opener by pressing the switch on the dashboard. The gas cap has a connector so that you can place it on the back of the fuel filler door to prevent loss.
This particular model featured some glam to it as the sunroof cover opens all the way past Row 2 to let in plenty of light. You can also open the roof to get that wind-blown feeling. Like most drivers, I used this once and then quickly closed it. So much for glam!
Being an SUV, the car is set up for flexilibility and storage. I liked the storage in the front seat that features a unique shelf above the glove compartment that lights up blue at night so you can stash your cell phone, car keys, and whatnot. And between the passenger and driver seat is a storage compartment that is so deep you can hide a laptop in it with room to spare. It also has an outlet to plug in and recharge portable devices.
Bottom line: Long, wide, tall, this beefy Highlander offers steadfast endurance, and gives you the comfort and security you need for sketchy terrain and long distance journeys.
Toyota Highlander 2014, AWD