Review: Let’s Go Places with the 2014 Toyota Highlander

For one week, I had the amazing opportunity to test drive a 2014 Toyota Highlander. I am not a car reviewer or a stunt driver. I am a comedian and a mother of two young boys who lives in Seattle and has to navigate this narrow, shifting, crazy world of parking, shopping, schlepping and keeping sane.

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It arrived on a rainy day like a shiny present.  Hello gorgeous.

The first night, I took my boys and my mom out to eat.  The minute my kids saw what kind of space ship mommy brought home, they yelled and cheered and my oldest son said, “This is like heaven!”

My goal for my time with the Highlander was to take my mom to Leavenworth. Leavenworth is a small town about 2.5 hours away, nestled in the mountains. It’s a touristy place that looks like a Bavarian village.  It also has some christmas  shops that entranced my mom so deeply she said, “I forgot about all my credit!”

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Then it snowed.  It snowed and there was ice and it was enough for my island-living mom to not feel safe enough to drive on the icy pass even though I explained, Mom, this is the car that would do it.  This is the car that could handle a drive like this.  This car was made for those kind of conditions. I don’t know if she even believed what she said or she just wanted to stay close to mall.

Instead of going to Leavenworth, we got our leaven’s worth of hot pretzels at the mall on Black Friday. (Go to pun jail, Mona.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $100)  This car is great for Black Friday or any type of shopping, even turkey-fueled mass shopping experiences.  It has tons of room. It can fit up to eight people but also all the bags my mom managed to fill on the three trips to Dress Barn we took that weekend.  Three!

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The oversize roll-top center console is big enough to fit in all the makeup I need. It would also be perfect to hide all the bags I keep in my closet that makes my husband ask, “Why do you have a bag filled with bags?” But this would be perfect for kid-equipment like baby wipes, toys, or all the energy and joy that filled my heart every time I got behind the wheel and squeeled, “Is this my life?”

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The panoramic monoroof made for great entertainment as the kids waited for their grandmother to emerge from a store after she said, “I’ll only be twenty minutes!”

The sudden biting weather and heavy rain made me thankful for the safety features.  I was worried how I would manage a vehicle so big, but thanks to the car’s Blind Spot Monitor, a light would pop up on the side mirrors whenever someone did appear in my blind spot and I knew, in addition to checking myself, that I could not change lanes.

Also!  The Lane Departure Alert beeped whenever it sensed I drifted out of my lane.  That was terrific.  Not that I was swerving everywhere, but when Seattle starts raining like we have to board an ark for safety, it’s hard to see the lanes.

Another part I LOVED about this car, l-o-v-e sitting in a tree kind of love was the Standard Backup Camera with Projected Path.

Oh heavens, how I’ve needed this my whole life.  When I put the Highlander in reverse, an image would appear that showed where my car would end up, with the lines allowing me to turn so I could match up where I needed to be.  It would also beep if a car drove behind me, like in a parking garage and people speed through without noticing the car backing up.

I didn’t worry about parking on my street because I had this to help me because parallel parking is one of my least favorite parts of driving, especially if someone is watching and taking bets on how many turns it would take for me to park.

I even impressed my car-fanatic nephew with my parking skills.  I knew he was impressed because he just grunted, “Wow, Auntie Mo.”

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Thanks Highlander for giving Auntie Mo some cool points.

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Even though we didn’t make it to Leavenworth, I was able to drive my mom around to the fancy Christmas lights around Seattle.  We took in the stunning work of kind people who want to give islanders like us something to see, something we wouldn’t have found back on our tiny Pacific home.

I did feel like Sandra Bullock in Gravity, but I wasn’t stuck in space.  I just had a lot of things to push to make my drive the way I wanted it to be.  I’m sorry I said “steering wheels” a lot like I was in some huge tanker truck or a huge grocery shopping cart with a car on the bottom for your kid to sit in.  But there’s just one steering wheel.

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I had lumbar support, heated seats, a heated steering wheel and my music. Sometimes I would just park in front of my house until my husband called out to me:  “Are you coming inside?” to which I really had to think, are you Mona? Or are you going to sit here, enjoy the leather seats and the silence and the absence of children screaming?  These were hard questions.

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I also love the various apps and other audio features available–weather, directions, XM radio.  You can download the Entune™ Audio app to your smartphone to connect to your Pandora station and other preferences.  I did look through the Yelp app to see what Comedy offerings were available and found this:

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What are you talking about Stephen M.?  That was a show I hosted and no one died on stage.  No one!  I tried to read more, but it appears it that the Yelp app doesn’t give the whole review which makes sense, you’re usually looking for quick restaurant reviews, not the whole novel.  But I did want to find Stephen M. in his Kayak Kingdom and yell, “How about this joke? Have you ever heard the one…”

Plus, the advanced voice recognition made it very fun to yell in the privacy of this car: “PLAY TAYLOR SWIFT’S BLANK SPACE!” And then sing along like no one’s watching or listening, thankfully.

There was one thing that didn’t work.  Trying to fish compliments out of computer.

The only downside to my experience was having to return the car.  If you’re in the market for a new vehicle, this is one to definitely check out.  You don’t have to have a family of crazy kids like I do to enjoy the super roomy interior, but it does help, especially if your makeup bag is too big to fit in an overhead compartment.  It fits here.

I had a wonderful week exploring this city with my mom and my two boys.  We listened to Christmas music on Pandora, drove to stores and sights, and spent time in a glorious car that kept us safe and warm every time we took the road.

I was able to test drive the 2014 Toyota Highlander in exchange for my review. All opinions are 100% my own.

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