For the longest time I have always thought of our family as a minivan family, that is until I test drove the 2011 Toyota Highlander. I had always wanted an SUV but thought with having 3 children an SUV was out of my reach with all of the car seats and gear that has to come with us. I also thought that because I am so short that driving an SUV may be something that I would have a bit of trouble with. However neither of these things that were holding me back previous to test driving the 2011 Toyota Highlander stand true.
One of the first things that stood out to me was the console, as soon as I put the Highlander in reverse to back out of the parking spot I noticed the back up camera screen. Amazing! Seriously who ever thought of that is genius! Being short I have trouble all time with backing out our van because I cannot see over the seats all that well, but with the camera I have no reason to worry. I am sure that alone I could use to sell Tom as a reason that this should be our next vehicle.
Since we do have three children and I am very strict on car seat safety and make sure our children are in the best seats my next thought was “Could I fit our Britax seats in to the back?” Easily looking in the back seat I could tell that would be no problem and they would have leg room. I could easily fit my older two children’s Britax Regents in the 3rd row and our youngest’s Britax Marathon in the middle row. Now as our children grow and move into the older seats, like booster seats or out of seats I could easily have all three children in the middle row. I tested that out with Mommy Mae’s children and easily fit an infant seat, a highback booster and a child with no carseat in the middle row. As there have been talks between Tom and I about adding another child to our family that is possible too, as I could easily put another infant seat or Britax seat in the middle row with our youngest now. The only child challenge I found was the trunk space, it will not fit a carseat stroller combination stroller in the back. But a stroller like my Bumbleride Flite would easily fit back there and they do make slimmer double strollers like the Phil and Ted’s. I am sure I am not alone in moving the rear view a smidge to see the children in the back seat and then moving it back to see the road again. Well there is no need to, there is a mirror just so you can see in the back seat! You can see my full parent’s benefits video review here.
Another user friendly option in this car is the temperature settings, the driver, front passenger and the rear passengers have the option to change the setting of the temperature for the different parts of the car. Tom and I have different comfort levels when it comes to temperature so this is a great feature that we would definitely be putting to use.
The technology in the car is very user friendly, I am not a techy person in the slightest but it did not take long to get used to the controls and know what I was doing. You can see my video review of the 2011 Highlander’s technology in this post here.
The navigation is easy to use and has many different options that range from using the directions (like being able to pick from 3 different routes) to adjusting the volume of the navigation system. Unlike the GPS unit we have there was enough notice for turns and looking for roads that I needed with this system and instead of my current GPS system, the voice telling me to turn after a turn, the in car navigation system told me ahead of time and then beeped 2 times to let me know it was where I needed to go.
It was a long drive from San Antonio to San Angelo, which I drove by myself, and when driving alone I like to have good music to listen to and a good sound system to listen to it on (sadly my current vehicle has an awful sound system). I was able to turn the volume up in the Highlander without losing the quality sound. Another plus was the Satellite radio, I was able to easily find the type of music I was looking for and liked to listen to.
Driving alone also means the need to talk on the phone, in Texas you cannot use your phone and drive at the same time, so having an in car Bluetooth made talking on the phone not only easy follow the law but be safe and still have a clear phone conversation. Even while talking on the in car Bluetooth, using the navigation system is easy, it still tells you where you are going and the volume is adjusted so it does not over power the phone but you can still hear the directions, having the phone control panels on the steering wheel also make using the phone easier. The only drawback I saw is that you cannot dial while the car is in motion, you can when it is stopped at a light or stop sign if need but while in motion you cannot, which for me was not a problem for the most part except when I need some help with directions and needed to make a call. I see the in car Bluetooth as a big advantage, I know my dad has issues with ear pieces and the feedback which make it difficult for him to hear and it is also a nuisance and can be dangerous if you have to mess with an ear piece when you are driving.
The leg room in the care is great, there is plenty of room for the passengers in all parts of the car. The only space issue I found was the trunk, as I mentioned before it would not hold a car seat stroller combination stroller, which if you are traveling could make carrying all your luggage a bit of a challenge. An easy fix to that is getting a top of the car luggage carrier. There is enough room to keep essentials like a diaper bag, a bag for snacks and a small cooler near the middle seat. There is plenty of room for the kids to have activity bags with them in the seats.
The interior of the car was beautiful, it had the decorative panel near the shifter and cup holders and the whole inside area of the console and cup holder area was sleek and luxurious looking. It gave a nice touch to the car, rather than the typical black dashboard and console that I am used to with our minivan. The ease of access to the cup holders and needed buttons like the phone and navigation were a big plus as well, many being on the steering wheel. Are you a breeze lover like me? Then the sunroof is something that you to will love! It has both options, sun roof and moon roof.
Overall I really enjoyed driving the Toyota Highlander, a few things I wish it did have are the back sensors for when you are in a parking lot, and blind spot sensors for when you are driving and cannot see the car next to you, especially on the highway that is my least favorite thing when driving, someone in my blind spot. But overall the car was great to drive, it drove smoothly, operating the technical stuff was not to advance for someone who is like me and likes technology but is not always very savvy with it. I could definitely see our family driving this car, I would wait until my kids are older though and I no longer need a stroller.
Disclaimer:I was not compensated for this review, I did drive the Toyota 2011 Highlander free of charge to facilitate my review.