I see why Animal always has that maniacal grin on is face…it’s because he was in awe of the All-New 2014 Toyota Highlander XLE. While I was a fan of the previous model, I am ecstatic over this transformation. Now more streamlined, the Highlander has taken on some of the characteristics of its European counterparts becoming more fashion-forward and while catering to both genders. Crossovers sometimes get relegated to the “Soccer Mom” realm, but if sleek designs, high-end technology, fuel efficiency and a downright sexy façade scream “Mom-Mobile” sign me up!
At first glance the Highlander greets you with a subtle charm. Softer corners, color matched handles and just the right amount of chrome around the elongated windows, headlights and taillights, the Highlander oozes style and refinement. Sitting on 18-inch alloy wheels, the Highlander has a very commanding vibe about it. The integrated rear spoiler jazzes up the Highlander with a wink to its Lexus cousins…the RX350 and RX450.
The ultimate crossover, the Highlander blends the best of both worlds…especially on the road with the agility of a car with the power and sustainability of a SUV. Powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine with Dual VT-I 5-Speed Auto Transmission, the Highlander is no shrinking violet on the road. A segment respectable 18/24 MPG, the Highlander won’t cause a meltdown at the pump.
No terrain is intimidating in the Highlander. The Star Safety System with Enhanced Stability Control, Electric Brake-Force Distribution, Brake Assist and Smart Stop Technology While winding roads, hills and the mountains of Malibu are a great test of the Highlander’s stability. Also included in the safety package of the Highlander are 8 airbags (driver and front passenger, seat-mounted side, driver knee, passenger seat cushion and 3rd row side curtain), Whiplash Injury Lessening front seats, LATCH and Child Protector Rear Door Locks.
While looking at the Highlander XLE conjures up a smile larger than Fozzie Bear’s, I get the giggles in the inner cabin. Seating for seven more the Highlander’s leather trimmed seats were comfortable and luxurious. An upgraded dashboard with softer panels and surfaces AND plenty of storage, the Highlander has definitely redefined the affordable crossover game.
With a capable 5,000-lb towing capacity, the Highlander could definitely handle a power-shopping trip with Miss Piggy, the home improvement store with Gonzo or transporting Animal’s drums. Access was to the rear seats were easily accessible. The 60/40 split also added optimum accessibility for the items place in the rear cargo space.
Hitting the road solo, the ride was very Zen-like with its quite inner cabin. Outside noise was virtually eliminated and I could focus on my Road Time playlist that featured Pharrell’s “Happy” Kelly Clarkson’s “Mr. Know It All”, Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” Bruno Mars “Treasure” and The Jackson’s “ Lovely One”. Powering this musical journey is Toyota’s Entune Premium system with an 8-inch touch screen. Various entertainment options were at hand with the AM/FM/CD/MP3/USB/AUX/NAV/HD RADIO and XMSirius choices.
The Highlander XLE checks off all the boxes of an innovative and forward-thinking crossover.MSRP$40,170 and for more information click here.