Your Road trip Hero: The 2017 Toyota Highlander
by Kathy Chin Leong

The road trip with girlfriend Pam was a breeze in the 2017 Highlander as we drove nearly 100 miles each way to our destination from Sunnyvale to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. While you may not think this is a big deal, I do
You see, I am not a long distance driver because I usually do not have the stamina to handle such a lengthy route. And yet, the thought of handling such a brand new vehicle tricked out with bells and whistles seemed to energize me all the way up and back.

First, let me start with the all-leather seats are incredibly comfortable. I could have slept in this car just in the front seat.  Plus, the bun warmers add a touch of cushiness that helped when it got chilly.  And the mileage was decent at about 22 mph using regular unleaded gas. The published estimated mileage is slated at 21/27 mph.  I loved the large tank size of 19.2 gallons, perfect for long rides which also made me feel more at ease because I did not have to fear running out of gas.

During the ride which was mainly on the freeway, the V6 engine was lion strong and powerful with plenty of roar for merging into different lanes and getting on and off the freeways. And when we did go into the areas to examine wineries along the way, I was able to manage the zig zag roads well as the solid anti-sway bars were fully engaged.  Just FYI: the Highlander comes in four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive options. 

As a side note, on this trip we listened to Jackson Brown’s Running on Empty while driving on a full tank. Entune audio with satellite services gave us every type of music we wanted to, depending on our mood. Because the vehicle is so solid and high off the ground compared to a regular sedan, we were able to enjoy the sights of the manzanita trees, arching branches over the roadway, and the forsythia flowers that were blooming after the rains.  

The SUV is rather large, this is a bonus as we did not feel the pain of bumps on this road as the shocks were in great form. This is significant for folks who do have severe back pain.  A smooth ride is essential. And because the car can go pretty fast, it was like having a sports car in sealed environment.  We safely passed the cyclists, waving to them as we careened beyond the vineyards and fields.  At twilight now, I could see the clouds forming into bigger and bigger clumps of cotton candy, filling my gaze. Leftover Christmas tree farms got smaller and smaller in my rear view mirror.

If you have a family with as many as five kids, note that you can seat 7 in this model, and 8 in another version of the same car. Three rows give you plenty of room for passengers. In our SUV,  in the second row a pair of captain seats featured flip up cup holders with a nice tray table nestled in between.  Rubber mats are a great touch, especially with kids. Just take them out and hose them off after a day of muddy hiking or beach romping. (I am referring to the mats, not the kids).  Kudos to the designer who thought to do that.

Second row passengers get to watch videos on the flip down video screen and use the matching headphones for full sound and privacy. As in previous models, the side windows feature shades that slide up and hook to the top of the window for desired comfort levels.

And for more luxury, the car also has rear air conditioning adjustments and two outlets for electronic devices. We in the front get three outlets. Extra door speakers and cup holders molded on the doors offer extra amenities that come in handy.

There are also tons of lights in addition to the daytime running headlights. There are fog lights, door courtesy lights,  LED taillights and stop lights, and luggage compartment lights. I dig the nice indigo blue lighting, a slice of beam that illuminates along front shelf on the front driver and passenger area. Very artistic. Need more light? Get the panoramic moon roof for some Vitamin D. 

A very cool feature are the power outside mirrors that have turn signal lights as fixtures. Heat sensors automatically melt off snow. It comes with a clever folding feature so you don’t have to worry about getting the mirrors whacked off when you pull out of the garage.
There are just too many features to rave about. What is different about this car is that the engine stops when you are at a stoplight, and then it revs up again to conserve on energy.  You get used to it. 

 In fact, I could get used to a lot of things in this posh SUV. Now, with a starting price of $30,630, I just need to save up my pennies.
Toyota 2017 Highlander
Base price: $30,630

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