Make Room: Test driving the 2014 Toyota Highlander

DISCLOSURE: This post is sponsored by Southeast Toyota. We were given a gift card to test drive the #2014Highlander and write about our experience. No other compensation was received. All opinions are our own.

You'll always remember your first car, right? Much like your first love. But my first car was not exactly what I'd call my first love. It wasn't shiny, sparkly and new. But, it was reliable, safe and pre-owned or I believe during those days we used the word "used". It was a 1992 Toyota Tercel.

I remember test driving it with my dad. It was smooth and quite fun for a two-door coupe. We had taken a spin in quite a few other vehicles, but I knew this one was going to be my first. My first in what would begin my love affair with Toyota.

The Tercel joined our Toyota family. My dad drove a Corona, which they don't make anymore and my mom drove a Camry, which is still probably one of the most popular sedans on the market. 

That Toyota tradition continues to this day… 1992 Tercel -> 1997 RAV4 -> 2004 Lexus RX 300 -> 2012 Highlander. We love it. There's plenty of space for two carseats, a double stroller and anything and everything we might need for Monkey and Lil Tank. What could be better?

ENTER BETTER: 2014 Toyota Highlander. The vehicle has been completely re-modeled. When we were selected as one of six bloggers to test drive it through a campaign with Southeast Toyota, we were ecstatic… and curious. We wanted to know what was different. How much could the vehicle change in two years? From our experience, A LOT. There were so many features in the 2014 that I wish our 2012 had. We put together a little video that explains what we liked best… stay tuned.

Since we enjoy road trips and live in Florida, we decided our test drive should be a trip to Disney. It was so easy loading up the trunk (with one-push button lift gate access and standard third row seat down) with our four suitcases and double stroller… making for lots of room for our family and all our stuff. 

There's plenty of room in the second row. The 2014 model has captain's chairs which we thought helped with better installation and placement of our two forward-facing carseats. The kids could put their water bottles in the cup holder tray that pops out… as well as their animal friends (they're the orange kitties you see in the picture below).

Up front, Mommy & Daddy sat comfortably in their own self-controlled air conditioned seats. Yes, AIR CONDITIONED SEATS! They actually vent the cool air from the air-conditioner through tiny perforated holes in the seats. It was refreshing, especially in the humid Florida heat. Having moved to the Sunshine State from Kansas, we were accustomed to our heated seats, but this was much more appropriate for the weather here.

What made the drive the best we've ever experienced is the Blu-ray player in the back seat. We have never had one before. This thing is amazing. One minute the girls are awake… the next, they're asleep. But there is one thing we didn't love about the player. While it does remember where the DVD left off (awesome), you have to go through the menu every time you restart the car (not so awesome). We don't know if this is typical about in-car DVD players since we've never had one, but it just lead to a slight delay in getting on the road each time because we had to start the process over from the beginning. With all that said, our next car is DEFINITELY going to have one of these.

In addition to our road trip to Disney, we incorporated the Highlander into our daily routine which included drives to and from work, drop offs and pick ups at school, and playdates. In fact, everyone in our neighborhood was so intrigued by its sleek design, they came over the check it out. And when they took a look inside, they were sold. Our neighbors have a 2012 Highlander like us and are now looking at trading theirs in. Hmm… they might be onto something. We do want to note that during one playdate we parked next to a Toyota Sienna. The 2014 Highlander looks as large as the mini-van, but it's much sportier, giving it that SUV feel. 

We also enjoyed the new safety features including the color-coded lines and alarm on the rear-view camera. The camera in the 2012 simply gives you a view of what's behind you. This one beeps at you when you're getting too close to another object. It also has a blind spot alert - a two-car icon that blinks in orange to signal a car is in your blind spot. While some might think these new elements make you a more complacent driver, we believe the opposite. They make us more aware of what's happening around us, ensuring the safety of us and our family. 

As we mentioned in the beginning of this post, we have several favorite features of the #2014Highlander. Below is a collage of some of them. Below that we put together a video explaining the vehicle and our journey to make room for our family in the Highlander.

Thank you Southeast Toyota and Toyota of Deerfield Beach for the most luxurious and safe ride we've experienced as a family of four. Now if you'll excuse us, we're going to look into trading in our 2012… (love affair continues).