Big Guy Car Guy

Big Guy Car Guy Report: 2014 Toyota Highlander on a Pacific Northwest Adventure


There’s always that moment, the exact moment when you know you’ve found something special: brilliant sea glass shimmering like Poseidon’s trident wedged into a rugged coastline, the tastiest mojito within a 30-mile radius of your front door, a sweet girl who gets all of your Airplane! references. It might not happen right away, you might need the patience of a monk as the planet shifts and the stars align just so, but when it happens you know enough at this point in your life to savor the find, the knowledge, the girl.

“Joey, have you ever been in a… in a Turkish prison?”

The path was aggressively wooded and then it wasn’t. At the start the air was cloaked in dust and splintered sunlight broke through the canopy of the majestic Redwoods at an angle befitting a postcard on a spindle at a tchotchke shop — that was half of the eight mile drive and it was head-on-a-swivel breathtaking. The supple suspension of the black 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited deftly absorbed the punches being thrown from the neglected half-road beneath us, and we couldn’t help but feel the vehicle enjoying itself, a sense of purpose fulfilled: “Thanks for getting me off the damn highway and letting me shine,” we could almost hear the engine exclaim. Then there was sand and the turbulent echo of breakers, a metronome keeping our time. Thrust. Crash. Retreat. Getting closer.

Four more miles north and we’d be at Fern Canyon, a place as 80’s-movie-mystical as the name suggests, but first we’d need to cross a rocky stream — our own action sequence. That’s when we knew, for certain, that we’d found something special. The Highlander itself seemed to perk up, giddy for this chance to dip and dive and dart through water so pure as to be bottled right there at the source. The Mrs. held tight her breakfast beverage, which had long since turned cold and undrinkable, as we drove over the river and through the woods without hesitation. We all knew we were in a car made for rugged family adventures, the kind we like best.

“Jim never has a second cup of coffee at home.”

Inside the cabin of the Highlander, I was spread out like the buffet at a Mother’s Day brunch. I nearly had too much leg room, and needed to scoot the driver’s seat forward a bit. That’s never happened before! And oh my, the lumbar support in that seat of mine — a gift from above for big guys with degenerative lower backs. The girls meanwhile had 4 seats to choose from and over the course of our 13 day Pacific Northwest adventure, they chose them all. The 2nd row seats reclined to rest at an angle befitting those beams of sunlight which slice through the greenery of a 300 foot Redwood tree, an angle ideal for sleeping your way through the Oregon high desert, in high comfort.

The Highlander’s unprecedented double moon roof was made for driving around the rim of Crater Lake at 10pm, for letting every ounce of pure night sky descend upon you. We basked in the glow of dogs and belts and dippers, so grand and bold above our weary heads. The massive glass lid on the Highlander is the cherry on top of a movable treat that stores away most elegantly, and with ease, a family and their weeks worth of gear, boots, books, clothes, toys, tree bark, rocks, and an odd patch of moss a pair of creative daughters cared for like a baby brother.

The Entune entertainment system of the Highlander holds strongly to its bluetooth connection, making it the exact opposite of the car that sits in my driveway as I type. We drove for 1600 miles, countless hours over a 13 day span, without the Toyota Entune system ever once losing the connection to my HTC One M8. At home, I literally cannot drive 13 minutes without the Bluetooth crapping out. The navigation itself though, that proved frustrating for the Mrs. to operate. The touchscreen delay entering addresses drove her batty and the inability to enter new addresses while in-motion made it tough for us to quickly pivot from one off-the-beaten-path spot to the next, being spontaneous, as we are. She’d often bypass the in-dash system for Google Maps on her phone, which got me lost perfectly fine.

“Bad news. The fog’s getting thicker….And Leon is getting laaaaarrrrrger.”

Much like the armrest of the Toyota Tundra, the Highlander provides a small-pantry sized storage solution for family’s on the go for days at a time. The space between the Mrs. and I was stocked for the duration of our adventure with dark chocolate almonds, KIND bars, Goldfish, crackers, Swedish Fish, Twizzlers, and Doritos…and even some stuff for the kids. 😉 And there was still room in there for a pair of USB cables for my droid device and the Mrs’ weak-battery iPhone, and my trusty Samsung NX30 camera.

The Highlander has all the space an adventurous family needs in a confident package that never feels too large. You’ll stash away precious cargo and all the stuff they insist they’ll need for the journey, but at no point will it feel as though you are at the helm of a cargo ship. The Highlanders handles sharp city turns with ease, winding mountain roads effortlessly, and pulls into tight neighborhood parking spots with aplomb (thanks, in large part, to the rear camera and the huge in-dash screen.) While making long hauls between the Columbia River Gorge and Bend Oregon or from Crater Lake down to Northern California, the Highlander will guide you straight with sensors that beep whenever you begin to veer into other lanes (a feature that can easily be disabled when you are 100% fresh and alert and not needing such audio assistance.) In short, this SUV is intelligent, physically tough, sensible, and gorgeous, just like that sweet girl you met by chance and married as soon as you could, and who continues to happily volley 30-year-old movie quotes back and forth with you.

It’s been one month since we four bid the 2014 Toyota Highlander adieu in Seattle and not a single day of that month has passed without a wish being made upon a dreary suburban star, a wish to someday be tucked back into the cockpit of that spacious and remarkable vehicle, on a new family adventure on rocks, over streams, and through magisterial forests.

*Toyota graciously provided us with a 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited while in the Pacific NW. The opinions expressed above are honest and unbiased, as always.

Tags: , , , ,

One Comment

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial