Family Car 

2017 Toyota Highlander Quick Take

After passing a big rig, a motorhome and a slow moving sedan in one fell swoop during a recent road trip up to Boise, Idaho it became crystal clear that the 2017 Toyota Highlander I was piloting was going to be a highly capable travelling companion.

On multiple occasions during the road trip the Highlander made the passing game enjoyable, if not thrilling. The Highlander’s new 3.5-liter V6 puts out 295 horsepower which easily propelled the midsize SUV over and in front of multiple slow moving vehicles with power normally reserved for faster cars. The V6 is mated to Toyota’s also new 8-speed automatic which shifted quickly and imperceptibly and seemed eager to please each time it was called into action.

Passing prowess

The passing prowess of the Toyota Highlander was just one of a number of vehicle highlights worth noting. Storage space was abundant and functional. A slot that runs below and along the dash is great for cell phones, keys, glasses, snacks and other small items needed for a road trip. The center console seemed bottomless with the amount of items that could be fit inside. Door pockets were accommodating and large enough to hold water bottles and other small items, such as eye glass cases, cell phones and camera lenses.

The most useful feature on the Toyota Highlander during this road trip was the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control (DRCC). Having the ability to set your speed and maintain a set amount of distance between you and the car ahead was a lifesaver for a 13-hour drive. Whatever speed the vehicle in front was travelling at the Highlander would adjust to and maintain. This helped relieve some of the fatigue that sets in on very long drives, plus it allowed for foot and leg stretches under the steering wheel.

Also: See the 12 Kelley Blue Book Best Buys of 2017

Plenty of space

Second row seating and leg room were also noteworthy and were commented on more than once by passengers who repeatedly noted “there is so much space back here.” Indeed, with 38.4 inches of leg room and 57.1 inches of hip room there it’s easy to spread out comfortably. In addition, with the second row seats folded down the total cargo area increases from 42.3 cu. ft. to 83.7 cu. ft.  I was able to load two ridiculously large duffle bags, two over-sized camp chairs, two puffy sleeping bags, two day packs, three pillows, a large ice chest, two cast-iron Dutch ovens, a camera bag, my husband’s work backpack, a spotting scope with tripod, and a long mono-pod walking stick and still had room for more stuff. Best of all, even with all the items loaded in the cargo area the rear view stayed free and clear.

The one thing missing from the Toyota Highlander that would have made it the perfect travelling companion was Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Easy access to frequently used functions such as maps, messaging and music are almost a requirement for road trips. Plus the use of enhanced voice control through Siri would have been useful in searching for restaurants and nearby points of interest. With the exception of this minor omission, the Highlander is a comfortable and smartly-appointed SUV that can make very long road trips feel less so.

Our 2017 Toyota Highlander XLE with all-wheel drive rings in at $44,073, which includes a $940 destination fee. Starting price for a base 4-cylinder LE is $31,500 and climbs up to about $47,000 for the Limited Platinum AWD version.

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