Fresh Ride: Toyota Highlander

Back in December, I spent a couple of days in Carmel Valley and Monterey with Toyota to take the 2014 Highlander out for a spin along the central California coast. The Toyota Highlander is both a classic and perennial favorite in the mid-sized SUV market. As a lady who spends most of her time in more economic choices fit for the mean streets of South Lake Union (LOL), it was a treat to get out of the city and into the beautiful central California coast for a peek into the SUV life.

Toyota Highlander XLE. Black leather like butter.

We started our tour at the beautiful Monterey Bay Aquarium. Their jellyfish exhibit was so enchanting! We dined amidst hammerhead sharks, starfish, jellyfish, other fish, and the biggest sea turtle I've ever seen up close. Such a rad setting to get the first look at the Highlander.

*Note: All Highlander photos are courtesy of Toyota.

The Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum is the epitome of swank as far as the mid-sized SUV goes. Moon roofs, wood grain detail, and the plushest, most luxurious leather backseats I've ever seen. All that and more await in the Limited Platinum edition!

Life seems to be a series of "getting out of your comfort zone" situations strung together by hard lessons in persistence. In just a few hours in the hills with the Highlander, I learned a lot about the kinds of things families (moms in particular) look for in a family vehicle. I might not be with family myself (one that I'm raising anyway), but I know a lot of you amazing readers are newly married or just getting into parenthood. This post is dedicated to you (and you too, travel bugs!) Check out all these storage space options and various controls in the driver's console. That middle console can fit like 59 juice boxes or something like that. There's even a microphone in your rear-view mirror to speak to (aka scream at) your kids in the backseats!

So my car was made before these spaceship touchscreen panel consoles became par for the course in new vehicles. I was in awe but admittedly overwhelmed by all the different things you can do in this Entune panel alone. So many apps! Backup cameras! Make a call from your steering wheel! Check out your vehicle maintenance status! Treat yoself to some movie tickets!

Alright, anyway. The next day, we took the Highlander fleet out for our test drives. Our kind tour guide made sure to show us a true central California experience, which naturally means Monterey coast and agriculture life. First stop, the quaint & awesome Pezzini Farms. This family-owned jewel produces a LOT of the artichokes that make their way to Seattle and other parts of the country, and their general store has artichokes in every form you could ever want them. They treated us to some fried artichokes and a behind-the-scenes look.

The Highlander LE Plus

Next stop was the larger but still (duo) family-owned Tanimura & Antle, home to many different kinds of greens that are often bagged into mixed salads. They run quite the operation there!

EYES ON THE ROAD!!!

A hybrid owner myself, I was most excited to drive the Highlander Hybrid Platinum. Such a smooth, quiet ride - but without the loss of any power. I really loved driving this one.

Thanks so much for having me, Toyota! Peep more details on the 2014 Highlander at Toyota.com.