When you meet a Toyota owner, you’ll learn one thing fast: these people love their cars.
Like love, love, love. When it’s time for a Toyota owner to get a new car (which isn’t very often because every Toyota owner I know hangs on to their car because of the superior quality) they get…wait for it…another Toyota.
And this should surprise exactly no one. I’ve never owned a Toyota, even though my dad and stepmom have been die-hard Toyota people for years. But, after driving the 2019 Toyota Highlander for two weeks, I get why Toyota owners love their Toyotas so much. If your driveway needs that SUV with third-row seating or you’re looking for an everyday car that transitions seamlessly into an awesome travel car, you and the 2019 Toyota Highlander might be meant to be.
Best Travel Car EVER. And Other Reasons Why the Toyota Highlander is Awesome
My family and I took the 2019 Toyota Highlander on a trip through Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Since we travel together so frequently, our litmus test for whether a car is right for us is whether or not it’s a good travel car. If it’s uncomfortable or doesn’t hold our stuff, then it’s not going to be a good vehicle for us in the long run.
And, it’s safe, and safety really matters for the long haul. Toyota has made its Toyota Safety Sense group of active safety features standard on all models. This includes adaptive cruise control (set it and forget it, and the car adjusts its speed with traffic on the road–how great is that?), lane departure assist with steering assist (which points you back into your lane if you drift out), automatic high beams and pre-crash braking with pedestrian detection. The model we drove also had blind spot monitors, rear cross traffic alert (which lets you know if someone or something is about to cross behind you while you’re backing up) and rear park assist sonar, which will beep at you if you’re about to back into something – really helpful when driving and parking in unfamiliar places.
Spoiler alert: The Toyota Highlander is an AWESOME travel car (did I say that before?😊 ). I even shed a little tear when the Toyota rep came to take it back.
Who This Car is For:
- Families with 2-3 kids (larger families need a larger SUV or a minivan)
- Parents who have kids who sit in car seats/booster seats. There’s so much room in the rear seat that buckling is super-easy.
- That busy mom (or dad!) who occasionally needs third-row seating for her kids’ friends/teammates
- Families who travel or regularly haul around sports bags, soccer wagons, etc.
- Young families or just-starting-out couples who want a car they can grow into that will hold it’s value
- Someone with long legs who doesn’t like feeling like a human pretzel in their car
- Adventurers regardless of family status (lots of room for hiking and camping gear)
How Much Does a Toyota Highlander Cost?
- The base price of the LE model, which comes with a third row and Toyota Safety sense and is $31,680;
- The LE Plus model adds SofTex faux leather trim to the seats and is $36,610;
- The XLE model adds a moonroof, hands free lift gate and customizable driver information display and is $39,570;
- The SE model adds sport tuned suspension and sport wheels, and is $40,790
- The Limited Model adds second row captains chairs, premium sound and heated and vented seats, and is $42,790
- The Limited Platinum we drove is $45,900, delivered and has all the premium features such as a panoramic sun roof, leather upholstery, heated and vented front seats, heated second row captains chairs, 5 USB ports, a household power outlet, telescoping steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, a smart key, a center console big enough for a handbag, an upgraded infotainment system and premium JBL audio– all of which is important to me. With delivery and a few small extras, the price of the model we drove was about $48,000.
Considering Toyota’s stellar reputation for making cars that last, a buyer might consider the price to be long-term investment.
Balancing the Travel Budget by Investing in a Good Travel Car
The 2019 Toyota Highlander is a great family road trip car for several different reasons. First, it’s comfortable. The front and second-row seating are very comfortable for sitting for long periods of time. I don’t love long road trips. I know getting there is part of the adventure but if there are more than three or so hours on the road, we look hard at flying. We can’t always afford it (airfare x4 can be painful) so we road trip.
My kids drive me nuts in the car, my legs get stiff and my behind gets numb. Oh, and my kids drive me nuts in the car. I know I said that already but it bears repeating because they’re two nine-year-old boys. We did two eight hour legs in the 2019 Toyota Highlander and it was comfortable. The drivers’ seat has plenty of leg room – and I am a tall lady. The seats are comfortable and are heated and vented. When you’re taking a summer driving trip, cooling seats are golden.
There’s plenty of room in the rear for our bags and assorted gear. We travel fairly lightly but there are four of us and some mid-size SUVs don’t have enough rear space to efficiently hold our belongings. The Toyota Highlander has room and then some.
Oh, and my kids still drove me nuts, which probably surprises exactly no one. I’m not sure if Toyota can find a solution for that issue but I’ll keep hoping.
The Spacious Backseat Means My Kids are Further Away from Me (and that Doesn’t Bother Me)
I like my kids to be as far away from me as possible when I’m driving and I’m not ashamed to admit it. They pick at each other. And talk loud. They play games and play music on their electronic devices at a decibel level that doesn’t agree with my ears. I love them and they’re really good little travel buddies but having them sit behind me for several hours while I’m trying to focus on the road or the traffic or even just listen to music that I like, well…it’s not the most fun part of a trip for me.
The second-row bucket seats sit further back in the car than most mid-size SUV or crossover vehicles. They’re more comfortable and we’ve got an extra room on the floor for backpacks or sports equipment. This row of seating is also perfect for adults with long legs so if you’re carpooling or the designated driver for girls (or parents) night out, the Toyota Highlander is a great choice.
I usually feel cramped if I have to sit in the back seat but not in the Highlander. There’s plenty of room back there!
Three Little Words: Third Row Seating
When I talk to people about their wish list of features for their dream car, third-row seating is often mentioned. We have two kids at home, so unless we’re taking an extra passenger somewhere, the third row seat will stay down, giving us more room for groceries, gym bags, suitcases, and all the other stuff we cart around on a daily basis.
As my kids get older, we’re taking other kids along with us more often and I need a vehicle that accommodates that without a lot of fuss. The Highlander’s third row isn’t designed for the larger family to use on a regular basis. The third row is pretty small and it’s fine for smaller kids or for the occasional guest passenger but if you’re regularly transporting more than four or five people, you probably want something with a roomier third row. I know third-row seating is a must-have for a lot of moms who are buying cars and this one deserves a serious look.
So. Much. Rear. Space.
What that folded down third row DOES give you is more space. There is plenty of room for four suitcases plus some. It can handle a major Costco haul, a soccer wagon and pretty much anything else an active family needs to cart around. This would be a great car to take on a camping trip. And, if your idea of adventure is a trip to the outlet malls (no shame in that, either) you’re not going to run out of space in the trunk.
This Dreamy Color Makes Me Happy – and That’s Important.
Yes, if you buy a Highlander in a different color your car will still be cool. Just not as cool as this one, but I realize that’s subjective and that everyone’s taste is different. The 2019 model comes in nine colors. This is called Toasted Walnut Pearl – so you can definitely find one that’s “you.” I think being happy with the color of your car is important. You spend a lot of time in your car…at least I spend a lot of time in my car…and I like a color that makes me happy.
Full disclosure: I wasn’t in love with this color at first. In a certain light, it appears to be a metallic beige color, which I think is boring. But, the Toasted Walnut Pearl is a coffee color. I thought the name would be something like “Espresso Magic.” Maybe that’s why I like the color so much. Espresso is indeed a beautiful thing. I also love the uniqueness of this color and that fact that is different from other cars on the road (or in the Costco parking lot…let’s be real, that is my life.)
Toyota always has such great paint colors and this year’s options for the Highlander don’t disappoint. The “Ooh La La Rouge Mica” is also a favorite, but that might be because the name is just so darn fun.
What We Loved About the Toyota Highlander
In a nutshell, we loved the space, appearance, and flexibility. We didn’t feel cramped, we had plenty of room for all our belongings and we were just comfortable all the way around. The car is good looking and not at all boxy. It can transition between your family vacation mobile to a night on the town easily. I think the color options go a long way toward giving the Highlander that little bit of extra pizzazz. One of the main selling points for us was the third-row seating. We love having the option to say yes to questions like “Can Thomas ride home with us after soccer practice and play for a while?” without having to worry about space or safety.
What Else Do You Need to Know?
I’m a mom who drives her kids around and a very frequent traveler, so the lens through which I look at a car is whether it’s going to be a good fit with the things I do with my kids on a daily basis. Whether we’re taking a trip or just going to the grocery store, I want a car that’s a good fit for #momlife. However, the Highlander isn’t exclusively a “mom car” at all. It’s a great car for all types of people.
- Gas mileage: No one likes a gas guzzler. According to Toyota, the Highlander gets an average of 22 MPG in the city, 26 highway and 20 in town. We did a lot of highway driving during the two-week period we had this car. We found we consistently got about 26 MPG, so their facts are spot on.
- Safety features: They might not be sexy or exciting, but they’re important. We’re in our car a lot. We often cover a lot of miles. As much as I like to talk about my kids being a pain in my booty when I’m driving around, they really are wonderful children. Their safety is important to me. In addition to the TSS safety system and blind spot alert, the Highlander has an overall five-star vehicle safety rating. It has a four-star safety rating for driver’s side frontal crash, five stars for a passenger side frontal crash and five stars for both front seat and rear seat side crashes
- Comfort: Overall, this is an insanely comfortable vehicle for a family of four or five that can seat more people on an occasional basis.
Disclosure: Toyota provided the Highlander for our test drive. All opinions are my own.