Test Driving Family Friendly 2014 Toyota Highlander in Beautiful Santa Barbara

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by on January 28, 2014

2014 toyota highlanderLast week, I had the privilege to take a trip back to my old stomping grounds – beautiful Santa Barbara – to test drive the all new 2014 Toyota Highlander thanks to Toyota. The trip was quick, but the weather was perfect with sunny skies to enjoy the beach, the small town feel, the coffee, and my favorite spot in SB, the Santa Barbara Mission. Oh yes, and I was able to do all this while driving a brand new car with some very fun features!

santa barbara beachIf you haven’t ever taken a trip to SB, I truly recommend it. This trip was amazing and reminded me how much I love and miss the city. I lived there for 4 years and still feel like it is home in some ways. I’ll be honest and say though that when I knew that I would be driving around a mid-sized SUV in SB, I was a tad nervous. It is a small beach town with some narrow roads and small parking spots, however, I was pleasantly surprised at the Toyota Highlander’s capabilities!

The All New 2014 Toyota Highlander

parking toyota highlanderCheck out the picture above – I actually parked in a “compact” spot at the beach with plenty of space. I felt safe and comfortable driving the Highlander along the beach roads, and through the mountains and we took our adventure to San Ynez and Solvang.

2014_Toyota_Highlander_LE Plus_01So, before I tell you more about about my trip, I want to give you more ideas of why I really enjoyed the new 2014 Toyota Highlander. There is now seating up to 8 with 3 rows. There is an option to have the second row as cabin chairs, something I so wish I had in my current SUV. That would help to keep the kids separated a bit more! As a mom of 3, I truly appreciate the space available in this vehicle. There is increased cargo capacity and some really smart storage solutions.

2014_Toyota_Highlander_XLE_02As tested from our Santa Barbara adventure, that center console between the two front seats holds 60 juice boxes! Not that you would ever want that many in there – but that gives you can idea. I think it would be perfect to hold a big purse or tote as you get everything done during the day. My absolute favorite extra feature was the in-dash shelf with a pass-thru to a USB/12V plug-in. This is perfect for your phone, keys, sunglasses, extra change, parking ticket or anything else you need easy access to while driving around. I will miss that feature the most!


There is also some great technology in the new 2014 Toyota Highlander. Here are some of my favorite features:

  • Standard Backup Camera
  • Bluetooth streaming technology
  • Advanced Voice Recognition
  • Rear Parking Assist Sonar (optional)
  • Driver Technology Package with radar cruise control and lane departure alert (optional)
  • Panoramic Moonroof (optional)

2014_Toyota_Highlander_Hybrid_Platinum_24As a family car, this is such a great option, with added space in the cabin for passengers, extra storage solutions, and now with rear cargo space behind the third row that has increased by 34% – the 2014 has proven that is a much better model.

The Highlander was comfortable to ride in – and so much fun to drive. Just check out a few of the Santa Barbara destinations it took me too:

toyota highlander beachStearns Wharf

toyota coffeeSanta Barbara Roasters – couldn’t miss up the coffee!santa barbara missionSanta Barbara Missionsolvang windmillSolvang – for the world’s best fudge :)melissa hurst beachThe Beach

There are so many more features and exciting options on the 2014 Toyota Highlander. If you are looking for a family friendly vehicle that doesn’t sacrifice on safety and technology features AND is affordable, I definitely recommend checking out the Highlander.

Finally (and I know this is a long post, so thanks for reading), I want to thank Toyota for being so welcoming and friendly. I love meeting brands that truly care about their customers and listen to what we have to say.

Disclosure: I did receive a free trip to Santa Barbara to test drive the Highlander, however, this post is 100% my opinion and the sponsor did not change or alter this post. Read more on my Disclosure page.


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  • kas

    That sounds like a blast and looks like a great car for a road trip!

  • What a nice looking car. I cannot believe how much fits in the back. That is fabulous!!

  • Nikki

    I love Toyota! Eventually I’ll upgrade my current car a nice roomy one like this that works great in the snow.

  • Terri Lynn Grothe

    We will buy a Toyota the next time without a doubt

  • Kathleen Kennedy Leon

    What a great looking ride with lots of cool features :) –thanks for sharing-I had the opportunity to drive it myself as a rental–really smooth!

  • Nicole L

    Very nice, looks like it has a lot of room!

  • Danielle

    WOW! There is a LOT of room inside!

  • kim

    Holly molly…very nice indeed and you couldn’t have picked a better place to test drive it. What a beaut!

  • PInParent

    Toyotas are great cars. Looks like you had fun exploring in it. :-)

  • I agree – I loved being in SB again. It is so beautiful!

  • I agree Terri – I have really loved getting to know more about Toyota.

  • We don’t have snow in Phoenix – but I can imagine the Highlander would be perfect for that type of weather.

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