2014 Toyota Highlander LE AWD. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Haney Louka
When booking a press car for a family road trip, our primary requirement is for adequate interior cargo space. And our benchmark is our own 2012 VW Golf Wagon. With 930L of volume behind the rear seats, it qualifies as “just big enough” for our family of four and all of the accoutrements required for a week-long trek. While that works just fine, it requires careful packing techniques (though I like the challenge) and limited access to cargo while on the go.
Toyota came through this year with its new-for-2014 Highlander. The first thing I thought of when I saw its new duds (this is the third-gen Highlander) was that it looks more van-like in profile than its predecessor. That boded well for our cargo-carrying requirements: the Highlander has 1,198L of volume behind the second row seats, and that 30 percent increase over our own car makes a huge difference.
Our road trip this year took us from our Winnipeg home to Chicago, IL, with a stop in Wisconsin Dells, WI on the way back. It proved to be a good time for a trip down to Chicago; our kids are now 10 and 12 years of age and so we didn’t have to look for attractions specifically geared toward kids when making our plans. And yes, Wisconsin Dells lays claim to being the waterpark capital of the world, but trust me, the grown-ups had just as much fun as the kids. Likewise, the Chicago portion of the trip included stops at the Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science and Industry, and the Skydeck at the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. Each of these required a fair amount of walking and a certain maturity for all of us to appreciate equally, and if we had done this two years ago the experience would not have been as memorable.
But that also meant our cargo requirements were increasing once again. When the kids were really small, we had to fit car seats, portable high chairs, playpens, and larger toys just to keep things moving smoothly. Infants and toddlers easily take up more space than adults on a road (or any kind of) trip. But the past few years we’ve gotten used to needing room for maybe a booster seat, along with small bags or suitcases for small kid-sized clothing. But as the kids get older, they’re not far from requiring the same amount of room as the adults, both for their growing bodies and commensurate increase in suitcase size.
2014 Toyota Highlander LE AWD cargo area configurations. Click image to enlarge