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When it comes to user-friendly cars, it’s hard to do better than Toyota. Superb reliability, mild mannered, abundant cupholders, generous storage compartments, a place for everything, and everything in its place. It’s no wonder the brand continues to hover at the top of those Consumer Reports reviews. With this backdrop, Editor John-Fredrik Wright drove three popular Toyota cargo carriers—the RAV4, Highlander, and Sienna—back to back to back, and put them through the family test.
By John-Fredrik Wright
Three cargo carriers from Toyota: RAV4, Highlander, and Sienna go through the family test
High five for the Highlander
A while back, we had the chance to spend some time behind the wheel of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid. The Highlander Hybrid comes loaded with the features of the top-of-the-line LTD. So, true to form, the Highlander LTD is equipped liked the Highlander Hybrid, sans the hybrid technology . Okay, that’s a little confusing. Let’s put it this way: The Highlander as a Hybrid is a great car; the Highlander LTD is certainly no letdown either.
One might miss the extra juice the Hybrid battery delivers, but the LTD comes with a much lower number on the price-sticker. This, in itself, is very appealing and might compensate for the slight lack of umpf, or kick, that only the Hybrid delivers in the Highlander line.
Treasures of the Sienna Madre
The Highlander might be the mighty of our current three test vehicles, but not the largest space-wise. The Sienna easily takes that spot on the list. The mother of people-haulers. The mover, the shaker, and the roller. Okay, maybe not a shaker. The boot on this bitch is too big to shake. But my goodness, will it move anything and everything! Open up the electrically maneuvered doors on either side of this beast and you can load in pretty much as many people as you would ever want to be close to for a longer period of time. The Sienna must be one of the best road-trip mini-vans, or should we say maxi-vans. The spacious cabin will have most people settled in for any duration. The only thing the Sienna is missing is a lavatory.
It too, could use a little more juice, though. The 2.7L 4-cylinder does a great job at getting this beast to move, but it will not spice up your drive. The gas-mileage isn’t too bad (keeping in mind that it is a huge vehicle), but don’t think you’ll be esily passing anybody going over The Grapevine.
Recreational Activity Vehicles
Actually that is one thing all three in this Toyota-trio have in common. The RAV4 isn’t that peppy either. But, fear not, all three have qualities that far outnumber that one little downfall. The price-tag is reasonable for all three family haulers. And even though the RAV4 has been around for quite some time (it was the first of the mini-crossover SUVs), it is still placing at the top of the list in its class. Affordable, reasonable, and yet still comes loaded with the handy stuff one has come to expect from Toyota.
The Highlander does well both on-road and off, with a comfortable ride even on rough back-roads. The interior offers comfortable seating for four, in which case the middle of the second row can be used as an arm-rest with a couple of cup-holders in it. On that note, the middle seat is actually removable and can be stored between the two front seats. That’s where you will find the middle console to replace the middle seat. It’s a very neat way of having the best of both worlds–a real seat (kinda) and a real middle console.
For handling, the Highlander does the best. we are always impressed with how well the Highlander hugs the road, especially since it’s a rather large SUV. The RAV4 is somewhat soft in sharp cornering, but then again, you are not supposed to be taking corners at break-neck speeds in a RAV4. Even softer is the Sienna, which exhibits a bit of roll in the corners. No abrupt lane-changes, please—just enjoy the smooth cruise.
The sheer size of the interior of the Sienna is impressive. The exterior is also large, but we are all so accustomed to seeing large vehicles on the road that this raises no eyebrows. As for the inside, whoa! For a road-trip to the Bay Area, we folded the third row seats to make room for some luggage. We notice that you can fit an entire family of dogs, or as we did, a whole lot of suitcases. Why travel light when you don’t have to?
The Highlander made a couple of trips along dirt roads in the high dessert. It proved to be a capable handler in the dirt, and did very well when driven a little more brutally through some dusty hills. Through it all, the Highlander always portrays a command of the road that one expects from more expensive vehicles. The interior has that same high-end quality, with very comfortable seating for four (or seven in a pinch), and a quiet and stable ride even through backcountry roads.
The RAV4, Highlander, and Sienna all represent Toyota at its best—high quality, high value, good gas mileage, and the assurance that you’ll be enjoying many trouble-free miles for years to come.
Three best friends forever.
For more information about Toyota products, go to www.toyota.com
EPA fuel economy rating:
20 mpg (city)/25 mpg (highway)
EPA fuel economy rating:
19 mpg (city)/24 mpg (highway)
EPA fuel economy rating:
22 mpg (city)/28 mpg (highway)