When I first laid eyes on the 2017 Toyota Highlander, I thought, “this thing will never work for me.” First of all, it’s pretty and shiny. It has a rear-seat entertainment center, for crying out loud. My first impression was that it’s a grocery-getter or a soccer mom car.
It’s a big vehicle, though, with tons of storage space, especially if you lay down the third row of seats. It was more than enough to handle my photography lights, which means it could easily fit my hunting or camping gear, as well as the gear for two or three others. But it’s an SUV, so if we got an elk or a deer, getting the animal home would get interesting, to say the least. It does have a 5,000 pound towing capacity, though, so it’s powerful enough to take a trailer for trips that need the extra cargo area.
One of the nice things about the Highlander is its ground clearance. It’s not as high as a Jeep or a pickup, but with 8 inches of clearance, it sits higher than most of the other SUVs on the market, and it’s one of the highest clearances for crossovers.
All in all, the Highlander pleasantly surprised me. It could use some more aggressive tires than the highway treads it came equipped with, but those tires certainly help it get the 26 miles to the gallon I was getting while I had it. However, it’s an all-wheel-drive vehicle, which is not my favorite drive train for a hunting and fishing rig. It had great traction on snow and ice, and pretty decent grip on mud, but I worry that without true four-wheel-drive, you’d run into trouble on a particularly nasty forest road. But if you are on the road more than off, yet still like to make your way in to the woods, you’d probably be pretty comfy in a Highlander.