If you’re searching for the perfect vehicle for an active family, the 2014 Toyota Highlander, may just be the answer you’re looking for. A new attractive design is complemented with a dynamic driving experience and interior innovation at value pricing. I recently had the chance to give the vehicle a road test while on the East Coast and was thoroughly impressed.

I’m a fan of the new exterior design over previous models. The mid-size SUV is now a bit more masculine with the lower roofline, larger front grille, and wrap around headlights. The sculptured doors and fenders wrapped around the 19 inch wheels (on the model provided) create a muscular stance.

Outdoor adventurers can rejoice in the Dynamic Torque Control All-Wheel Drive (AWD) option along with the option to add a roof rack to fit anything from the best hitch cargo box, to even a stand-up paddle board. Additionally, the enhancements in suspension performance and optimized electric power steering create a smooth ride on and off road.

The interior enhancements from the plush leather seating, to the LCD in-meter-cluster Multi-Information Display, and panoramic moonroof all aid in driver comfort and convenience. Three rows of seating fit up to 8 people, however 7 adults is the max we were able to fit comfortably. When not fully packed with passengers the third row folds down flat to give ample storage space in the cargo area. We were able to fit, albeit tightly – 4 medium to large pieces of luggage, 1 duffle bag, a fishing pole case, a carry-on Pelican case, and a couple backpacks.

The 8-inch touch screen provided information, navigation, and controls for the music. I prefer touch screen navigation to mouse like controllers that many vehicles have. This system is a little slower than I would have liked however, but definitely a step in the right direction for Toyota. One thing that really bugged me was the auto dim while driving through tunnels, which made it hard to see (I’m sure there is a way to customize the display.) The in-car entertainment system was as expected and provided clear sound.

Complementing the 8-inch touch screen in the center of the dashboard was a nice little instrument cluster display, which let me see various screens at a touch for trip information, all-wheel-drive performance, navigation, and music.

I rather enjoyed the driving experience of the Highlander. Through the city, the Highlander remained smooth through the streets and on dirt roads the ride was still comfortable and I remained in control. For longer journeys the Highlander provided ergonomic comfort. The V6 AWD option is what I was able to test out and I can say that the extra power from the V6 vs the four cylinder option is the way to go despite the loss in fuel economy. The steering had a sporty feel and for a large vehicle hugged the road nicely on tight turns with minimal body roll.

Overall, this is a great option for an active family that needs not only space, but style and performance. The cargo capacity is excellent and the interior enhancements help the overall driver and passenger experience. Priced from right at $30k upwards to $40k plus for the Hybrid model, it is reasonable for what you get in the Toyota reliability and durability.