“I quickly realized the hardest part of choosing between these two, was keeping the needs of others a top priority, and ignoring the little voice in my head telling me not to. It’s a tough decision, but it’s one that many parents have to make.”
It’s time to replace the old family clunker, and thankfully life has treated Mom and Dad fairly well and the budget for the new family ride is much more than it was for the current one. A decision must be made.
Ask a Dad about his new-car preferences and he’ll most likely want to downsize and get something cool looking, ask a Mom and she’ll want something more spacious and comfortable. But ask the kids and they’ll quickly ask for reclining chairs, two-dozen USB-chargers, a blue-ray player and most definitely AC vents in the back. Thankfully, auto manufacturers have worked hard over the last few years to cater to most members of the family, as well as to growing trends in features and optional equipment.
Steven Seagal vs. Mother Teresa
Both of these hip and high tech family machines sit at the very top of their range, offer All-Wheel Drive, have V6 engines, and manage to seat seven passengers in luxurious accommodations. Yet, both completely differ from each other when it comes their main areas of focus, driving dynamics and characteristics. This is where the journey begins…
I enjoyed Toyota’s flagship family hauler for little over a week, and during that time many people asked me —what do you think of it? Every single time I answered —it’s solid, if I purchased it, my parents would be proud of me. Driving my girls in the Highlander made me feel like smart, budget conscious and exemplary Dad. Look at me, I drive a bland, but excellent quality and reliable SUV, and did you see the Hybrid badge on this thing? It means I care about polar bears.
Driving the Highlander around town is everything I would want in a family SUV, the suspension is soft and smooth, steering is light, and although the brakes feel a bit unbalanced due to the hybrid energy regeneration, it’s a very supple ride. Stepping hard on the throttle won’t thrust your head back, but it’ll accelerate quickly and smoothly enough to keep all passengers comfortable. But the highlight of it all was the 29.8-MPG I averaged over a 580-mile road trip. Hybrid For The Win!
The Highlander is all about it’s rear occupants, so naturally the second and third row seats were designed to be very comfortable, and offer AC-Heat vents, window shades (excellent for road trips), and ease of access to the third row. In fact, the rear accommodations are so nice that I often hung out in the back watching Top Gear on the Blue-Ray player, as Missi played chauffeur —it was awesome.
The Highlander is a well rounded vehicle with an exceptional safety record and very capable of meeting the highest family demands. That being said, even with a nearly $50,000 price tag Toyota missed out on few “Duh” items. I was disappointed to see the disgustingly cheap 1980’s digital clock unit shoved into the dash, a foot-operated parking brake when even less expensive Lexus models utilize an electronic version, the absence of a 360-degree surround view camera system, and lastly —no panoramic sunroof.
If you desire a family hauler that slaps a smile on your face at every stop light, passing maneuver and highway ramp, look no further. Stop reading this and go buy a Kia Sorento with a V6 engine. Seriously, it’s that good. If such thing as a Mommy Racing Championship existed, Missi would be driving this.
Driving the Sorento is nothing like the Highlander, it’s much more agile, stout and willing to attack. In fact, I grew bored of highway driving in the Sorento and often looked for excuses to tackle some back roads. Therefore I must apologize to the people along Country Road 37 outside Grand Rapids, Michigan.
On the road, the SUV of choice of Pierce Brosnan is surprisingly quiet and smooth, visibility is excellent and it seems to convince you that you’re driving a much smaller vehicle than you really are. The Kia’s onboard technology is excellent and up to par with with much more expensive offerings from the Germans, and the controls are laid out in a straight forward and easy to get manner. Now, I must say, there are a lot of buttons, but they are well organized.
The rear accommodations of the Sorento alike the Highlander are first-class, yet the Kia’s feel even more executive due to the optional Nappa premium leather offered on the SX Limited trim. Everything is groovy until you start noticing it’s not as spacious, and the third row isn’t as easy to access, mainly because of its 4-inch length deficit to the Highlander.
Overall the Sorento is an excellent SUV, and it even feels more premium than the Highlander when it comes to interior materials, exterior accents, wheels, etc. But its biggest flaw lays at the touch of the pedals. Step on the throttle just a bit and be ready for the Sorento to take off in a hurry, step on the brakes and expect strong and abrupt braking power. I know what you are saying, “those aren’t really bad things, Jerry” —and I’d agree. Unfortunately they happen to be when the goal is to transport kids and pets comfortably and safely.
Steven Seagal is cool and he can kick some major butt. But as we all know, what once were cool and handsome looks, are now everything but. I’m afraid the Sorento will follow suit. Sure it can kick butt right now, and it looks sexy as heck. But just like previous Kias, it’s edgy style will look outdated just a couple of years down the road.
On the other hand, Mother Teresa is timeless, and her vision will outlive many. The Highlander may not be as striking as the Sorento, but it makes up for it in just about everything else. It may not offer a couple of cool gadgets but it has what really matters —family values.
The knockout winner
I loved driving the Sorento. Not only was it pretty to stare at, but the way it drove and the noise the engine produced made it feel like it was engineered with soul and even a bit of passion. The Highlander is the pinnacle of detached driving, you turn the wheel, push the pedals and the car does the rest, but in retrospect —it does a heck of a job.
The Highlander just felt like a big, solid piece of car traveling down the road, and the MPG figures its Hybrid system achieves are nothing short of outstanding! I also can’t deny its spacious and perfectly configured second and third row seats, and that’s why if I had $47,500 to spend on a family SUV, I’d be all over a Nautical Blue Metallic Highlander.
Note: There is a ton of information of how I compared these two back to back, most of which I could not list on here because I’d bore you to eternity. If you have any questions just shoot me an email at Jerry@lifeispoppin.com