Toyota let me borrow this 2018 Highlander for a week, with a full tank of gas provided. All opinions are my own. Contains affiliate links. By far, this was one of the hardest secrets to keep! I planned a surprise family reunion to see my mom, sisters and nephews in Oregon. Toyota Highlander Review: My Surprise Family Reunion

My mom was supposed to come to California to visit us in January, but it didn’t work out how we had hoped. I originally planned to surprise her by returning to Oregon with her, or perhaps going to Oregon first and having her return with me. None of that worked out, but my visit was still the ultimate surprise for my whole family!

Toyota Highlander Review: My Surprise Family Reunion

See that picture above? I visited my old High School during my trip to Corvallis, Oregon. It’s been completely rebuilt since I attended and it’s absolutely beautiful! Go Spartans!

surprise family reunion

surprise family reunion high school reunion

surprise family reunion high school reunion

surprise family reunion high school reunion

surprise family reunion high school reunion

surprise family reunion high school reunion

surprise family reunion high school reunion

surprise family reunion high school reunion

Just below, is a picture of Sue’s house. Well, it’s her old house really. RIP. I lived in this tiny house with Sue and her daughter, my BFF, Jessie! So many memories. It was certainly nostalgic visiting places in the town where I spent my High School years. Still, I could have gone without every sight, except for the sight of my family. It’s been almost 10 years since I’ve seen my sisters and nephews. I know. That’s too long. 

Visiting Sue's house during my Toyota Highlander Review


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My visit was about the people! I had to change my plan of surprise at the last minute. So, I went to my nephew’s work and solicited his help to surprise the rest of the family. Now don’t be thinking he doesn’t love me! Of course he does. I’m the awesome-cool aunt. He was just in shock! He didn’t get off until 11, so I had him call my other nephew to plan to sneak me into my sister’s house. It was a success. I was snuck into the living room and my nephew Marcos called his parents and siblings into the room. It was amazing! Then I went to surprise my mom, my other sister Joelle and her other son Nico. I was elated.

(Unrelated: This whole don’t use a second comma and only use one space is freaking me out. How can something as simple as where the comma goes become a thing? Eh – life.)

Anyway, this is what happened on my way to my surprise family reunion! The one thing that went exactly as planned was having the amazing Toyota Highlander waiting for me at the airport. It was cold and rainy when I arrived, but I was so comfortable in the long drive to my family’s hometown.

Oregon is a natural beauty!

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One of the things I wanted to do while I was there was see some snow. I planned on heading up to Mary’s Peek on my own. I trusted the Highlander so I was good to go. My brother-in-law convinced everyone else to go with me. We were all having a blast on the way up and my sister even recorded this video. Then we hit snow. At first, it was all along the sides of the road. Around one bend and it covered everything. Panic! Not me, but everyone else. They got out of the truck and started walking to safety. There was no safety! Luckily, some locals who were coming back down helped us get turned around by blocking the road off at both ends. If I had been alone, I would have freaked. But, we were all together so I knew we’d be okay.

It was so awesome to see people stop, no hesitation, and just help!

So, what did I think about the AWD Toyota Hylander XLE?

Two thump up, for sure! I like that it incorporated a little bit of old-school-modern. Like that term? Well, it fits. There’s a built DVD with remote and headphones! I love that. For sure, it’s a favorite feature. Keeping a truck-load of kids entertained on a road trip or while out running boring errands is not easy. Another things I loved is that you can increase the volume for rear audio so that the passengers can hear the driver talking. What?! You mean I didn’t have to lose my voices all those years screaming at the kids because they can’t ever hear me? It’s comfortable inside and a smooth ride.

The seats are also spacious. Since my newest nephew is still so young, my brother-in-law sits in the back seat with him whenever they are out and about. In the Toyota Highlander, there was plenty of space for him to sit comfortably and move his legs, even with all the other seats taken. I especially like some of the extra safety features including Blind Spot Monitor, Lane Departure Warning, Lane Keeping Assist and Cross-Traffic Alert!

My sister and her family loved the Highlander so much they were seriously considering trading in their own 2016 vehicle! That’s impressive! Want to know more? Check out all the specs below. If you get the chance to check one out, go for it! You won’t be disappointed.

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I got to play in the snow, though!

Plus, I felt like a princess the whole time I was in the Toyota Highlander!


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It was an amazing trip and there’s no way I’m going to allow another 10 years to go by before seeing all my wonderful family! The only thing is, I can’t guarantee it will be planned. The surprise family reunion was just too much fun!

2018 AWD Toyota Highlander XLE Specs:


  • Body Style: Sport Utility
  • Wheelbase (in.): 109.8
  • Length, Overall (in.): 192.5
  • Width, Max w/o mirrors (in.): 75.8
  • Height, Overall (in.): 68.1
  • Doors & Windows
  • Rear Defrost
  • Privacy Glass
  • Power Windows
  • Rear Defrost
  • Privacy Glass
  • Power Windows
  • Exterior Features
  • Sun/Moon Roof
  • Running Boards (Optional)
  • Rear Spoiler
  • Tires – Front All-Season
  • Tires – Rear All-Season
  • Compact Spare Tire
  • Tire Pressure Monitoring System
  • Aluminum Wheels
  • Wheel Locks (Optional)
  • Towing
  • Trailer Hitch Receiver (Optional)
  • Maximum Trailering Capacity (lbs.): 5000


  • Alarm
  • Back-Up Camera
  • Cruise Control
  • Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Vehicle Anti-Theft System
  • Fog Lamps
  • Auto-Off Headlights
  • Interior Cargo Shade (Optional)
  • Keyless Start
  • Luggage Rack (Optional)
  • Power Liftgate
  • Remote Engine Start (Optional)
  • Adjustable Steering Wheel
  • Steering Wheel Controls
  • Leather Wrapped Steering Wheel
  • Trip Computer
  • Remote Trunk Release
  • Universal Garage Door Opener
  • Intermittent Wipers
  • Variable Speed Intermittent Wipers
  • Keyless Entry
  • Power Door Locks
  • Electrochromic rearview mirror
  • Heated Mirrors
  • Power Mirrors
  • Driver Vanity Mirror
  • Driver Illuminated Vanity Mirror
  • Passenger Vanity Mirror
  • Passenger Illuminated Visor Mirror
  • Power Steering
  • Dimensions
  • Passenger Capacity: 7
  • Passenger Volume (cu. ft.): 142.2
  • Front Head Room (in.): 39.5
  • Front Leg Room (in.): 44.2
  • Front Shoulder Room (in.): 59.3
  • Front Hip Room (in.): 57.2
  • Second Head Room (in.): 39.6
  • Second Leg Room (in.): 38.4
  • Second Shoulder Room (in.): 59.6
  • Second Hip Room (in.): 57.1
  • Third Leg Room (in.): 27.7
  • Cargo Volume to Seat 1 (cu. ft.): 83.2
  • Cargo Volume to Seat 2 (cu. ft.): 42.3
  • Cargo Volume to Seat 3 (cu. ft.): 13.8
  • AM/FM Stereo
  • Auxiliary Audio Input
  • CD Player
  • HD Radio
  • MP3 Player
  • Satellite Radio
  • Entertainment System (Optional)
  • Hard Disk Drive
  • Smart Device Integration
  • Heating & Cooling
  • Climate Control
  • Dual Zone A/C
  • Rear A/C
  • Navigation & Communication
  • Navigation System
  • Wireless Cell Phone Hookup
  • Leather Seats
  • Additional Rear Seat
  • Heated Front Seats
  • Driver Lumbar
  • Power Driver Seat
  • Power Passenger Seat
  • Pass-Through Rear Seat (Optional)
  • 2nd Row Bench Seat (Optional)
  • Bucket Seats
  • Quad Bucket Seats


  • All Wheel Drive
  • V6 Cylinder Engine
  • Engine Type: Regular Unleaded V-6
  • Displacement: 3.5 L/211
  • Horsepower (Net @ RPM): 295 @ 6600
  • Torque (Net @ RPM): 263 @ 4700
  • Transmission: Automatic w/OD
  • Turning diameter: 38.7
  • EPA Fuel Economy Est – City (MPG): 20
  • EPA Fuel Economy Est – Hwy (MPG): 26
  • Fuel Tank Capacity, Approx (gal.): 19.2
  • Suspension Type – Front: Strut
  • Suspension Type – Rear: Double Wishbone
  • Suspension Type – Rear (Cont.): Double Wishbone
  • Transmission
  • Automatic
  • Automatic Transmission w/Manual Mode
  • 8-Speed Automatic


  • Driver Air Bag
  • Passenger Air Bag
  • Front Head Air Bag
  • Rear Head Air Bag
  • Front Side Air Bag
  • 4-Wheel ABS
  • 4-Wheel Disc Brakes
  • Safety Features
  • Brake Assist
  • Electronic Stability Control
  • Daytime Running Lights
  • Child Safety Locks
  • Integrated Turn Signal Mirrors
  • Traction Control
  • Blind Spot Monitor
  • Lane Departure Warning
  • Lane Keeping Assist
  • Cross-Traffic Alert

 Be sure to follow Toyota on Facebook and Twitter, too! Have you ever surprised your family with a reunion? I’d love to know in the comments!

By: Alicia Gonzalez