Weekend of grand family fun
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Can you bring this car up every time you come to see us?” asks Mister 5.
“Why?” I reply, wondering which techy detail or comfort feature this smart little cookie has latched on to within two minutes of being in the Toyota Highlander we have for a weekend.
“So we can watch TV while you drive,” he says.
As driver and navigator on a trip from Auckland to Whangarei to visit the grandkids, we hadn’t noticed the drop-down screen for the middle and rear passengers.
But Whangarei-based Damien and sister Millie spy it soon as they clamber into the middle seats.
Within seconds they find the remote in the side door (but unfortunately not the wireless headphones).
Next minute a Barbie DVD is playing loud, until we adjust volume control to play through rear speakers only.
But rewinding back to our two-hour trip north, we, the less-tech-savvy grandparents, have been relaxing into the drive, taking our time to suss out all the SUV’s features.
Although I had been a tad nervous about upsizing to an SUV, Driven Editor At Large Liz Dobson’s reassurances that it would be easy to drive were on target.
It took just two minutes of driving to realise that this eight-speed automatic AWD SUV does a lot of the hard work for its driver.
Panoramic view monitors and parking sensors warn of anything too close, windscreen wipers have rain sensors, and the reversing camera makes backing a breeze.
Once I am travelling at open speed limit, I lock in the adaptive cruise control, and the Dynamic Radar Cruise Control detects changes of speed of the vehicle ahead.
Grandpa and I take the direct route to Whangarei, breaking the journey at Warkworth for a coffee.
Driver swaps involve seat adjustments. And we even decide to switch temperature control on our leather seats from heated to chilled.
Just for a couple of seconds, though, as it feels like we have stuck our bums into a freezer.
Rather unnerving on a winter day, but no doubt appreciated in summer.
The next day we take a Sunday drive, with Damien, Millie and the Barbie DVD, out to the Whangarei Heads, including a detour to the beach at Pataua.
The grandkids can’t resist running into the water and we send a “bring dry clothes to lunch” text to Damien’s family when a wave drenches his jeans.
From Pataua, we wind our way on the twisty-turny road back to the harbour until we stop at a playground at one of the bays starting with Mc … McLeod, McGregor, McKenzie.
This involves parking on a slope, but Hill Start Assist Control means there’s no roll when we brake-start. We rather like that feature.
At the harbourside Parau Bay pub we meet up with our son and daughter-in-law (carrying the requested a change of clothes) for lunch.
Mister 5 heads home with his parents while Miss 9 continues with us out to Ocean Beach, where she’s first out of the car, shoes off and turning cartwheels on the beach.
And then it’s time for the return journey to Whangarei for the night, and the next day to Auckland, where we finally discover we have a “moon roof”. (Strangely enough we use this when the sun is shining.)
The Highlander has made our weekend trip stress-free. We can understand why many Kiwis are switching from sedans to SUVS.
Especially for families wanting a big, 5-star Ancap safety-rated ride with room for seven and generous boot space.
And, of course, a DVD to keep back-seat passengers happy on road trips.
• 2017 Highlander Limited FWD V6, eight-speed automatic, $81,490.