Recently, during AAPI Heritage Month, we were invited to Hawaii to celebrate Toyota and experience the new Grand Highlander. It was a whimsical experience. This is why the brand’s DNA goes through my legacy as our family has been proud owners of many of their products: Corolla, Tacoma, and Highlander. So we know firsthand how reliable their vehicles are. And just like the family, it was on this tour that we realized how attentive Toyota has become. They were attentive to their customers’ needs: more power, more cabin space, more cargo space, and an eye-catching silhouette.
With three new powertrains (a turbocharged 2.4-liter four-cylinder gas engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gas-electric hybrid, and a gas-electric performance Hybrid Max) as well as a longer wheelbase (+6 inches), the Toyota Grand Highlander has been super-sized for all team toting parents. With advanced driver technology like Hybrid Max, producing 362 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque, this is one of the most powerful 2.4 Liter four-cylinder gas-electric engines in its class. The available voice activated “Hey Toyota,” Android Auto, and Apple CarPlay built into the 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It is also one of the smartest vehicles in its category.
We prefer the Platinum version with Hybrid Max in Storm Cloud. That is one of the most costly packages. This ultimate family hauler is well-equipped at $59,400. It has a jack cover; 110V and 1500 WATT AC outlet; JBL subwoofer; tons of cup holders and USB ports; a removable center console in 2nd row (for easier access to 3rd row); and 20-inch wheels. Moreover, the 2nd row has climate control access, vented seats, and every trim comes with a spare tire. Further, the 3rd row has enough headroom and legroom to transport two average-sized adults. Acoustic glass keeps the cabin quiet, and the Hybrid Max delivers smooth driving and sufficient torque for defensive drivers.
Clearly, the Toyota Grand Highlander will dominate the North American market with its bold design and interior/exterior colorways.
Mauna Lani, Auberge Resorts Collection
There’s a reason the media queen, Oprah, is buying a plethora of land in Hawaii. History is enough on its own for a billionaire, but heritage and customs are unparalleled in the Sandwich Islands. As such, the Mauna Lani Resort (Celestial Mountain) is within walking distance of some of the most breathtaking peaks. In 2018, the property was bought and reimagined with a $200 million price tag by Croesus, Dan Friedkin, owner of the world’s largest independent Toyota distributor. With 333 rooms and 50 bungalows, many units boast terraces overlooking the beach.
Campus amenities are the primary reason why it is the top resort on the island. The 5000 square-foot fitness center has pretty much the same equipment as our Equinox. The former chef of Nobu runs CanoeHouse restaurant.
Something fantastic is going on from above. You start to enjoy the traditions and embrace spirituality. After digging, you are mesmerized by the beautiful beaches and lava rocks that surround this institution. After a long journey, their world-class spa offers a plethora of services, including body massages. Or enjoy a cocktail as you watch a local artist paint. Oh, the golf course is wonderful, snorkeling is surreal, and the kids’ summer camp teaches them the importance of community.
Staying on the sixth floor in a luxury seaside apartment felt like we were by the pool. Of course, helicopter tours, sea turtles, and manta swimming are major attractions. Yet, the peaceful atmosphere with residences nearby reminds us of our childhood.
‘At one time, I literally burst into tears during the summer rain. It instantly brought back the warm embrace of my father or the wet kisses of my mother on my cheek.‘
– Vaughn Lowery, 360 President
Lastly, the staff at Mauna Lani Resort was extremely accessible and professional. Even though we were here for business, this was a necessary time for self-preservation.
“I love you like XO (in Beyoncé‘s voice).”
PROs: Free book exchange, free bike rental, great walking trails, great shops, free washer/dryer behind reception, and convenience store on campus.
For additional information, visit Toyota.com