Back on March 12 of this year, we were on our way to Denver for our first look and drive with the new Highlander at Toyota’s Denver office. We were about half way there when it seemed that the whole world fell apart because of the coronavirus.

We got a call from Toyota saying that they could not get there as their flights had all been canceled, yet they were willing to allow us to have a test drive and go to lunch with the Toyota folks out in Denver.

We had already planned where to stay and what we were doing, so we continued on, not knowing that it would be our last trip for what would prove to be a much extended period.

Since that time in mid-March, we have had a week with the new Highlander Hybrid version and were thrilled to get a chance with the all-gas SUV. This year, the Highlander — now in its fourth generation — has been redesigned from the ground up.

What that really meant was we were in for a treat and grew to love the bolder, distinct new looks that came with this design.

Back in 2013, when the third generation was released and as the Highlander evolved, it seemed to talk more to the feminine side of the market. This new version, however, has crossed the divide to cater to the opposing side with a more masculine appeal.

Even inside, there is now more technology and different design elements that we feel have made this more of a family SUV that will keep both mom and dad happy, no matter who is driving.

After considering Toyota’s new “Go Highlander” campaign, which started with a Super Bowl ad showing that the Highlander is ready and willing to go where ever it is needed, we decided on an odd Saturday in September to give the Highlander a test run, heading to Joe’s Valley in Emery County for an adventure.

Inside, the new Highlander is loaded with luxury and technology, especially in the platinum trim that we received to drive for the week. The new, class-leading, 12.3-inch infotainment screen is especially useful with Apple CarPlay, as it allowed us to keep more than just CarPlay active in the screen.

In fact, with a screen this long, we were able to run three applications at the same time, which proved to be very useful on a longer trip such as this. Climate control, navigation and entertainment spent most of the day front and center.

Joe’s Valley is located about 14 miles east of Orangeville. With Siri leading the way, the drive down from Springville was beautiful and as comfortable as could be in the leather-clad seats that were both heated and cooled.

By the end of the day, we were able to make use of both.

The Highlander comes standard with Toyota’s Safety Sense 2.0, which includes pre-collision warning with pedestrian detection, high beam assist and a very cool road sign assist function. The latter allowed us to always know what the speed limit was no matter where we were on our journey.

With most of that journey consisting of back roads, this was a great addition to help us keep the speed within the law, a standard addition that gets Toyota a huge kudos from us.

Joe’s Valley turned out to be a stunning location to visit, with a beautiful reservoir and mountains surrounding it. The fall colors were just starting to come on, and it was the perfect day to be there.

We only wished we would have allowed more time for exploring and seeing the surrounding areas.

After a beautiful afternoon, we were left with the decision as to how to get home. Checking the onboard navigation indicated that there was a dirt road up and over the mountain cresting on top of the Skyline Drive in Sanpete County and eventually leading into Ephraim.

Taking the new Highlander mantra to heart, that it goes wherever it’s needed, we headed up the dirt road. It turned out the road was pretty good, with only a few precarious places as we got closer to the top.

We switched the drive terrain to dirt and rock for this part of the drive, and the Highlander tackled it with ease, getting us where we needed to go to get safely home.

The included smart phone charge located in the arm rest was also a great addition, keeping our navigation assistant happy and complete with power all day.

On the platinum trim, a full-color, heads-up display was also included that made this second leg of our journey even better. This was a great addition as the onboard navigation was still working through the mountains, even after Siri had let us down after we lost phone signal.

Knowing all the twists and turns of the dirt road ahead of time instilled more confidence in us getting over a road that we had never been on and didn’t know how the SUV would handle the differing conditions.

The new Highlander comes with a 295 horsepower, V-6 power plant with 263 pounds-feet of torque that is funneled through a Direct Shift 8-Speed transmission. We were very impressed with the ease of changing driving dynamics as we went through the day of backway, to dirt, to highway — ending with a stretch of freeway driving. We ended with an overall 24 miles per gallon rating for our week with the Highlander.

With the third row of seating in the back the new Highlander would be the perfect addition to any family or even empty nesters like ourselves.

Base Price: $48,800

Price as Driven: $51,112