Toyota Family Vehicles Comparison: Highlander vs. 4Runner vs. Sienna (By Guest Blogger, Brenan Greene of Trail4Runner.com)

Highlander vs. the 4Runner vs. the Sienna

When it comes to choosing the right type of vehicle for your family – one that truly fits your lifestyle and needs – there are many options to choose from and picking the right vehicle can prove a daunting task. Consider Toyota’s mid-sized SUV offerings – the Highlander, the Toyota 4Runner – and the Toyota Sienna minivan.

The vehicle you choose will depend on your unique needs and preferences. Should you go with the kid-friendly minivan or a standard family-friendly mid-size SUV? That is the question. While all three vehicles are typically family-oriented vehicles, the 4Runner stands out for its ruggedness and off-road capability.

We recommend the 4Runner for families who will be using their vehicle for outdoor, off-road trails and adventures as it performs optimally in mud and dirt. It also has a good ground clearance – up to 9.6” – which makes it great for off-road applications. The 5th Gen 4Runner also offers a ton of room for improvement through 4Runner mods and accessories.

The Sienna minivan and Highlander are more suited for daily errands, family outings and road trips. Check out our full road trip experience in the Sienna for a more detailed look into the Sienna. And, for an overview and review on the Highlander, take a look at the full 2014 Highlander Review for a better look inside.

But first? Don’t you sorta gotta have this awesome Toyota hoodie? Click here for the best deal on Amazon!

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To help you make a well-informed decision before purchasing, let’s take a closer look at each vehicle’s unique characteristics and compare. We will be looking at the 2015 base models of these vehicles for easier comparison.

Interior

The interior of the Highlander is posh, sleek and family-friendly, with soft surfaces and simple controls. The Sienna’s interior is spacious, stylish and sleek, also designed to be family-friendly. On the other hand, the 4Runner’s interior features hard surfaces and looks similar to the inside cabin of a pickup truck. It has a more sturdy, rugged look.

Exterior

The 4Runner, with its rugged construction, looks less refined and sleek than the Highlander and Sienna. It looks like a vehicle that can handle the demands of off-road terrains – strong and sturdy. There are many different models of the 4Runner, so there is something for every family out there. But, most of them have a similar design, look and feel. The Highlander and Sienna have clean simple lines, and while not as rugged as the 5th Gen 4Runner, they still pack a stunning look and feel.

Seating

The standard 5th Generation 4Runner comes with 2 rows of seating with the option for a 3rd row. Keep in mind that this optional 3rd row is designed to fit kids only. If you have babies, toddlers or even grown children, you want to check out the Third-Row 4Runner. This will give you the best options for seating and transporting your little ones’ about. Adults can and will fit but it sure is tight. The 2015 Highlander and 2015 Sienna both have three rows of seating. The Highlander can accommodate up to 8 passengers while the Sienna can accommodate up to 7 or 8 passengers, depending on the vehicle configuration you choose to go with.

Comfort

In terms of the level of comfort offered by each vehicle, the 4Runner offers the least comfortable ride. This is due to its rugged, body-on-frame construction design. The uni-body frame of the Highlander provides a quieter, more comfortable ride than the 4Runner. The suspension system of the Highlander is designed for maximum shock absorption as you drive over bumps while the 4Runner tends to hit these bumps hard, making the ride less smooth.

The Sienna’s suspension is also designed for optimal shock absorption as you navigate bumps and uneven surfaces. The large sliding doors of the Sienna make it convenient for passengers – especially 3rd-row passengers – to enter and exit the vehicle easily.

With all of this being said, there a ton of options to increase the 4Runner’s ride and performance through aftermarket suspension systems. And, once you put an aftermarket suspension system on a 4Runner, you will have a smoother, more dependable on and off-road experience. If you are a camping family, the 4Runner is a solid choice.

Storage Capacity/Cargo Space

When the 2nd and 3rd rows of the Highlander are folded, you have 83.7 cubic feet of cargo storage space. With the 4Runner, folding the 3rd row accommodates 46.3 cubic feet of cargo while removing the 2nd row gives you 89.7 cubic feet of cargo space. The Sienna’s 3rd row folds to store 87.1 cubic feet of cargo while removing the 2nd row gives you 150 cubic feet of storage space. In terms of cargo space, the Sienna is the clear winner.

Towing Capacity

The 4Runner can tow up to 4700 pounds while the Sienna can tow up to 3500 pounds. For the average family, the Sienna’s towing capacity is more than enough for towing loads like a boat, for instance. The base model of the Highlander has a 1500-pound towing capacity while the V6 model can tow up to 5000 pounds.

Horsepower

The base model (3.5L V6) of the Sienna offers a maximum of 266 horsepower and 263 pound-feet of torque as opposed to the standard 2.7L 4-cylinder Highlander which cranks out only 185 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. However, you also have the option of a 3.5L V6 Highlander which offers 270 horsepower. The standard 4.0L V6 base engine of the 2015 4Runner produces a maximum of 270 horsepower and 278 pound-feet of torque.

Fuel Economy/Efficiency

The Highlander wins when it comes to fuel economy. Its 20/25 mpg city/hwy beats the Sienna (18/25 mpg city/hwy) and the 4Runner’s 17/22 mpg city/hwy.

Safety

In crash tests conducted by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the 4Runner earned a mere 4-star rating. The 4Runner is the loser when it comes to safety features as they are quite limited when compared to the features in the other two vehicles. It has a standard backup camera as well as front and rear parking sensors.

Compare this with the Highlander which boasts a perfect 5-star rating. The Highlander is also rated highly by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning a Top Safety Pick+ rating. This is due to its many safety features including lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, automatic braking with forward collision warning and rear cross traffic alert.

The Sienna features a Star Safety System and can be configured to include other safety-maximizing features including Pre-Collision System and Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Other safety features include emergency trunk release, lane departure warning, and 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes. The Sienna earns a Top Safety Pick+ from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and an overall 5-star rating by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Who Takes the Family Vehicle Cake?

As you can see, all three vehicles are great options. The vehicle you decide to go with will depend on your preferences. If you want a family vehicle for everyday use, without the stigma of driving an uncool minivan, the Highlander would be your best bet.

On the other hand, if you are more of the adventurous type that likes to explore trails and need a vehicle that can handle off-road terrains, consider going with the rugged and dependable 4Runner.

The Sienna is convenient for families with children as the sliding doors make it easy for them to enter and exit the vehicle seamlessly.

In my overall opinion, I would choose a Highlander or a 5th Gen 4Runner.

Brenan Greene of Trail4Runner.com

DISCLOSURE LANGUAGE

Trail4Runner.com, partnered with bloggers such as me for this program. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. They did not tell me what to purchase or what to say about any product mentioned in these posts. Trail4Runner.com believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Trail4Runner.com policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, FTC guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

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We are Taking a Luxurious 2017 Toyota Sienna “Swagger Wagon” for Our Family’s Fall Road Trip to Boone, North Carolina

Ah, the life of a daddy blogger… to have a brand new decked-out vehicle delivered to me whenever our family goes on a road trip. It’s pretty awesome, actually. I love getting to share the stories that present themselves, as my wife and I (ambitiously) travel across the South with a now 1st grader and a 16 month-old.

This makes the first year our family will not be travelling to California. Instead, 2017 is a year of smaller road trips for us.

Back in May, we traveled to Destin, Florida in the 2017 Toyota Prius.

Then in July, we took a fun little trip to Louisville, Kentucky (and saw dinosaurs) in the 2017 Toyota 4Runner.

Our next upcoming event will be our fall road trip to Boone, North Carolina. We will be sharing a cabin with two of my wife’s siblings and their families. It’s going to be a long drive there and back, but we’ve got the right vehicle for it.

The 2017 Toyota Sienna “Swagger Wagon” that was delivered to me feels like a luxurious spacecraft. Our whole family is psyched!

My wife is excited because of how spacious the cabin is and how the captain’s chairs, in the 2nd row where she’ll be sitting next to our young daughter, are full recliners.

Our son is thrilled because he will be able to watch DVDs during the trip, as he loves taking up the 3rd row for himself.

I’m confident our little girl is going to love the Sienna on account of being able to be so close and accessible to her Mommy sitting next to her.

And as for me?

I like knowing that as the captain of our voyage, as I listen to Jimmy Buffet’s Radio Margaritaville on Channel 24 on SiriusXM up in the front row, my family is going to be comfortable and entertained in the middle and back rows.

Could a 36 year-old husband and father be more excited about taking his family on a 6 hour road trip to a cabin in North Carolina, in a 2017 Toyota Sienna “Swagger Wagon”?

I submit that he can not.

Dear Jack: The Mad Rush to Get You to Your 1st Violin Lesson on Time!

6 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

Today was a pretty interesting day…

This morning was an exciting in itself, as it made the first morning that you and your sister got to ride in the 2017 Toyota Highlander we are driving this week. With almost with no words necessary, you immediately adopted the 3rd row seat as your own.

Your sister was jolly as usual, enjoying the view up at you from her 2nd row seat. You loved how I let you out; through the back hatch door, so you could just jump out.

But while it was a good morning, it ended up being sort of a strange afternoon…

I received a call from Mommy while I was at work, which was unusual. She explained she was stuck in stand still traffic on I-65 and that it would be impossible for her to be able to pick you up in time from your school, then take you to your first official violin lesson. (A couple of weeks ago you got fitted for your violin, but today was the big day to actually start learning how to play it.)

Mommy told me your violin lesson would be beginning at 4:00. That only gave me 40 minutes from that point to finish up at work, drive to your school, then rush to the music academy where your lessons would be taking place.

Normally, to drive from Cool Springs to Spring Hill, on a good day, would take a solid 45 minutes… if I was lucky. But because the Interstate was essentially shut down, I would have to take the back roads instead; which only increased the challenge.

By the time I was pulling out of the parking lot, it was 3:25 on the dot; that gave me just 35 minutes to get your to your violin lesson on time.

It take a miracle to make this happen!

With a little bit of high tempo inspiration from Metallica pumping through the speakers (because, of course, who else?!), and the power of the 4Runner’s V-6 engine, I took advantage of my ability to make it through every about-to-change-from-green-to-yellow traffic light.

I can honestly say I didn’t speed, because in Nashville traffic, that’s just not an option: there are too many cars in front of you even if you tried. It must have been because I left work at an unusual time, far enough ahead of rush hour traffic, that I was able to achieve the impossible:

At 3:58 PM, with 2 minutes to spare, you were flying out of the back hatch of the 4Runner!

I still think that we must of cheated the laws of physics to get there on time, but somehow, we arrived with moments to spare!

And what can I say? Hey, you’re a smart kid. You soaked up every word your violin teacher, Gabrielle, had to say.

Tonight, after Mommy read you a bedtime story, you impressed her by giving her a violin lesson of her own.

So yeah, it was a pretty interesting day.

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

4 years, 9 months.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack,

For this past week our family was given a 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE Touring Sport Edition to review as a family.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

With us having just got back to Tennessee from our annual family vacation in Sacramento, where we reviewed a 2015 Toyota Camry, we decided to lay low this week.

Yet still, Saturday we managed to travel to midtown Nashville to visit the all new Baby+Co.; a spa-like place to give birth, sans the epidural.

Baby+Co. 10 FAQs & Walk Around Video (Nashville Location)

Then on Sunday we decided to trek to Franklin to see the iconic Natchez Parkway Bridge. You nor Mommy had ever been there; whereas I had last summer when I reviewed the 2015 Lexus NX.

While I had the camera rolling as you used the parking lot curb as a balance beam, you stopped in your tracks as you discovered a butterfly that had breathed its final breath.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

You were inspired to give it a proper (yet impromptu) funeral, so we did.

As we were getting ready to leave, after taking some family pictures, you were concerned:

“Where is the food? I thought there were nachos?”

I explained that the name of the place we were at was “Natchez”, not nachos.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We are a family who essentially never goes out to eat; not only because we are vegan/vegetarian and our options are extremely limited, but also because we are Dave Ramsey followers and it’s difficult to justify weekly restaurant money when it could be going to our “new car” fund.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

However, you apparently caught Mommy and me at the perfect moment, because on the drive home Mommy discretely asked me, “Is there somewhere on the way home we might want to stop for lunch?”

Granted, I was happy to oblige; it would save me from dish duty.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

We saw a Chili’s coming up on the right. Mommy told me that she recently went to a Chili’s with Grandma and your Aunt Jenny while we were on vacation, and she was surprised how accommodating they were to her vegetarian lifestyle.

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So we turned into the Chili’s parking lot. They were so accommodating to my vegan and your and Mommy’s vegetarian requirements, that they actually had a whole page for “dietary restrictions” on their kiosk on the table.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

I’ll keep that in mind the next time we’re on a road trip…

Of course, I made a fun video about all this so you could see it all; along with my super catch jingle I made up, “Come along, in an Avalon…”

You and I also made a walk around video for the Avalon…

And of course I made a video for your 1st day of Pre-K, which also featured the car as well…

So it looks like even on a “lay low” week, we still managed to have a lot of fun!

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Avalon Road Trip to Natchez Parkway Bridge/Butterfly Funeral

Green Meanie’s 2016 Scion iM and iA Press Preview

Green Meanie’s 2016 Scion iM and iA Press Preview

Though I’m sure you’ve heard of me by now, I am indeed world renowned Internet celebrity and spokesman, Green Meanie. You may know me as the main villain in the super hero series on YouTube, Jack-Man.

Due to the wild success of that program, I also was approached by Nick Shell, the man behind Family Friendly Daddy Blog and Shell House Productions, about doing my very own show, The Green Meanie Show; which you’ll see in a minute.

Green Meanie’s 2016 Scion iM and iA Press Preview

Today, I am serving as a guest blogger here on Family Friendly Daddy Blog, as I recently made my way to Grand Rapids, Michigan; for the official press preview of the 2016 Scion iM and 2016 Scion iA.

Scion even put me up in a nice place called the JW Marriott Grand Rapidswhere they easily catered to my vegan lifestyle.

So why do I make a good spokesman for Scion? Well, first, I’m a Millennial; born in 1981. I’m of the main demographic that Scion is targeting.

Second, I like to be the first to capture (and share) exclusive information on cars before anyone else; then be the first to put it on the Internet, in a creative format people aren’t used to.

Green Meanie’s 2016 Scion iM and iA Press Preview

So I made two videos from the footage I took from my trip; both are episodes of The Green Meanie Show.

After all, YouTube is the #2 search engine in the world. People will have to come to me if they want to see fun pictures and fun videos of new cars. I will be that gatekeeper for so many who wouldn’t normally check out a car blog.

Green Meanie’s 2016 Scion iM and iA Press Preview

I know that most readers of parenting blogs like this one are mainly read by women; while it seems most car blogs are very technically written- often with a male audience in mind.

Green Meanie’s 2016 Scion iM and iA Press Preview

My genius plan is to be able share information in a format that an audience besides just men will care to check out.

Green Meanie’s 2016 Scion iM and iA Press Preview

Besides, let’s face it: With a smile and laugh like mine, who wouldn’t want to watch The Green Meanie Show?

There’s your third reason right there; in case you’re still counting.

So now that you know my agenda, I hope you enjoy my videos of the Scion iM and iA; neither of which are even on the market yet.

You’ll see what a wonderful time I had in Grand Rapids, Michigan; along with my new friend and driving buddy, Dave Nicolanti of 2 Wired 2 Tired.

Green Meanie’s 2016 Scion iM and iA Press Preview

In the one below, you’ll see my interview with Andy Lee and David Lee, who are both experts on these new Scions.

And in this one here, you’ll get to see an overview of my trip.

Next up on my agenda is to check out the 2015 Camry while Jack-Man visits his family out in Sacramento, California. It’ll be loads of fun!

Stay Green,

Green Meanie

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

Three weeks ago, our family was able to drive a brand-new 2015 Chevy Colorado crew cab from our home near Nashville (TN) to Montgomery (AL) as we supported our nephew Matt graduated Air Force boot camp.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

Though he’s from Sacramento (CA) where my wife is from, Matt’s boot camp was coincidentally assigned in Montgomery, which is in driving distance (about 4 hours) from where we live.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

When Chevrolet found out we were going to be the only family members able to see Matt graduate, as the rest of his family is on the west coast, they jumped at the chance to provide a vehicle to help us make the journey.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

Chevrolet is a big supporter of our military, providing discounts to Active Duty members, reserves, veterans within one year of discharge – including spouses of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, National Guard and Coast Guard. The discount can be combined with most current incentives. Here’s a link to Chevy’s site for more on their military discount.

I have to point out that the general public was thoroughly impressed by the mere sight of the 2015 Chevy Colorado. During the week I drove it, I had people approaching me asking about it.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

Here’s my walk-around video I made:

When you see the truck in person, it’s hard to look away. And not simply because it was yellow; but because it’s very clear this is a tough truck.

I filmed my son’s and wife’s first reaction to it when I pulled in the driveway. I promise I didn’t prompt them to say anything; I just let the camera roll. Their reactions are completely sincere.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

On the way to our hotel near Maxwell Air Force Base there in Montgomery, we stopped at Mellow Mushroom to have dinner with our son’s good friend, Sophie, who coincidentally moved away last year from Nashville to Montgomery.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

The next morning we attended our nephew Matt’s boot camp graduation. He happened to be at the end of the parade, holding a rifle, next the flag bearers, so I got a good shot of him for my video.

Afterwards, we had some time to hang out there on the base and catch up with him. The Chevy Colorado provided a much needed break from the heat outside, leading up until it was time to eat lunch there at the base.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

But first, Matt gave us a tour of Maxwell, showing us on the jets, which my son was impressed to see.

Eventually, we had to say goodbye to Matt; though we should be seeing him again when we make our annual trip to Sacramento, next month.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

It goes without saying we are more than proud to see Matt began a career that involves serving in our military. He has what it takes!

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

The road trip wasn’t complete without a trip back to my hometown in Fort Payne (AL), on the way back to Nashville.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

Our niece Calla had her 4th birthday party! So to make things even more fun, our family shot a couple Jack-Man webisodes.

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

By the way, Jack-Man is a web series that my son Jack and I do, in which he is the superhero and I am the arch nemesis. For webisodes 14 and 15, the 2015 Chevy Colorado serves as part of the plot device.

So it’s apparent we had a wonderful road trip. We look forward to reviewing more Chevy vehicles in the future!

And now I will close with my video which features the events mentioned above:

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

2015 Chevy Colorado Maxwell Air Force Base Road Trip

2015 Chevy Colorado provided courtesy of Chevrolet for promotional purposes.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around/Silly String Fight

4 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around

Dear Jack,

This afternoon when I got home, you and your neighbor friend Aiden were having a silly string fight! It obviously was a lot of fun for you guys.

But mainly, this week has been all about preparing for our upcoming road trip to Pensacola, Florida.

You have been explaining to Mommy and me that we may be able to dig up some dinosaur bones and treasure chests when we get to the beach. (See Mommy’s drawing below.)

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around

Let’s just say that a recent trip of mine to the Dollar Tree will help make that preconceived idea of yours come true…

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around

Also, Toyota sent us a 2015 Sienna for the trip, to review as a family. I think this is the same exact one I got to drive back in October when Toyota sent me to Pompano Beach for their “Family Reunion” when I made an instructional video on how to use the Driver Easy Speak function.

In the little bit of time I’ve driven it so far this week, here’s my initial assessment of it:

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around

It feels like I’m driving a luxurious stretch SUV. It’s so spacious inside. The 2 passenger seats in the 2nd row are captain’s chairs that recline just like a normal recliner does.

Not to mention, this Toyota Sienna has a dual screen DVD/Blu-ray player in front of those “recliners.” Sounds like a limo to me!

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around

So here’s to our biggest family road trip to date; other than when you were just a baby. But as an actual boy, we’ve never driven more than 5 hours one way with you.

This trip will be closer to 7 hours. However, I think the vehicle we will be travelling in will definitely make our trip that much more fun!

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around

You are so excited about this van- almost as excited as you are about our treasure hunt…

We will be doing a “Plant-Based Restaurant Tour” of Pensacola, as well as driving out to Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, where you hope to see a real dolphin and buy a stuffed one as a souvenir.

Dear Jack: 2015 Toyota Sienna Walk-Around

My camera is ready for all the upcoming action…

Love,

Daddy