DRIVEN pedal pusher James Lamdin found himself in Charleston, SC, recently about to viciously throttle a Toyota. Read on to see who survived…

Yeah, yeah—we know.  This one definitely falls outside our typical purview.

But every so often, between the Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Range Rovers, vintage Porsches and hot American muscle, we step into the square-toed shoes of the average everyman to see how the other half (98%?) lives.

The 2014 Toyota Highlander is not our usual toy, but we liked it

Typically we come away nonplussed, happy as hell to slip back into our unicorn hide driving mocs back behind the wheel of our go-fast choice of the week.

And then we pretend like our adventures in slumming never happened, much like that night down at the biker bar on the Lower East Side.

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But this time, we came away impressed—nay—terrified of our experience with a so-called generic people mover.

And no, we didn’t catch anything that won’t clear up in a week—unlike that night on the LES.

Rather, we came away having experienced a vehicle that truly puts our fancy-ass toys on notice: the new 2014 Toyota Highlander.

Toyota has turned the Highlander into a true luxury SUV

The Highlander, since its introduction in 2000, has become a benchmark standard midsize SUV for millions of Americans.

In short, nothing we would have ever been interested in driving ourselves.

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Things like an extremely solid safety record, high-capacity seating, excellent resale value and legendary reliability just aren’t our bag.

Plus, let’s face it—it just wasn’t cool.

After decades of just doing all the things that they do so well, Toyota has one-upped themselves with the new Highlander, seemingly sparing no expense to break through the economy/luxury barrier in its market segment.

The result is a bigger, sexier, more powerful and well-put-together vehicle

The result is a bigger, sexier, more powerful and incredibly well-put-together vehicle that is liable to give many a soccer mom delusions of grandeur.

Like meals at the Palm instead of Wendy’s drive-throughs… serious stuff.

2014 Toyota Highlander Limited

We won’t bore you to tears with all of the minute details on this thing.

Features such as a 3.5L V6, three-zone climate control, seating for eight, JBL premium sound, a touchscreen media center, LED running lights and 19-inch chrome wheels pretty much speak for themselves.

What we will tell you is that it drives like a much more expensive car—responsive and precise—a far cry from the old-fashioned Toyota slop we’ve been making fun of for the past couple decades.

It drives like a much more expensive car, which it isn’t

Even more impressive is the interior of this thing; fitted with soft-touch surfaces, high-quality leathers and stitched trim, it took the big badge on the steering wheel to remind us what we were driving.

It’s that good.

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So why did all of this terrify us?

Well, Toyota is clearly shrinking the gap between the normal economy segment and the realm of the luxury elite at an alarming pace.

If they keep it up, it’s going to be hard to justify spending much more just to get something with all the same features, comforts, driving experience… and a European grille badge.

Or perhaps it already is…

– JL