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2020 Toyota Highlander, 2020 Mercedes-Benz GLB In This Month's Letter From Europe

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I am not going to pretend that testing cars and SUVs is as pleasant  today as it was in the past (Thank you Bob and Marc but as the old saying goes the show must go on.

Delivery companies are doing a fantastic jobs getting the cars to me totally disinfected and I am very grateful to them. Of course I do the same before I hand them back.

The latest arrival is a great family favorite- Toyota’s Highlander. The reason: memories of a great Squaw Valley trip three up plus boots and skis. Packed  to the rafters it did everything we’ve asked from it. No wonder I was delighted when the brand new Highlander arrived outside The Auto Channel's West Coast Bureau in Marin.

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The price of 48 thousand dollars includes just about everything and I am sure that in this current Covid -19 situation huge deals could be had.

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 You  won’t have to look at the price and discover that to enjoy the car or SUV you have to add 15 thousand dollars to the base price.

The Highlander has two power units, my test SUV arrived with  the V6 engine with 295 horsepower.

The dashboard is a masterpiece of design as you can see from the enclosed picture taken on an Apple 11, which in itself is an amazing piece of kit. The rearview mirror was a bit of a surprise, instead of being small it was big and panoramic showing several lanes behind you. An innovation I’ve never seen before. Great fun!

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I’ve managed to squeeze in two road trips, one to Point Reyes and the other to Sonoma.

While Eco or normal modes are fine in a 25 mph zone I found the Sport mode more pleasant on the highway. I loved to see Goodyear Eagle tires for the first time in a very long time. For some reason most test cars arrive on Bridgestones or Michelins. Both fine products but I have a special fondness for Goodyears as they were closely associated with Grand Prix racing. In those days there was a great  deal of camaraderie between their engineers and the members of the Press. In any case they worked just fine.

The various ADAS “goodies” such as forward collision warning,automatic emergency braking or adaptive cruise  control were nice to have but were not needed, any more than the lane departure warning gizmo.

When the first Toyota cars arrived to the United States there were no USB charge points or Apple play or Sirius never mind subwoofer and amplifier -all part of the Highlander of 2020.

Before I forget there is a third row of seating as well and like in virtually all and any SUV you have to be a bit of an acrobat to get in and out. The sort of thing kids love.

While I tested the top of the range AWD model there are cheaper alternatives starting around 35 thousand dollars. Incidentally I think Toyota should simply  use the name Highlander . It is such a strong brand name that it could stand on its own. The build quality is second to none, a big well done to everyone in Princeton, Indiana.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely. Solid, dependable and very nice to drive. You  should certainly take it for a test run. 

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The Mercedes GLB is certainly a stunner to look at. The company are incorporating more and more upmarket innovations from  the AMG label, which is their equivalent of BMW’s “M” series.

It fits into the range between the GLA - definitely not my favorite - and the GLC which is very nice indeed. In spite of its dimensions it will offer a third row of seats, once more definitely not for the Mother in Law!

Confession time: I have huge difficulties with the infotainment system in this and every other Mercedes. Just like BMW these systems are designed by engineers for engineers. I know that several friends who have spent a great deal of money at the dealership owned by Roger Penske stay there for several hours while the mega patient salespeople explain all the  intricacies. Quite a few of them go back for a second time because while Mercedes are desperately trying to lower the age group of their customers it does take a while. This is why they are in Grand Prix racing which of course does have much younger spectators.

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The GLB Is-in my opinion - somewhat underpowered at 221 horsepower which comes from a 2 liter Turbocharged 4 cylinder engine. As it can carry up to 7 passengers it certainly  would not be my choice for a trip up the hill to Lake Tahoe.

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The finish of the GLB is first class as is the overall appearance. In my book this is the best looking SUV I’ve ever tested and the big, grill mounted three pointed star just enhances it.

No wonder 50% of the cars and SUVs at the tennis club come from Stuttgart. The others, I hear you ask? A mixture of BMW's, Audis and Range Rovers.

I’ve driven just about every single Mercedes in the range including the S-class. Taking to friends and colleagues the recurring complaint is what is called in-car electronic's, namely the things I’ve mentioned earlier. Great cars and SUVs but  when you need a son or a grandson to find NPR on 88.5 then it is time for the engineers to dial back a little. That's It For This Month...Stay Safe Stay Well, and don't forget to wear your mask and wash hands often...we will get through this together.