2014 Toyota Highlander: Using the Driver Easy Speak Feature
August 4, 2014
If you're a parent with more than one kid, there has probably been a time when you've been driving and needed to yell at your little miscreants in back. You've likely said things like, "Bobby, stop touching your sister." "Jackie, for the tenth time, stop kicking my seat." "If you guys can't get along I'm just going to turn around right now."
With the 2014 Toyota Highlander, Toyota is hoping to make this a little easier with the Driver Easy Speak feature.
This is not to be confused with a Driver Speakeasy, which sounds like a theoretical place I'd like to visit someday. Instead, it's essentially an in-car intercom system that allows the driver to more easily communicate with passengers seated in back.
You activate it by pressing a touchscreen menu button. Once done, the driver seat microphone — the one used for Bluetooth phone calls and such — is used to pick up the driver's voice, and then said voice is piped back to be broadcast over the Highlander's rear speakers. The volume of the system can also be adjusted through the touchscreen.
Alas, if you're thinking this is some sort of voice-of-God-through-a-Bullhorn feature that will frighten your hellions into subservience, you're going to be disappointed. (Okay, that's exactly what I was hoping this feature would be.) Even when cranked to the maximum volume of seven, Driver Speak Easy is there to just boost your voice a little. You can hear yourself through the speakers, albeit in a barely heard kind of way. Nor does it adjust the volume of the audio system if you've got that going at the same time. It's more like Voice Helper.
I suppose there's some value in this feature, especially if you've got people seated in the third-row seat and you don't like raising your voice. Also, it comes as standard equipment with the XLE trim level and above, so it's kind of a freebie. But it also seems kind of gimmicky to me. And, as you've probably figured, it only works one way. If you've got quiet little kids in back that you need to hear, you're out of luck.
You'll just have to yell at them with Driver Easy Speak to, well, speak up.
Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor @ 8,024 miles