Sitting here in front of my computer, searching relentlessly for inspiration for this review of the 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid I've been driving for the past two weeks, on the eve of leaving for a trip to California that, while technically "work"-related I'm highly looking forward to, I find my thoughts veering sharply and dangerously off the subject of cars (how's that for a run-on sentence?): I'm completely in love with the new color I painted my toenails this week. They're going to look great in the peep toe pumps I plan to wear in California.

I'm beginning to realize that not every car can speak to me as loudly as OPI's Lincoln Park After Dark nail polish. Not to say that the Highlander Hybrid is mute; it most certainly has plenty to say, and a trip with the kids to the zoo is the perfect way to get the Highlander Hybrid back in its natural element so it will speak to me - and it may also help get the kids and me thinking about all things green and earthy.

As the only hybrid around that offers seven-passenger seating, the Highlander Hybrid is the most family-friendly version on the market, with plenty of useful features: Its cargo space is the perfect size for lugging our ginormous two-seat plastic wagon to the zoo, it has seat belts that my children can buckle on their own, two cupholders in each of the rear doors at just the right level for the kids to use independently, and flexible rear seats that slide, recline and fold in one fluid step. The Highlander Hybrid is also a champ for its super-easy optional touch-screen navigation system (to help me navigate my way back from the wild, wild zoo), an available back-up assistance camera to make sure I don't back over any monkeys (or the slightly more evolutionarily advance version: children), and an optional DVD entertainment system with wireless headsets to keep my little cubs in back entertained.

On the flip side, the light gray carpeted floor in the cargo space doesn't get along well with goose-poop-laden wagon wheels from the zoo. Of heavier concern (with all hybrids, mind you, not specifically with the Highlander Hybrid), my neighbor comments on how quiet the car is when backing out of my driveway, a real problem with her 2 year old toddling down the sidewalk. He can't hear the engine running, because the car starts on the electric battery, and hence he doesn't know the car is backing out; another great reason to opt for the back-up assistance camera.

Although the finish inside the 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is nice and fairly upscale (but still easy to clean up most spills not of the goose-poop variety), and the wood-grain paneling adds to its green feel, the exterior styling of the Highlander Hybrid is remarkably unremarkable. Despite a lovely array of nine color choices with names like Salsa Red, Oasis Green (how fitting), Bluestone and Indigo, the Highlander's styling hasn't changed much since its introduction to the market. Evolution is such a necessary process. Without it, I'd be sitting here for months chiseling this review into a piece of slate using nothing more than my teeth and a porcupine quill.

With a full repertoire of safety features, more lessons in earth consciousness than a first-grader's natural science curriculum and high reliability marks from Consumer's Union, the 2007 Toyota Highlander Hybrid is definitely worth a glance for families on the go. When natural evolution takes your family from two children to three or more, this vehicle can accommodate them all.

*For more information on the Toyota Highlander Hybrid and its safety features, visit www.cars.com.

LET'S TALK NUMBERS

LATCH Connectors: 2

Seating Capacity (includes driver): 5/7

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Good Times