Filed under: Hybrid , Crossover , Toyota , First Drives Midsize crossovers like the Toyota Highlander tend to play a thankless role in the life of today’s modern family. That’s really too bad. With the ability to hold several hyperactive kids and tons of cargo while keeping everyone safe and comfortable in all kinds of climate conditions day in and day out, they’re true heroes in the lives of hundreds of thousands of families across the country. Yet their car-apathetic owners often immediately forget about them as soon as their work is done. And nearly all midsize crossovers are thoroughly ignored by enthusiasts whose eyes begin to glaze over at first mention of the phrase “third row.” Toyota is looking to soften the blow somewhat by giving its midsize crossover, the Highlander, a big redesign for the 2014 model year. With a bold new look, updated suspension and a refreshed interior focused on comfort and convenience, Toyota aims to make the Highlander sportier to drive and more striking in appearance, because, as the marketing team explains, “families are going places and they want to get there in style.” So has the Highlander finally ditched the dull and become something truly desirable to own without sacrificing its heroic nature? I headed to Carmel, CA for some seat time along the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway to find out. Continue reading 2014 Toyota Highlander 2014 Toyota Highlander originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 17 Dec 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink
Filed under: Hybrid , Toyota , Quick Spins We don’t often come into contact with the Toyota Crown Hybrid , especially in colors other than pink . But when Toyota offered us the keys and a half-hour window to test out the Japanese version of the Lexus GS on US soil not long ago, we had to accept. Driving Notes: We’ll start with the start. The Crown Hybrid makes the friendliest, Japanese-iest sound when you turn it on. It’s like a high-fructose THX movie is starting. Considering this is a premium car, we were surprised the first time we turned it on, but then had to do it again and again. Purely for journalistic video-capturing reasons, of course, so you can watch and hear it below . We wish we had better-than-cellphone microphones to capture it. Compared to the Lexus GS 300h , which we drove immediately afterword along with the exact same route, it is clear the Crown is an executive’s car. The seats and suspension somehow made us feel privileged, not a feeling we’re used to in most hybrid cars.
Filed under: Hybrid , Sedan , Toyota , New Car Reviews People, us included, make a big stink about the importance of family sedans. There’s no doubt they’re critical – they represent a huge slice of the market’s annual sales and profits. However, despite accounting for far fewer transactions than the midsize sedan segment, the fullsize sedan is getting attention from manufacturers now that our market’s entire lineup of those (slightly) smaller four-doors has turned over in the last two years or so. As most of the fullsize segment’s mainstays derive a fair bit of their platform and powertrain technologies from their midsize cousins, these larger four-doors offer the potential for fatter profit margins, too. And with the newly stylish duds found on many of the industry’s most successful midsize sedans, it’s only right that automakers no longer think about fullsizers as big, squishy, vanilla family haulers with flat seats, vague steering and a thin layer of ‘luxury’ in the form of faux wood trim. As manufacturers have again started diving into large sedans feet-first, the cars themselves have become sharper. The interiors are now of a higher quality and loaded with tech, while the exteriors have become further extensions of each manufacturer’s design language. There’s perhaps no greater example of this than the Chevrolet Impala and Ford Taurus , two models that evolved from subpar offerings into market leaders. This segment-wide transformation happened quite quickly, whether because of coincidental timing or because manufacturers are trying to get more out of their big cars, recognizing they account for a small portion of overall sales (just 3.5 percent of the new-car market in the first half of 2013). The 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is one such vehicle.
Filed under: Budget , Sedan , Toyota , First Drives Reprising The Recipe For A Perfect Slice Of Toast My toaster broke the other week. Halfway through the process of cooking my gourmet Pop-Tart breakfast, the thing crapped out with a small bang, leaving my delicious morning treats trapped inside. To rectify the situation, I ventured out to a big box store, located the toaster aisle, and ran a couple of questions through my mind. Do I need two slots or four? Do I need to spend more than 20 bucks on this thing? Should I just buy a toaster oven to give me a wider range of bachelor-pad cooking functionality? After no more than two minutes of contemplation, I grabbed the cheapest one on the shelf, paid and left the store. The new toaster works just fine. This sort of unemotional shopping experience is how I suspect people decide to purchase the Toyota Corolla . It’s a perfectly fine appliance, and to a good number of people in the world, the bond between a car and a driver is no more important than the connection I feel to my toaster.
Filed under: SUV , Toyota , Off-Road , Quick Spins I recently took the redesigned 2014 Toyota 4Runner for a muddy romp in Pennsylvania. While the mechanical bits and pieces beneath the body-on-frame SUV trudge forward into the new model year with very few tweaks, the truck “receives a rugged new exterior design and interior refinements that add comfort and convenience without sacrificing its hallmark performance capability and excellent value,” says the automaker. A quick visual scan of the 4Runner reveals a new front end with a more “aggressive” and “muscular” appearance (yes, I’m quoting Toyota ) that includes new headlights, grille and hood scoop. A roof rack is now standard across all trims, too. While the SR5 has a bland color-keyed grille insert that gives the face a monochromatic appearance, the Trail (shown above and in our gallery ) and range-topping Limited have brightwork on the front that provides a bit more character. New soft-touch surfaces within the cabin provide a more upscale environment and a bright new Optitron instrument panel improves readability and functionality. As before, the SR5 and Trail models arrive with fabric upholstery or optional Softex seats (synthetic leather). Genuine hides are reserved for the Limited trim, which is also fitted with Toyota’s unique X-REAS (X-Relative Absorber System) automatic suspension system as standard equipment. Driving Notes Despite (or arguably, because of) its 2014 facelift, the 4Runner is challenged in the appearance department. The styling, inside and out, is confusing to us, with odd angles and shapes that don’t appear cohesive with any overall sense of design.
Filed under: Crossover , Toyota , New Car Reviews A Nicer View Than Ever Of Middle Of The Road When we had our first shot behind the wheel of the 2013 Toyota RAV4 , the overall judgment from Managing Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski could be summed up in a sentence along the lines of, “Eh, not bad.” The truth is that the compact crossover segment, now filled with not-so-compact offerings, is as cutthroat as any in the industry these days. When a heavyweight player like the RAV4 comes to market with a new generation, it is not at liberty to start from a clean sheet, lest it throw cold water on a vehicle that sells tens of thousands of units globally every month. Like De La Soul says, “Stakes is high.” If the choices in the marketplace were still largely limited to the Honda CR-V , as was the case when this market niche was green, the Toyota offering might actually seem like the exciting choice. But with new players offering better dynamic thrills ( Mazda CX-5 ), cool turbo motors and fancy technology ( Ford Escape ), or even crunchy cred ( Subaru Forester ), the small crossover shopper is really spoiled for choice in 2013. With Mr. Korzeniewski’s excellent First Drive review covering the granularity of the RAV4 specification so well, we chose to focus our notes this time around on living with the Toyota in its natural suburban habitat for a longer stretch. What’s more, we’ll try to mark out where the CUV wins, loses or draws with the rest of the strident segment. Continue reading 2013 Toyota RAV4 2013 Toyota RAV4 originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 16 Apr 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink
Filed under: Concept Cars , Geneva Motor Show , Lamborghini , Toyota , Volkswagen , Alfa Romeo , Design/Style , McLaren We’ve returned from a very busy week in Switzerland, and in going back over all of our 75 stories from the Geneva Motor Show , our editors have gathered up their personal favorite debuts from the European expo. The wonderful thing about the Geneva show is just how wide of an array of vehicles are on display – everything from funny little one-off EVs to the most exotic of supercars to, well, truly ridiculous displays of coachbuilding . And because of that, this list of our editors’ favorites might not be as predictable as you think. But we don’t want to give anything away just yet. Scroll down to have a look at our team’s favorites from Geneva. Continue reading Editors’ Choice: Top Five 2013 Geneva Motor Show Debuts Editors’ Choice: Top Five 2013 Geneva Motor Show Debuts originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 08 Mar 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink
Filed under: Crossover , Toyota , First Drives Obsessively Maintaining the Status Quo Genchi Genbutsu and Waku-Doki . These are Japanese terms we heard quoted by Toyota representatives when describing its 2013 RAV4 . Apparently the first one means “go and see for yourself” and the second means “heart pumping, adrenaline racing.” Nice expressions, but not exactly the ones we’d choose. So we’ll introduce one of our own: “Same same but different.” The latest version of Toyota’s compact crossover follows the same basic outline of models past. As ever, its on-road ride and handling are competent but not sporty, the powertrain is smooth and efficient and the price is reasonable. It’s a tried-and-true formula, but over the last few years, new competitors like the Honda CR-V and Ford Escape have stolen the thunder of Toyota’s original cute ute, leading the automaker to refine the mix of ingredients that go into the RAV4 in an effort to take back the compact crossover crown. Read on to see what’s new. Continue reading 2013 Toyota RAV4 [w/video] 2013 Toyota RAV4 [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 18 Dec 2012 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds . Permalink
Filed under: Sedan , Toyota , First Drives , Luxury A Case Study In Judging A Book By Its Cover Toyota has turned over something of a new leaf with its 2013 Avalon . For the last few decades, Japan’s largest automaker has shown a face that could best be described as practical, reliable and a bit dull – the same side of the leaf that’s been staring consumers in the face with products like the 2013 Camry and Corolla . Popular nameplates, no doubt, but since Toyota’s history is filled with such stylish, sporty and iconic models as the 2000GT, MR2 , rear-wheel-drive AE86 Corolla and, of course, the late, great Supra that we last saw in 2002, ardent followers of the brand have had little to feel excited about. With such a checkered past, it’s no surprise that company CEO Akio Toyoda has called upon his employees to once again design and build cars with a sense of passion. The 2013 Avalon and Avalon Hybrid – Toyota’s flagship models in the ultra-important United States market – are the first new vehicles, Toyota says, to come from that rekindled bucket of excitement. We should note that this notion has raised an eyebrow or three, considering how much excitement surrounds the Toyota GT86 ( Scion FR-S in the States). If nothing else, we can say with certainty that the car’s appearance is a dramatic departure from the dour Avalon sedans of days passed. It really is a strikingly attractive car inside and out, but, as has been said time and time again, you can’t judge a book by its cover. And so it was with legitimate interest that we fired up the completely redesigned Avalon and Avalon Hybrid for a day-long spin through California’s lovely Napa Valley region. Continue reading 2013 Toyota Avalon [w/video] 2013 Toyota Avalon [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 30 Oct 2012 11:57:00 EST.
Filed under: Crossover , Toyota , First Drives , Tesla , Electric Tesla-Hearted Toyota Offers Real Sport And Utility The 2013 Toyota RAV4 EV is the most advanced Alpha prototype electric vehicle we’ve ever driven. Or maybe it’s a poster child for the 21st Century automotive industry where all sorts of new things are being tried, like when old-school automakers and ambitious start-ups find common purpose in rushing an all-electric crossover to market in two years. Or maybe it’s the end result of a decade-long process of getting the Japanese automaker to bring back its popular – by EV standards, anyway – first-gen RAV4 EV for the new era of electric cars? It is, of course, all of these things, and that’s what makes the RAV4 EV such an interesting vehicle: It not only offers surprisingly good performance on the road, it can also tell you some compelling stories as you jump from 0-60 in seven seconds. In a CUV. With an easy-to-achieve 100-mile range. Most compelling, perhaps, is that the RAV4 EV is a real electric crossover with a real on-sale date. Namely, $49,800 (before any tax credits) and late summer 2012. Of course, the problem, aside from the hefty price, is that this CUV will only be available – initially, anyway – in four major California markets: Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area, San Diego and Los Angeles/Orange County. Since the RAV4 EV will go on sale in The OC ( don’t call it that ), it made sense that Toyota brought journalists to Newport Beach for some time behind the wheel.