By on May 2, 2013

Wheel arches!

The Stagecoach Music Festival is a lot of things to a lot of people. Really, it’s the lifeblood of the place where they hold it, though I’m not entirely sure where that is, because I hadn’t heard of it until yesterday when Toyota released the redesigned 2014 4Runner there.

By “redesigned,” which is Toyota’s word, what I actually mean is “facelifted.” And by “facelifted,” what I actually mean is: I have absolutely no idea what’s changed. I’ve looked over the photos and it still looks identical to the old 4Runner, which is to say that it’s 5 percent brawny, hulking SUV and 95 percent brawny, hulking wheel arches. Also, there are now LEDs.

By coincidence, I got behind a 4Runner in traffic the other day. This provided me with some good reading, because all 4Runner owners are required by Toyota to have bumper stickers. Seriously. When you’re test driving one at the Toyota dealer, they say: do you have a lacrosse bumper sticker? If you reply “no,” they show you a Highlander.

Between the bumper stickers and the Stagecoach Music Festival, I was lost in thought about Toyota SUVs. And that’s when it hit me: Toyota now sells seven different sport-utility vehicles. How did this happen?

A Little History

They also did a woody version.

In order to dissect Toyota’s current SUV lineup, we must return to 1984, which is when the 4Runner first debuted. Back then, there weren’t any music festivals, presumably because the top song was “Karma Chameleon,” and no one wanted to hear that played live.

When the 4Runner came out, it was little more than a Toyota pickup with a roof. Actually, it was quite literally a Toyota pickup with a roof, since most of the early models didn’t even have rear seats. This helped Toyota avoid the famed Chicken Tax, though it didn’t help the owners avoid the question: Why didn’t you just put a camper shell on your Toyota pickup?

Of course, the answer to that question is that even by the mid-1980s, SUVs were already starting to become fashionable. Toyota’s other SUV, the Land Cruiser, was already making its transition from being owned by people who kill things for a living to being owned New England doctors who save lives, but occasionally have to venture out into the great beyond. (This mainly consists of New Hampshire, where they can buy shoes without paying sales tax.)

This SUV fashion statement was furthered by the second-generation 4Runner, which came out in 1989. No longer a pickup with a roof, the new 4Runner actually had creature comforts like sound deadening. The Toyota SUV lineup expanded even more in 1996 with the addition of the RAV4, which arrived on the market before its closest competitor – the Honda CR-V – but failed to offer the CR-V’s highly important stowable picnic table.

Toyota’s SUV lineup grew rapidly after that. In 2001, we got the Highlander, which is tremendously good at delivering reliable, safe transportation, provided you hit the right pedal. The enormous Sequoia arrived the same year, which finally allowed Toyota employees to transport the whole family and the boat. By the end of the decade, Toyota brought its SUV total to seven by adding the Venza, aimed at people who wanted a Camry on stilts, and the FJ Cruiser, aimed at people without eyes.

Too Many?

No picnic table :(

My first thought is that seven SUVs is just too many for one automaker. After all, this is the same number of models offered by the entire Jeep brand combined with the entire Chrysler brand. How is there even room for all of Toyota’s SUVs? (Like, physically, how is there room at dealerships? Do they use the Mitsubishi lot next door?)

But after careful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Toyota SUV lineup is just right. This is because no one who buys any Toyota SUV would ever consider buying any other Toyota SUV. Allow me to explain.

At the bottom end, you have the RAV4, which now comes only with a four-cylinder engine and two rows of seats. This is for the CR-V buyer: a small family, or maybe a single person (fine, a single woman) who wants to sit up high but doesn’t have to cart around six different people to soccer practice. Next up is the Highlander, which is for medium-sized families who occasionally do have to cart around six people, but really can’t bring themselves to get a minivan.

Then there are the two muscular, off-roady SUVs: the FJ Cruiser and the 4Runner. While these two are mechanically similar and not far off in purpose, the buyer couldn’t be more different. FJ Cruiser owners think the 4Runner is for old people with families, while 4Runner buyers believe the FJ Cruiser is driven by the kind of people who think it’s acceptable to own an FJ Cruiser. Which, decidedly, is not 4Runner buyers.

At the top of the range, you have the Sequoia – apparently for families who tow boats – and the Land Cruiser, which is bought solely with cash by people who don’t understand why it’s socially awkward to ask the salesman: “So, where do you summer?”

Sadly, I’ve left out the Venza, which is the only part of Toyota’s grand design that’s never really clicked into place. But for all you Toyota folks out there, I have an idea: add some LEDs and make a “redesigned” 2014 model. It would be a big hit at Bonaroo.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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102 Comments on “Does Toyota Really Need Seven SUVs?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    If I didn’t know better I’d swear Toyota was intentional committing automotive Hara-Kiri. They’ve taken the once good-looking 4Runner and following design ques from nobody of this world, have run it into the ground and beat it with an ugly stick and if that wasn’t bad enough decided to copy the lemon sucking face of the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      Sadly agree.

      Styling and ergonomics-wise, the wheels are coming off my favorite automaker. Ah, well, all good things…

      Of course, the competitors aren’t any better… like the CR-V where the entire greenhouse looks like it’s trying to slide backwards off the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      justgregit

      Agree. Though probably going back to far, I have a 1987 4runner (currently not running), that is one of the best looking SUV’s ever made (IMHO).

      • 0 avatar
        dolorean

        Totally agree with you; however, will say I have a similar longing for the orginal Nissan Pathfinder two door and its Japanese so-futuristic-its-definitively-’80s digital dash.

        • 0 avatar
          justgregit

          I had a later first gen Pathfinder for a while also (91 or 92). I loved that just as much, unfortunately the transmission went on it at like 280,000 miles and it was hard to justify replacing. RIP, I miss that car.

    • 0 avatar

      Hey Lie2Me. Sides are from an old Brazilian Chevy S10 and back has many shades of Nissan. I think the guy who did this was the same one who did the Etios…

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    I’m so happy that Dave Barry has started writing for this site…

    What? His name is Doug DeMuro? Must be the result of a gene therapy experiment involving Dave Barry and PJ O’Rourke.

    Every Venza owner I know is a retired person who decided that it was hard to get in and out of a Camry/Avalon because “it is too low to the ground.”

    You are right about Four Runner’s though, I know just retired couple that bought one and they had to slap a sticker on it that said “MAUI” to commemorate their Hawaii trip. A trip that the Toyota obviously did not go on.

    • 0 avatar

      The only Venza owner I know is quite far from her retirement and only has one child so far (a 2 year old). She’s a 2nd dan in Aikido, just tested a couple of months ago. She drove a Subie previously, so perhaps Doug’s conjecture about a relation to Outback is not that far from the truth. Still, no retirees. Strange.

      • 0 avatar
        racer193

        the newest television commercial here compares the differences in the newest venza and the outback. I have to sat that sabaru has missed the mark with the looks of the outback and the venza is a much better looking car.

    • 0 avatar
      Land Ark

      My mom just got a Venza. She is an older retired woman who told me it was too hard getting in and out and putting things in and taking them out of a traditional sedan/wagon.
      Interestingly enough, she leases, and her Rav4 lease was running out and she did some actual shopping instead of just taking whatever they had on the dealer lot she always gets stuff from. She asked me for suggestions, then immediately ignored them. The Mazda5 was on the same lot as the Ford dealer, and she didn’t like the Ford dealer. The Subaru dealer is there too.
      She wanted another Rav4 because… why shop around? This dealer always treats her well and gives her a good deal. After pounding my head with a hammer again (since we go through this every 3-4 years) she told me that the Rav4 was going to be $120/mo MORE than she was paying for her current one, which was why she was willing to shop around. They pushed her to a Venza which the last I checked was supposed to be psudeo luxury. But they got the lease payments down to only $20 above what her limit was and $100/month less than the Rav4. So, I suppose those things are not moving off the lots and suffocating the dealers.

  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    You must have missed the press kit on the Venza. It’s not an SUV, it was billed as a “segment-busting crossover sedan” when it was introduced. Seriously.

    And Toyota already “redesigned” it with LED’s for 2013. Once again, ahead of its time.

    • 0 avatar
      rudiger

      ‘Segment-busting crossover sedan’ sounds like some marketing genius’ made-up term for what is nothing more than a dreaded station wagon.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        Beat me to it. The venza is more MPV than SUV. It’s a tall station wagon with weird seats. I’m a big man so I accept the reality of my life but the Venza literally had a dining room table between the seats. I went to the Auto Show in town and a family of 5 was trying to break bread as I was sitting in the front seat. Who the hell thinks in a car that’s narrower than the old slab couch cars what we want is a foot wide console blocking us from ever being near our companion. First base is difficult in those cars, second is near impossible, third and you mind as well be a contortionist…though maybe that’s what I should be looking for?

  • avatar
    mike978

    Great article and I have also wondered why they need so many SUV’s. Some other manufacturers are criticized for being SUV dependent but 6 SUV’s (I don`t count the Venza) is the epitome of too many.

    Remember Lexus also has three SUV’s with the LX certainly overlapping with the Land Cruiser is cost and demographics.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Two of Lexus’ SUVs (the RX and the LX) make sense. The GX doesn’t. The time when people wanted midsized, full-time-4WD luxury trucks is more or less gone. They should turn the GX into a larger crossover…

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Have the Lexus SUVs gone their own way mechanically, or are they still more luxurious versions of their Toyota functional equivalents? I always thought:
        RX = Highlander
        GX = 4Runner
        LX = Land Cruiser

        Whether they still share the dirty bits or not, it looks like they occupy the same niches as the Toyotas. If the 4Runner still makes sense, why not the GX?

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Think about it. The GX’s competitors have all either died out or switched to rugged-unibody constructions. It really is the only vehicle in its class with its kind of construction, and it is outclassed by more-plebeian rides like the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It doesn’t really meet the fuel-economy, space or comfort standards of most of today’s buyers. It’s such a slow-seller, in fact, that Lexus doesn’t seem to be bothering about giving it the new spindle-grille and corporate styling treatment. The GX is past its prime, and in its current state, I wouldn’t expect to see it live on for a third generation.

          The only thing that makes sense about the GX is the fact that it is literally a rebadged and luxed-out **Land Cruiser Prado**…which means it’s not so expensive to keep cranking units out…

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The GX has a V8 and can tow 6,500 lbs. My friend used to use a 4.6 liter Sequoia to tow his trailered car to the track, usually over the Grapevine. It was more than up to the task, so the GX460 probably has the power to be a decent tow vehicle.

      • 0 avatar
        jco

        the GX is the 4Runner/Prado 120 variant. so it wouldn’t be a crossover ever. the only reason I can think of for buying a GX now is that you can (only) get it with a V8 and all the fancy off-road hardware from the top model trim of the 4Runner.

        the one to buy for towing was the 4th gen (03-09) 4Runner with the same V8. 7,000lb rated, but you didn’t have to buy the luxury lexus version. Although for some reason the 4Runner got pushbutton 4wd while the Lexus had actual shift-able 4wd. if you manage to find a Lexus owner who knows why his/her SUV has two gearshifts, i’d be surprised.

        I think Toyota is making a GIANT mistake by not selling us the LC70. trade on the Land Cruiser name (which it is of course, more so than even the one they sell us), but cheaper and more accessible to people who actually understand what an OHV park is.

        The sequioa makes sense for towing. for people that do tow, the roll down tailgate window in the 4Runner and Sequioa are extremely useful and Toyota is the only mfr to even have that kind of option. but really.. the V6 is major turd when it comes to towing.

        as far as the FJ goes.. it’s not that I don’t like it, I just don’t think it’s terribly useful. it’s a choice for people who don’t like Wranglers. but really, I’d just take the 4runner. same essential size, but has the very useful tailgate window and usable interior. the one thing you have to buy the FJ to get is the manual transmission. TTAC commenters should love it!

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The Land Cruiser and it’s Lexus counterpart are exactly analogous to the Escalade and the Yukon Denali. The Toyota is bought by people who have LOTS of money but feel no need at all to shout about it. The Lexus is leased…

      Doug’s description of Land Cruiser owners is exactly spot on perfect in my experience. They are bought by people whose old school Jeep Grand Cherokees and Wagoneers finally rotted out on Nantucket.

      I am pretty sure I have never actually seen a Venza on the road. Do they actually sell any??

      • 0 avatar
        mkirk

        You have to leave the US to understand the Land Cruiser. I am not a huge fan of the current generation, but when equipped with wall to wall vinyl and a diesel under the hood there is NO vehicle I would rather have when running from one shit hole to another unless whomever has me running to said shit hole would let me bring my own 80 series Cruiser. My 80 has more flex in one corner of its suspension than an Escalade has in its entire suspension. Even new it is an extremely capable if large and loaded with too much crap vehicle. The Escalade…well, it has a lot of chrome.

  • avatar
    Summicron

    “we must return to 1984″

    Oh, please, yes. Car-wise, anyway.

  • avatar
    mvoss

    Sometimes I wish the free market would eliminate some of these stupid models, but then I realize it’s actually the free market that generates them. Can you believe that there is actually enough demand to warrant seven SUVs alongside the rest of the bulbous Toyota lineup?

    It boggles the mind.

    • 0 avatar
      SunnyvaleCA

      We don’t have a free market. Light trucks face different CAFE, pollution, and crash protection requirements. Eliminate those or treat light trucks and cars the same and then we’ll see. Low MPG cars face thousands of dollars of “gas guzzler” taxes… let’s see how popular a 4Runner is with another $2000 tacked onto the purchase price.

  • avatar

    [pedant]Um, no. All 1st-gen 4Runners had seats. You might be thinking about the Trekker, which was built by 3rd parties as a proto-4Runner[/pedant]

    Funny you mention towing a boat. My empty-nester parents downsized from their worn out Tahoe to a 2011 4Runner, only to have it fail miserably at towing the wakeboard boat. Despite being basically full-size, they’re only rated to tow 5k pounds, and it showed when the Natique was hooked up.

    After 2 years of frustration, they went back to a new Tahoe.

    Given that the 4Runner’s on the Prado chassis, the FJ’s vestigial at this point. Apparently they sell just enough to avoid cancellation. Sort of like The Simpsons.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      For context the FJ Cruiser has gone down from 56K a year in 2006 and 2007 to 13K in the past couple of years and is on course foe that this year, although April was dreadful at only 262 units sold. So its time might be limited especially when the Wrangler which it tries to compete with is selling 12K a month (some how!)
      Land Cruiser is also glacial with around 2K a year sales, although it has a high price.
      The 4Runner sells more than I imagined at around 50K a year. As someone said if the market supports it then they can have as many models as they deem necessary.

      • 0 avatar

        The FJ’s all paid for from a corporate standpoint, so there’s little reason not to keep moving them.

        The LC is just crazy. They’re like $85k or something offensive like that. At $85k, they can sell as few as they want without issue.

        With the exception of towing a wakeboard boat, the current 4Runner is one of the best real SUVs on the road. Not quite full size, but super-roomy and actually decent offroad with the trail package. Definitely got my eye out for a used one over the next few years.

        • 0 avatar

          But the price, man, the price. When I cross-shopped them, 4Runner with a rear locker was like $37k or something insane like that, whereas FJ just broke through $31k. This is significant difference if you only care about off-roading. As for FJ’s ugliness, I cannot care less.

          A used one is a good idea.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Yep, the price on Toyota products is staggering. But they keep building all these vehicles because SOME buyers are willing to pay up for what they want.

            And as long as they sell, why should Toyota stop building any of these 7?

            One guy I know had an old, old, old Land Cruiser that he drove for many years.

            Then gave it to his son who drove it for many years.

            Now his grandson has inherited this Land Cruiser from his dad and uses it every day to go to school, to go to work after school, to go up in the mountains, camping.

            In the mean time, both the old guy and his son have bought new Toyota SUVs.

            If they continue to sell, Toyota should keep building them.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            Even the used ones have insane prices sometimes. I saw a current model year 4Runner that was probably a demo vehicle for the dealership or something similar (maybe a loaner?), so it had reasonably low mileage. MSRP was around $50K, and they were trying to sell it certified pre-owned for $46K. That’s probably higher than dealer invoice for a new one!

        • 0 avatar
          mkirk

          The UN and middle eastern Armies buy plenty of the Land Cruisers to keep the model moving. US models have always been expensive and loaded compared to the rest of the world (exempting the 40 series…but even with that we missed out on the good engines).

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      I question a tow vehicle that has a hard time towing it’s own weight like the 4Runner. With a chassis weight of almost 4,900 lbs the 280 ft-lbs will be anemic on hills and at higher elevations.

  • avatar
    zaxxon25

    First concert: Culture Club. Yes, there was a “Karma Chameleon” and people did clamour to experience it in the flesh (so to speak).

  • avatar
    slance66

    The FJ won’t be around long. Like the Honda Element, it serves no purpose but to be odd.

    The Venza is really an AWD station wagon, more like a Volvo XC or Outback, than a true SUV. It’s for people who do want a wagon shaped vehicle and also want AWD, but don’t want that third row of seats. The V6 in the Rav4 is gone to discourage Venza buyers from cross shopping.

    The Land Cruiser/Sequoia split never made sense to me. What is the difference? I can only assume that the Land Cruiser remains relevant in North Africa and so on, so they might as well sell it here too.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I thought the Land Cruiser was long discontinued until I read this article. Seriously.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      The Land Cruiser exists because what the 1% wants is what the 1% gets. The Sequoia is for everyone else. It’s bigger and costs 2/3rds as much. It doesn’t have legendary off-road prowess that will never, ever be used. It’s just a big, useful, old school SUV for towing and hauling at a competitive price. It doesn’t have snob appeal, and nothing has as much snob appeal as a Land Cruiser. A Lexus LX570? Forget it! You’d might as well get some big-wheeled German car with an alphabet soup set of badges like some desperate status seeker. A Land Cruiser doesn’t just say that you can spend $80K on a vehicle that feels twenty years out of date on the highway, it says you don’t care that you can do it and don’t care if anyone you didn’t go to prep school with knows that you did.

      • 0 avatar

        Extremely 100% correct. I live in a WASPy upscale neighborhood where EVERYONE drives a Land Cruiser and no one would touch an LX570 or Sequoia. To the ultra rich, “Land Cruiser” has a larger brand value than “Lexus.”

        Hence my comment about asking the salesman where he summers :)

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Isn’t the real ambition in such places to winter someplace nice? I used to crew a sailboat for the guy that bought La Guerida from the Kennedy clan, and it didn’t have air conditioning when the Kennedys had it. I was there for two winters in the mid ’90s, and it was 85 degrees in January. Palm Beach in the summer must not have been a likely place to get raped by a Kennedy.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            No, because to the true set of those who “summer”, there are only three places on the planet to actually live:

            1. Boston
            2. New York City
            3. Philadelphia

            Everyone else is just a pretender. Note that the Kennedy’s are NOT this sort of people, not even close. New money, and CATHOLIC at that! Not out kind, dear, as my ULTRA-WASP Grandmother (born on Nantucket during one of those summers)would say…

          • 0 avatar
            jimmyy

            Actually, the only three places on the planet to actually live are:

            1) Boston … Back bay, Weston, or Wellesley only.
            2) NYC … Upper east side, meatpacking, or the village
            3) Southern California west of the pch … Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Malibu, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, LaJolla ONLY.

            I don’t know where you get philly from.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            @ Jimmyy

            You seemed to have missed the “people who summer”, with summer as a verb. As for why Philadelphia – see here:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia_Main_Line

            The wealthiest of the gilded age were all from Boston, NY, and Philly. Serious old money, much of it still in the families today.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Shows where I don’t hang out.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      “Like the Honda Element, it serves no purpose but to be odd”

      Hey now! You say that like it’s a bad thing. I could give you a long list of reasons why I chose the Element over the CR-V. OK, it’s not that long, but they’re good reasons dammit!

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Since around here no one drives 4Runners or FJ Cruisers, you see instead Wrangler Unlimiteds slathered with half-marathon bumper stickers and stickables from places it would be economically unfeasable to ship said vehicle for recreational purposes.

  • avatar
    08Suzuki

    “Does Toyota really need seven SUVs?” If they all sell, then yes.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I thought the Venza was the answer to the Crosstour (or vice-versa).

    Also [pendant alert!] there was thing now known as “Woodstock” that happened in 1969 which, among other things, could be called a “music festival.” (Actually, I think these got started as jazz festivals, which were held in Newport RI.) There there was “Monterrey Pop” festival in 1969, so named to warn the jazz aficionados that most of the performers would be folkies and rockers of one sort or another.

    All before 1984 . . .

    • 0 avatar
      Xeranar

      Beyond monterrey and woodstock there were scores of local music festivals. It really wasn’t that uncommon for amusement parks to hold them or municipalities to hold them either. The super festivals like lolapallooza and Warped Tour are a 1990s invention more or less which is what Doug I think was mentioning. It was relatively rare prior to the 1990s to see more than 2 or 3 major bands sharing a stage.

  • avatar
    Yeah_right

    Me and my FJ say “shut up. Just shut up.” Yeah, it won’t tow my camper. Yeah, it won’t haul anything bigger than a bag of mulch. Yeah, it eats as much gas (premium of course) as my father’s 1978 Pontiac Grand Safari Wagon. Someday, somewhere, somebody is going to need me to drive over top of shit, and I’ll be ready.

    • 0 avatar

      Hahaha! By the way, in spite of the sarcastic tone of the article, I actually like the FJ a lot. Nothing like 3 windshield wipers.

    • 0 avatar
      markholli

      “Someday, somewhere, somebody is going to need me to drive over top of shit, and I’ll be ready.”

      Now that is bumper sticker I would buy.

      • 0 avatar
        Xeranar

        ‘Quickly! I need you to scale this semi-loose dirt mound! It’s just too steep for us pedestrian vehicle owners, we need your baby blue and yellow two-tone monstrosity!’

        -FJ owner’s single fantasy they collectively cling to.

        I’ve quietly debated buying a CJ and then I saw the FJ…then I got into the FJ and decided the CJ again.

    • 0 avatar

      We have a couple of folks with FJs in the local jeep club and they do quite well. One of them has a Raptor for DD and uses FJ as a trail beater. Still, my 100% stock Rubi can pretty much keep up with them, or at heast we haven’t yet hit the spot (granted I avoid fording that’s too ambitious).

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      “Someday, somewhere, somebody is going to need me to drive over top of shit, and I’ll be ready.”

      LOL – this is why I keep a beater Grand Cherokee around the place. Goes over the top of shit GREAT! I too want the bumper sticker!

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      LOL…They won’t be laughing at you when the Zombies come.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    Like a previous poster I don’t understand the need of both the sequoia and the Land Cruiser, I guess because it puts the land cruiser out of reach of consumers that would know how “Cityfied” it has become, it’s an absolute wreck with all the plastic it has gained and steel it has lost.
    Venza I don’t consider an SUV, it is more akin to a minivan for people that don’t want the stigma of a minivan but don’t realize how much worse the venza is.

    The Rav4 on the otherhand doesn’t even have a frame, such it isn’t an SUV but rather a crossover(minivan)

    The 4 runner is also mystifying, I suppose with the FJ they figured they could do away with the off road image the 4 runner had obtained, it, as well as the land cruiser is comically void of steel on both ends.

    Might as well throw in, has Toyota fixed all the problems with the FJ’s ripping the sheetmetal in the engine compartment? Frame issues?

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    People love SUVs. Toyota is the biggest car maker. It seems logical that they would have alot of SUVs. SUVs offer the same appliance like formula as their cars but with a far more practical shape.

    Correct me if I am wrong but Toyota sells alot of different cars as well..namely Corolla, Camry, Prius, Avalon, ES, GS, IS.. that’s seven and I am barely trying.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, forgot Yaris and iQ (different platforms). There’s also CT, which is like Lexus Imprezza without racing pedigree, and LS, which is like a real Cadillac that Cadillac won’t make anymore.

      P.S. And the Toyobaru FT86 counts for 1/2 Toyota car. Anyway, we can safely say that Toyota sells more car models than SUVs.

    • 0 avatar
      Jacob

      I think this is it. Toyota is a big global manufacturer, and they had covered all bases, unlike most other manufacturers. They have everything, from small crossover CUVs to large towing iron and off-road SUVs. I think a case could be made to discontinue the FJ Cruiser or Venza if they didn’t sell well enough, but all other Toyota SUVs are essential for covering as many market niches as possible.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    The Land Cruiser is Toyota’s halo model in the US and has been sold continuously since they first started US ops. Does it make sense to still sell it? Maybe, maybe not, but since the LX is sold here and it’s the same vehicle and the fact that the LC is made all over the world, the sales Toyota gets here is just gravy so why not. Plus, it’s still enormously capable.

    The Highlander is the midsize crossover to seat the kids and get decent fuel economy.

    The 4Runner is the serious off-roader midsize that also can be used for practical things like seating the kids, where as the FJ Cruiser is a niche vehicle that is more for off-roading but isn’t really suitable for kid duty.

    RAV4′s purpose is the compact CUV. Pretty obvious.

    Sequoia is the “affordable” large SUV and tow vehicle. It made more sense when gas was cheaper since the LC was, and still is, out of reach for many who wanted a full-size Toyota SUV. Since it’s developed from the Tundra platform, it’s probably not that expensive to make. It’s BOF, and while it’s good off-road, isn’t the same type of off-roader as the 4Runner, Land Cruiser, or FJ.

    Really, as long as they sell, Toyota probably couldn’t care how many they have. The 4Runner still does decently and the Highlander and RAV4 are the core models. The Sequoia, LC, and FJ sell in lower volumes but have all been pretty steady the last 2-3 years, with a few modest gains here and there.

  • avatar
    markholli

    Great marketing is the process of taking something that people have been able to live without for their whole lives so far, and making them think they can’t live without it.

    Twenty years ago 60-year-old mother in-laws didn’t drive Venzas or Muranos because it never occurred to them that there was anything lacking in their Park Avenues and Taurii. Today it would be completely insane for a 60-year-old woman to drive anything but a crossover.

    Nature hates a vacuum, so as long as there are discernible differences between segments, automakers will continue to fill them.

  • avatar
    Jacob

    Land Cruiser in a halo model and a status symbol around the world, specially in third world countries. I have been in Central America and it seems like everyone who made it into upper middle class or higher can’t wait to get one of those. The vehicle even has a nickname – “Toyotona”. My understanding the situation is similar in many places in Asia. It’s a vehicle for people who want to spend 80 grand on a top level SUV, but they also want it to be reliable and good off road. The Land Cruiser has largely replaced Land Rover in this niche.

    The Sequoia probably was done specially for the SUV crazed American market of the past decade, when vehicles like Ford Expedition and baby seal destroying V10 Ford Valdez ruled the roads. I call them “barn on wheels”. I suppose there will always be a market for those.

    The 4runner was supposed to be a capable off road vehicle, but without the price tag of the Land Cruiser. It does seem curious that Toyota sells this and the FJ cruiser in the same niche. This probably just shows how crazy high is the popularity for the SUVs in America. These two probably appeal to different kind of people. The 4runner is more for the 4×4 geeks, and the FJ Cruiser can be seen with surfboards strapped to its top. I do think the FJ Cruiser is more of a short term fad. But then who knows. I heard VW did not want to renew the New Beetle, and yet they did.

    I suppose the Highlander fells the niche of a large suburban SUV and the RAV4 is a small suburban SUV, with Venza being targeted at the same people who used to buy Subaru Forester in the past, before the last redesign.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Why all the Land Cruiser hate…I am a Junior Officer in the Army…very far from the one percent. I got one because of the ones I saw with no glass and full of bullet holes still running around Baghdad and Afghanistan. It is absolutely the stoutest built vehicle, with the exception of the Route Clearance stuff I drove that I have ever been behind the wheel of. Granted, mine isn’t a new one (1993), but I have driven the newer models in third world trim and they are stout and capable.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Toyota lost me a while ago. I used to understand, i’v even owned a few, but they have faded in to generic car oblivion. Even scion, while blazed for about 15 seconds, didnt help. Perhaps the subaru-toyota spors car will change hat, but it hasnt so far. Say Toyota without yawning or looking arounfdfor somethng else to capture your attention, i dare u.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    The Toyota Venza could actually be a very good car if it had any of the same style and flair as the Nissan Murano or Ford Edge. it’s one of those vehicles that seems to have been all but forgotten about…a bastard-child, if you will. Toyota seemed somewhat ashamed, even, when they first released it…and it pales in comparison to its competitors.

  • avatar
    luvmyv8

    I own a ’12 4Runner SR-5.

    No bumper stickers on mine. I’m not alone as it seems San Diego is crawling with them. For my needs, the 4.0L 1GRFE and it’s 270hp work just fine, but I do have to admit that it doesn’t like hills or inclines, but I don’t use mine for towing, worst case it might have to tow a Datsun Z when I find one to be my fun car/ Wangan Midnight clone.

    I bought this one because it’s a body on frame SUV with a crap ton of airbags, 4 wheel disc brakes and I like the styling of it. I wish it were a diesel, but aside from that, I’m happy with it.

  • avatar
    hgrunt

    I keep thinking it’s 5 because I don’t count the Rav 4 and constantly forget the Sequioa exists.

    As someone who used to live near where Stagecoach is held, it’s a very welcome revenue stream for the local hospitality businesses, but with Coachella right before it and Canadian oil money pouring in the rest of the time, it’s not too bad. Kind of surprised they didn’t try to unveil a Scion at Coachella, come to think of it.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    If only we were offered 6 variations of Corolla like we once were back in the 80′s. 2 dr, 4 dr, wagon, sport coupe, hatch, SR5 etc.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      Well, we still have Corolla, Corolla Matrix, and Corolla Rumnion (aka Scion xB) here in the US. The other variants are only available abroad, I believe:

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/corolla-not-focus-worlds-best-selling-car-toyota-says/

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Just out of curiosity, because I honestly couldn’t picture a current (2013) Land Cruiser. I went to the site…Yikes! I’m not saying it’s been a long time since I last looked at the LC or any full sized SUV, but it was back when the MSRP was somewhere south of $60K

    Nothin’ like the jolt of an $80K sticker shock to get you started in the morning!

  • avatar

    Doug I love reading your stuff. But I must function as a commenter here and offer a slight correction.

    Toyota does not make 7 SUVs.

    They make 8.

    In 2005, The 4 Runner (or HiLux) was getting too large for it’s Asian and South American markets. So the design folks in Thailand build the Fortuner on the HiLux Chassis and it has soldiered on in those markets as a baby 4 Runner of sorts.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_Fortuner

    I know be ‘cuase I am driving one now. Its just like the previous generation 4 Runner. Stout, capable (with the 2.7 V6) and as exciting as mashed potatoes.

    The fastest way to spot a foreign national on contract in UAE? They are driving a white Fortuner

    • 0 avatar
      mkirk

      I wish we got the Fortuner here in the US. They are a nice sized and honest rig.

    • 0 avatar
      justgregit

      You just described the first Toyota SUV that sounds interesting to me in about 15 years.

    • 0 avatar
      markholli

      Well if we’re going to include non-US models, then the count really needs to be 10. In Europe Toyota offers the Land Cruiser Prado, which shares a lot of components with our previous generation 4Runner and GL470.

      In Asian and African markets you can still get the incredibly archaic and super-kickass Land Cruiser 70, which appears to share a lot of components with the 60 Series (1980-1990 Land Cruiser in US market), as well as the colors and striping patterns from the era as well.

    • 0 avatar

      US models only! If we included foreign models we’d also have to add the Toyota Harrier, and the Land Cruiser Prado, and the Rush, and so on and so on and we’d be here forever!

      Actually, the funny thing is from a global perspective, they probably sell more vans than anything else. They have like 15 different tall-roofed vans in the Japanese market.

  • avatar
    Toshi

    IIRC, LX 570 median buyer income is $385k while that of Land Cruiser buyers is about half that. Kind of ruins the amusing narrative.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Except I suspect that for a large majority of Land Cruiser buyers, any inquiries about income would be met with stony silence, at best… Certainly the case with those I know who own them. The trust fund set tends not to have a ton of actual “personal income” anyway.

  • avatar

    Hey Doug,

    Great writing again. I think they need an 8th. Maybe then they could make one I’d be interested in.

  • avatar
    Timothy

    Back in high school I worked for a company that owns a vast quantity of Exxon/Mobil, shell, etc stations scattered all over the state of Vermont. They also owned the delivery company to sell the gas and the company that serviced all the pumps and petroleum delivery systems.

    Often I would be called to drive to the nether regions of the state delivering a control module or other critical part(s). My ride for those few years was a company supplied 4Runner. 6cyl, 5spd manual, leather, amazingly comfortable seats, and 4wd that made Vermont winters look like nothing more than the occasional dusting.

    IMHO that was the best 4runner ever made. Looked great, drove very well, and could still be had loaded with a 5spd. Loved that truck.

    • 0 avatar
      justgregit

      I grew up in VT with a Toyota Previa minivan (the RWD, 5-spd). IMHO it was the greatest Toyota ever made. Though I do have a 1st gen 4runner I love, and they were pretty great through the 90s.

      I have a thing for the 22RE over the 6 cyl though, just a personal affinity for a fantastic engine (even if a little underpowered, very reliable and easy to work on).

      • 0 avatar
        Timothy

        A fellow Vermonter! I grew up in St. Albans area… you?

        • 0 avatar
          justgregit

          Near Middlebury. I think many of us in Vermont (and New Hampshire) end up being car fanatics based on the fact that you spend a large portion of your life in your car, and you get to do it on windy backroads… in winter!

          I feel like you must grow up either loving or hating cars based on the amount of time you spend in them, and I gravitated to the former…

          • 0 avatar
            Timothy

            Absolutely! Got my permit at 15, license the day I turned 16. Been driving ever since. Middlebury Mobile… made that trip many many times. LOL

  • avatar
    bomberpete

    “Back then, there weren’t any music festivals, presumably because the top song was “Karma Chameleon,” and no one wanted to hear that played live.”

    OK, so you borrowed a little from PJ O’Rourke, but who is 100% original? That is great writing.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    I want a Land Cruiser so much!

  • avatar
    OliverTwist

    My brother still has 1998 fire-engine red 4Runner to this day, spinning the odometer to more than 350,000 miles (still with original motor and gearbox). Since Toyota has poshed up 4Runner as the boulevard cruiser with the subsequent generations, he decided against replacing his 1998 with the modern version.

    If people want the posh version, they can just buy the Lexus or Land Cruiser. 4Runner should be just utilitian and nothing more.

    By the way, my brother has lost faith in Toyota because of its refusal to offer the diesel version in the United States. Toyota has ‘promised’ to consider the diesel motors in the US for years. The people at Toyota should be tossed into the bear den for their idiotic decisions to deny the Americans the diesel option.


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