The Truth About Cars » Toyota http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:05:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Toyota http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/toyota/ Toyota 4Runner Booms: Off-Roaders Aren’t Dead Yet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/toyota-4runner-booms-roaders-arent-dead-yet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/toyota-4runner-booms-roaders-arent-dead-yet/#comments Thu, 16 Oct 2014 12:37:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931802 The off-roader is not yet dead, and with recent successes from a couple of well-known rough-and-tumble four-by-fours, the niche category has lives yet to live. We’re not talking about pickup trucks with Z71 badges or the ever-growing stable of vehicles perceived to be capable of mud-running because of their when-the-wheels-slip all-wheel-drive systems. No, truck-based SUV […]

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2014 Toyota 4Runner dirt pathThe off-roader is not yet dead, and with recent successes from a couple of well-known rough-and-tumble four-by-fours, the niche category has lives yet to live.

We’re not talking about pickup trucks with Z71 badges or the ever-growing stable of vehicles perceived to be capable of mud-running because of their when-the-wheels-slip all-wheel-drive systems.

No, truck-based SUV platforms with selectable four-wheel-drive are another breed. We’re well acquainted with the Jeep Wrangler’s steady rise up the utility vehicle sales leaderboard, and 2014 is almost assured of ending with record Wrangler sales.

The Unlimited has expanded that Wrangler’s appeal to corners of the market near and far. Wrangler sales in the United States have increased in four consecutive years and are likely to top 170,000 units in 2014.

Yet a far less likely candidate for success in this age is the Toyota 4Runner, sales of which have already risen to a seven-year high in 2014, with three months remaining on the calendar.

(Mr. Kreindler touched on the success of a 4Runner compatriot, the Lexus GX, back in July. GX sales will shoot above 20,000 units in 2014 for the first time since 2007. The GX’s nine-month U.S. sales total is already marks a four-year high.)

It’s not as though the 4Runner is alone on the loosely-defined SUV side of Toyota showrooms. From the RAV4 and Venza to the Highlander, FJ Cruiser, Sequoia, and Land Cruiser, Toyota sales consultants are swimming in utility vehicles up to their ears.

Moreover, the Highlander is an increasingly popular vehicle, with sales rising 12% to 105,526 units in 2014. The FJ Cruiser still matters, too, as Toyota’s clear-out of the cancelled off-roader has resulted in a 30% increase to 12,653 sales through nine months. In fact, 2014 should end as the best FJ Cruiser sales year since 2010, if not 2008.

But while the 4Runner has maintained its boxy shape and rugged underpinnings (and its not exactly track-honed on-road manners) Toyota did update the 4Runner for 2014. Granted, it’s still using a five-speed automatic and it won’t tow any more than a Highlander, but the 4Runner’s equipment levels were upgraded and the exterior was updated, like it or not.

On a monthly basis, 4Runner sales have now increased in eight consecutive months. Third-quarter volume jumped 69% to 19,978 units, 36% of the 4Runner’s 55,271-unit total through nine months.

These aren’t SUV-leading numbers, of course: Honda sells nearly 27,000 CR-Vs per month and America’s top-selling three-row vehicle, the Ford Explorer, should top 170,000 units by October’s end. But the 4Runner has regained volume status, and after forming just 1.3% of Toyota brand sales in 2009, 3.1% in 2010, 3.2% in 2011, 2.8% in 2012, and 2.7% in 2013, the 4Runner is now responsible 3.6% of all Toyota sales.

Indeed, it’s a more popular Toyota than the Avalon, Prius C, Prius V, Venza, FJ, Yaris, Sequoia, and Land Cruiser. In the broader scheme of things, it’s selling more often than the Acura MDX, Dodge Durango, Buick Enclave, Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Suburban, Nissan Murano, and BMW X5.

55,271 sales in nine months is an impressive result for a vehicle which averaged 43,130 annual sales over the previous six years. It’s also a figure which tells us something about the market’s swing to car-like crossovers. In four consecutive years ending in 2006, Toyota sold more than 100,000 4Runners. Those days may be gone, but the 4Runner is not.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Interbrand: Toyota Most Valuable Global Automotive Brand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/interbrand-toyota-valuable-global-automotive-brand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/interbrand-toyota-valuable-global-automotive-brand/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=928554 Aside from giving away FCVs at environmental media award celebrations, Toyota is Interbrand’s most valuable automotive brand on its Best Global Brands list, moving from No. 10 to No. 8 overall in 2014. Despite the $1.2 billion fine levied by the U.S. Justice Department for concealing defects linked to unintended acceleration, followed by a recall […]

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Aside from giving away FCVs at environmental media award celebrations, Toyota is Interbrand’s most valuable automotive brand on its Best Global Brands list, moving from No. 10 to No. 8 overall in 2014.

Despite the $1.2 billion fine levied by the U.S. Justice Department for concealing defects linked to unintended acceleration, followed by a recall of 6.4 million units over airbag and seat issues weeks later, the New York-based brand consultancy group says its higher ranking is a result of the following:

  • Brand perception: Though considered as a solid brand known for quality over spirit, Toyota’s campaigns as of late are helping to build a more lively image.
  • Technological advancement: Vehicles like the Mirai and Prius are just two examples of the automaker’s environmental stewardship — Interbrand ranked Toyota No. 2 in this year’s Best Global Green Brands list — while collaborations with Microsoft and BMW help to drive further developments in engineering and mobility.
  • Resource allocation and diversity: Toyota aims to increase the number of women in managerial positions to 320 by 2020, 570 by 2030. The recent relocation of its U.S. headquarters from California to Texas will mean more efficient productivity and greater collaboration between its sales, marketing and manufacturing teams.

Among the rest of the global auto players among the overall list of 100 global brands, Mercedes-Benz represents Europe at No. 10, Ford comes in for the United States at No. 39, and Hyundai raises the flag for South Korea at No. 40.

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Toyota Raffling First US-Bound Mirai FCV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/toyota-raffling-first-us-bound-mirai-fcv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/toyota-raffling-first-us-bound-mirai-fcv/#comments Fri, 10 Oct 2014 12:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=928490 If you’d like to be one of the first in the United States to hop aboard the silver future of FCVs, but would also like to keep as much money in your wallet as possible, then Toyota has a Mirai for you. The automaker is planning to give away one of its new FCVs during […]

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Toyota Mirai

If you’d like to be one of the first in the United States to hop aboard the silver future of FCVs, but would also like to keep as much money in your wallet as possible, then Toyota has a Mirai for you.

The automaker is planning to give away one of its new FCVs during the 24th Annual Environmental Media Awards October 18 at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif. The caveats are as follows:

  • You must be a California resident (due to infrastructure limitations)
  • You must buy a raffle ticket at Bidding For Good; $100 for a single ticket, $500 for six

The money raised from the raffle will go on to benefit EMA-related programs, while the new owner will be paying taxes on their new hydrogen car, assuming tax credits don’t knock off everything first. Otherwise, you can buy your own when the Mirai party pulls into the Port of Long Beach late next year.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2014-toyota-camry-hybrid-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2014-toyota-camry-hybrid-se/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 12:54:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=926553 At any one moment, it is both easy and difficult to see why the Toyota Camry is perennially America’s best-selling car. Taking up residence in a 2014 Camry Hybrid SE for a whole week, I was saddened, but I could see how a Camry owner would feel emboldened when contemplating the future. This is not […]

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2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE white profileAt any one moment, it is both easy and difficult to see why the Toyota Camry is perennially America’s best-selling car.

Taking up residence in a 2014 Camry Hybrid SE for a whole week, I was saddened, but I could see how a Camry owner would feel emboldened when contemplating the future. This is not a happy place, you see, not from a design standpoint; not for a car reviewer who wants material quality to impress and edges to be softened and seat cushions to be lengthy under thigh.

And yet, just as an example, I suspect that the ghastly steering wheel buttons will operate effectively for the Camry’s fifth owner, a college sophomore who buys the car in 2024 after it lived a trouble-free, maintained-at-the-dealer, 150,000-mile commuter existence.

I don’t say this because of Toyota’s reputation for quality, as this car lacks the sense of overarching solidity with which you acquainted yourself in a 1997 Lexus ES when you were a college sophomore. Rather, one falls under the spell of perceived durability because, for instance, the interior is ruggedly refined. It’s like my son’s yellow dump trucks. They’re not as cool as his silver Gullwing model, not as nicely painted or equipped with doors as beautifully hinged, but they will outlast whatever his childhood can throw at them. Born less than a year ago, he’s not allowed to touch the Benz yet.

2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE corneringThe smoothness of the drivetrain can rarely, if ever, be questioned, from the stop-start system to the delivery of passing power on a two-lane road. It’s not fast, the Camry Hybrid, but it’s not ponderous, either. We were party to very little EV operation, but the Camry is rather quiet regardless. Wind noise is kept to a minimum, though the hum of the Michelin Primacy MXV4s was conspicuous. Rear-seat occupants are blessed with an impressive amount of legroom, but the trunk is 15% smaller than in a conventionally powered Camry.

This is a car we all know well, however. We know it’s lacking personality. (My mother-in-law, always interested to see what’s in our driveway, didn’t notice the previous week’s Legacy had been switched out for the Camry, and she’s a loyal Camry owner.) We know it’s spacious and affordable and provides what may be the planet’s best reputation for durability, ISIS-driven Toyota pickups aside. But in advance of the refreshed 2015 car’s arrival, Toyota began marketing a slightly different Camry. For the first time, they applied the TTAC-favoured SE alterations to the hybrid model.

Camry Hybrid SE interiorThat’s a bit confusing when first pondered. The SE is the Camry that can be driven swiftly through corners, but the Camry Hybrid is the Camry that ought not be driven swiftly if fuel economy numbers are going to live up to the official EPA ratings.

This Camry can, in fact, be driven quickly on a fun road. The steering is more than decent and would become even better if only the car would turn in with more immediacy. Body roll is toned down. For the most part, ride quality remains comfortable, although interactions between the rear suspension and especially rough pavement send a shudder through the whole car. Pushed hard, the SE never feels less than sorted.

A moaning CVT (even if it’s calibrated nicely with the powerplants) and 156 horsepower aren’t the kinds of attributes one looks for in a car you plan to hustle often. The Camry Hybrid SE, priced from $28,655 with destination for MY2014, therefore becomes of interest to buyers who want their Camry to appear more youthful, the buyers who want more bolstering in the front seats and an added dose of agility. Driven quickly too often – not because it was fun but because I wanted to challenge the car – we averaged just 31.4 miles per gallon over the course of the week. That’s far worse than the official figures: 40 mpg overall.

Last winter, we averaged similar mileage in a diesel-powered Passat in an attempt to see whether diesels were hampered by intentionally aggressive acceleration. The Passat TDI exceeded its city rating in spite of the driving style and, in truth, was more pleasant to drive and sit in than the Camry Hybrid SE.

Toyota has already updated this car, however, with an improved interior and, to my eyes, improved exterior design. And if we’re going to discuss vehicles with sterling reliability reputations, perhaps we should be comparing the Camry Hybrid’s real-world efficiency to the fuel economy achieved by the pickups in Mosul. Who wishes to make the necessary inquiries?

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Paris 2014: Toyota C-HR Concept Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-toyota-c-hr-concept-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-toyota-c-hr-concept-revealed/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 15:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=923505 A harbinger of things to come as far as design and style go, Toyota revealed the C-HR Concept at the 2014 Paris Auto Show. According to the automaker, the C-HR Concept is what happens when it genetically engineers a crossover from a late-1990s RAV4, a Prius and a GT86. The result is what it calls […]

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A harbinger of things to come as far as design and style go, Toyota revealed the C-HR Concept at the 2014 Paris Auto Show.

According to the automaker, the C-HR Concept is what happens when it genetically engineers a crossover from a late-1990s RAV4, a Prius and a GT86. The result is what it calls “diamond architecture styling,” which will likely begin to influence vehicle styling and design sometime down the road.

Under the hood is a new hybrid system that Toyota proclaims will “reset the standards for consumption and emissions.” What the automaker means by this is left to one’s imagination for now.

Regarding dimensions, the C-HR Concept is larger than the Nissan Juke, coming in at 171.3 inches long and 72.8 inches wide. However, it is 3 inches shorter at 59 inches, providing the crossover with a lower center of gravity.

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Toyota Recalls 690K Tacomas Over Rear Suspension Issues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-recalls-690k-tacomas-rear-suspension-issues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-recalls-690k-tacomas-rear-suspension-issues/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=921641 Own a 2005 through 2011 Toyota Tacoma? It may be under recall due to rear suspension issues. Toyota informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of its plans to recall 690,000 2005-2011 Tacoma 4×4 and Pre-Runner trucks to fix the leaf springs in the rear suspension. The possibility is there for a leaf to fracture […]

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Own a 2005 through 2011 Toyota Tacoma? It may be under recall due to rear suspension issues.

Toyota informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of its plans to recall 690,000 2005-2011 Tacoma 4×4 and Pre-Runner trucks to fix the leaf springs in the rear suspension. The possibility is there for a leaf to fracture “due to stress and corrosion,” then make contact with other components once moved out of place.

Should said component be the fuel tank, a puncture could occur, leading to fuel leaks with the potential for fire to occur if an ignition source is nearby.

Toyota will notify owners by mail, and the fix will be provided free of charge.

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Toyota Camry To Have Aluminum Hoods By 2018 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-camry-aluminum-hoods-2018/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-camry-aluminum-hoods-2018/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916882 As Ford prepares to stake its future on an aluminum F-150, Toyota is looking to do the same for at least a single part on its best-selling vehicle. Automotive News reports the automaker will begin stamping aluminum hoods for the Camry in 2018, introducing the metal to its customers in North America with the hood […]

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As Ford prepares to stake its future on an aluminum F-150, Toyota is looking to do the same for at least a single part on its best-selling vehicle.

Automotive News reports the automaker will begin stamping aluminum hoods for the Camry in 2018, introducing the metal to its customers in North America with the hood and liftgate of the Lexus RX 350 in 2015. The move is part of an overall plan “to use aluminum on future vehicles for hood, closures and parts for lightweighting,” according to representative Jana Hartline, who adds the automaker will “increase usage of mix metals and resin materials to enhance lightweighting efforts.”

The plan will be enacted through a joint venture between its trading company, Toyota Tsusho Corp., and Kobe Steel, with Toyota being one of the JV’s first clients. The venture aims to produce 100,000 tons of aluminum sheet annually, and plans to build its operation near producer Wise Alloys of Muscle Shoals, Ala. to help tackle constraints resulting from the increased popularity — a result of tightening CAFE regulations — of the metal.

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Paris 2014: Toyota C-HR Concept Unveiled Before Paris Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/paris-2014-toyota-c-hr-concept-unveiled-paris-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/paris-2014-toyota-c-hr-concept-unveiled-paris-debut/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 11:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916010 Want to know where Toyota might go in the near future for the crossover segment? The C-HR Concept as seen above might be a clue. According to CarScoops, the three-door concept combines “a bold new design language with an agile, engaging driving experience and a Hybrid powertrain,” though not much else is known beyond the […]

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Want to know where Toyota might go in the near future for the crossover segment? The C-HR Concept as seen above might be a clue.

According to CarScoops, the three-door concept combines “a bold new design language with an agile, engaging driving experience and a Hybrid powertrain,” though not much else is known beyond the production version having 3- and 5-door variants, and being positioned beneath the RAV4.

The publication noted that an Auris-based test mule similar in shape and size to the C-HR Concept had undergone testing somewhere in Europe this July.

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The Lexus IS Is Competing Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/lexus-competes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/lexus-competes/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 12:24:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912810 In the United States, Lexus has sold in excess of 5000 copies of the IS twice in the last nine months, having not done so even once since August 2008. Five times in the last nine months, Lexus has sold more than 4000 copies, having only sold more than 4000 ISs once in the previous […]

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2014 Lexus ISIn the United States, Lexus has sold in excess of 5000 copies of the IS twice in the last nine months, having not done so even once since August 2008.

Five times in the last nine months, Lexus has sold more than 4000 copies, having only sold more than 4000 ISs once in the previous 44 months.

U.S. Lexus IS volume has increased on a year-over-year basis in each of the last 14 months, although six of those year-over-year comparisons include prior-year results from the IS’s worst sales year (2012) since 2005.

In its segment, the IS trails only the premium-brand-leading BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Granted, the Audi A4, though relatively appealing even now, is as old as the hills. Also, while Infiniti’s Q50 trails the IS by 10,305 units, the Q50/G sedan combo is narrowly ahead of the Lexus.

Cadillac ATS volume has plunged 20% so far this year as total Cadillac passenger car volume has tumbled 15%. Volvo S60 sales are down 15% to 14,684 units, 18,743 sales back of the IS. The S60 trailed the IS by just 1672 units at this point one year ago.

The tide has clearly turned. In both 2011 and 2012, even Acura’s TSX was a more popular choice than the IS. Year-to-date IS sales in America are up 77%. The rapid growth rate has slowed as year-over-year comparisons now include results from both years, both 2014 and 2013, of the current, third-generation IS. August sales jumped 20% to 5312, more than the figure managed by the traditional second-ranked C-Class.

That C-Class, however, is now being replaced by a much more competitive, wildly more modern C. Will that car put the brakes on the IS’s ascent? It’s possible. One could argue that the brash IS with its massive spindle grille and controversial interior targets a different buyer. But we don’t determine which vehicles consumers will decide to cross-shop.

TTAC_3-Series-sales-chart-August-2014-YTDThe IS has nevertheless regained the status of a major player in the category. Lexus is on pace for the IS’s first year since 2007 with more than 50,000 sales. Not surprisingly, the IS has once again become important to traditionally RX-dependant Lexus. Through the first eight months of 2013, the IS accounted for just 11% of Lexus’s U.S. volume; the RX and ES 66%.

The RX/ES portion has fallen to 58% in 2014, however, as the IS now generates 17% of Lexus volume. You’re not surprised to learn, therefore, that Lexus outsold BMW and Mercedes-Benz in both July and August.

One thing is certain, the IS is not close to challenging the top-selling BMW in terms of U.S. sales. No entry-level premium sports sedan is, nor are any about to. The 3-Series range is massive, from the 320i sedan which undercuts the base IS by a few thousand dollars, to hatchback versions of both the 3-Series and 4-Series (which BMW USA still includes in the 3er’s total), countless powertrain options, and even a wagon. Not that BMW necessarily needs such broad appeal for the 3-Series to top the sales charts. The margins of victory are typically fairly large.

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Toyota Tundra Goes Pro, Loses V6 Entirely For 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-tundra-goes-pro-loses-v6-entirely-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-tundra-goes-pro-loses-v6-entirely-2015/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913218 After its makeover for the 2014 model year, the 2015 Toyota Tundra has gained a few more tricks up its sleeve, beginning by going all in on V8 firepower and losing the V6 due to the latter’s take rate of less than 5 percent. Under the bonnet awaits two potential powerplants for Tundra owners: the […]

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After its makeover for the 2014 model year, the 2015 Toyota Tundra has gained a few more tricks up its sleeve, beginning by going all in on V8 firepower and losing the V6 due to the latter’s take rate of less than 5 percent.

Under the bonnet awaits two potential powerplants for Tundra owners: the 4.6-liter i-Force V8 delivering 310 horsepower and 327 lb-ft of torque, and the 5.7-liter i-Force V8 offering 381 horses and 401 lb-ft of torque; the latter can be had as either gasoline-only or in Flex Fuel configuration. The power is delivered through a six-speed electronic automatic to either rear or all four wheels.

Towing capacity is 10,500 pounds in 4×2 regular-cab configuration, and is compliant with SAE J2807. Additionally, trailer control is made easier through the Tundra’s Trailer Sway Control, part of the truck’s overall vehicle stability system.

Those wanting to live out their Ivan “Ironman” Stewart fantasies can do so through the new-for-2015 TRD Pro package, which brings the 5.7-liter V8 together with 18-inch black alloys wearing exclusive Michelin off-road rubber, dual exhaust, skid plate and upgraded suspension components.

Other features available for 2015 include: spray-in bed liner, rear under-seat tray storage in double cab models, standard backup camera with blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring systems, and the Entune infotainment system.

Pricing for the 2015 Tundra starts at $29,020 MSRP for the base SR 4×2 regular cab model, while no word has been said thus far regarding the TRD Pro model. That said, PickupTrucks.com has published a price list for the majority of the models on sale for the 2015 model year.

2015 Toyota Tundra MSRP Price Sheet

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Volkswagen: Hydrogen Will Struggle Outside of Japan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volkswagen-hydrogen-will-struggle-outside-japan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volkswagen-hydrogen-will-struggle-outside-japan/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=909146 While Toyota and the administration of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are going all in on hydrogen, Volkswagen Group Japan President Shigeru Shoji proclaims FCVs will struggle to make headway elsewhere. According to Bloomberg, Shoji says the government subsidies meant to push Toyota’s Mirai and other FCVs into the marketplace are likely too high for […]

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While Toyota and the administration of Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are going all in on hydrogen, Volkswagen Group Japan President Shigeru Shoji proclaims FCVs will struggle to make headway elsewhere.

According to Bloomberg, Shoji says the government subsidies meant to push Toyota’s Mirai and other FCVs into the marketplace are likely too high for other governments to match. He adds that issues surrounding refueling infrastructure and the handling of hydrogen itself will add to the roadblocks awaiting the technology outside of Japan.

Those comments — echoing sentiments by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and other hydrogen skeptics — aren’t lost on either Toyota or the Abe administration. Company representative Dion Corbett says the subsidies are needed to help get hydrogen off the ground, citing the high cost of developing fuel-cell technology. That said, Dion believes demand will not only be the highest in Japan — where Abe envisions a “hydrogen society” of fuel-cells for homes and businesses as well as cars — but in Germany, California and the U.S. East Coast.

Though Volkswagen has its doubts, VW Japan representative Yasuo Maruta says the company is keeping its eye on Toyota’s efforts, planning to be no more than three years’ behind R&D work in relation to Toyota.

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Tesla, Toyota May Develop New Project Within Three Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/tesla-toyota-may-develop-new-project-within-three-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/tesla-toyota-may-develop-new-project-within-three-years/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=909122 Though Toyota and Tesla have, to paraphrase Fleetwood Mac, gone their own way while their RAV4 EV project draws to a close, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says he sees his company working with Toyota in two to three years’ time. Automotive News says Musk made the proclamation during a ceremony for the first Model S […]

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Tesla Toyota RAV4 EV

Though Toyota and Tesla have, to paraphrase Fleetwood Mac, gone their own way while their RAV4 EV project draws to a close, Tesla CEO Elon Musk says he sees his company working with Toyota in two to three years’ time.

Automotive News says Musk made the proclamation during a ceremony for the first Model S sedans delivered in Japan Monday, stating the project “would probably be something significant, maybe on a much higher volume level.” He added that Tesla loved working with Toyota, and held great respect for the automaker.

When the gesture was brought up with Toyota, however, representative Dion Corbett said the automaker had “nothing to say.” This is likely in part due to recent comments between the two companies over their respective paths toward a greener future; Toyota sees EVs as impractical, Tesla believes FCVs are for fools.

The RAV4 EV joint venture is expected to end once the last of the 2,500 crossovers are sold by the end of the year; Toyota has sold 2,130 RAV4 EVs through August 2014.

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Record Sales Position Toyota’s RAV4 Atop All SUVs In August http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/record-sales-position-toyotas-rav4-atop-suvs-august/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/record-sales-position-toyotas-rav4-atop-suvs-august/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:21:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=908713 During a month in which the Toyota Camry took a rare break from leading America’s passenger car sales results, the Toyota RAV4 soared to the top of the SUV/crossover leaderboard. RAV4 sales hit record levels in July 2014, when 26,779 were sold, enough to make the RAV4 America’s second-ranked utility vehicle. That record was smashed […]

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2013-Toyota-RAV4. Photo courtesy ToyotaDuring a month in which the Toyota Camry took a rare break from leading America’s passenger car sales results, the Toyota RAV4 soared to the top of the SUV/crossover leaderboard.

RAV4 sales hit record levels in July 2014, when 26,779 were sold, enough to make the RAV4 America’s second-ranked utility vehicle.

That record was smashed one month later, however, as Toyota reported 35,614 RAV4 sales in August 2014, enough to finish the month 1535 sales ahead of the Honda CR-V, which declined 2%, and 6618 sales ahead of the Ford Escape.

Through the first eight months of 2014, the RAV4 trails the CR-V by nearly 38,000 units; the Escape by more than 29,000. The fourth-ranked Chevrolet Equinox (which ranked fifth in August, as sales fell 15%) is 11,806 sales back of the RAV4, having led the RAV4 by more than 25,000 units at this stage a year ago.

Toyota’s 35,614-unit RAV4 sales performance in August equals a 52% improvement, year-over-year. This follows gains in May, June, and July, as well as improvements in January, February, and March, and in the final nine months of 2013.

Annually, RAV4 sales have increased in each of the last two years, rising to a record-high 218,249 units in 2013, the same year Chevrolet Equinox volume climbed to record levels, the same year Ford reported record-high sales of the Escape, and the same year the best-selling CR-V reached its highest U.S. yearly sales total ever, as well. The CR-V, Escape, and RAV4 are also all on pace for record-setting sales results in calendar year 2014.

August 2014 YTD U.S. SUV sales chartThe RAV4, of course, isn’t the only representative of Toyota’s utility vehicle strength. Toyota sold 57,623 SUVs and crossovers in August 2014 (plus 2793 Venzas) and 14,316 Lexus LX570s, GX460s, and RXs. The RX is consistently America’s top-selling premium brand utility vehicle. Over the last eight months the RX has sold 58% more often than the Acura MDX, 81% more often than the Cadillac SRX, and 140% more often than the Mercedes-Benz M-Class.

The still-fresh Toyota Highlander, sales of which fell 12% in August but are up 11% so far this year, is America’s second-best-selling three-row utility vehicle, and third-best-selling three-row vehicle overall, behind the Ford Explorer and Chrysler Town & Country. (Nissan has sold more Rogues, but the Rogue does not come equipped as standard with three-row seating. In fact, it’s only available on two of the Rogue’s three trim levels.)

The Toyota 4Runner is also returning to old form with sales rising 46% in 2014. Toyota USA has sold more 4Runners in the last eight months than in the full calendar years between 2008 and 2012, and before September is half way over, they’ll have sold more than in all of 2013, too.

But August was the RAV4’s month to shine, particularly as Camry sales, not unexpectedly, slid ever-so-slightly and as the Honda Accord stole the passenger car limelight.

The last time a Toyota was America’s best-selling utility vehicle was March 2010, when sales of the RAV4 surged 117% to 25,781, 6599 units clear of the second-ranked Ford Escape.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Toyota Focused More On Safety Over Vehicle Autonomy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-focused-safety-vehicle-autonomy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/toyota-focused-safety-vehicle-autonomy/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=906993 Though Google was more than happy to turn a few Prii into autonomous test beds, Toyota doesn’t see much of a future for autonomous vehicles from the tech giant or Toyota’s competitors. Autoblog reports “Toyota’s main objective is safety,” not developing autonomous vehicles of its own, according to the automaker’s deputy chief safety technology officer, […]

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Google Toyota Prius Autonomous Vehicle

Though Google was more than happy to turn a few Prii into autonomous test beds, Toyota doesn’t see much of a future for autonomous vehicles from the tech giant or Toyota’s competitors.

Autoblog reports “Toyota’s main objective is safety,” not developing autonomous vehicles of its own, according to the automaker’s deputy chief safety technology officer, Seigo Kuzumaki. He adds that he and Toyota’s top brass don’t believe such vehicles will have much marketability outside of the technocratic state of Silcon Valley, nor are they certain the technology is ready for primetime.

At the present, Toyota is working on 34 projects with 17 partners, including those involving V2V and V2I communication systems. That said, it believes the human behind the wheel is just as important as the computers running most of the show. Thus, the driver will not become a passenger in the near-term.

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GM Mid-Size Twins Best Similarly Equipped Full-Size Pickups In Fuel Economy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-mid-size-twins-best-similarly-equipped-full-size-pickups-fuel-economy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-mid-size-twins-best-similarly-equipped-full-size-pickups-fuel-economy/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 12:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=906401 As full-size pickups do their best to eke out as much fuel economy as possible, the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are set to deliver a combined 21 mpg once they leave the lot for the road. Autoblog reports the GM twin mid-sizers will net owners 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg […]

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2015 Chevrolet Colorado + GMC Canyon

As full-size pickups do their best to eke out as much fuel economy as possible, the upcoming Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are set to deliver a combined 21 mpg once they leave the lot for the road.

Autoblog reports the GM twin mid-sizers will net owners 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway in two-wheel drive models equipped with a six-speed auto mated to the 305-horsepower 3.6-liter direct-injection V6. For comparison, a Ram 1500 4×2 with the Pentastar 3.6-liter V6 sending power to the back through an eight-speed auto offers a rating of 17/20/25; the outgoing Ford F-150 4×2 with its 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and six-speed auto delivers 16/18/22 mpg; and the Chevrolet Silverado C15 4×2 brings 18/20/24 mpg through its larger 4.3-liter V6 and six-speed auto.

Those wanting all four wheels to do the climbing up that hill will find the Colorado’s and Canyon’s ratings falling to 17/20/24 mpg, though they still best the Silverado K15 4×4 (17/20/22), Ford F-150 4×4 (15/17/21) and Ram 1500 4×4 (16/19/23).

As for trucks closer in size to the duo, Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah says the two-wheel drive models are more than able to throw down against the Nissan Frontier 4×2 (16/18/22 mpg) and Toyota Tacoma 4×2 (17/19/21 mpg).

GM adds that a 2.8-liter Duramax is in the offing for 2016, with figures ready for perusing closer to launch time.

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Toyota Re-Pops The Series 70 Land Cruiser! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/toyota-re-pops-series-70-land-cruiser/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/toyota-re-pops-series-70-land-cruiser/#comments Thu, 28 Aug 2014 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901945 It’s been a while since TTAC crackled and buzzed with the latest Toyota news all the time — but this morning, we’re changing that! Toyota is producing the 1990s-era Series 70 Land Cruiser in two body styles as a year-long, Japanese-market love letter to its most ardent fans. The pricing is bargain basement — about […]

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It’s been a while since TTAC crackled and buzzed with the latest Toyota news all the time — but this morning, we’re changing that!

Toyota is producing the 1990s-era Series 70 Land Cruiser in two body styles as a year-long, Japanese-market love letter to its most ardent fans. The pricing is bargain basement — about thirty-four grand for either style — and the drivetrain pairs a 228-horse four-liter V6 with a five-speed manual transmission and part-time 4WD. Locking diffs are optional, as is a winch.

What a lovely, desirable, heirloom-quality vehicle. Can’t get it here, though — “here” being “anywhere but Japan”, to misquote Mona Simpson. And the original Series 70 Cruisers can still be found in the United States, although condition may vary (you can buy them as commercial vehicles in Australia as well). This rebuilding thing is brilliant, though. Now if only they’d do the final Cressida, the first LS400, the ’94 Supra Twin Turbo, the 2000GT…

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Lexus Topped Premium Brands In The U.S. In July, And How http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/lexus-topped-premium-brands-u-s-july/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/lexus-topped-premium-brands-u-s-july/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:20:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=899386 In July 2014, for the first time in twelve months, Lexus outsold all other premium brands in the United States. Back in August 2013, Lexus sold 29,792 vehicles, 5269 more new vehicle sales than BMW managed; 5031 more than Mercedes-Benz, excluding Sprinter vans. Last month, Lexus’ margin of victory over the two brands which now […]

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2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesIn July 2014, for the first time in twelve months, Lexus outsold all other premium brands in the United States. Back in August 2013, Lexus sold 29,792 vehicles, 5269 more new vehicle sales than BMW managed; 5031 more than Mercedes-Benz, excluding Sprinter vans.

Last month, Lexus’ margin of victory over the two brands which now routinely outsell the Toyota premium division was much smaller. Mercedes-Benz reported the sale of 27,192 new vehicles; Lexus another 141 units.

The annual U.S. race to be tops among premium brands was last won by Lexus in calendar year 2010. Yet as Mercedes-Benz and BMW blossomed with expanding utility vehicle lineups, Lexus’s 3-Series-fighting IS aged and the brand continued to rely very heavily on the RX.

July’s key difference relative to the recent past? Although the small NX isn’t here yet and Lexus fell back on the RX for more than one-third of the brand’s volume, the IS is now a moderately high-volume sports sedan. IS volume has increased on a year-over-year basis in each of the last 13 months and July’s 4542-unit performance marked the third occasion this year in which IS sales have topped 4000 units. IS volume increased by 901 units in July, by 5420 units over the last three months, and by 13,688 units through the first seven months of 2014.

Yet the IS, which accounted for 17% of the brand’s volume in July, was only Lexus’s third-best-selling model. The ES, sales of which rose 4% (and are only slightly less than level year-to-date), generated 6326 July sales, more than four out of every ten Lexus passenger car sales last month. The ES – with its entry-luxury price tag, front-wheel-drive orientation, and spacious interior – has no genuinely direct rival at Mercedes-Benz or BMW.

Lexus July 2014 sales articlesThe GS, on the other hand, does stand up as an E-Class or 5-Series challenger, though not on U.S. sales volume terms. 2001 GS sedans were sold in July, a 16% year-over-year increase. With larger lineups (the E-Class is available in four different bodystyles, for example), Mercedes-Benz sold 6648 Es in July, a 19% jump, and BMW sold 5676 copies of the 5-Series, up 17%.

While BMW sold 6187 versions of their five X models in July and Mercedes-Benz’s G, GL, GLK, and M-Class combined for 9038 sales, Lexus sold 9658 RX hybrids and RX350s. (Lexus also sold 1955 GX SUVs, representing a 122% increase. LX sales fell 15% to 248 units.)

Among premium brand utility vehicles, the RX is an astonishingly and consistently popular nameplate. RX sales jumped 14% in July and are up 5% year-to-date.

It’s on the basis of the RX’s success that Toyota feels it can sell 2200 NXs per month. Challenging styling aside, it’s hard to doubt the company’s expectations. To the NX’s extra volume, Lexus will also add a few sales with the RC.

If those figures cause you to think Lexus could return to the top of the heap more consistently and for the long-term, you wouldn’t be crazy. But you may also be forgetting that Mercedes-Benz will soon be selling a sub-GLK GLA. The race among upmarket brands to generate increased sales, and thus decreased exclusivity, requires many a move down-market.

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Artificial Leaves Key To Lowering Hydrogen Fuel Production Costs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/artificial-leaves-key-lowering-hydrogen-fuel-production-costs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/artificial-leaves-key-lowering-hydrogen-fuel-production-costs/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=899658 For all of the incentives thrown in front of the upcoming Toyota Mirai, the automaker believes fueling the FCV will remain an expensive proposition in the near-term. That is, unless new hydrogen production technologies do for fuel cells what petroleum technology did the for the ICE. CleanTechnica reports a full tank of hydrogen for the […]

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2015 Toyota Mirai

For all of the incentives thrown in front of the upcoming Toyota Mirai, the automaker believes fueling the FCV will remain an expensive proposition in the near-term. That is, unless new hydrogen production technologies do for fuel cells what petroleum technology did the for the ICE.

CleanTechnica reports a full tank of hydrogen for the Mirai would cost $50, according to Toyota North America senior vice president Bob Caster, who took his information from the U.S. Department of Energy. Caster added that the price could come down to as low as $30 per tank, a goal the DOE aims to deliver as soon as possible with an R&D investment of $20 million.

In the meantime, researchers in Japan, and at MIT and the Australian National University Research School of Biology are developing hydrogen processing techniques involving photosynthesis in so-called artificial leaves. MIT’s approach uses solar energy in a photoelectrochemical process to extract hydrogen, while the Australians swap iron with manganese in a naturally occurring protein named ferritin along with light-sensitive zinc chlorin to do the same. Japan, on the other hand, uses cyanobacteria.

All artificial-leaf projects are currently focused on providing cheap energy in developing countries, but do have the potential to scale to meet the needs of a burgeoning hydrogen industry.

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Japanese Officials Pushing Hard With Subsidies For New Hydrogen Mirai http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/japanese-officials-pushing-hard-subsidies-new-hydrogen-mirai/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/japanese-officials-pushing-hard-subsidies-new-hydrogen-mirai/#comments Thu, 07 Aug 2014 11:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=883545 The 2015 Toyota Mirai may be breaking new ground in the fuel-cell vehicle game beyond merely existing, as subsidies galore are being thrown at potential consumers on all sides, including the possibility of owning the FCV for free. Automotive News reports the ¥7 million ($68,556 USD) Mirai — whose name translates to “future” — will […]

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2015 Toyota Mirai

The 2015 Toyota Mirai may be breaking new ground in the fuel-cell vehicle game beyond merely existing, as subsidies galore are being thrown at potential consumers on all sides, including the possibility of owning the FCV for free.

Automotive News reports the ¥7 million ($68,556 USD) Mirai — whose name translates to “future” — will receive a ¥2 million (~$20,000) subsidy from the Japanese government when the first models go on sale next year, with residents of Aichi prefecture — the home of Toyota — taking an extra ¥1 million (~$10,000) from the local government.

However, paying only as much as ¥4 million ($39,175) for the honor of being one of the new pioneers of the silver hydrogen future might not be enough to bring the Mirai out of the showroom, as fueling infrastructure is nearly non-existent. The Japanese government aims to bring 100 stations online by March 2015 at the earliest, for what it’s worth.

So, where does the “free car” offer come in? Japanese business daily Nihon Keizai reported on a few suggestions made by a government panel on how to spur FCV adoption rates, including offering free FCVs, free hydrogen refueling and toll exemptions. The daily explained that the government’s hydrogen vision “must contain more radical ideas” in order to generate excitement from the public and “catalyze a revolutionary socioeconomic change.” A hell of a way to push the Mirai for Summerslam, one would suppose.

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Lexus GX Sales Double, Profits Pile Up http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lexus-gx-sales-double-profits-pile-up/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lexus-gx-sales-double-profits-pile-up/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:53:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874489 The Lexus GX seems to truck along in the American marketplace with little fanfare. Aside from a brief rollover scare, the GX’s most notable achievement appears to be as the ride of choice for family members of Lexus dealer principals and Central Asian warlords. But Ward’s Auto reports that a bit of magic by Lexus product […]

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12-700x525

The Lexus GX seems to truck along in the American marketplace with little fanfare. Aside from a brief rollover scare, the GX’s most notable achievement appears to be as the ride of choice for family members of Lexus dealer principals and Central Asian warlords. But Ward’s Auto reports that a bit of magic by Lexus product planners has helped double sales in just over a year.

According to Ward’s

Adding a lower-priced base grade for the GX’s ’14 refresh, by substituting fake leather for real leather and deleting some content, was key to this year’s sales jump, putting the SUV’s starting price on par with 3-row midsize CUVs.

Keep in mind that this is an SUV that starts at a hair under $50,000 – and only 20 percent of buyers are even opting for the base model. Most customers go for the $53,795 GX Premium, which ostensibly offers real leather and other stuff that one would expect on a pricey SUV.

Brian Smith, VP of Marketing for Lexus, told Ward’s that

“I think there’s a need for towing capability, without having to go all the way to a (fullsize) LX…So we’re doing everything we can to continue to keep Toyota focused on the need for GX.”

Sure, there is a need for towing capacity with these vehicles, but there’s another, unspoken reason why Lexus keeps the GX around: profit. The GX is based on the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, a body-on-frame SUV related to the Toyota 4Runner, and sold in world markets as a family vehicle.

Taking an inexpensive vehicle that has had most of its costs amortized already (and is relatively simple to design, engineer and manufacture) and marketing it as a luxury item is a tried-and-true recipe for enormous gross margins that other players like GM, Ford and Nissan have all been exploiting for years now. It even works on unibody designs too (think Honda Pilot/Acura MDX or even Toyota Camry/Lexus RX). The body-on-frame design used by the GX just happens to be very simple technology that doesn’t cost a whole lot. When it’s sold as a silk purse, it becomes a very, very lucrative sow’s ear.

No wonder Smith speaks of his desire to “keep Toyota focused on the need for GX”. The SUV might as well be a printing press for the Lexus division, not just in America, but also in markets like China and Russia, where Lexus can charge whatever they please. And doubling sales of a product like this sure doesn’t hurt either.

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Japanese Government To Push FCVs Via $20k Subsidy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japanese-government-to-push-fcvs-via-20k-subsidy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japanese-government-to-push-fcvs-via-20k-subsidy/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872802 With Toyota ready to make big moves with its 2015 FCV, the Japanese government is ready with their own big move: $20,000 USD in incentives. Autoblog Green reports the government will offer buyers of the hydrogen-powered sedan $20,000 in subsidies, which may bring down the reported $69,000 MSRP down to $49,000; EV subsidies in Japan […]

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Toyota_FCV_featured

With Toyota ready to make big moves with its 2015 FCV, the Japanese government is ready with their own big move: $20,000 USD in incentives.

Autoblog Green reports the government will offer buyers of the hydrogen-powered sedan $20,000 in subsidies, which may bring down the reported $69,000 MSRP down to $49,000; EV subsidies in Japan max out at $8,500 per vehicle for comparison.

Meanwhile, the FCV will likely sell for $50,000 in the United States when it leaves the container ships next summer, and will be joined by Honda’s own FCV — name to be determined later — sometime in 2015.

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Fourth-Gen Toyota Prius To Receive AWD, New Battery Packs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fourth-gen-toyota-prius-to-receive-awd-new-battery-packs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fourth-gen-toyota-prius-to-receive-awd-new-battery-packs/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 12:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866362 Though it may be a while before the fourth-generation Toyota Prius leaves the assembly line, it may be worth the wait as far as batteries and drivetrains are concerned. Automotive News reports the new hybrid will have two choices for battery power. According to senior managing officer of powertrain development Koei Saga, both a low-cost […]

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2014 Toyota Prius

Though it may be a while before the fourth-generation Toyota Prius leaves the assembly line, it may be worth the wait as far as batteries and drivetrains are concerned.

Automotive News reports the new hybrid will have two choices for battery power. According to senior managing officer of powertrain development Koei Saga, both a low-cost nickel-metal hydride unit and a larger-capacity lithium ion pack — for longer electric-only range — will help provide power. Though Saga was cagey regarding economy numbers, he claimed that the new packs’ economy would “surprise everyone.”

Meanwhile, the power won’t be directed toward just the front wheels. Saga says there’s a possibility that AWD could be in the cards for the new Prius, which will be underpinned by the company’s Toyota New Global Architecture.

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Last First-Gen Volvo XC90 Rolls Out Of Torslanda http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/last-first-gen-volvo-xc90-rolls-out-of-torslanda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/last-first-gen-volvo-xc90-rolls-out-of-torslanda/#comments Tue, 15 Jul 2014 10:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=866234 Monday, the last first-gen Volvo XC90 rolled off the assembly line in Gothenburg, Sweden, where it was then driven to its final resting place as an exhibit in the Volvo Museum next door. Autoblog reports 636,143 units of the seven-passenger SUV rolled off the assembly line between 2002 and 2014, with Volvo expecting to sell […]

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Volvo XC90

Monday, the last first-gen Volvo XC90 rolled off the assembly line in Gothenburg, Sweden, where it was then driven to its final resting place as an exhibit in the Volvo Museum next door.

Autoblog reports 636,143 units of the seven-passenger SUV rolled off the assembly line between 2002 and 2014, with Volvo expecting to sell 50,000 annually. Instead, 85,000 left the showroom between 2004 and 2007 before dropping off to 11,000 units by the end of production.

Though the SUV is now a museum piece, the tooling will continue be used in China, where the XC90 will become the China-only XC Classic, joining other long-lived vehicles like the Volkswagen Santana Vista and the Beijing Auto Works Knight S12 (a.k.a., Jeep Cherokee XJ). Meanwhile, the workers in Torslanda will now prepare for the new XC90, set to make its global debut in August prior to production in 2015.

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Japan Three, Others Meet With President Over Supplier Aid Pledge http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japan-three-others-meet-with-president-over-supplier-aid-pledge/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japan-three-others-meet-with-president-over-supplier-aid-pledge/#comments Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=865777 A number of U.S. and multinational corporations met with President Barack Obama Friday to shine a light upon their pledge to pay their suppliers within 15 days as part of an initiative to help small businesses expand and bring on more employees. Automotive News reports representatives for Nissan, Toyota and Honda, including Honda North America […]

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Barack Obama playing pool

A number of U.S. and multinational corporations met with President Barack Obama Friday to shine a light upon their pledge to pay their suppliers within 15 days as part of an initiative to help small businesses expand and bring on more employees.

Automotive News reports representatives for Nissan, Toyota and Honda, including Honda North America executive vice president Rick Schostek, were in attendance for the 90-minute meeting about the pledge, based upon a similar program with government contractors, whereupon the federal government promises to quickly pay its contractors if the latter does the same for the smaller suppliers that help them.

The original initiative affected 172,000 small businesses, bringing $1 billion for workforce investment since its launch in 2011. Friday’s meeting was to reaffirm the pledge, as well as to introduce the program to the public sector.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Scion FR-S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-scion-fr-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2014-scion-fr-s/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=829402 If you purchase a Scion FR-S with an automatic transmission, I hope you’re deeply ashamed. There might be a legitimate reason. I’d accept a condition that prevents you from working a clutch and shifter. You know, something like losing a tussle with gangrene as a child or an advanced Type-II Diabetes induced foot-ectomy. Harsh, inconsiderate […]

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If you purchase a Scion FR-S with an automatic transmission, I hope you’re deeply ashamed. There might be a legitimate reason. I’d accept a condition that prevents you from working a clutch and shifter. You know, something like losing a tussle with gangrene as a child or an advanced Type-II Diabetes induced foot-ectomy.

Harsh, inconsiderate statements, but why the hell would you want this car with an automatic?

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I was deeply disappointed by this 2014 Scion FR-S, and I was disappointed by a 2013 FR-S before that. Both were afflicted with automatic transmissions. When it shifts on its own, it’s only half as good. Instead of working in harmony with the excellent chassis, the dopey automatic slams and locks the door on driver engagement.

There are still brilliant elements. The styling is handsome, restrained and timeless. If it only lasts a single generation, the FT-86 is going to be a classic the instant it’s no longer available. The long hood, short deck, stubby little trunklid, and fenders arching over the front wheels make up a great-looking car.

Greasy Prius tires, the story goes, were chosen to bring the limits down and make the car more fun on every drive. It works. The FR-S doesn’t need a race track to make you smile. Other ToyoBaru legend-making will include threadbare references to the old AE-86 Corolla. I contend that we’re looking back too fondly. The FR-S isn’t cheap speed, either, racking up a $28,711 price tag configured as I drove it. Options were limited to the rear bumper applique, fog lights, rear spoiler, and the BeSpoke premium audio package, which at $1,198 makes up the bulk of the increase over the $25,800 base MSRP.

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For 2014, Scion added some leather-like padded vinyl to cover what had been areas of cheap plastic. It’s an effective trick that premiums up the place. The BeSpoke infotainment system includes navigation, voice control, and Bluetooth connectivity, but it will make you work for it. The unit is fiddly to use, the screen is small, and the Bluetooth sound quality will annoy the people you’re calling. Still, it’s refreshing to get a cabin that’s more of a business office. The important controls are located well and easy to use, and that discourages getting distracted by the electronics. After all, we’re here to drive.

The FR-S is a swell trainer. All of the attitudes and responses of a performance car are available to you without the need to plunge past 100 mph. Much like a Miata is a great performance driving starter kit, the FR-S is an accurate-handling car with well-weighted steering, an alert ride, and responsive turn-in. There’s a Torsen limited slip differential standard, and 17″ wheels with 215/45 tires are small these days, but about all you need with the modest curb weight. The FR-S is certainly equipped as a serious driver’s car, ain’t it a bitch that it’s got no lungs to match the legs?

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If only the FR-S had about 100 more horsepower. Actually, I wish for about 75 lb-ft more torque, no need to be greedy. The 2.0 liter Subaru boxer is tweaked up with the Toyota D-4S dual fuel-injection rig that uses its direct injectors all the time and supplements with port injection under certain conditions. Scion touts the 100 hp per liter, and it is good for a naturally-aspirated engine. Thank the high 12.5:1 compression ratio for the 200 hp the engine delivers, but torque is a paltry 151 lb-ft to move 2,800 lbs. That’s something not even a 4.10:1 final drive can make up for.

Wimpy engines are more palatable with manual transmissions. While the automatic may help with off-the-line torque multiplication, I hated the mushy flat spot in the middle of the rpm range. Flatten the pedal, nothing much is going on until you clear 4,500 rpm. That’s a long wait. Dyno tests of the FR-S have shown a deep drop-off in torque from 3-4,000 rpm, and boy howdy do you feel it behind the wheel.

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Despite the sharp handling, the FR-S is a chore to drive with the auto. It’s less involving than it could be, it doesn’t have enough power to be responsive, and even with a sport mode and paddle shifters, the entertainment is marginal. I’m not a fan of automatics masquerading as race-bred automated gearboxes, and this six-speed in the FR-S is no exception. Up or down, shifts happen too slowly, and that’s something no amount of gimmicky rev-matching can fix. By the time the transmission gets around to delivering what you’ve asked for, the moment has passed, the apex you were clipping is in the mirror, and that’s that. Yawn city instead of yee-haw.

The aftermarket can help, just like it’s been supporting Miata buyers in search of increased wattage for years. Superchargers are a start, V8 swaps have happened. “You’ll mess up the balance!” they’ll cry. Yes, some, but the FR-S could use a little irresponsible imbalance. Trading some increased understeer and a slightly higher center of gravity for a deeper, more flexible well of whoop-ass would be a worthwhile transaction.

The official line is that the wonderful new turbo version of this engine in the WRX won’t fit. There’s also nothing in the Toyota or Subaru dugout that’s packaged like a pushrod small-block, so dreams of a dry-sumped aluminum OHV V8 snuggled against the firewall are just that. Subaru and Toyota are telling the truth. Automakers have to make stuff fit, meet crash standards, avoid setting things on fire, and be reliable for tens of thousands of miles. That’s hard and expensive, and it’s why we can’t have nice things.

They say turbo plumbing won’t fit, and as neat as it would be to drop the 3.6 liter flat six from the Outback in the nose of one of these things, that’s about as likely to happen as a turbine. A talented individual with money (lots of money), time (lots of time), and skill (lots of skill) can turn the FR-S into whatever he or she pleases, powered by whatever can be made to fit. It’s a great platform for the modern-day AC Cobra or Sunbeam Tiger. Box-stock, especially with an automatic, the usefulness of the Scion FR-S is limited.

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The problem comes down to money. A Mustang GT is a squeak away at $31,210, less if you can find a dealer hot to move the now-finite S197 models to make room for the 2015 S550 platform Mustang. For a little bit more every month, or a slightly longer loan with a quarter or half point more on the interest rate, you’ll get a 420 hp V8 and a chassis that’s not anywhere near as disciplined as the FR-S, but good enough. A Mustang GT can make the FR-S a small speck in the mirror and keep it there, whether the road is straight or twisty. A Mustang V6 Premium is priced right on top of the FR-S and will whip it, good. Any multitude of ratty used performance cars are truly vehicular methamphetamine capable of deeply embarrassing the guy bringing his $30,000 Scion to track day.

It probably sounds like I don’t like the FR-S. That’s not true. The upgrades for 2014 dress up the interior. The BeSpoke infotainment option is a nice suite of tech where previously there was none. The chassis is still the standout feature, though I wish they’d get over the hybrid tires and put some real performance rubber on it. The entertainment-versus-efficiency tradeoff is good, delivering a lot of fun with a small appetite. The FR-S remains a nimble, good-looking car. It also still screams for some real power and the automatic could make a yogi have a tantrum. Just learn to shift.

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