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. Tue, 04 Aug 2015 22:00:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » Toyota http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/toyota/ Canada, Ontario Governments Kick in Millions for Toyota Plant Upgrades http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/canada-kicks-millions-toyota-plant-upgrades/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/canada-kicks-millions-toyota-plant-upgrades/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 19:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130465 Federal and provincial governments in Canada have offered more than $100 million (USD $77 million) for improvements to the Cambridge and Woodstock plants, CTV news is reporting. The incentives are part of a $421 million (USD $323 million) investment that will be used for light metal stamping in Woodstock, which makes the RAV4, and plant improvements […]

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2013 Toyota RAV4

Federal and provincial governments in Canada have offered more than $100 million (USD $77 million) for improvements to the Cambridge and Woodstock plants, CTV news is reporting.

The incentives are part of a $421 million (USD $323 million) investment that will be used for light metal stamping in Woodstock, which makes the RAV4, and plant improvements in Cambridge, which produces the soon-to-be-gone Toyota Corolla and Lexus RX vehicles. Toyota has said it will move the Corolla to Mexico, but hasn’t announced what would replace it at the Cambridge plant.

The Canadian government tipped in $34 million in 2013 for improvements to the Cambridge plant to produce the RX 450h.

Toyota’s announcement may be welcome news for Ontario’s car-building complex. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne recently told media in Toronto that building cars in Canada is becoming more expensive, and former Oshawa mayor John Gray calling for a GM boycott if the automaker doesn’t replace the Camaro when production ends in November.

Both Volvo and Land Rover have opted to build plants in Southern U.S. states that could potentially offer more in incentives than Canada’s most populous province, which is heaping more public debt on itself through public infrastructure projects.

The announcement could also signal a better working relationship between the governments and automakers. FCA may be looking for incentives as it prepares to make a $1 billion decision on its Brampton plant, which produces the Dodge Challenger, Charger and Chrysler 300.

Marchionne asked federal and provincial governments in 2014 for incentives to retool the company’s Windsor plant that produces minivans. After a contentious public debate over the size of the financial package requested, FCA decided to go it alone. The future of the Brampton plant, which will also require funding to finance retooling for the next-generation rear-wheel drive sedans, is uncertain.

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Honda Accord, Toyota Camry Will Get Turbo Fours Soon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/honda-accord-toyota-camry-will-get-turbo-fours-soon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/honda-accord-toyota-camry-will-get-turbo-fours-soon/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 19:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128169 The best-selling mid-size sedans in the United States will catch up to their competition by offering boosted fours under their hoods soon, Automotive News is reporting (via Car & Driver). The long-running Camry will replace its six-cylinder engine with the turbo four, though the Accord is likely to use a new, smaller, boosted four pot to replace its base […]

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2016 Honda Accord

The best-selling mid-size sedans in the United States will catch up to their competition by offering boosted fours under their hoods soon, Automotive News is reporting (via Car & Driver).

The long-running Camry will replace its six-cylinder engine with the turbo four, though the Accord is likely to use a new, smaller, boosted four pot to replace its base four-cylinder engine.

The Camry’s turbo four comes from the newly announced Lexus IS200t and NX200t, which will produce around 235 horsepower (or 241 in the IS200t) and 258 pound-feet of torque. The turbo four would likely replace the 3.5-liter V-6 option at the top of the range for Toyota, which makes 268 horsepower.

Honda’s solution is on the other end of the spectrum. Their 1.5-liter turbo four, borrowed from the new Civic, will likely replace the 2.4-liter naturally aspirated base engine that cranks 184 horsepower. The smaller engine would likely improve upon the 27 mpg city/36 mpg highway rating that the base model has now.

The force-fed Camry and Accord models would join the ranks of mid-size sedans already including smaller displacement, turbocharged engines such as the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and Volkswagen Passat.

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Volkswagen Surpasses Toyota in Global Auto Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-surpasses-toyota-global-auto-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/volkswagen-surpasses-toyota-global-auto-sales/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 18:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1126585 Despite slowdowns in China, Russia and Asia, Volkswagen surpassed Toyota in global auto sales by delivery in the first half of 2015, Automotive News Europe is reporting. Volkswagen sold 5.04 million cars in the first six months of 2015, compared to 5.02 million for Toyota, according to the report. Sales were down 1.5 percent and […]

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Volkswagen Wolfsburg

Despite slowdowns in China, Russia and Asia, Volkswagen surpassed Toyota in global auto sales by delivery in the first half of 2015, Automotive News Europe is reporting.

Volkswagen sold 5.04 million cars in the first six months of 2015, compared to 5.02 million for Toyota, according to the report. Sales were down 1.5 percent and 0.5 percent for Toyota and VW respectively.

GM was the third-largest automaker with 4.86 million vehicles.

Volkswagen capitalized on a growing European market to help offset softening Chinese sales. Passenger-vehicle sales fell for the first time in two years in China as that country’s economy responds to market volatility.

Sales slumped in South America, some Southeast Asia markets and sales in Russia have dramatically declined, the story points out.

Deliveries in North America increased by only 4.4 percent, the smallest margin since the economic recovery began in 2009.

The report is the latest in the saga of “Who Wants To Be The World’s Largest Automaker?” with VW on pace to take the crown three years before their executives forecasted. In May, it looked as if VW would take silver thanks to its ongoing leadership shuffle, but a resurgent European market may help. Meanwhile, Toyota may make up ground after a 10-percent gain in China in the first half, according to the report.

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Subaru of America COO: BRZ Needs ‘More Performance’ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/subaru-america-coo-brz-needs-performance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/subaru-america-coo-brz-needs-performance/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 22:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1115433 It seems enthusiasts aren’t the only folks looking for a little more performance from the rear-wheel drive Subaru BRZ. Subaru of America COO Tom Doll would also like a little more performance — in terms of sales — from the sports car co-developed with Toyota. Thankfully, he sees the best way to increase interest in […]

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Subaru BRZ STI Performance Concept

It seems enthusiasts aren’t the only folks looking for a little more performance from the rear-wheel drive Subaru BRZ. Subaru of America COO Tom Doll would also like a little more performance — in terms of sales — from the sports car co-developed with Toyota.

Thankfully, he sees the best way to increase interest in the BRZ is to give us what we want.

Maybe.

Speaking on Autoline Detroit (via AutoGuide), Doll said: “We may have to do some things to (the BRZ) to enhance the driving performance a little more; take it up a little bit. Because I think that’s one of the learnings we’ve seen out of that vehicle, if it had a little bit more performance to it, it could really take up the sales level even more.”

Earlier this year, officials at Subaru confirmed a STI-branded BRZ would go on sale in the United States, but didn’t reveal specs or additions beyond the current car.

In addition to admitting the BRZ needs more performance — whether that means bumping up the power or giving the car some other tweaks — Doll also mentioned a second generation of the BRZ is still up in the air and wholly dependent on the intentions of executives in Japan.

A second-generation BRZ may also depend on Toyota. It’s been rumored the larger Japanese manufacturer is envious of the new Mazda MX-5 Miata — so much so that they’d be willing to use the architecture for the next Toyota GT86 and Scion FR-S. If that’s the case, don’t expect Subaru to follow suit.

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Toyota Taking Reservations for Mirais in California Next Week http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/toyota-taking-reservations-mirai-california-next-week/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/toyota-taking-reservations-mirai-california-next-week/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 20:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1114809 Californians itching to claim one of the first of Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Mirai can raise their hands starting next week, the automaker announced. Toyota announced today it would begin accepting reservations for the Mirai starting July 20. The sedan will cost $57,500, according to the manufacturer, and will be available only at eight California dealerships. Only […]

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Californians itching to claim one of the first of Toyota’s hydrogen-powered Mirai can raise their hands starting next week, the automaker announced.

Toyota announced today it would begin accepting reservations for the Mirai starting July 20. The sedan will cost $57,500, according to the manufacturer, and will be available only at eight California dealerships. Only California residents can buy the car.

The purchase price includes an 8-year/100,000-mile warranty on “key fuel cell vehicle components” and three years — or $15,000, whichever comes first — of fuel.

Toyota says “Power On-Demand” Mirais won’t appear until late 2016, in which the car acts like a mobile, hydrogen-powered electric generator. According to the automaker, the Mirai may be able to power electrical devices — or a home — for “a limited time.”

The Mirai is eligible for a $5,000 rebate in California.

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Former NHTSA Boss Blocked From Testifying in Toyota Case http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/former-nhtsa-boss-blocked-testifying-toyota-case/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/former-nhtsa-boss-blocked-testifying-toyota-case/#comments Sun, 12 Jul 2015 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113617 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is blocking former chief David Strickland from testifying in a California civil lawsuit for Toyota on issues regarding its push-button start systems in some of its cars. According to the Detroit News, NHTSA officials told lawyers in a letter that Strickland would be barred from testifying in the case as an […]

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All you need is love. Strickland. Picture courtesy detnews.comThe National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is blocking former chief David Strickland from testifying in a California civil lawsuit for Toyota on issues regarding its push-button start systems in some of its cars.

According to the Detroit News, NHTSA officials told lawyers in a letter that Strickland would be barred from testifying in the case as an expert witness.

“The agency has been roundly criticized for its relationship with Toyota in terms of recent enforcement actions, particularly regarding unintended acceleration,” NHTSA’s lawyer wrote in the letter. “Given this history, Mr. Strickland’s testimony as a former NHTSA administrator describing Toyota’s actions or conduct in this matter with approval, will likely diminish the agency’s ability to pursue a vigorous enforcement review of Toyota moving forward.”

Congress has said NHTSA wasn’t tough enough on Toyota when it looked into issues that its push-button start system could leave cars running without the keys present.

Toyota said it asked Strickland to testify on general matters in the lawsuit, but the agency barring the former administrator to testify is being praised as a harder line for what people say is a too-familiar relationship between former safety officials and automakers.

“For too long there has been a revolving door at NHTSA which allowed former NHTSA employees to seek lucrative employment with the same auto manufacturers they had at one time been charged with regulating,” Christine Spagnoli, a lawyer for the owners suing Toyota, told the Detroit News. “Hopefully, the denial of Mr. Strickland’s request to testify on behalf of Toyota is a sign that the new administrator recognizes that these historically cozy relationships between agency employees and the companies they are charged with regulating often results in undermining public trust.”

After leaving NHTSA in 2014, Strickland joined a Washington D.C.-based law firm that has also represented Fiat Chrysler. Former NHTSA officials are not allowed to directly lobby for automakers for two years after leaving the safety administration.

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Police Releasing Former Toyota Executive Jailed for Pain Pills http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/police-releasing-former-toyota-executive-jailed-pain-pills/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/police-releasing-former-toyota-executive-jailed-pain-pills/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 18:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1109025 Former Toyota communications chief Julie Hamp will be released from jail Wednesday, according to Bloomberg News (via Kyodo News). Hamp was jailed June 18 for allegedly mailing herself 57 Oxycodone pills, which are illegal in Japan. She resigned her position with Toyota on June 30 as one of the global automaker’s highest-ranking female executives. The reason for […]

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Julie HampFormer Toyota communications chief Julie Hamp will be released from jail Wednesday, according to Bloomberg News (via Kyodo News).

Hamp was jailed June 18 for allegedly mailing herself 57 Oxycodone pills, which are illegal in Japan. She resigned her position with Toyota on June 30 as one of the global automaker’s highest-ranking female executives.

The reason for Hamp’s release is unclear. Bloomberg reported that prosecutors in Japan didn’t have enough evidence to indict Hamp on the charges. Kyodo News (via translator) reported prosecutors determined Hamp’s actions weren’t malicious and her resignation may have been enough punishment.

According to Kyodo News, police can’t hold Hamp longer than Wednesday without pressing charges.

On the day of her arrest, Hamp was named to PR Week’s “Power List” as a top communications executive. Before working at Toyota, Hamp worked at General Motors and Pepsi. She was promoted to her position on March 4.

According to a Bloomberg report, Hamp may be questioned up to 6 hours every day during her detention. Police in Japan can detain suspects for up to 23 days without formally charging them with any crime. If Hamp were charged and convicted, she could have faced 2 1/2 years in prison with two years suspended.

Japan is famously strict on prescription medications. The U.S. Embassy in Japan warns visitors to leave over-the-counter medication, such as allergy medicine and even asthma inhalers, at home. Common U.S. drugs such as Prozac or Viagra are sold on the black market in Japan and can carry jail sentences if purchased illegally, the embassy warns.

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2016 Scion iA Review With Video – Mono-Priced Zoom-Zoom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2016-scion-ia-review-video-mono-priced-zoom-zoom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2016-scion-ia-review-video-mono-priced-zoom-zoom/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1105937 When is a Scion not a Scion? Since Scion is division of Toyota, this is both a trick question and a serious one. Scions can be anything from tweaked Toyotas and foreign market Toyotas to cars built by other manufacturers for Scion. The first such product was the collaboratively developed Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ / Toyota 86. […]

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2016 Scion iA Exterior-004

When is a Scion not a Scion? Since Scion is division of Toyota, this is both a trick question and a serious one.

Scions can be anything from tweaked Toyotas and foreign market Toyotas to cars built by other manufacturers for Scion. The first such product was the collaboratively developed Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ / Toyota 86. The second is this Mazda-designed and Mazda-built Scion iA.

Exterior
Mazda and Toyota entered into a partnership of sorts a while back, and the iA is the first fruit. If you didn’t know by now, the tasty looking 2016 Mazda2 hatch is not coming to the USA, despite Mazda’s plan to sell it in Canada and Puerto Rico. To satisfy shopper’s love for sub-compact Zoom-Zoom, Scion had Mazda turn the 2 into the Scion iA sedan for the U.S. and Toyota Yaris sedan for Canada. As happens with the Ford Fiesta, the hatch-to-sedan conversion adds around a foot of length overall. To help differentiate the iA from any future Mazda2 sales in the USA, the front end gets an enormous trapezoidal front grille and some “Angry Birds” headlamps. Out back, the Scion’s rear is less disguised with a strong Mazda influence in the tail lamps blended with a hint of Camry.

I know I’m going to take heat for this, but I actually like the looks of the iA in person. I think the side profile and rear are better balanced than the Ford Fiesta sedan, although the Fiesta’s grille is better looking. The overall design comes across as more intentional and — dare I say — emotional than the Nissan Versa or Chevy Sonic.

2016 Scion iA Interior-006

Interior
Hop inside the iA and it’s pure Mazda, which is a good thing. In terms of style and parts quality, Mazda basically made Scion a 90% scale Mazda3 interior with a few tweaks. We get the same chunky steering wheel loaded with buttons, same single-dial instrument cluster and 7-inch infotainment screen. Also cribbed from the Mazda parts bin is the standard keyless-go system, a single-zone manual climate control and standard cruise control.

For a car as small as the iA, the front seats proved surprisingly roomy. Scion claims 41.9 inches of legroom up front, which is more than you get in the Corolla or Focus, and a still respectable 34.4 inches in the back. Although taller drivers will probably bash their elbows on the B-pillar, they will fit. Cargo room comes in at a generous 13.5 cubic feet beating the bigger Corolla by a hair.

2016 Scion iA Interior

Infotainment
Mazda calls the infotainment software MazdaConnect. Scion hasn’t named it specifically but the system is exactly the same. What sets the iA apart isn’t so much the class-leading infotainment software and interface but that the system is standard. Looking like someone grafted an iPad to the dashboard [I think it looks more like a cheap Walmart Android tablet than an iPad, but to each their own. -Mark], the 7-inch color touchscreen LCD is the heart of the system. In the center console we have an iDrive/MMI-like controller knob and button array. Similar to Infiniti’s systems, you can navigate with either the controller, or the touchscreen, or both depending on what is easier at the moment. As long as you’re parked. Above 5 MPH the touchscreen functionality is locked out allowing only voice and control knob inputs.

Smartphone app integration for streaming media is standard and shoppers can add navigation software to the display for an undisclosed price after you buy the car. The high-resolution graphics, an intuitive interface and complete voice commands of your media library create a system that rivals uConnect and iDrive for best in the industry. The only danger with making this system standard in the iA is that it makes other Scions look decidedly behind the times.

2016 Scion iA Engine Mazda SkyActiv-001

Drivetrain
Logically, there’s a Mazda 1.5L four-cylinder engine beating under the iA’s hood. Good for 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque, the engine uses all Mazda’s fuel sipping tech, including direct injection, a high 12:1 compression ratio and a Mazda 6-speed automatic with a tall final gear and aggressive torque converter lockup program. For the purists in the crowd, you can get your iA with a short-throw manual transmission, but you’ll get 2 MPG better (37 MPG combined, 42 on the highway) with the 6-speed automatic.

2016 Scion iA Exterior-003

Drive
In an unexpected twist, all iA models will come with a standard low-speed collision warning and mitigation system. The system is similar in design to Volvo’s first-generation City Safety system and uses a laser scanner mounted in front of the rear view mirror to monitor traffic. At speeds between approximately 5 and 18 MPH, the system will first warn the driver of an impending collision, pre-charge the brakes, then as a last resort reduce engine power and apply the brakes autonomously to either avoid or mitigate the collision. The Scion reps said the system is not programmed to detect pedestrians or cyclists like Volvo’s latest system, but it “may respond” to that type of obstacle depending on the situation.

Since my time was limited with the iA, I wasn’t able to put it through my usual battery of tests. You should expect acceleration times to be leisurely, likely in the 10 second slot occupied by the Prius C. The best acceleration times will be with the 6-speed automatic but the 6-speed manual will make those seconds tick by faster because it’s simply more fun. I spent most of my day in a 6-speed manual version and, although I did long for more power, the short throws and excellent clutch pedal distracted me for the most part.

2016 Scion iA Exterior-006

For a Scion, the steering is sheer perfection. For a Mazda, I’m still sad the iA has electric power steering. Turn in is crisp as can be expected from a car riding on 185/60R16 tires and the steering ratio is just about perfect. The Scion folks had Mazda tune the iA towards the softer side of the segment which causes more body roll than I had expected, but aside from that it didn’t reduce the fun too much on the winding mountain roads of our test drive. Overall grip is lower than I had expected with plenty of commotion coming from the tires if you enter a corner a little too hot. I blame both the tire size and the rubber compound for this but the tires can be easily swapped. Even though we have a torsion beam suspension in the rear, the iA was remarkably well-behaved in corners with broken pavement.

The most compelling thing about the iA is the combination of Mazda engineering and Scion pricing. For 2015, the MSRP starts at $15,700 with the 6-speed manual and ends at $16,800 for the iA with the 6-speed automatic. Because of the way Scion’s pricing scheme works, the manual transmission model has a high level of content that frequently precludes a manual transmission in the competition like the 7-inch LCD infotainment system, the pre-collision braking system, keyless-go and the backup camera. Scion also tosses in a 2-year/25,000 mile scheduled maintenance plan. When comparing the iA to the rest of the segment, the high level of standard equipment manages to make the iA the best sub-compact deal around. When pitted against Nissan Versa, the value leader in the segment, the Scion manages to be $1,500 less when comparably equipped.

2016 Scion iA Exterior Front Grille

The iA isn’t the Scion I was expecting, and it isn’t the Mazda I was hoping for either. The iA seems like Mazda’s interpretation of what a Scion should be, and marriage has created a surprisingly good little car. Shoppers will find a well-controlled ride, excellent road manners and impeccable fuel economy all wrapped inside Scion’s warranty and scheduled maintenance, and sold at a Toyota dealer. The combination makes for the most appealing sedan in this segment by a hair. (If Ford mates an automatic transmission to their 3-cylinder turbo Fiesta, it’s game on.) The combination should also be a lesson for Mazda, because Scion’s mono-spec philosophy and pricing give pragmatists a reason to buy the best driving sedan in this segment.

Scion provided the vehicle, insurance, gas and a snazzy lunch for this review.

2016 Scion iA Engine Mazda SkyActiv 2016 Scion iA Engine Mazda SkyActiv-001 2016 Scion iA Exterior Front Grille 2016 Scion iA Exterior-001 2016 Scion iA Exterior-002 Wheel 2016 Scion iA Exterior-003 2016 Scion iA Exterior-004 2016 Scion iA Exterior-005 2016 Scion iA Exterior-006 2016 Scion iA Exterior-007 2016 Scion iA Exterior-008 2016 Scion iA Interior 2016 Scion iA Interior-001 2016 Scion iA Interior-002 2016 Scion iA Interior-003 2016 Scion iA Interior-004 2016 Scion iA Interior-005 2016 Scion iA Interior-006 2016 Scion iA Interior-007 2016 Scion iA Interior-008 2016 Scion iA Trunk

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Julie Hamp No. 10 in PR Week’s “Power List”, No. 1 in Badly Timed Awards http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ex-top-toyota-pr-rep-no-10-pr-list-no-1-badly-timed-awards/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ex-top-toyota-pr-rep-no-10-pr-list-no-1-badly-timed-awards/#comments Fri, 03 Jul 2015 15:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1107009 Resigned Toyota PR chief Julie Hamp was named to PR Week’s “Power List” two weeks after being busted for allegedly importing illegal prescription painkillers into Japan last month. Hamp allegedly received 57 pills of Oxycodone in a box labeled “necklaces” at Narita Airport in Tokyo. The list, which ranks her No. 10, was released the same day Hamp resigned her position […]

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Julie Hamp Not In BlackResigned Toyota PR chief Julie Hamp was named to PR Week’s “Power List” two weeks after being busted for allegedly importing illegal prescription painkillers into Japan last month. Hamp allegedly received 57 pills of Oxycodone in a box labeled “necklaces” at Narita Airport in Tokyo.

The list, which ranks her No. 10, was released the same day Hamp resigned her position and included an editor’s note at the top explaining the awkward timing.

The author of Hamp’s listing, Senior Vice President of Global Communications for General Motors Tony Cervone, noted Hamp’s ascendance as a woman in a field typically dominated by men:

“Julie understands the need for consistency, but allows it to be expressed naturally and authentically, with special sensitivity to cultural nuances. She understands discipline, but doesn’t drive bureaucracy. In short, Julie provides a great balance. And she fully deserves to be “the first” in so many ways.”

Hamp is reportedly in jail awaiting charges in Japan. According to the Wall Street Journal, her trial in Japan could last anywhere from six months to a year, if it even goes that far.

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Nissan, Toyota, Honda Team to Build Fuel-Cell Infrastructure in Japan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-toyota-honda-team-build-fuel-cell-infrastructure-japan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-toyota-honda-team-build-fuel-cell-infrastructure-japan/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 17:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1106169 According to Toyota, three Japanese automakers — Honda, Toyota and Nissan — are working together to build hydrogen fuel stations around for future fuel-cell cars. The program, which will subsidize fueling stations up to 11 million yen ($89,500) per year for each station, is meant to boost the nation’s infrastructure for hydrogen-powered cars. The agreement […]

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According to Toyota, three Japanese automakers — Honda, Toyota and Nissan — are working together to build hydrogen fuel stations around for future fuel-cell cars.

The program, which will subsidize fueling stations up to 11 million yen ($89,500) per year for each station, is meant to boost the nation’s infrastructure for hydrogen-powered cars.

The agreement was formed in February between the large automakers, but began accepting applications July 1.

The program also boosts “awareness” of the FCVs by offering incentives for stations to stay open longer and offer more services.

A similar alliance between automakers in the U.S. could boost FCV participation rates, but maybe we can’t have nice things.

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2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Platinum 4X4 Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2014-toyota-tundra-crewmax-platinum-4x4-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2014-toyota-tundra-crewmax-platinum-4x4-review/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=862057 It’s been said that with the last Crown Victoria produced, the death of Ford’s Panther platform represented the extinction of the species, American sedanus body-on-framus, the last of the dinosaurs. Keeping in a biological frame of mind, it seems to me that the BOF American sedan didn’t go extinct, but transformed. Its trunk developed into an […]

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It’s been said that with the last Crown Victoria produced, the death of Ford’s Panther platform represented the extinction of the species, American sedanus body-on-framus, the last of the dinosaurs. Keeping in a biological frame of mind, it seems to me that the BOF American sedan didn’t go extinct, but transformed. Its trunk developed into an open cargo bed and those varieties with high ground clearance seem to have been particularly adaptive.

That’s the closest analogy I can come up with to describe how the 2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Plantinum drives – it reminds me of the big American cars that were on the road when I got my driver’s license back in the early 1970s, and it should. It has body-on-frame construction, double A arm suspension up front, a live axle on leaf springs in the back, seats as flat as a sofa, and a powerful V8 engine up front, just like those old land yachts of yore. Oh, and it’s big.

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Actually, that comparison somewhat disrespects the Tundra that I drove for a week. Even with the ground clearance of a pickup and the added height of a 4X4 spec’d vehicle, the Tundra handles better than any large American sedan did back in the day. I’m not saying that you should take it autocrossing, just that it goes where you point it in traffic.

Since I was driving a 4X4 pickup essentially unloaded, the fact that the ride wasn’t as smooth as my dad’s 1974 Mercury Marquis Brougham should be expected. Unloaded pickups can tend to have a bit of the bouncy bouncies. Still, it was comfortable and all that suspension travel came in handy driving on Michigan’s terrible roads. You know that you’re going over a bump, but there’s so much there to absorb it that, while you’re aware of the craters, all the crashing is happening so far away and it’s so well dampened to not even be an annoyance.

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The V8 up front is a 5.7 liter engine derived from the UR family quad cam V8 first introduced in the 2006 Lexus LS460. Contrary to some urban legends, no, Toyota didn’t buy up the tooling for the old small block Chevy. The 381 horsepower motor is smooth and powerful, never lacking enough gumption to move into a spot in traffic as long as that spot was large enough.

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To be honest, it took me a day or so of driving the Tundra to get used to its bulk. Because of the vagaries of press fleet scheduling, I went from one of the smallest passenger vehicles sold in North America, a Fiat Abarth, to one of the largest. How large is it? It’s barely able to fit in either a standard shopping center or urban metered parking space; I had about 6 inches to spare at each end in each case. One reason for that is it’s a true four door truck. The back seat is as spacious as anything you’d find in the biggest Lincolns or Cadillacs of the 1960s. There is enough space for three adults with ample leg room, perhaps even more room than in a long wheelbase flagship sedan like a Jaguar XJL or comparable Chinese market Audi A8. Just as one could say the American sedan has grown a trunk and ground clearance, one could say that American pickups have grown back seats. Look around you in traffic. You won’t see many simple two door pickups. Everything is either a club cab or a crew cab.

Speaking of crews, the idea that this Tundra is going to be any kind of actual work truck is dispelled by a glance at the sticker. This is a $50,000 truck and the only way that I can see it showing up on a construction site is if it’s the daily driver of the guy or gal who owns the construction or drilling company, and they ain’t gonna haul around some greasy roughnecks on the nicely quilted leather upholstery.

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Concerning hauling, Toyota has heavily promoted the Tundra’s 10,000 lb. towing capacity. I believe that the owners of such blinged out Tundras will be hauling cargo, but it won’t be burly workers, room for them though there may be. No, a truck like this will use its 401 lb-ft of torque and five tons worth of towing capacity to haul things more valuable than a $50,000 pickup. One horse, let alone an entire horse trailer full of them, can exceed the Tundra’s value, as can a boat. The rest of the time the Tundra CrewMax Platinum will be used as a sedan, and that’s pretty much how I tested it. I had nothing to tow and, at 14.7 mpg over the week, I wasn’t going to drive it almost 200 miles round trip to The Mounds off-road park and back just to try out the 4X4 system.

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Actually, I did get to try that out while trying to avoid a small town parade. Cutting through a parking lot I noticed what I thought was an unfinished apartment building with a driveway leading away from where the traffic was barred, so I put it in four wheel drive and took it over a curb and some vegetation, only to find out that it was an abandoned construction site and that the driveway was fenced in. Still, I got a chance to try out the 4X4, which worked fine. As it’s indeed a 4×4, not an AWD system, it’s for low speed use (and it does have a low range, too) so on pavement you’ll feel the scrubbing.

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On their way to the lake, or the equestrian center, the people who buy a Plantinum trimmed Tundra will have a very comfortable experience. As you’d expect from the price, the truck had all of the latest tech toys except, oddly, no smart key, so there was no keyless entry or push-button starting. The steering wheel does swing up out of the way, the seat goes back when you’re ready to exit and, when you do leave the truck, you’ll be happy for the quite functional running boards. It’s a long way up there. That explains why the front and rear passengers have pillar mounted handles to grab for easier entry. Interestingly, Toyota must figure the driver will use the steering wheel to hoist themselves up to the commanding steering position because there’s no grab handle on that side of the cabin.

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Even though you are sitting very high up, with outstanding visibility, it’s a good thing the Tundra has a parking assist system. While it won’t park the truck for you (and fie on anyone who thinks they deserve a driver’s license if they can’t parallel park), it will warn you when you’re getting close to things as ephemeral as vegetation. That particularly comes in handy because you don’t have a prayer of seeing where the offside front fender really ends. One of those camera-based, bird’s-eye views that Audi gives you would have been nice to have.

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The large touch screen based infotainment system worked as well as Chrysler’s highly praised U-Connect system. My Samsung Android phone worked seamlessly and reliably in both phone and audio modes with the Toyota solution. Navigation was easy to use and never screwed up, and there are enough actual knobs for the things you want to change right now. The climate control system worked flawlessly in summer heat. I particularly like the way the “eyeball” vents on the dash can be aimed wherever you want.

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I like taking 3D photos of historical sites around Detroit but one of my rules (along with avoiding taking photos of ’69 Camaros, ’57 Chevys, and perfectly restored Isetta microcars at car shows) has been to refuse to take any photos of the decrepit Packard plant on the city’s east side. I don’t do ruin porn and if I did, I’d be more creative than shooting that abandoned factory or the empty Michigan Central train station, another favorite of lazy photographers and editors. However, while I had the Tundra, it happened to be the anniversary of the end of Packard production in 1956. Some see the Packard plant as emblematic of the decline of the domestic auto industry and few vehicles represent the strength of Japanese automakers – Japan Inc. taking on Detroit Corp., if you will – than the Toyota Tundra. That’s why I decided to use the well-known overpass where unfinished Packards traveled from one section of the plant to another as a backdrop to my photos for this review.

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The historical reality, of course, is that Japanese and other foreign automakers had nothing to do with Packard’s demise.

Toyota’s first dealership in the U.S. opened up in October of 1957, more than a year after the last true Packards were made in the summer of 1956. To be more precise, while the last true Packards were made in 1956, the brand name and some hideous sheetmetal were slapped on some already funny looking Studebakers following the merger of those two companies.

Toyota and other Japanese brands didn’t really get a foothold in the American market until the late 1960s. Making mostly small cars that got good gas mileage, the Japanese car companies in the U.S. market benefited from the oil crises attending the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the 1979 seizure of American diplomats in Iran. It didn’t hurt that they used some smart engineering, packaging and marketing as with the first generation Honda Accord. As the U.S. automakers seemed to go from making the standards of the automotive world to making unreliable crap in the 1980s, Toyota, Honda and Nissan became preferred brands. Then Toyota dominated everyone with their “fat engineering” Corollas and Camrys in the early 1990s.

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Buoyed by the success of the Camry and Corolla with consumers in the 1990s and flush with cash, by the start of the 21st century, Toyota decided to go after the last remaining bastion of market segment dominance for the domestic car companies: full size pickup trucks.

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Sure, the original Tundra was sort of a 7/8ths scale American pickup, but in 2003, when Toyota announced at the Chicago Auto Show that it was going racing in NASCAR’s truck series, it was clear that Toyota was serious about selling trucks to Americans. Then, in 2006, also at Chicago, Toyota finally introduced a genuinely full sized Tundra that competed on equal footing with GM, Ford and Dodge/Ram. To do so, the Japanese automaker made as American a truck as they could. The Tundra was engineered at Toyota’s billion dollar plus R&D center in Ann Arbor, just west of Detroit, with styling input from Toyota’s Calty facility in California. While the engine was designed in Japan, the block and heads are cast in the U.S. and, like the rest of the truck, it’s assembled here as well. The Tundra is put together at a facility in Texas built with an even larger investment than the design center in A Squared. Not coincidentally, Texas is America’s biggest pickup truck market.

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When they introduced the truly fullsize Tundra about a decade ago, Toyota executives were under no illusions that they were going to get “Ford guys” or “Chevy guys” out of their trucks. Brand loyalty is about as strong as it gets with pickup truck buyers. However, at the time, Toyota made a point of how about 6% of the pickup market does shift from model year to model year based on whoever most recently introduced a redesigned truck. Those buyers tend to be businesses making dollars and cents decisions on fleets and they aren’t swayed by brand loyalty. Toyota was aiming for those buyers, hoping to expand from there. That expansion may be on the horizon. A quick check at goodcarbadcar.net shows that the Tundra’s market share for 2014 was at 5.7%, within hailing distance of that 6% baseline.

Photos by the author. You can see the full gallery here.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Chart Of The Day: NX Boosting Lexus In The Time Of The RX’s Need http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/chart-day-nx-boosting-lexus-time-rxs-need/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/chart-day-nx-boosting-lexus-time-rxs-need/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095825 Conventionally pretty, it is not. But the Lexus NX is a hit. The NX200t and NX300h combined to generate 4,014 U.S. sales in May 2015, the best month yet for the six-month-old NX line. Year-to-date, 16,546 copies of the NX have been sold in America. Since the end of November, 19,473 NXs have found their […]

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USA Lexus sales chart May 2015 YTD

Conventionally pretty, it is not. But the Lexus NX is a hit.

The NX200t and NX300h combined to generate 4,014 U.S. sales in May 2015, the best month yet for the six-month-old NX line. Year-to-date, 16,546 copies of the NX have been sold in America. Since the end of November, 19,473 NXs have found their way into driveways across America.

Lexus, of course, has a tradition of building wildly popular premium crossovers. The RX is perennially America’s top-selling premium utility vehicle.

As Lexus prepares to replace the current RX with an all-new, already revealed model for 2016, sales of the current RX have fallen 5% this year. It’s still far more popular than any other premium brand utility vehicle in America.

In the meantime, with the NX added to the fleet, SUVs and crossovers accounted for 49% of all Lexus volume in the U.S. over the first five months of 2015, up from 43% in the same period one year ago, before the NX. Rather inconsequentially, sales of the high-end LX are faltering, but the GX460 is up 13% year-to-date, a gain of 1108 units.

As for the NX’s standing in its own category, only the Acura RDX and Audi Q5 are currently selling more often. The fourth-ranked Mercedes-Benz GLK, down 24% this year, is 5,260 sales back of the Lexus. BMW’s X3, down 44% this year, is 5,564 sales abaft. The Volvo XC60, Lincoln MKC lead the peloton but are well back of the better-selling contestants.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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Don’t Expect Subaru To Follow Toyota To Mazda For BRZ RWD Platform http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/dont-expect-subaru-to-follow-toyota-to-mazda-for-brz-rwd-platform/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/dont-expect-subaru-to-follow-toyota-to-mazda-for-brz-rwd-platform/#comments Sun, 28 Jun 2015 18:32:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1101193 According to Car & Driver, the folks in Toyota City are smitten with the new Mazda MX-5 Miata. So much so they’re considering using the platform for the next Toyota GT86, sold as the Scion FR-S in North America. The rumor states what goes for Toyota goes for Subaru’s sports car – the BRZ – as […]

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2016 Mazda MX-5

According to Car & Driver, the folks in Toyota City are smitten with the new Mazda MX-5 Miata. So much so they’re considering using the platform for the next Toyota GT86, sold as the Scion FR-S in North America.

The rumor states what goes for Toyota goes for Subaru’s sports car – the BRZ – as well. I’m not so sure about that.

“If Toyota were to employ the MX-5’s chassis, it would be on the next-generation FT86,” Car & Driver was told by a source.

The source says nothing specifically about the BRZ, though the magazine infers the Miata platform will also be used on the next sporty Subaru. However, Subaru may be smart to forego a second generation BRZ altogether.

Currently, the Toyobaru triplets are produced by Subaru in Ōta, Japan. The company is currently capacity constrained. Subaru will stop producing Camrys for Toyota at their Indiana facility in 2016 in order to claw back some of its own capacity to build the Legacy and Outback, the most popular model at Subaru. This shift to the Mazda platform could be a way for Subaru to get out of the RWD platform business and focus more on core models or variations thereof.

Mazda is building the MX-5 at their own facility in Japan and will build the forthcoming Fiat 124 Spider upon its debut. Considering Mazda and Toyota have been getting cozier as of late with a new facility in Mexico building the new Mazda2 along with the Scion iA/Toyota Yaris Sedan, Toyota could also move RWD sports car production to Mazda’s facility in Japan alongside the new Miata.

This would free up capacity for Subaru at their Ōta plant to build other models currently in demand.

So, if Toyota does see the MX-5 Miata platform as a solution for the next generation GT86 and Scion FR-S, don’t expect Subaru to follow suit.

[Photo credit: AutoGuide/Adam Wood]

 

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2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4×4 Reader Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-toyota-tacoma-trd-sport-4x4-reader-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-toyota-tacoma-trd-sport-4x4-reader-review/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1098737 Maybe it’s the horrific condition of most New England roads. Maybe it was because we just had snowiest winter in Boston since anyone’s been counting. Or maybe, just maybe, I have finally fully succumbed to my Napoleon Complex. “The great proof of madness is the disproportion of one’s designs to one’s means.” ―Napoleon Bonaparte  What […]

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2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with Rebecca Turrell

Maybe it’s the horrific condition of most New England roads. Maybe it was because we just had snowiest winter in Boston since anyone’s been counting. Or maybe, just maybe, I have finally fully succumbed to my Napoleon Complex.

“The great proof of madness is the disproportion of one’s designs to one’s means.”
―Napoleon Bonaparte 

What started off with me buying my first liter bike has blossomed (*tear*) into the purchase of my first pickup truck: 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4×4 double cab short bed with a…..dun dada dun….6-speed manual gear box. I know the Tacoma has remained relatively unchanged since 2004 – actually, it’s pretty much the same truck I’ve been lusting over since 2007. I know that it doesn’t have great fuel economy. I know that there are trucks with better technology in them. But hear me out!

Like every vehicle I’ve ever owned (with the exception of one moment of weakness that lasted for a month…don’t judge me), a manual transmission is a requirement. So when I started my quest for a pickup truck, the list quickly narrowed:

  • Colorado/Canyon twins manual only in RWD base models. I also can’t deal with this giant plastic lip. On what planet does that look good?
    colorado
  • Nissan Frontier: Is there an explanation needed? It’s a big plastic baby rattle
  • Anything full sized No manual option unless I’m a parts runner (which I’m not…)

Other requirements included:

  • Double cab
  • V6 or greater
  • 4×4
  • Tow Package
  • Audio controls on the steering wheel (a taller order than I had anticipated)

Anticipated uses include pulling my trailer, hauling motorcycles in the back for work and play, home improvement projects, and, God willing, some off-roading. While I’ve driven many trucks, I’ve only ever owned compact sports cars (Z4, GS-R, SI, 328i, 330ci, etc), so the joy of the driving experience is important to me.

While I ran through the options – both foreign and domestic – I kept coming back to my long time crush: Toyota Tacoma. 70 percent residual after 36 months, tons of aftermarket parts and accessories available, it checked all of my boxes, and it’s cute! (Is that a turn off? Ah well.) I had to order the truck because, as my boyfriend points out, “there are 15,000 Tacomas on the ground at dealerships and none of them are what you want!” After a couple of months, and some parts shopping, she was finally home!

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

Yes, that is the TRD exhaust and TRD Trail Team wheels in the back of the truck that I ordered before we ever even met.

40 miles and less than 24 hours later she looked like this:

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

In the 500 miles that I’ve had her, I’ve picked up sod, pulled a trailer and transported three motorcycles. The truck came with four D-rings, four cleats and a trailer hitch, making all of this a breeze.

How does she compare to other trucks? I’ve clocked a decent amount of miles on a variety of trucks (with and without trailers), which should qualify me to make these comparisons: Nissan Frontier, Dodge Ram 1500, F-150 extended cab V6 non-Ecoboost, V6 Silverado regular cab, Z71 Silverado, F-350 stake body, and that one time I was allowed to drive a manual transmission Sterling box truck.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the transmission. Why a manual? Maybe I’m a control freak, but I rarely drive an automatic without saying at some point “why did we shift there?” Especially in the snow, a manual gives you more control (ex: downshifting rather than braking). I also find that it keeps me more alert and, finally, it’s way more fun. Where the transmission becomes especially significant is in my experience with other V6 trucks. I’m just going to call them gear hunters, because that is all they do. Without a trailer, uphill, downhill, cruise on or off, they never seem to find the right gear. I cursed the F-150’s gear indicator for letting me know it was in fourth the majority of the time rather than sixth. It’s like the transmissions and engines are mismatched. Maybe they are. On the same stretch of highway, I was able to take the Tacoma and two bikes up and downhill for an hour in sixth gear. I was always in the power, and never once had to downshift to accelerate or maintain speed.

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycle

The Tacoma is very smooth, especially compared to a Frontier. It handles well and is much easier to maneuver in parking lot situations than a full-sized truck. The steering wheel doesn’t require heavy inputs, but also doesn’t feel like it’s going to fly away from you. It is also fairly thick, making it quite comfortable. The 2014 F-150 drives like absolute butter, but has this annoying residual vibration every time you close the door or hit a bump. Rams tend to ride like a boat and fling me around the cabin going over bumps. The Z71 Silverado I had the pleasure of taking home a few nights this winter was a dream: tons of power, smooth, comfortable, and looked great. Biggest complaint was lack of audio controls on the steering wheel.

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 interiorI had to have a double cab for getting stuff in and out of the backseat. I hate having to open one door in order to open another. There is also plenty of storage under and behind the seats of the Tacoma. I’ve been keeping all of my towing and tie down accessories in there and out of the way. The Tacoma also came with a cargo bed power outlet, which I look forward to trying out eventually. The manual option gives you a third cup holder, which has been fairly useless so far because the throws on the shifter are sooooo long and will knock over any bottle in it. I have the Toyota short throw “quick shifter” for it and I’m hopeful it will both improve the driving experience and create enough space for that third cup holder. The e-brake is a “pull and twist” style which has grown on me and seems to be pretty secure on inclines. Fold down headrests in the back are a lifesaver for reversing since I don’t quite trust the backup camera yet.

My final note about this truck is there’s a wealth of information available, as well as aftermarket parts and accessories. You can get analysis paralysis reading through all of the modifications and upgrades. I have already emotionally spent thousands more on a lift kit, bed extender, sliders, skids, and a hidden winch mount (because everyone needs a hidden winch, right?). I already have a tailgate reinforcement on order, as well as some other motorcycle hauling accessories. 31-inch tires should have definitely come on this truck from the factory. Same with the TRD exhaust; quiet at idle, but has a clean and deep note under acceleration. Everyone keeps telling me I need the TRD supercharger (you know who you are), but I find the truck to have more than enough power for my needs.

From a girl who has only owned “sporty” cars, this is the most excited I have been about a vehicle since my BMW days.

This reader review was written by Rebecca Turrell.

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycles 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 interior 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with Rebecca Turrell 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycles 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycle 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

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Toyota’s Top PR Exec Arrested In Japan For Importing Hillbilly Heroin http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/toyotas-top-pr-exec-arrested-in-japan-for-importing-hillbilly-heroin/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/toyotas-top-pr-exec-arrested-in-japan-for-importing-hillbilly-heroin/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 13:27:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095185 Toyota’s newly-minted Chief Communications Officer, Julie Hamp, has been arrested for allegedly accepting a package of Oxycodone through the mail at the Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan that originated in the United States. Hamp, who is the first female managing officer with Toyota, took the post in April after “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe … called on corporate Japan to […]

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Julie Hamp TwitterToyota’s newly-minted Chief Communications Officer, Julie Hamp, has been arrested for allegedly accepting a package of Oxycodone through the mail at the Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan that originated in the United States.

Hamp, who is the first female managing officer with Toyota, took the post in April after “Prime Minister Shinzo Abe … called on corporate Japan to appoint women to 30 percent of top jobs by 2020,” reports Reuters.

Toyota has released a statement in Hamp’s defence, saying, “Toyota has been made aware of Ms. Hamp’s arrest, but has no further facts in light of the ongoing investigation by the authorities. We are confident, however, that once the investigation is complete, it will be revealed that there was no intention by Ms. Hamp to violate any law.”

Ironically, Hamp’s Twitter account (left) features a quote that couldn’t be more fitting at this moment.

More as it develops.

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This Toyota Soarer Aerocabin Is the Droptop for the Paparazzi Averse http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/this-toyota-soarer-aerocabin-is-the-droptop-for-the-paparazzi-averse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/this-toyota-soarer-aerocabin-is-the-droptop-for-the-paparazzi-averse/#comments Tue, 02 Jun 2015 20:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1082249 This 1989 Toyota Soarer Aerocabin is a rare bird, especially in the U.S. With only 500 units built, all in April 1989, the Japanese droptop is the holy combination of a lengthened Supra chassis and bippu style for those wanting to feel the wind through their hair without sacrificing privacy. This particular example, shot in Los Angeles by […]

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Toyota Soarer Aerocabin

This 1989 Toyota Soarer Aerocabin is a rare bird, especially in the U.S. With only 500 units built, all in April 1989, the Japanese droptop is the holy combination of a lengthened Supra chassis and bippu style for those wanting to feel the wind through their hair without sacrificing privacy.

This particular example, shot in Los Angeles by Keith Charvonia of Speedhunters, is owned by Bird DePrez and his girlfriend Corinne. While it may look fairly bone stock, DePrez has given it a TTAC Approved™ mechanical massage.

Instead of cutting the roof completely off, Toyota found it fit to hollow out the Soarer’s top and give it a folding hardtop mechanism in 1989. When the top was up, the Aerocabin model looked like any other Soarer. However, with the roof panel in its folded position and tucked away in the trunk, air could flow through the passenger cabin while the car retained its very ’80s coupe side profile. A crossmember in the roof was added for structural rigidity since the second-generation Soarer was never engineered to be a convertible from the outset.

Speedhunters_Keith_Charvonia_Soarer_Aerocabin-7

Every Aerocabin was shot with the exact same white-over-gold two-tone paint. Under the hood sits the predecessor to the 1JZ-GTE, a 232 hp 7M-GTE 3.0L turbocharged I6, mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.

That combination wasn’t good enough for DePrez. But, thankfully, he showed incredible restraint when choosing upgrades.

Upon learning of the Soarer’s blown head gasket after it arrived in the U.S., DePrez had the inline-six bored over by half a millimeter, added a Driftmotion CT26 turbo with 3-inch downpipe and sandwiched a Titan metal head gasket with ARP studs. Corinne did her part by rebuilding an R154 manual transmission from a stickshift Soaker to replace the not-so-performance-tuned four-speed slushbox.

Speedhunters_Keith_Charvonia_Soarer_Aerocabin-5

The Soarer Aerocabin is equal parts weird and awesome, especially when you consider where Toyota is today. Even though enthusiasts point to models like the Supra as proof of Toyota’s focus on fun, it’s cars like this Soarer that show Toyota once had a soul.

You can read more about this Aerocabin and see additional photos over at Speedhunters. Bird and Corinne also have a blog chronicling the engine rebuild.

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U.S. Midsize Car Volume Is Down 4% In 2015 – Camry Growing Its Lead http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/u-s-midsize-car-volume-4-2015-camry-growing-lead/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/u-s-midsize-car-volume-4-2015-camry-growing-lead/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1076602 U.S. sales of midsize cars tumbled 7% during the month of April and are down 4% through the first four months of 2015. On the whole, America’s appetite for passenger cars is in decline. Overall demand for cars is slightly south of flat in the early part of this year even as the auto industry […]

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2015 Toyota Camry XSE red

U.S. sales of midsize cars tumbled 7% during the month of April and are down 4% through the first four months of 2015.

On the whole, America’s appetite for passenger cars is in decline. Overall demand for cars is slightly south of flat in the early part of this year even as the auto industry posted 5% year-over-year expansion between January and April.

As more American car buyers become buyers of small and midsize utility vehicles, the vehicle groups most obviously paying the price are family sedans. The Toyota Corolla-led compact car category, for instance, is up 7% this year. But Chevrolet Impala-class cars have fallen 13% and the segment up for discussion has lost nearly 30,000 sales in the first third of the year.

Exceptions aren’t uncommon. In some cases, the exceptions are noteworthy. Sales of the best-selling car in America, Toyota’s Camry, fell 10% in April but are up 2% so far this year. As a result, the Camry’s share of the midsize category grew a full percentage point to 18%, year-over-year, through the January-April period.

The Chrysler 200’s 96% year-over-year improvement is somewhat less impressive when the Dodge Avenger’s demise is taken into account. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles went from selling two midsize nameplates to one. Jointly, their sales are up 8%. In terms of year-to-date volume, the 200 ranks fifth in the category, ahead of the Hyundai Sonata and Chevrolet Malibu, and three spots up from its position at this time a year ago.

USA best-selling midsize car sales chart

The Subaru Legacy’s 68% year-over-year improvement translates to an extra 7,977 sales for Subaru, but the Legacy is still a niche player in the U.S. market. Over the last four months, Subaru sold 2.4 Outbacks per Legacy.

The Mazda6’s recent improvements were covered in detail one month ago. 6 sales have now increased in twelve of the last thirteen months.

Hyundai’s Sonata posted a 3% uptick over the first four months of 2015. Like the Camry, that growth period was brought to a sharp halt in April, as Sonata sales fell by 2,581 units, a 13% loss, compared with April 2014.

Meanwhile, the remaining rivals posted declines ranging from the Kia Optima’s 4% drop to the Volkswagen Passat’s 20% slide. Upmarket segment outliers, the Buick Regal and Volkswagen CC, declined 26% and 50%, respectively.

The Optima, Altima, Fusion, Malibu, Accord, and Passat combined for a loss of 47,000 sales between January and April, a 10% decrease.

On the other hand, a class of smaller SUVs and crossovers led by the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4 posted 12% gains in the same period and roundly outsold the midsize car category.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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Toyota Pitchman Riley B. King Passes Away at 89 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/toyota-pitchman-riley-b-king-passes-away-89/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/toyota-pitchman-riley-b-king-passes-away-89/#comments Wed, 27 May 2015 14:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1069434 Riley B. King, a blues musician who starred in a commercial launching the 2015 Toyota Corolla last year, passed away at the age of 89 last week in Las Vegas. Wouldn’t it be terrible if that’s the way car enthusiasts looked at the world, solely through headlight shaped lenses, with things outside the automotive sphere […]

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Riley B. King, a blues musician who starred in a commercial launching the 2015 Toyota Corolla last year, passed away at the age of 89 last week in Las Vegas.

Wouldn’t it be terrible if that’s the way car enthusiasts looked at the world, solely through headlight shaped lenses, with things outside the automotive sphere only mattering when they interact somehow with cars?

Riley King was of course better known as B.B. King, a foundational player in the pantheon of electric guitarists, one of the “three kings” of the blues, along with Freddie and Albert. A star on the blues circuit since 1950s “3 O’Clock Blues”, King was an indefatigable performer, performing hundreds of gigs a year. He dressed the blues up in a suit and, after Michael Bloomfield encouraged rock impresario Bill Graham to book his mentor King and other black bluesmasters into his Fillmore auditoriums in the late 1960s, B.B.’s music was exposed to a new and much larger audience. That led to his huge crossover hit “The Thrill Is Gone” (producer Bill Szymczyk‘s shimmering strings added to King’s uptown version of the blues). Regularly performing well into his 80s, the suit eventually became a tuxedo and he became the ambassador to the world for America’s indigenous art form.

As it happens, King’s last public appearance was the Toyota commercial that started airing last October after King withdrew from what turned out to be his final tour that month due to exhaustion and dehydration. The ad, part of the ’15 Camry launch’s ‘One Bold Choice Leads to Another’ ad campaign, was titled “Guitar”. It portrayed a young woman who took a risk at a storage auction and ended up with one of King’s famous “Lucille” Gibson semi-hollowbody electric guitars. The ad shows her driving her Camry to meet King backstage, where he was supposedly reunited with his guitar, which he autographed for her.

B.B. King's famous Lucille

Also, as it happens, just a short while ago I was actually planning on writing about the B.B. King Camry commercial. At the Chicago Auto Show in February, Toyota’s stand had a display case devoted to that commercial, complete with a Gibson “Lucille” and the brocade tuxedo jacket King wore in the commercial. I think guitars are pretty cool, so I took a few photos as best as I could (I don’t have a polarized filter so it was tough avoiding reflections from the display case glass). I was kind of surprised the guitar in the display wasn’t the actual guitar from the commercial. That guitar had a “burst” finish, while the one in the display case was a production black Gibson 65th Anniversary edition ES-355 Lucille in black. The plaque on the case said it was “B.B. King’s Gibson Guitar, Lucille”, but I’m at least a little bit skeptical it was ever Mr. King’s personal instrument. More likely it was loaned from Gibson. The brocade tuxedo jacket in the display, however, was the actual one King wore in the commercial, similar to the one he was buried in, a signature element to his later stage appearances.


“I gave you a brand new Ford, but you said ‘I want a Cadillac.'” When was the last time you heard a blues song about a Toyota?

When I first saw the ad, I wondered if it was based on a true story. Real celebrities appear in commercials with fictional themes all the time. Intrigued, though, by the combination of the actual jacket and a quasi faux Lucille, I found out that it was based on a true story. Toyota’s ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, and the ad’s producers, Smuggler, may have plagiarized the plot.

By now you may have heard how B.B. King came to name his guitars Lucille – about a fire in a juke joint, B.B. rushing in to save his guitar, later finding out the fire started with a fight over a woman named Lucille. He told other stories about his Lucilles in his act. This being a car site, one of the stories King told about Lucille was about how the guitar saved his life by keeping his car from crushing him after he flipped it (not likely to have happened in actuality because one of the semi-hollowbody Gibsons that King preferred would likely have been crushed itself). I said guitars and Lucilles, because King used a number of guitars in his career and more than one was inlaied with the name Lucille. One of those was ES-355 prototype for a commemorative production Lucille made by Gibson’s custom shop to be presented to King on his 80th birthday in 2005. King used it in performances until 2009, when it was stolen from his home in Las Vegas.

One of the sayings attributed to B.B. King is “a guitar can’t play the blues if it ain’t been in a pawn shop,” reflecting the economic tribulations of working musicians. Eric Dahl is a guitar player and collector who had been checking out pawn shop guitars for decades before coming across a Gibson with “Lucille” on the headstock in a Las Vegas pawn shop in 2009. As indicated above, Gibson made production versions of the 80th birthday Lucille, so the pawn shop and Dahl likely had no way of knowing that it was stolen. Dahl paid $2,161.99, slightly under market for a production Lucille (one of King’s personal ES-335 Lucille’s is currently advertised at $55,000).

Inspecting the guitar, Dahl found the word “prototype” and researching its provenance led him to Gibson verifying that it was the first prototype for the commemorative 80th birthday Lucille, the same guitar that King played in concert with for years. In November 2009, Dahl arranged to met with King personally and agreed to return the guitar to its rightful owner without compensation. It was, after all, stolen from King. In appreciation, King had arranged for Gibson to provide Dahl with his own Gibson Lucille, which King autographed and presented to the guitar collector. While not quite as valuable as one of King’s personal Lucilles, King’s gift to Dahl has it’s own unique provenance and value.

Dahl didn’t just get a very cool collectible guitar with unmatched provenance out of the story. He also wrote a book about the guitars King had used called B.B. King’s Lucille and the Loves Before Her. Three of the copyrighted book’s chapters tell the story of the stolen and returned Lucille.

After the Corolla commercials started airing, Dahl filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court over copyright infringement, saying that Gibson personnel who were consulted by Toyota and the ad’s producers were aware of his book and those same Gibson employees later confirmed the commercial was based on the account in Dahl’s book.

Toyota filed a motion to dismiss arguing Dahl was suing over an uncopyrightable idea rather than the author’s expression of that idea. “Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, methods of operation, and/or any expression that is not original to the author,” the automaker’s lawyers wrote in the motion.

“Fatal to his claim, Mr. Dahl conflates the concept of the expression of the story (protectable) with the basic idea of the story (not protectable). The concept of a musician who loses a musical instrument which is later found and returned is not unique to plaintiff nor can he claim copyright protection over all such stories. Nor does the fact that the musician in both stories is Mr. King change that result; as a matter of law, plaintiff must point to the expression of his own story in the ad, not some common facts, to make out a claim,” Toyota argued.

In March of this year, U.S. District Judge James Mahan disagreed, saying that while a general idea cannot be copyrighted, the unique manner in which it is expressed can be protected. “Defendants misapply this rule of law to plaintiff’s complaint. Although general themes and ideas are not copyrightable, parallels to more specific elements of a particular expression are protected,” the federal judge ruled in his opinion. Judge Mahan further ruled that Dahl “adequately alleges similarities between the plot, characters and sequence of events, among other factors, of the two works” and allowed the case to proceed, also denying Toyota’s motion to not have to cover Dahl’s legal expenses in case he wins.

B.B. King was not a party to the lawsuit, so that’s one issue his estate won’t have to resolve. Eleven of King’s 15 children survived him and some are fighting with King’s longtime business manager over control of his assets. When the Toyota commercial was shot, King was an old man who had told a story or two about his guitars, some of them not completely true, and he likely figured it was just another good story and a good paycheck. My guess is Toyota was also not the worst actor here, but rather the party with the deepest pockets. Toyota is currently displaying a Spongebob Squarepants Sienna minivan at comic cons and auto shows. They’re obviously not adverse to licensing deals. Hiring King to do the ad probably wasn’t cheap either. Licensing and crediting Dahl’s story would likely have been less expensive than King’s fees. Most likely, if the topic of copyright infringement came up, Toyota was probably reassured by someone (Saatchi & Saatchi, the ad agency’s legal staff, or Toyota’s own lawyers, or a combination of the above) that the story was far enough removed from Dahl’s as to have been in the public domain.

I don’t know if B.B. King ever drove a Toyota Corolla. Cadillacs and Rolls-Royces were more his style (King started out sharecropping which may also explain his fondness for the Chevy El Camino), but regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, B.B. King sure knew how to play the blues.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Bark’s Bites: This Is Not The One Lap of America FR-S, Per SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/barks-bites-not-fr-s-per-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/barks-bites-not-fr-s-per-se/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 17:58:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066362 Over its long and illustrious sales career, the Toyota Camry has been described in many ways by so-called automotive enthusiasts. Most of them, to be honest, haven’t been particularly flattering. Words like “appliance” tend to find themselves in close proximity to the Camry whenever it’s been discussed elsewhere. But this is The Truth About Cars, […]

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TRD Camry XSE Pace Car

Over its long and illustrious sales career, the Toyota Camry has been described in many ways by so-called automotive enthusiasts. Most of them, to be honest, haven’t been particularly flattering. Words like “appliance” tend to find themselves in close proximity to the Camry whenever it’s been discussed elsewhere.

But this is The Truth About Cars, dammit!, and we have never been ones to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid on any car. Our own Jack Baruth has proven time and time again that the Camry, particularly in SE trim, is a capable and dynamic car at the track. I have personally piloted a Camry SE around Nelson Ledges. While it wasn’t quite keeping the pace of my Boss 302, it was no slouch, either.

That’s all fine and good. But what about putting it in a real race, with a real professional driver? How would it do under those circumstances?

Well, the fine folks at Toyota Production Engineering got as close to that as they possibly could by running a four-cylinder Camry SE in the One Lap of America last week. That’s right. They really ran a bone-stock, off-the-lot Camry in a time trial. The story of how they got there is just as interesting as the decision to drive the Camry itself.

Toyota Production Engineering team members have participated in the 24 Hours of LeMons series since 2008, highlighted by an overall win at Gingerman Raceway in 2011. This year, they made the decision to expand their racing efforts to other motorsports activities and, with full Toyota support, they decided to enter One Lap of America. Leading the effort for Toyota was Anthony Magagnoli, a young man whom I’ve gotten to know as a competitor and a fine driver in the American Endurance Racing series.

Anthony has a great resume as a driver: he won his class in the 2010 OLOA, finishing fourth overall and winning the Rookie of the Year award. He’s also a SpecE30 National Champion. Most importantly, he’s an engineer at Toyota’s Northern American Manufacturing headquarters. Providing support to Anthony, who would be doing all of the track driving, was Stephen Byington, another Toyota production engineer who’s an experienced crew member for open wheel and drag racing teams. Clearly, they had half of the equation required for winning. Now, they just needed a car. They settled on a favorite of many TTAC readers, the Scion FR-S, (What? What about the CAMRY? Patience, grasshoppers.)

One Lap of America TRD Scion FR-S

Anthony reached out to Toyota Racing Development to help with the FR-S build. The TRD Scion FR-S Project Car was built as the inspiration to the Release Series 1.0. The project car included a GReddy turbocharger, lower compression pistons, stronger rods, TRD coilovers and larger brakes and safety equipment upgrades.

Here’s what the TRD FR-S looked and sounded like at High Plains Raceway (OMG, dat blow off valve):

Over twenty engineers and co-ops from Toyota Production Engineering worked on the FR-S, which they only obtained roughly three weeks before the beginning of the event. They entered the SS GT2 Small Bore category for sports coupes under $50,000 MSRP and under 3.5L engine displacement. And they were competitive from the start, battling back and forth for the class lead in SS GT2 SB with a 600hp BMW 1M.

When the team arrived at Motorsports Ranch in Cresson, TX on Wednesday May 6th, they were sitting 8th overall and 10 points away from the lead in class. However, after 2 strong morning runs, they suffered terminal engine seizure in the afternoon session, attributed to failure of aftermarket crankshaft bearings.

I spoke with Magagnoli by phone recently and he had this to say about the decision to continue on:

“We knew that we didn’t want to drop out – we knew that we wanted to be there for the end. We had a few options, one of which was our press support vehicle, a Camry XSE. However, in the end, we opted to get a Camry SE four-cylinder and compete as an exhibition entry in the stock sedan class.”

That’s pretty bad ass. Seriously.

So how did the Camry do on track?

Magagnoli was impressed. “The Camry dealt with the rigors of the track easily soaking up curbs and adjusting its direction in accordance to just minor adjustments of the throttle. The paddle shifters made gear selection a breeze and the car hit a peak of 102.9 mph, with a single best lap time of 2:46.4 on the Grand Course at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park. The cumulative lap time for the 3 laps of 8:30.111 in the first session was good for 35th out of the 48 cars that ran in the morning! In the afternoon, our time dropped to 8:23.343, good for 37th out of 45. Our stock 2015 Camry SE 4-cylinder posted times faster than a Porsche 944, MINI Cooper GP, Cadillac CTS-V wagon, supercharged Acura NSX, and a Porsche Carrera GT.”

Yeah, yeah, that’s all good – but let’s watch the VIDEO:

Obviously, the Camry is a little prone to understeer. It could also benefit from some better tires. And WTF is that Ford LTD wagon doing out there? But other than that, it looks pretty damned capable on what is considered to be a rather challenging course, hitting a maximum speed of over 100 MPH. And it beat a freaking Carrera GT! You can even quote me on that.

“The Camry SE is a superior track car to the Carrera GT.” –Bark M., not a former Porsche Employee

So the next time that one of your know-it-all friends who considers himself a “real racer” because he once did an HPDE 1 session in his BMW E46 says your Camry SE is an “appliance,” just make this simple statement to him: There’s only one way to settle this. A race. And if you’re a real driver, like Anthony Magagnoli, you’ll probably win.

All photos and video are courtesy of Toyota Production Engineering. You can read more about Toyota Productions Engineering’s race team at www.toyotalemons.com, or at their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ToyotaPEMotorsports. You can also see more videos of the TRD FR-S in action at their YouTube page.

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2015 Toyota Prius, Track Tested Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-toyota-prius-track-tested/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-toyota-prius-track-tested/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1060434 You may have heard about the challenge I laid down to Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. You’re probably read about brother Bark’s experience at NJMP this past weekend. But if you haven’t, the story goes like so: A team of scrappy Midwesterners fought a bunch of Euro-weenies and high-net-worth individuals on the mean streets straights and curves […]

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2015 Toyota Prius Track Test

You may have heard about the challenge I laid down to Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. You’re probably read about brother Bark’s experience at NJMP this past weekend. But if you haven’t, the story goes like so: A team of scrappy Midwesterners fought a bunch of Euro-weenies and high-net-worth individuals on the mean streets straights and curves of New Jersey. They endured fatigue, crippling expense, and hair-raising 100-mph off-track excursions to challenge their inner demons and define themselves.

This is not their story.

This is the story of the Prius they drove. Over 1,600 miles. From Ohio to New York to New Jersey to Philly and back to Ohio.

Plus fifteen laps on a racetrack.

2015 Toyota Prius Track Test

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the galaxy and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance:

  • I thought the Prius was absolutely brilliant, and I’m going to give you ten reasons why.
  • I also thought the Prius was depressingly cheap and annoyingly outmoded, and I’m going to give you five reasons why.
  • My opinion about the Prius has been changed forever.
  • My opinion about the bulk of Prius owners remains unchanged.

Alright, let’s get to it. This is the TTAC of 2015, so instead of telling you a sordid tale about a bottle-blonde working girl named Natalya who stood next to me and told her date, “I’m worth the money” as I watched Mike Stern, Anthony Jackson, and Lionel Cordrew just kill it at 55 Bar in the Village last Wednesday night, we’re going to have a listicle.

Ten Reasons The 2015 Prius Is Absolutely Brilliant. Number Six Will Blow Your Mind.

1. No tumblehome. The sides of the third-generation Prius are actually concave. The side windows reach straight up from a surprisingly low doorsill to a squared-off meeting with the roof. This car feels hugely roomy and comfortable to me, more so than any other car with its footprint on sale today, and that’s why.

20150503_195733

2. Reasonable driver position. There’s plenty of room to be had between the door card and the floating console. The blank space ahead of you, where the instrument panel would be in, say, a Ferrari F12berlinetta, is grey plastic adorned with a “Synergy” waveform pattern that also appears in every glass divider in the lobby of every mid-price hotel in America. And maybe it’s because I’d driven a ’99 Camaro SS right before getting into the Prius, but the distance to the windshield base was positively reasonable.

3. The vision thing. There’s no “DLO Fail”, as our own Sajeev Mehta would say. The front quarter windows are useful for parking. The rear quarter windows have heating elements on them. Driver vision is clear and nearly unobstructed. And the rear double window in the hatch – holy fuck, man, when was the last time you drove a car that let you see the license plate of the car following you? This is the opposite of the face-down-ass-up thing that most modern sedans have. Love it.

20150503_195710

4. Uninvaded space. The Prius had room for three people, their luggage, their race equipment, and a carbon-fiber Rainsong jumbo on which I played “Ramble On” after practice on Friday. “Jesus,” my brother said, “make that stop.” The packaging just plain works for both people and luggage.

5. You can turn the DRLs off. Every car in the world should offer this feature. Combined with the “EV mode”, to be discussed shortly, this would make the world’s greatest night-time drive-by vehicle ever. Room for a Bulgarian AK-47 clone in the back? Check! The ability to roll silent? Check! No DRLs to alert your rivals? Check!

20150503_195809

6. The hybrid powertrain, as implemented in this car, is beyond reproach. From Columbus to Manhattan, the Prius returned about 51 mpg despite being asked to cruise at 80-90 mph. But it was on the road to Chinatown that I had my own road-to-Damascus moment. Exiting the Holland tunnel, I pressed the “EV mode” button. The engine didn’t turn on until we arrived at the hotel and had to wait for the valet. No fuss. No drama. Half an hour on the battery, stopping, starting, listening to Father John Misty on the crank-up. It would have been two gallons’ worth of gas in anything else.

What Toyota has done with this Prius is simply brilliant. You can watch the energy displays if you like, but you don’t need to. Only once was I caught out by the Synergy Drive; making a left turn onto a crowded four-lane, I pumped the throttle to sneak into a hole between two cars and was unexpectedly braked by the Toyota’s decision to cut the engine. That’s it. That was the only time I didn’t like the system in the space of 1,600 miles. I’m a believer.

7. The quiet aero. True, my current fleet of vehicles, containing two Porsches, two Honda motorcycles, and a car (the Honda Accord) which has been infamous for road noise since 1976, tends to damage my idea of what a quiet car is. Still. This Prius has less wind noise than anything else I’ve ever driven. You can have a reasonable conversation at 90 mph.

CharleyCamera052014 261

8. The handling. Yeah, it’s on those low-roll Avids, which aren’t great. But when I took the Prius around New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Lightning course, the Prius was a capable and friendly partner. It can hit 96 mph on the front straight before recovering sixty watt-hours braking at the “4” mark. You can rotate it – wait, I’m laughing as I type – you can rotate it at turn entry on the Synergy Drive recovery mode of the brake pedal. No, it’s not fast, but it’s not undriveable. More importantly, the Prius ended its tour of the track with a firm brake pedal, no worrying heat smells, and two bars of battery left in reserve. Hey, it’s got two controversial F1 technologies: a CVT (hey, Williams!) and battery energy recovery (hey, every F1 team during KERS development except Williams!) The only caveat: The stability control doesn’t like high-G maneuvers at freeway speeds.

9. The air conditioning. Oh what a feeling, to sit in the Prius on a hot Jersey day and just let the battery run the A/C for you while the engine sleeps. Guilt-free motoring at its finest.

10. The stereo. Best cheap-car stereo I’ve heard in a while. The dynamics of it won’t cause my friends at Stereophile to pen any rapturous tributes but at least it’s loud enough for a 43-year-old man who has been deafened by years of unmuffled club racers and Benelli shotguns operated indoors.

After six days with the Prius, I was ready to buy one without question. Keep in mind that only the existence of my personal fleet would make such an idea palatable; I’m about as likely to buy a Chinese-made dress shirt as I am to make a car that can’t break 100 in the quarter my only vehicle. Still, for ninety-five percent of the driving that I do, the Prius makes more sense than anything else on the road. And trust me, after blasting out to the lead of a forty-one-car pack while the Bimmers behind you bang fenders loud enough for you to feel it in your chest, getting into a car that “turns on” with a beep is oddly comforting.

Of course, the Prius has problems, and here are five of them:

1. The dashboard is garbage. Forget the fact that it’s in the center. The displays themselves are a strange mixture of cheap monochrome LCD and monochrome segment LCD and backlit icons like you’d find on a God-damned ’79 Tercel. Every time you look at the display, you’re reminded of just how they found the money for the Toyota Synergy Drive in a $24,000 car. No Ford made after the Tempo looks this cheap inside.

2. The rest of the car is cheap, too. You can load these things up but my rental-spec “Prius One” lacked basic features such as a three-blink turn signal. It’s equipped like a base Accent despite costing half again as much. There’s no reason for it other than to push you upmarket to the five trim levels above. It’s exploitative and stupid in the best GM practice.

3. It also treats you like an idiot. Yes, we all know the kind of people who buy these things in droves: feckless, mouth-breathing Whole-Foods-shopping asexuals who treat the government like a surrogate parent and use phrases like “I’m not okay with that” and “Here’s why that’s a problem.” Some day it will be legal to cut those people down from horseback like a Dothraki, but in the meantime they have to be coddled by a car that BEEPS INSIDE WHEN YOU’RE BACKING UP. I know I’m backing up, damn it! I also don’t need the car to flash some tacky-ass additional display every time I touch the Volume button. I know I’m touching the Volume button, because I’m a functioning human. What’s worse: the “you’re-touching-a-button” display lights up when you touch the button, but you have to press the button more to get it to do anything.

4. The seats are fairly miserable. Front and back. They’re shaped oddly and made of mouse fur. Toyota knows how to make a great seat – the Lexus RC F that showed up at our race proves that. They just don’t give you one here.

5. It’s really slow. Yes, I know that’s part of the package. But I hate it. I don’t see why there isn’t some KERS-style maximum-discharge mode for when you really want to get up to that open spot in the lane next to you.

And that’s it.

A thousand miles in a Prius will make you a believer, as long as you understand what it is. It’s not a Swiss Army Knife, it’s not a Hellcat, it’s not a Tesla Model S. It’s the most intelligently-executed basic transportation since the Model T. As such, it lacks both surprise and delight. If you don’t like it, get an Accord V6.

The Prius is not brilliant because it’s a hybrid. By and large, hybrids suck and it doesn’t matter if you’re referring to the Highlander Hybrid or the Panamera Hybrid. The hybrid concept only works when you apply it to the Prius, the same way that a double-clutch transmission is racetrack magic in a McLaren 650S but utterly miserable in your commuting Fiesta. The Prius isn’t brilliant because it’s a hybrid. It’s brilliant because it is designed for a single purpose – efficient transportation – and the HS-Drive is a part of that design. A Prius without the battery would be a better commuter than an Elantra with one. But as a single, unified system, the standard Prius is flat fucking wonderful.

If only I didn’t feel dirty after driving it, like I’d been caught reading a Jezebel article about The Top Ten Ways Men Are Stare-Raping You At The Gym or something. I think I can fix that. If you’ll excuse me, I have a superbike that needs some conspicuous wheely-ing.

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SPIED: 2016 Toyota HiLux, Inside and Out http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/spied-2016-toyota-hilux-inside/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/spied-2016-toyota-hilux-inside/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 11:25:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056082 After releasing an all-new Tacoma to take on the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier in North America, the Toyota HiLux is being readied for other parts of the world and it seems engineers haven’t been able to keep this one a secret. Admittedly, these aren’t the first spy shots we’ve seen of the new HiLux in […]

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2016 Toyota Hilux Three-Quarter

After releasing an all-new Tacoma to take on the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier in North America, the Toyota HiLux is being readied for other parts of the world and it seems engineers haven’t been able to keep this one a secret.

Admittedly, these aren’t the first spy shots we’ve seen of the new HiLux in the metal, but they’re certainly the clearest.

2016 Toyota Hilux Three-Quarter

The front fascia of the HiLux gets a thorough makeover, ditching the mid-grille bump for a cleaner appearance. The middle grille slats flow right into the LED headlights for a cohesive design. Further down, a trapezoidal grille gives the HiLux a little corporate DNA to tie it together with other Toyota products.

2016 Toyota Hilux Front/Rear

The rear design seems to be fairly basic, excluding the chrome handle. Taillights look like they could be cribbed directly from the last-generation Tacoma.

2016 Toyota Hilux Interior Dash

However, the interior looks as modern as any, presenting the driver with a fully-featured radio and well-placed climate controls just below.

Four engines are expected to power the new Euro-Taco, ranging from 2.4- and 2.8-liter turbodiesels and a 2.7-liter naturally-aspirated gasoline engine. Other engines will likely come to the fore in due course.

[Editor’s Note: We have seen these images from multiple sources. If you know to who they can be properly attributed, please let us know.]

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Toyota Returning To WRC With 2017 Yaris, Homologation Special Planned http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-returning-wrc-2017-yaris-homologation-special-planned/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-returning-wrc-2017-yaris-homologation-special-planned/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027441 Find the Toyota Yaris a bit ho-hum? Thanks to FIA’s homologation rules for the World Rally Championship series, it soon won’t be. Motoring.au reports that Toyota’s return to WRC in 2017 after a near-two-decade absence will be pinned upon the second-gen Yaris/Vitz, set to hit showrooms for the 2016 model year. That beast will be […]

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Find the Toyota Yaris a bit ho-hum? Thanks to FIA’s homologation rules for the World Rally Championship series, it soon won’t be.

Motoring.au reports that Toyota’s return to WRC in 2017 after a near-two-decade absence will be pinned upon the second-gen Yaris/Vitz, set to hit showrooms for the 2016 model year. That beast will be driven by a 1.6-liter turbo-four pushing above 300 horsepower to all corners, and is undergoing testing in Europe as of this writing.

Speaking of Europe, that is where the 2,500 homologated versions of the Yaris WRC will likely turn up in order for the automaker to be able to compete two years from now. However, power for the homologated model will come from the Lexus NX 200t’s 2-liter turbo-four, capable of 235 horses and 258 lb-ft torque. The power would be directed by a six-speed manual.

Whether the Yaris WRC will be seen elsewhere is not for certain. Those in Europe who are lucky to get their hands on one will pay around €33,900 ($36,650 USD) for the honor, the same price for Volkswagen’s own WRC entrant, the Polo R.

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Make Your Own Toyota Transmission At Home (Kind Of) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/make-toyota-transmission-home-kind/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/make-toyota-transmission-home-kind/#comments Thu, 12 Mar 2015 20:31:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1020849 “The transmission works exactly like most manual transmissions found in any car or truck,” explained Harrell. “However, I can barely explain how it works. It’s fairly hard to grasp unless you assemble one or see an animation of one opened up.” Last year, I wrote Concours d’Angst as a vision of what small-scale manufacturing might […]

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“The transmission works exactly like most manual transmissions found in any car or truck,” explained Harrell. “However, I can barely explain how it works. It’s fairly hard to grasp unless you assemble one or see an animation of one opened up.”

Last year, I wrote Concours d’Angst as a vision of what small-scale manufacturing might bring to the automotive enthusiast landscape. While I was busy imagining the future, however, someone else was busy making it.

It’s a 3-D printed Toyota transmission made of plastic, for use with a similarly small-scale Toyota 22R engine. You can see it work here:

Obviously, this is neither full-sized nor ready to install in any engine of any type. What makes it important is that it was reverse-engineered by someone who was in no way involved with Toyota, or even with transmissions. As 3-D printing transcends technical limitations and becomes a lingua franca for small-scale fabrication of all types, it will become possible for hobbyists to immediately produce full-sized steel transmissions and other complex parts themselves. It will also become commonplace for those designs to be shared. Imagine a world where you could obtain almost any out-of-stock part for any car through this process, and you’ll see the possibilities.

There will be problems of course — how will you be able to be absolutely sure that the transmission in that hundred-year-old ’77 Celica you just paid two million New Dollars for was machined from tool-grade steel? — but those problems will also be solved as time goes on.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to wait for somebody to build me a new four-speed 1990 Fox.

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Review: Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-toyota-4runner-trd-pro/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-toyota-4runner-trd-pro/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 14:12:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008322 Ladies and gentlemen, there are road tests, and then there are off-road tests. In a typical road test, writers use the car on their daily commute, playing with all the features and determine which bother them and which don’t. There may be some family activities thrown in, like going on a weekend trip or driving […]

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Ladies and gentlemen, there are road tests, and then there are off-road tests. In a typical road test, writers use the car on their daily commute, playing with all the features and determine which bother them and which don’t. There may be some family activities thrown in, like going on a weekend trip or driving around the soccer team carpool. Sometimes, they might attempt to verify the manufacturer-reported performance numbers and use their smartphone to record 0-60 acceleration times and lateral g-forces in the corners. Other times they might go to the hardware store and fill the trunk with bricks to cargo volume and payload capacity. But most of the time, writers just utilize the car for day-to-day activities, evaluating a product in the most mundane of circumstances.

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In an off-road test, the writer has to set aside a day or two of his or her time and plan an excursion that doesn’t involve driving on paved roads. Their smartphone probably won’t work unless they’ve scaled the top of a hill with their vehicle. The only features worth using are the radio (if it can pick up any stations), and the transfer case to shift into low range so you can climb up the nearest mountain for the ultimate photo of your off-road test car. There won’t be any other people, let alone cars, for miles, meaning you can avoid loud stereos and your carpooling buddies’ conversations about how they now have to watch Birdman since it won a lot of Oscars. You won’t have people staring at you in the Home Depot parking lot with a stack of bricks that can collapse on you at any time. Nothing around you during the test is ordinary.

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Such was the case I was presented with when I found out I’d be getting the 4Runner TRD Pro for a week. Beyond driving on the road, I had to discover how the truck performed off the concrete, since that’s what most buyers would buy a 4Runner TRD Pro for. It was perfect since a) I don’t like going to Home Depot, and b) testing the 4Runner off-road was a great reason to spend the day away from civilization.

First, let’s start focus on the looks of the 4Runner TRD Pro. With the black wheels and 31.5-inch Nitto Terra Grappler tires, the “TOYOTA” lettering on the grille rather than the emblem, and the TRD suspension kit, the TRD Pro looks the business. The exterior colors offered are a solid black, a solid white, and a solid red-orange color called “Inferno,” color choices that are oddly very similar to what the BMW 1-Series M was offered with. All the interiors have black SofTex (think a very nice-feeling vinyl material that most people will mistake for leather) seats and black interior trim with red stitching. Again, very similar to the 1-Series M. You can’t get any other interior color choices from the factory.

Toyota didn’t focus too much on on-road performance of the 4Runner TRD Pro. They stuck with what they knew in the 4.0-liter V-6 and 5-speed automatic combination that’s found in all new 4Runners. Sure, you might want more power, but I wouldn’t be comfortable dealing with a faulty turbocharger or supercharger in the middle of any desert in the world. I will admit it doesn’t accelerate to 60 miles per hour very quickly. As for handling, even with those immense Nitto tires and the TRD Bilstein shocks, the TRD Pro still drove well. It isn’t available with the Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System like the Trail model, so the handling isn’t as sharp. However, don’t expect U-turns to go perfectly. Three-point turns will become the norm if you suddenly decide to go in the other direction. I learned that the hard way.

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Regarding comfort and ergonomics, considering the off-road modifications, the 4Runner remained a refined vehicle, especially compared to some Jeeps and modified Nissan Xterras that the 4Runner was hanging with. The heated front seats were power-adjustable with two-way lumbar support, while the back seats provided plenty of legroom. On the highway the 4Runner rode like any normal car. After five hours round-trip of highway driving and off-roading, there were no complaints of discomfort or soreness from any of the passengers. Unlike the Limited, the TRD Pro only seats five people, so it is not for large families. Cargo room is plentiful, and I was able to fit two bikes with two-thirds of the rear seat folded down.

The TRD Pro comes standard with the Entune premium audio system and navigation. The audio system was fairly good for a base unit and I can only imagine what the JBL unit in the Limited sounds like. As for operating the navigation system, the same Toyota quirks apply. There’s limited use of the system while driving, so I found myself shifting into Park at some stoplights; however, using voice control on the go (which understood what I said surprisingly well) eliminates a good deal of the problem. You can install apps on the Entune system as well, while the screen doubles up as a back-up camera display.

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This thing was absolutely exceptional off-road. And all things considered, I wasn’t easy on it. Since driving into the creeks around my house to test the 4Runners off-road capabilities would likely earn me a visit from local law enforcement and looks of scorn from my neighborhood, I took it to the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area. Think of it as a skate park, but for people with off-road vehicles rather than wearing skates. There are trails and obstacle courses to take your 4WD vehicle on. When you’re there, the views are secondary to the driving.

The key off-road features in the 4Runner were the Multi-Terrain Select and Crawl Control. Those controls were located on the overhead console, and were very simple to use in tandem with the driver information screen in the gauge cluster. Multi-Terrain Select came in handy plenty of times when going in the mud, traversing the rocks, and doing the mogul obstacles. All I had to do was make sure the 4Runner was shifted into low range with the correct mode selected, and the Multi-Terrain Select managed to find grip on such surfaces, even with a wheel in the air.

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Crawl Control could be thought of as an off-road cruise control system. It worked by engaging low range, pressing the on/off button on the overhead console, selecting a speed (Low, Medium, High), and then the car would work both the throttle and the brakes while I steered the 4Runner. Steering input from the driver is a must, but your feet can be off the pedals when the Crawl Control is on. Putting a foot on the throttle or brakes disengages Crawl Control. The system worked exceptionally well when ascending and descending steep and rocky dirt roads, and working without fault when doing the adventure course at Hollister Hills.

When it came to Hollister Hills SVRA’s 4×4 Obstacle Course, where the avid four-wheelers bring their rock crawlers and production vehicles with plenty of off-road upgrades, the 4Runner held its own very well for a truck that was entirely stock. Some obstacles which Jeeps couldn’t climb, the 4Runner managed to do, while on muddy roads, the 4Runner managed to keep going without requiring me to select low range. On one particularly steep obstacle, the locking rear differential helped tremendously, as otherwise, the vehicle would have had a more difficult time climbing up. Overall, I enjoyed the 4Runner TRD Pro off-road and the vehicle (without any modifications whatsoever) was very, very capable.

On the trails, the 4Runner was delightful. It was able to climb up the rockiest of trails in order to get to a nice overlook to have the lunch I brought. When descending or ascending some of the trails, all I had to do was engage Crawl Control, point the 4Runner in the correct direction, and the onboard systems did the rest of the work. The size of the truck wasn’t an issue; there were no dents on the bodywork of the car and few moments where I preferred the size of a Jeep Wrangler. I left Multi-Terrain Select on most of the time as an added line of defense, which was extremely helpful when ascending some steep trails at Hollister Hills.

As for downsides with the TRD Pro, there are a few. One is the fuel economy, where I got 17 mpg during my time with the 4Runner both on- and off-road in 2WD, 4WD, and low range enabled. On the bright side, the fuel tank is 23 gallons, meaning the range is quite good. On the other hand, get used to long fill-ups (both a Yaris and a Cavalier filled up at the same pump during the time it took me to refuel the 4Runner) and $60+ gas bills. Another downside is that there are only going to be 3,400 units of the 4Runner TRD Pro for 2015. As such, the only available options on this model are only the dealer-installed accessories. A sunroof, leather seats, and a factory-installed high-end sound system aren’t available.

However, Toyota knows the 4Runner TRD Pro isn’t for everyone if they’re offering only 3,400 of them. If you need a third seat and/or leather seats, you should choose the Limited (or spend $30,000 more for a Land Cruiser). If you have to have a sunroof and want the option of more adaptive and dynamic suspension (KDSS), you can go with the Trail. If you don’t want to spend more than $40,000, and I don’t think dealers will lower the price much on the TRD Pro, get the SR5. If fuel economy is your thing, get a Highlander. And if you want more power, consider a Tundra TRD Pro with the 5.7-liter V-8 or getting the Land Cruiser, as it too has Crawl Control and Multi-Terrain Select.

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As for pricing, the 4Runner TRD Pro I tested stickered at $43,134, with some accessories installed. Oddly, the base price on my test car was $200 lower than the base price on the Toyota website, which is $41,310 before the $885 destination charge. Additionally, be aware that many TRD Pros will come equipped with the sliding rear cargo deck for an extra $350, so factor that into the final price. Despite the price increases, with an MSRP of around $43,000, I think the 4Runner TRD Pro is a steal. Normal 4Runners are generally listed towards the top of Kelley Blue Book reports of projected resale value, and the 4WD TRD Pro is certain to depreciate less due to its low production numbers.

Now, be aware that procuring a 4Runner TRD Pro is actually pretty tough at the moment. After going on the forums, many people have to order their TRD Pros and wait a few months. Some have even had to pay over sticker due to where they live. When I tried searching for a 4Runner TRD Pro in the San Francisco Bay Area, I had an extremely tough time finding one. After my search and contacting local dealers, it looked like I would have to order the car (and even pay over sticker in some cases) to get my hands on a new TRD Pro. If anything, I think the depreciation will be a lot less than any of us ever would think.

In the end, I am enamored with the Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro, especially its off-road and even on-road capabilities. If you’re considering a Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, Xterra PRO-4X, Land Rover LR4, or a Grand Cherokee with the off-road package, take a good look at the 4Runner TRD Pro. It’s rare that I write this of any car, but if you can manage to get your hands on one at MSRP, you should seriously think it over. Considering that it’s being made in limited quantities, is reliable, managed to do some very tough trails that some highly modified off-road vehicles can’t do, looks really good, and is still your normal, closed, comfortable 4Runner at the end of day, the TRD Pro is phenomenal.

Toyota provided the vehicle, a full tank of gas for this review, and insurance. That last one was important since I returned it with a couple gashes on the underbody.

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Lexus Takes Gold In 2015 JD Power Dependability Study http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/lexus-takes-gold-2015-jd-power-dependability-study/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/lexus-takes-gold-2015-jd-power-dependability-study/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008050 For the fourth consecutive year, Lexus is tops among the brands ranked in JD Power’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study. The research group says owners of the premium brand’s offerings reported 89 problems per 100 vehicles. However, its parent company was bumped down to third place on the podium this year by Buick, the latter making […]

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Lexus RCF cliff, side

For the fourth consecutive year, Lexus is tops among the brands ranked in JD Power’s annual Vehicle Dependability Study.

The research group says owners of the premium brand’s offerings reported 89 problems per 100 vehicles. However, its parent company was bumped down to third place on the podium this year by Buick, the latter making a huge leap from fifth place in 2014 to take silver with 110 problems per 100 vehicles reported. Toyota had one more problem compared to Buick.

Among the rest, Cadillac took home fourth, while Honda and Porsche tied for fifth. Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Scion and Chevrolet round out the top 10 for 2015, while Land Rover and Fiat landed at the bottom of the list with 258 and 273 problems per 100 vehicles, respectively.

As for the problems themselves, most took issue with their vehicle’s Bluetooth and voice-recognition systems, followed by problems with the vehicle’s engine or transmission, the latter mostly focused on “automatic transmission hesitation and rough shifting.”

This year’s study surveyed over 34,000 original owners of 2012 models after three years of ownership, with the survey taking place between November and December of 2014.

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