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. Thu, 28 May 2015 20:00:21 +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/ 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.

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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.

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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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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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Sweers: Diesel Power Not Coming To Toyota Tacoma http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/sweers-diesel-power-not-coming-toyota-tacoma/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/sweers-diesel-power-not-coming-toyota-tacoma/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 13:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1004034 Hoping for diesel power in the new Toyota Tacoma? You can breathe now. According to AutoGuide, Tacoma/Tundra engineering chief Mike Sweers said that diesel power won’t be coming to the Tacoma — despite the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon receiving theirs — due to the Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming Tier 3 regulations, set to go […]

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Hoping for diesel power in the new Toyota Tacoma? You can breathe now.

According to AutoGuide, Tacoma/Tundra engineering chief Mike Sweers said that diesel power won’t be coming to the Tacoma — despite the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon receiving theirs — due to the Environmental Protection Agency’s upcoming Tier 3 regulations, set to go into effect in 2017. The regs would greatly tighten emissions on diesel-powered light vehicles, making such vehicles more costly to build for automakers, if not consider in the first place:

Diesel, from a fuel economy standpoint, is about a 30 percent improvement right out of the box. The downside to diesel is the emissions has to be certified at the same level as a gas engine. So the way to do that is you have to put on an after-treatment system. So if we consider that cost, versus the fuel economy improvement, and the fact that diesel is $1 more per gallon more than gasoline, is there a return on the investment?

Even if the ROI from each after-treatment system installed — said to add $3,000 to the cost of a vehicle — was worth it now, Sweers warns it wouldn’t be by 2019, when even-tighter diesel-emissions regs would come into force. He says some diesels would be shelved as a result, automakers deciding those engines aren’t worth the headache.

Thus, the Tacoma will be avoiding the green pump handle, opting for either a gasoline-fueled 2.7-liter I4 or 3.5-liter V6 to provide power.

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The Evora 400 Has Plenty Of Esprit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/evora-400-plenty-esprit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/evora-400-plenty-esprit/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 14:18:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1003818 The Lotus Evora is one of my favorite cars ever. The new Evora 400 makes history by eclipsing the twin-turbo Esprit V8 as the most powerful production Lotus road car to date. With 400 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, courtesy of a revised supercharger and a water-to-air intercooler, the Evora should easily hit its […]

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The Lotus Evora is one of my favorite cars ever. The new Evora 400 makes history by eclipsing the twin-turbo Esprit V8 as the most powerful production Lotus road car to date.

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With 400 horsepower and 302 pound-feet of torque, courtesy of a revised supercharger and a water-to-air intercooler, the Evora should easily hit its claimed top speed of 186mph. (Insider tidbit: the sum total of internal changes made to the Camry V6 to prepare it for supercharged duty is… none.) The car’s also dropped 49 pounds thanks to some material changes. It’s scheduled for US distribution in 2016. Let’s cross our fingers.

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Oh, one more thing: I’d be shirking my duty as a lifelong Lotus Esprit fan (a friend of mine owns three S1 Esprits, one of which I’ve towed a few times behind my Land Rovers over the years) if I didn’t note that the Esprit V8 could have easily made more than its rated 350hp. The problem was the transmission, which dated back to the four-cylinder Esprits and couldn’t handle any more juice.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Toyota Sienna AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-toyota-sienna-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-toyota-sienna-awd/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:43:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1002178 America’s minivan segment generated only 3.4% of the U.S. auto industry’s new vehicle volume in 2014, down from 5.2% in 2007. Why do automakers bother? Consider Toyota as an example. Sienna sales in 2014 rose to their highest level since 2007, but instead of accounting for slightly less than 17% of all U.S. minivan sales, […]

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2015 Toyota Sienna AWD winterAmerica’s minivan segment generated only 3.4% of the U.S. auto industry’s new vehicle volume in 2014, down from 5.2% in 2007.

Why do automakers bother? Consider Toyota as an example. Sienna sales in 2014 rose to their highest level since 2007, but instead of accounting for slightly less than 17% of all U.S. minivan sales, the Sienna’s market share climbed to 22.4%, and to 25% over the last three months.


• USD As-Tested Price: $47,495

• Horsepower: 266 @ 6200 rpm

• Torque: 245 @ 4700 rpm

• EPA City/Hwy Fuel Economy: 16/23 mpg


The party doesn’t have as many attendees as it did a decade ago, but the music is still playing. And because so many of the B-list guests gave up, it’s much easier for the remaining characters to be big, big stars.

Standing out from the pack still requires a measure of nonconformity, however. The Chrysler twins have their Stow’N’Go seating and value-oriented pricing. Kia has most recently plumbed the depths of their bag of styling tricks to release an eye-catching Sedona with its own noteworthy interior configuration. Honda’s Odyssey sets a high bar for car-like dynamics and efficiency. Nissan, well, the Quest has basically been rejected by North American consumers. The truly mini minivan from Mazda, the 5, is soon to depart. And the Sienna?

2015 Toyota Sienna AWD frontAside from an aggressive SE model and an eighth seat which in some models can be stowed in the cargo area, the availability of all-wheel-drive serves to differentiate the Toyota.

Refreshed for the 2015 model year and loaned to us for a week by Toyota Canada, the Toyota Sienna offers its consummate experience in XLE AWD form with the Limited package at CAD $50,523.

In the U.S., this van is known as Sienna Limited Premium AWD, and it’s priced at $47,495 including fees. For those willing to forego a lengthy list of features (HID headlights, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear park assist sonar, power liftgate, dual sunroofs, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, driver easy speak, dual-view rear-seat entertainment, leather seating, proximity access, heated steering wheel), the Sienna LE can be had with all-wheel-drive for less than USD $35,000.

LE or XLE or Limited, adding an extra pair of driven wheels to the Sienna does force a couple of key sacrifices compared with the front-wheel-drive versions. There’s no eighth seat, no ottomans in the second row, run-flat tires only, and official fuel economy ratings drop to 16 mpg city and 23 highway from 18 and 25, respectively. We saw only 14.3 miles per gallon, but asterisks abound. Roads were snow-covered for much of the Sienna’s visit, temperatures were well below freezing, there was plenty of city driving and very little time on the highway, and the van was fresh from the factory, flagrantly broken in by the right foot of yours truly. Conditions were not at all conducive to forming accurate predictions of long-term real-world fuel economy.

2015 Toyota Sienna profileBut if an automaker ever wanted to impress a car reviewer with the one remaining all-wheel-drive minivan, a week during which consistent dumps of snow caused a city to buckle at the knees was absolutely the right time.

“Oh,” say you, “front-wheel-drive and winter tires are fine.” And yes, that’s true. I drove a couple of front-wheel-drive cars with winter tires during the same span of time, as well as an all-wheel-drive Ford Escape on all-season tires. The difference: the other vehicles, Escape included, needed our driveway at least partially cleared in order to vacate the premises. In a city like Halifax, full of steep hills and slathered in ice, there was a level of dexterity required for the other vehicles to get underway. The Sienna was unencumbered by such limitations.

Does a new Sienna buyer need all-wheel-drive? No, but on the shores of the north Atlantic in a winter that suddenly turned awfully wintry, the AWD upgrade was conspicuous in its effectiveness, not least because the system so instantly and imperceptibly shuffled power to the proper Bridgestone Blizzak-shod wheels.

On other counts, the Sienna is better than it used to be. Parents in school parking lots will continue to appreciate the feather-light steering, but the Sienna is noticeably less barge-like in routine driving. Gone is much of the float that beset the 2011-2014 Sienna, but while the updated van (thanks to a stiffer unibody with 142 extra spot welds, according to Toyota) is a superior handler, it still doesn’t have the finesse of the Odyssey. Nor is its ride as firm, thankfully, as the Sienna is as unflustered on rough roads as one can reasonably expect from any vehicle of any kind. Victory is mine, saith the 119-inch wheelbase.

Suspension noise too easily makes its way into the cabin, as does the growl of the 3.5L, 266-horsepower V6 when under heavy throttle. (Teamed with a smooth 6-speed automatic, it’s a decently punchy engine, if that matters to the typical minivan buyer.) Yet overall, the Sienna is memorably quiet, aided by Driver Easy Speak, which amplifies the driver’s voice for rearward occupants through the speakers, not so you can shout at your children more easily, but so normal conversation volume can be maintained. It didn’t work as well here as in the Highlander, however, nor was the JBL audio system all that impressive. Blame minivan acoustics. There’s an awful lot of vacant space to fill with high quality sound.

Space? Uh, yeah. There’s some of that. Cargo volume rings in at 39.1 cubic feet. The third row is fine. The first two are as capacious as anticipated.

The second row is legendary.

No, the middle seats don’t fold into the floor, and for some that’s the worst omission in the history of minivan features. But they’re not that heavy, and their forward/backward range of motion is a stunning thing to behold. Bring child to you. Send child away.

2015 Toyota Sienna interiorOwners of former third-gen Siennas will quickly spot the interior changes in the front of the 2015 Sienna. Improved material quality is appreciated, but the rearranging of climate controls, buttons, knobs, and screens are what really propel the Sienna forward from laughingstock to class-competitive status. The Entune system is straightforward. Better yet, in a season where the HVAC system gets a constant workout, the temperature and mode settings are finally sensible.

We’ll be reviewing the all-new Kia Sedona before winter ends. While it’s easy to criticize what we perceive to be a faulty Grand Caravan-cancelling FCA strategy, it will be interesting to see what comes out of the Windsor, Ontario plant next. That leaves the two top-selling Japanese brand alternatives, and the means by which you establish the class leader depends on priorities. Available all-wheel-drive and a gargantuan second row may thrust the Sienna into the winner’s circle for some, particularly those who fight wintry battles for three to five months. The fan of driving whose altered lifestyle no longer agrees with S2000 ownership will favour the on-road behaviour of the Odyssey.

Regardless, there can be little argument that these versatile, capable, expansive minivans (or should we say maxivans?) offer more vehicle per dollar than any other type of modern automobile. You may choose to avoid the $50K adaptations, but don’t let that be a pox on the overall Sienna house.

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

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Chicago 2015: 2016 Toyota Avalon Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-2016-toyota-avalon-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/chicago-2015-2016-toyota-avalon-unveiled/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 21:34:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=998690 Turning up with a refreshed look, the 2016 Toyota Avalon took the stage at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. Up front, the Avalon receives reshaped headlamps with LED bulbs, revised turn signals, and a lower, wider grill. Power still comes from either a 3.5-liter V6 producing 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, or a […]

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2016-Toyota-Avalon-10

Turning up with a refreshed look, the 2016 Toyota Avalon took the stage at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.

Up front, the Avalon receives reshaped headlamps with LED bulbs, revised turn signals, and a lower, wider grill. Power still comes from either a 3.5-liter V6 producing 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque, or a 200-horsepower hybrid system led by a 2.5-liter four.

XLE and XLE Plus trims receive 17-inch alloys, woodgrain dash and tire-pressure monitoring, while the Touring level turns up the aggressive looks and gains 18-inch alloys and daytime LEDs. The top-of-the-line Limited retains the 18-inch wheels for gasoline-powered versions — 17 inches for the hybrid — and adds adaptive cruise control, pre-collision, and auto-adjusting high beams.

No pricing was announced at the show, but Toyota says the revised 2016 Avalon will hit showrooms later this fall.

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Revised Toyota 86 Gains Some Style In New Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/revised-toyota-86-gains-style-new-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/revised-toyota-86-gains-style-new-edition/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 21:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=997114 Shopping for a new Toyota 86? The newly revised JDM model is gaining an injection of style for one variant, in the form of the style Cb. AutoGuide says the 86 style Cb — or Cool beauty — is meant to inject fashion sense into the low-cost sports car, featuring a face that wouldn’t look […]

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Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 01

Shopping for a new Toyota 86? The newly revised JDM model is gaining an injection of style for one variant, in the form of the style Cb.

AutoGuide says the 86 style Cb — or Cool beauty — is meant to inject fashion sense into the low-cost sports car, featuring a face that wouldn’t look too out of place next to its older siblings like the 2000GT. Other features include two-tone paint, leather steering wheel and woodgrain instrument cluster.

The overall 86 range gains revised power steering, improved ride comfort, and a more rigid frame, all features it will share with its Subaru BRZ twin. The BRZ, however, will have more unique interior features, such as satin silver bezels for the steering wheel and shift panel. Powertrain upgrades were not mentioned at this time.

Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 01 Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 02 Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 03 Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 04 Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 05 Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 07 Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 08 Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 09 Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 06

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U.S. Sales: The Lexus NX Isn’t Hampering The Lexus RX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/u-s-sales-lexus-nx-isnt-hampering-lexus-rx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/u-s-sales-lexus-nx-isnt-hampering-lexus-rx/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 18:29:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994962 Up to this point, the arrival of a potential familial rival has not hindered the success of the Lexus RX, America’s favourite premium brand utility vehicle. The RX, still a relatively affordable two-row Lexus crossover, has been sold alongside the more affordable but somewhat less spacious NX since the very end of November. 5717 copies […]

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2015 Lexus NX200tUp to this point, the arrival of a potential familial rival has not hindered the success of the Lexus RX, America’s favourite premium brand utility vehicle.

The RX, still a relatively affordable two-row Lexus crossover, has been sold alongside the more affordable but somewhat less spacious NX since the very end of November. 5717 copies of the NX were sold in December and January combined. Year-over-year, U.S. sales of the RX rose 8% to 20,194 over the same period.


• RX sales reached an eight-year high in 2014

• 2905 NXs sold in December; 2812 in January


Admittedly, the RX’s rate of growth doesn’t compare well with that of the overall SUV/crossover market. RX sales increased just 3% in the 2014 calendar year and 3% in December specifically. January’s 17% jump translated to 962 extra sales in a SUV/crossover market which rose 19%. U.S. SUV/crossover sales were up 12% in December and in 2014 as a whole.

But late in its lifecycle, with production levels that can only go so high, and with new external rivals popping up all over the place? In that case, the ability of the RX – once a game changer itself – to post any improvement at all is impressive. That it could do so when the $34,480 (base NX200T) arrives in healthy numbers is more monumental.

2013 Lexus RX350The NX, of course, is no shrinking violet. But as the Jeep Cherokee proved before it, avant-garde styling isn’t a first-class ticket out of town in the SUV world. The NX outsold a most small luxury crossovers in January, only trailing the Audi Q5 by 115 units and the Acura RDX by 705. The NX, with 2812 January sales, begins the year 1210 units ahead of the Lincoln MKC, having also handily outsold entry-level players like the Audi Q3, BMW X1, and Mercedes-Benz GLA in addition to slightly upsized rivals like the BMW X3, Range Rover Evoque, Mercedes-Benz GLK, and Volvo XC60.

But no premium brand crossover sells in anything like the kinds of numbers put up by the RX, and the RX made that all the more clear in January. At this time last year, the second-ranked premium brand utility was the Cadillac SRX, 1161 sales back of the RX. In January 2015, the next-best-selling premium brand utility vehicle was the Acura MDX, 2188 sales abaft.

Lexus sales chartSRX sales slid 22% to 3485 units in January 2015, the SRX’s seventh consecutive monthly decline. MDX sales were up 3% to 4381, equal to 37% of all Acura sales.

Meanwhile, in addition to the 2812 NXs sold by Lexus, its semi-related donor vehicle, the Toyota RAV4, set a January sales record with 19,824 U.S. sales. The RAV4 ranked third overall, 3487 units out of top spot; 230 sales back of the Ford Escape.

Lease deals and financing offers that continue to make the RX look like a good deal when the newer, flashier, less costly NX sits nearby can clearly play a role in keeping the brand’s best seller atop the leaderboard.

Yet by the same token, improved RX offers late in its tenure aren’t holding back the NX from entering the small luxury crossover fray with instantaneous success, either. Product positioning isn’t an easy task, but it’s certainly clear that Lexus has it figured out. At least through two months.

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

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Toyota’s FY 2014 Profits Rise As Yen Weakens http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/toyotas-fy-2014-profits-rise-yen-weakens/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/toyotas-fy-2014-profits-rise-yen-weakens/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 12:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994818 Aside from holding onto its global sales crown for another year, Toyota is also doing well at the bank thanks to a weaker yen. The New York Times reports in Q3 2014, the automaker earned a net profit of ¥1.73 trillion ($14.7 billion USD), besting its earnings in Q3 2013 by 13.2 percent. In turn, […]

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2015 Toyota Camry XSE

Aside from holding onto its global sales crown for another year, Toyota is also doing well at the bank thanks to a weaker yen.

The New York Times reports in Q3 2014, the automaker earned a net profit of ¥1.73 trillion ($14.7 billion USD), besting its earnings in Q3 2013 by 13.2 percent. In turn, the final net profit for FY 2014 has been raised from a projected ¥2 trillion ($16.8 billion) to ¥2.13 trillion ($17.9 billion).

Part of the cause for celebration is due to a weaker yen, the result of Japan’s central bank doing all it can to fight deflation and stimulate the economy to stave off another lost decade. Toyota’s global profits — especially in the United States, where the yen is the cheapest it’s ever been since the 1970s — outpace those in the local market once the other currencies are converted into yen.

However, the celebration won’t last forever. Toyota’s home market is shrinking, and it’s not doing so well in China compared to other automakers like Volkswagen, who will likely take the production crown from the automaker down the road. It also is among those affected by Takata’s airbag recall crisis, though not as greatly as others due to having less of the supplier’s products in its vehicles and larger size.

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Toyota Ordered To Pay $11M In Minnesota Unintended Acceleration Suit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/toyota-ordered-pay-11m-minnesota-unintended-acceleration-suit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/toyota-ordered-pay-11m-minnesota-unintended-acceleration-suit/#comments Thu, 05 Feb 2015 11:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=993954 Nine years after a 1996 Camry with an accelerator defect led to a fatal accident in Minnesota, Toyota was found at fault and ordered to pay $11 million. Reuters reports jurors debated the points of three-week-long trial before finding the automaker 60 percent responsible for the deaths of Javis Trice-Adams Sr. and two children when […]

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1996 Toyota Camry LE

Nine years after a 1996 Camry with an accelerator defect led to a fatal accident in Minnesota, Toyota was found at fault and ordered to pay $11 million.

Reuters reports jurors debated the points of three-week-long trial before finding the automaker 60 percent responsible for the deaths of Javis Trice-Adams Sr. and two children when Koua Fong Lee’s Camry lost its brakes while its accelerator became stuck, striking Trice-Adams Sr.’s Oldsmobile Ciera. Two other passengers were injured in the accident, and Lee spent three years in prison for vehicular manslaughter before being released in 2010 after reports of unintended acceleration involving Toyota products took the spotlight.

Toyota still claims Lee was 100 percent at-fault for the fatal accident, and is considering legal options to pursue. The car itself also wasn’t under the 2009-11 recall of 10 million vehicles made between 2005 and 2010.

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Toyota Unveils Silicon Carbide Semiconductor Trial http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-unveils-silicon-carbide-semiconductor-trial/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-unveils-silicon-carbide-semiconductor-trial/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991218 Toyota unveiled its plans Wednesday to trial a new hybrid system using silicon carbide power semiconductors that could find its way into hybrids and EVs. The trial will compare the new silicon carbide semiconductors with silicon units currently found in many a hybrid’s, FCV’s and EV’s power control unit, which are linked to a 20 […]

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Toyota SiC Power Control Unit 01

Toyota unveiled its plans Wednesday to trial a new hybrid system using silicon carbide power semiconductors that could find its way into hybrids and EVs.

The trial will compare the new silicon carbide semiconductors with silicon units currently found in many a hybrid’s, FCV’s and EV’s power control unit, which are linked to a 20 percent loss in overall electric power. The aim is to increase powertrain efficiency by mitigating said losses through the new semiconductors.

The test subjects will be a Camry hybrid prototype and a fuel-cell bus. The bus trial began in early January, when Toyota started data collection on a setup featuring SiC diodes in the FCV’s voltage step-up converter. Meanwhile, the Camry — whose SiC components are in both the hybrid’s voltage step-up and inverter — will hit the road for a year beginning early next month. Both tests are being carried out in Toyota City, Japan.

Toyota hopes to have the SiC technology — developed in a partnership with Denso Corporation and Toyota Central R&D Labs, Inc. — ready for practical use as soon as possible.

Toyota Camry SiC Prototype Toyota SiC FCV Bus Toyota SiC Power Control Unit 01 Toyota SiC Power Control Unit 02 Toyota SiC Power Control Unit In Camry

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Toyota Marketing Mirai With $8K Hydrogen Credit Despite Expiration http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-marketing-mirai-8k-hydrogen-credit-despite-expiration/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-marketing-mirai-8k-hydrogen-credit-despite-expiration/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989970 Despite the recent expiration of the $8,000 federal credit for hydrogen vehicles, Toyota is still marketing its Mirai as if it never happened. Autoblog reports that Toyota is well-aware of the expiration, and is calling upon both houses of Congress to reinstate the credit. Were that to occur, the $57,500 MSRP on the Mirai would […]

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Despite the recent expiration of the $8,000 federal credit for hydrogen vehicles, Toyota is still marketing its Mirai as if it never happened.

Autoblog reports that Toyota is well-aware of the expiration, and is calling upon both houses of Congress to reinstate the credit. Were that to occur, the $57,500 MSRP on the Mirai would fall to $49,500. Other state and local credits would drop the price further, as well; California customers would pay just $44,500 for their FCVs, for example.

The problem, per the automaker’s energy and regulatory affairs director Robert Wimmer, is predicting where the tax process would go:

The two challenges we have now are that both houses of Congress are Republican and also that there has been talk for a while about comprehensive tax reform. If that moves forward, then extenders would probably be put on the back burner as comprehensive tax reform is discussed.

Even if the credit was reinstated, it may only last as long as year or two instead of the three years Toyota wants for the first-gen Mirai. The automaker has been lobbying Congress to act, though Wimmer could not say to what extent.

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Carter To Musk: Hydrogen Just One Basket For Toyota’s Eggs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/carter-musk-hydrogen-just-one-basket-toyotas-eggs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/carter-musk-hydrogen-just-one-basket-toyotas-eggs/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989546 Remember when Tesla CEO Elon Musk declared that Toyota was a fool to invest in hydrogen? Twice? Toyota had a few words to say in return last week. Ecomento reports Toyota Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations Bob Carter took Musk to task regarding comments made during the latter’s annual Tesla shareholders meeting last June, […]

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2016 Toyota Mirai

Remember when Tesla CEO Elon Musk declared that Toyota was a fool to invest in hydrogen? Twice? Toyota had a few words to say in return last week.

Ecomento reports Toyota Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations Bob Carter took Musk to task regarding comments made during the latter’s annual Tesla shareholders meeting last June, as well as those made earlier this month at the Automotive News World Congress, when Musk suggested methane or propane as a better energy storage mechanism while declaring hydrogen “an incredibly dumb one to pick”:

I’m a little disappointed in Mr. Musk’s comments in Detroit last week. But I understand. If I was in a position that I had all of my eggs in one basket I would perhaps be making those same comments. When you take a look at the future, [FCVs are] not a 24- to 36-month play. When you start looking in the 2020s, anybody that would deny [the potential of] moving from an oil-based economy to a hydrogen-based economy [isn’t] looking at the future correctly.

Carter’s response, made last week during the J.D. Power Automotive Summit in San Francisco, come on the heels of Toyota’s unexpected response to its Mirai FCV. Though not due in U.S. showrooms until later this year, the automaker received over 16,000 requests for information on the car. Meanwhile, the FCV has 1,500 confirmed pre-orders in its home market of Japan, with Toyota likely to boost production as interest in the Mirai grows.

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Toyota, BMW Working On Entry-Level MINI Minor Model http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-bmw-working-entry-level-mini-minor-model/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-bmw-working-entry-level-mini-minor-model/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988994 Been waiting for a MINI that actually lives up to its name? Toyota and BMW are working on such a thing, called the Minor. Automobile Magazine reports the Minor is in the earliest phases of development, and would likely pull its looks from the 2012 Rocketman concept and the current Paceman crossover. Pricing would range […]

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MINI-Rocketman-Concept-2012-widescreen-01

Been waiting for a MINI that actually lives up to its name? Toyota and BMW are working on such a thing, called the Minor.

Automobile Magazine reports the Minor is in the earliest phases of development, and would likely pull its looks from the 2012 Rocketman concept and the current Paceman crossover. Pricing would range between $14,500 and $16,000.

As far as platforms go, the two automakers are going all in on a “bargain basement effort” for the Minor — including a reduction in size and content — instead of using a similarly sized platform like that of the Toyota Aygo, BMW preferring the Minor to not be a badge-engineered product developed and assembled elsewhere.

The new MINI would be one of five new models coming into the portfolio between now and 2018, including an all-new 2016 Countryman and a Superleggera roadster for 2018.

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A Last Look: 2014 Camry SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/last-look-2014-camry-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/last-look-2014-camry-se/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:17:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988538 Any veteran of the Detroit Auto Show knows that you can find some pretty impressive metal in the hotels and parking lots surrounding the auto show. While a significant percentage of the media is flown to the show courtesy of GM, Ford, and a few other manufacturers, another nontrivial number of journos arrive in loaners […]

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MemphisCamry 006 (Medium)

Any veteran of the Detroit Auto Show knows that you can find some pretty impressive metal in the hotels and parking lots surrounding the auto show. While a significant percentage of the media is flown to the show courtesy of GM, Ford, and a few other manufacturers, another nontrivial number of journos arrive in loaners ranging from AWD 911 Targas to BMW X-somethings. Truth be told, however, I couldn’t even stir myself to be jealous of those freeloaders. After all, I’d won the rental car lottery and gotten something I prefer to even the most chrome-laden of winter press whips.

My fondness for Toyota’s semi-sporty take on the family car is well documented. After reading Tim Cain’s experience with a new-gen V6 XSE I’m very eager to get one of those on the racetrack and see if it can match up to my Accord V6. Of course, I’ve been a committed Accord-ian for a year now, enough that I was also eager to take one final spin in the old car to see if it matched up to my memory.

MemphisCamry 007 (Medium)

This 2014 model benefited from a revised infotainment system, with more #PixelsAndStuff than the last SE I drove. Other than that, it was the same car it’s been for a few years now. As with my previous car, the powertrain is the 2.5L I-4 putting 178 horsepower through a six-speed automatic. I was curious to see how the Camry would start and run in the well-below-freezing weather surrounding the show; the first night I had the car it was four degrees about zero and when I spilled a bit of soda on the Camry’s doorsill it froze solid before I could wipe it off. I needn’t have worried. Only a few rough shifts in the first few minutes betrayed the temperature, and the heater was actually working within four minutes of starting. I suppose that’s what happens when you have a bored-out block with extremely tight water jackets.

The 2013 revisions to the Accord put the Camry a bit behind in the surprise-and-delight segment. Honda’s LaneWatch in particular is simply brilliant and I prefer it to the warning light you get with anything else (including Acura’s TLX). With that said, the Toyota isn’t without its charms. I prefer the Camry’s steering wheel to anything Honda offers nowadays. The seats, too, are demonstrably more supportive and less fragile than what you get in an Accord Sport. On the other hand, Honda offers proper climate control at the same price that gets you two vague knobs in the Camry, and the price you pay for two center-stack displays in the Toyota gets you three in the Accord.

Not that you’re reading this review for an Asperger’s-approved price-corrected feature comparison. You can get that other places, or so I’m continually told by the Internet. What you want to know is how the Camry compares to the four-cylinder Accord dynamically, so you know which one to rent for your next flyaway trackday. Well, my friend, go ahead and ring that bell, because it’s Camry by a knockout in the middle of the first round.

Or the first corner of your third lap, anyway, which is about all it takes for you to realize that Honda has no idea how much thermal capacity a modern sedan needs to slow down repeatedly from speed. The Accord is horribly underbraked and that’s true no matter what variant you get because if you don’t plump for the V-6 you get even smaller brakes than the Flintstones-spec garbage on my coupe. On top of that, the Camry is more tossable, gives you more feedback through the wheel, and has an automatic transmission of proven non-breakable-ness for people who won’t shift their own sedans, which is pretty much everybody.

Had Toyota been kind enough to offer a six-speed in a V-6-powered Camry sedan, I’d have taken that in a heartbeat over the Accord even though 2014 was obviously this Camry’s swan song. Because they didn’t, the Accord pulled two effective units ahead in the retail sales race and now you are going to be subjected to my one-year Accord review in the next few weeks. It’s a damn shame because I’m not sure Toyota doesn’t have the better V-6. I’m almost certain they have a slightly better four.

MemphisCamry 010 (Medium)

During a 470-mile trip through Michigan’s frozen wasteland that included a fair amount of time spent at a pawnshop in addition to the usual dinners and parties, my Camry returned 31.3mpg. I did not spare any of the 178 horses. I fed it winter-blend 87 octane. More than once I let it idle outside my hotel for ten minutes or longer because I was lazy and I thought I’d combine the loading-up process with the warming-up process. Once, in a fit of age-and-injury-induced weakness, I started it up and immediately revved it to five grand for a whole minute so the heat would work.

You get the idea. I was pretty hard on this Camry, harder than perhaps I was entitled to be for thirty-seven dollars a day or whatever the rate was. Yet the fact remains that I’ve never rented a Camry that seemed terribly fazed by the abuse that I and others heaped upon it. No, it’s not the Lexus-in-all-but-name that the ’92 Camry was, but it’s also cheaper in real dollars and it doesn’t appear to be significantly less reliable. All the Camry has to be is be as good as the competition in empirical terms and close to them on the intangibles and it can win because it’s a proven quantity.

Yet the Camry hasn’t been winning lately, at least not with retail customers. Maybe it’s the new-car smell of the revised and upscale-looking Accord, maybe it’s the knowledge that there’s a new Camry on the way, maybe it’s the fact that Honda offers a stick-shift and a coupe and sometimes both together. Regardless, this is a worthwhile choice, both new and used.

Against the rest of the segment, the old Camry’s superiority is more clear-cut. Having recently rented a CVT Altima for some time on a Texas racetrack, I can attest that the Camry whips it six ways to Sunday: in power, handling, and brake effectiveness. The Malibu? Be serious. The Fusion? That’s a more expensive car for a different kind of buyer. The Mazda6? You can get it with a stick but it’s actually not as good on a racetrack as a Camry. (Unfortunately, I drove the Mazda for another outlet so I can’t give you all the details here, but suffice it to say that I’d take the Camry.) The Sonata and Optima? Not everybody’s ready to make the 100,000-mile bet on them even if the warranty runs that long.

With any luck, I’ll be able to check out the 2015 in the near future. I promise to get one on the track as soon as possible and take some scalps with it. In the meantime, the current car is more than good enough at the price, as a rental proposition, and an ownership one.

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The Scion iQ Is Dead: Here’s Why http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/scion-iq-dead-heres/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/scion-iq-dead-heres/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:30:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987898 Reports last week that the Scion iQ is not long for this world came just weeks after Toyota USA issued a sales release showing that iQ volume was chopped in half in 2014. One year earlier, Toyota’s sales report showed iQ sales falling 54% from 2012 levels. • iQ sales decline every month • Scion […]

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2014 Scion iQReports last week that the Scion iQ is not long for this world came just weeks after Toyota USA issued a sales release showing that iQ volume was chopped in half in 2014.

One year earlier, Toyota’s sales report showed iQ sales falling 54% from 2012 levels.


• iQ sales decline every month

• Scion sales down 66% from 2006 high


More specifically, U.S. sales of the iQ tumbled in each of the last 24 months. Only once, in December 2012, the iQ’s first opportunity at posting a year-over-year improvement, did it do so, surging 32% compared with its first month on the market.

But the iQ was slow from the start and didn’t possess the kind of initial appeal we often see even from cars which eventually become wildly unpopular. For example, Mercedes-Benz’s Smart Fortwo generated 24,622 in its first year on the market before posting three rapid sales declines, but the iQ’s first full year in America resulted in only 8879 sales.

After the iQ’s best month – March 2012, when 1285 were sold – sales progressively decreased in each of the five following months. As the theory goes, those who really wanted one already had one. And rather unfortunately, there weren’t many who wanted one.

By the fourth-quarter of 2014, the worst ever quarter for the iQ, only 288 copies left Scion showrooms, a 58% year-over-year decline and an 86% drop compared with the fourth-quarter of 2012. In mid-January, Cars.com’s inventory listings show only 186 iQs available.

TTAC Toyota Lexus Scion sales chart 2014The main issues which had a negative impact on the iQ included its size, its more spacious competition, its more spacious and more affordable competition, and perhaps even the logo above its front grille. “Physics are physics,” Scion’s Doug Murtha said, “and they’re nervous about driving a vehicle that size.”

Undoubtedly, yet other tiny cars prove capable of finding greater success. The Fiat 500 was on sale nine months before the iQ, for instance, and generated more sales activity in its first ten months than the iQ has done all-time.

The Chevrolet Spark arrived eight months after the iQ. GM sold 85,674 Sparks in the nameplate’s first 30 months, nearly nine times more than the number of iQs sold in the same period.

Toyota’s own Yaris steadily became more unpopular over the last six years, but it sold nearly six times more often than the iQ over the last two years.

Yes, those cars are larger, but this isn’t Europe. The fact that the iQ is small was not to its credit in the United States. Brilliant packaging doesn’t invariably equate with sufficient space, after all.

All four of the potentially competitive cars mentioned so far are either equally affordable or distinctly less expensive. There were other knocks against the iQ. Its continuously variable transmission is poorly calibrated, rear drum brakes seem particularly antiquated when a car is charging a dimensional deficiency premium, the rear seats exist but aren’t genuinely usable, there’s very little interior storage, and fuel economy simply isn’t that impressive. At an EPA highway-rated 37 mpg, the iQ trails many compact cars.

Worst of all, the iQ was brought to America as a Scion, a brand that’s suffering as interest in their all of their products is drying up rapidly. That’s an odd trait in the current American automotive scene. U.S. consumers registered more new vehicles in 2014 than at any time since 2006. Scion sales in 2014 fell to the third-lowest full-year total in the brand’s history, down 15% year-over-year; down 66% compared with 2006.

Would the iQ have been a hit if it was a Toyota? No. But would it have flopped this hard if they’d made it a Toyota instead? No.

The iQ was an experiment, but it certainly wasn’t a brand-saving day in the laboratory.

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

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Toyota No. 1 Global Automaker In 2014, Volkswagen Close Behind http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-no-1-global-automaker-2014-volkswagen-close-behind/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-no-1-global-automaker-2014-volkswagen-close-behind/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987066 Once again, Toyota is the No. 1 largest automaker in the world, but Volkswagen is waiting close behind for the chance to take the crown. Automotive News reports Toyota sold 10.23 million units in 2014 with help from its Daihatsu and Hino partners, the first time the automaker sold over 10 million units in a […]

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WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

Once again, Toyota is the No. 1 largest automaker in the world, but Volkswagen is waiting close behind for the chance to take the crown.

Automotive News reports Toyota sold 10.23 million units in 2014 with help from its Daihatsu and Hino partners, the first time the automaker sold over 10 million units in a single year. Volkswagen took second on the podium with 10.14 million, and General Motors took third with 9.92 million.

2014 marks the second consecutive year Toyota has held the top spot, having regained it from GM in 2012 after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami greatly hindered production for the majority of that year. The automaker originally took the top spot from GM in 2008, the latter having dominated the podium for 80 years prior; Toyota also held the title in 2009 and 2010.

As for 2015, Toyota is forecasting deliveries of 10.15 million due to decreased demand at home and in emerging markets, as well as from falling oil prices and Japan’s increased national consumption tax. Volkswagen, meanwhile, is ahead of schedule as far as taking the crown goes, CEO Martin Winterkorn stating such a thing would occur by 2018 at the earliest before 2014’s results showed otherwise.

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Toyota Breaks Ground On $350M Texas Headquarters http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-breaks-ground-350m-texas-headquarters/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-breaks-ground-350m-texas-headquarters/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=986714 With a little help from a 2015 TRD Pro Series Tundra and its plow, Toyota broke ground on its new $350 million headquarters in Plano, Texas. Aside from the truck-assisted groundbreaking, the automaker also revealed a 10-foot-tall, 64-foot-wide “TOYOTA” installation during the ceremonies. Each letter held a Texan Yaupon Holly “wish tree,” all of which […]

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Toyota North America Groundbreaking Ceremony

With a little help from a 2015 TRD Pro Series Tundra and its plow, Toyota broke ground on its new $350 million headquarters in Plano, Texas.

Aside from the truck-assisted groundbreaking, the automaker also revealed a 10-foot-tall, 64-foot-wide “TOYOTA” installation during the ceremonies. Each letter held a Texan Yaupon Holly “wish tree,” all of which will be permanently planted once construction is completed. Local high school students were invited to tie handwritten wishes to the trees, as well; the notes will be placed in a time capsule to be buried on-site later on.

The new headquarters will be completed by early 2017 at the latest, and is located at the intersection of Headquarters Drive and Palomino Crossing. The groundbreaking marks the next phase in Toyota’s move to Texas from California, which began with the automaker’s announcement last year. Around 4,000 employees — half from California — are expected to call Texas home in the next couple of years.

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