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. Sat, 23 May 2015 15:11:46 +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 While You Were Sleeping: Toyota Fortuner SUV for Oz, More Airbag Recalls and Stowaways Hide in Maseratis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-toyota-fortuner-suv-for-oz-more-airbag-recalls-and-stowaways-hide-in-maseratis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-toyota-fortuner-suv-for-oz-more-airbag-recalls-and-stowaways-hide-in-maseratis/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 11:01:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072562 In addition to the go-anywhere Toyota HiLux, it looks like Australia will get a Fortuner reprise. Here’s what happened overnight. Confirmed: Toyota Fortuner SUV is go for Australia (GoAuto) “We haven’t secured or announced anything, but it’s going to come.” Toyota Tundra subject of “enormous” Australian demand (CarAdvice) Aussies want bigger trucks. Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi […]

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2016 Toyota Fortuner Brochure Leak

In addition to the go-anywhere Toyota HiLux, it looks like Australia will get a Fortuner reprise.

Here’s what happened overnight.

Favorite Picture or Random Thing from Yesterday:

Garage

Posted on Hooniverse in Last Call: Blueprint for Success Edition. [Source: Go Away Garage]

 

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While You Were Sleeping: Mazda Says Driving Matters, New HiLux and Ford F-150 Trailer Backup Assist Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-mazda-says-driving-matters-new-hilux-and-ford-f-150-trailer-backup-assist-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-mazda-says-driving-matters-new-hilux-and-ford-f-150-trailer-backup-assist-revealed/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 10:39:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071898 After being stuck in Nashville for an extra unscheduled 24 hours and spending the following 12 hours bouncing from airport to airport, I can easily say that air travel is horrible. Conversely, Mazda is extolling the emotional virtues of driving in a new ad campaign. Here’s what happened overnight. Mazda’s new mantra: ‘Driving Matters’ (Automotive News) […]

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DriversLife+Screengrab5

After being stuck in Nashville for an extra unscheduled 24 hours and spending the following 12 hours bouncing from airport to airport, I can easily say that air travel is horrible. Conversely, Mazda is extolling the emotional virtues of driving in a new ad campaign.

Here’s what happened overnight.

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While You Were Sleeping: 2016 Honda Pilot Reviews, Toyota HiLux Leaks (Again) and McLaren 540C Not Coming to U.S. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-2016-honda-pilot-reviews-toyota-hilux-leaks-again-and-mclaren-540c-not-coming-to-u-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-2016-honda-pilot-reviews-toyota-hilux-leaks-again-and-mclaren-540c-not-coming-to-u-s/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 11:50:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071370 The first reviews are in for the 2016 Honda Pilot as the Japanese automaker lifts their embargo. Honda’s new SUV will be the most expensive model ever sold in the U.S. 2016 Honda Pilot Review (AutoGuide) Honda turns their top line SUV from utilitarian family box to near-luxury, sleek family box. Updated Pilot to become Honda’s priciest U.S. […]

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2016 Honda Pilot Elite

The first reviews are in for the 2016 Honda Pilot as the Japanese automaker lifts their embargo. Honda’s new SUV will be the most expensive model ever sold in the U.S.

 

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Toyota Readying Sub-GT86 Model For Sale By Early 2018 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/toyota-readying-sub-gt86-model-for-sale-by-early-2018/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/toyota-readying-sub-gt86-model-for-sale-by-early-2018/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 15:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070778 Looking to bring some competition to the Mazda MX-5, Toyota is in the final prototyping phase for a model slotted underneath the GT86. The sub-86 — dubbed 69DZ — is said to be powered by a 1.5-liter direct-injection I4 pushing 130 horses to the back via Aisin six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, and will weigh […]

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Toyota 86 Style Cb Edition 02

Looking to bring some competition to the Mazda MX-5, Toyota is in the final prototyping phase for a model slotted underneath the GT86.

The sub-86 — dubbed 69DZ — is said to be powered by a 1.5-liter direct-injection I4 pushing 130 horses to the back via Aisin six-speed manual and automatic transmissions, and will weigh in at 2,160 lbs., Motoring.com.au reports. A source close to the matter says the car’s designers “have a final prototype that could very well go into production as is,” styled after the Toyota 800 from the 1960s.

Said styling was recently brought over to the limited-edition GT86 Cb Style, including the rounded headlights and grill, with the intent for the smaller model to be a baby brother to the Cb.

Seating is set for a 2+2 configuration, though the rear seats will likely be used to secure shopping purchases over small children. Flared wheel arches and a hood with a so-called “lump” — meant to accommodate both the I4 and 3.5-inch pedestrian-impact absorption zone — will also be onboard.

The 69DZ is set to go on sale in early 2018, with a base starting price equal to the base for the Corolla. Whether it will be a Scion — let alone sold in the United States — is yet to be determined.

[Photo credit: Toyota]

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Possible Fourth-Gen Toyota Prius Prototype Caught In The Wild http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/possible-fourth-gen-toyota-prius-prototype-caught-in-the-wild/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/possible-fourth-gen-toyota-prius-prototype-caught-in-the-wild/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 16:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070114 Out and about at a Chevron in Baker, Calif. this weekend, a PriusChat forum member happened upon what could be the fourth-gen Toyota Prius. The member, Savior1974, whipped out his smartphone to roll film on the find, heavily disguised as prototypes are wont to do, AutoGuide reports. Whether the Prius was a mule or something […]

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2016 Toyota Prius Getting Gas At Vons

Out and about at a Chevron in Baker, Calif. this weekend, a PriusChat forum member happened upon what could be the fourth-gen Toyota Prius.

The member, Savior1974, whipped out his smartphone to roll film on the find, heavily disguised as prototypes are wont to do, AutoGuide reports. Whether the Prius was a mule or something more, however, could not be confirmed.

The upcoming Prius was held back for further refinement to its styling — which may take cues from the C-HR Concept from last year’s Paris Auto Show — and to prepare it for Toyota’s New Global Architecture modular platform.

The new hybrid is set for production by the end of this year, with its showroom debut expected the following spring.

[Photo credit: Savior1974/PriusChat]

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While You Were Sleeping: Chevrolet Sub-Camaro, Toyota/Honda Best Supplier Customers and Aston Martin’s Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-chevrolet-sub-camaro-toyotahonda-best-supplier-customers-aston-martins-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-chevrolet-sub-camaro-toyotahonda-best-supplier-customers-aston-martins-crossover/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 08:59:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070074 As I fly down to Nashville to drive Nissan’s latest iteration of their 4DSC (“four-door sports car”) – the Maxima – we will have all the articles you expect on a Monday. Here’s what happened over the weekend. Aston Martin likely to shun Mercedes’ platform for DBX crossover (Automotive News) It seems Aston Martin won’t […]

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2016 Nissan Maxima

As I fly down to Nashville to drive Nissan’s latest iteration of their 4DSC (“four-door sports car”) – the Maxima – we will have all the articles you expect on a Monday.

Here’s what happened over the weekend.

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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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TTAC At The Movies: “Slasher” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/ttac-movies-slasher-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/ttac-movies-slasher-2/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 14:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936714 Movie director John Landis is probably best known for his 1978 comedy classic Animal House. I am such a fan of it that I recently made a pilgrimage to the Dexter Lake Club, the Oregon roadhouse used in the film where the frat boys partied during their road trip in a black suicide-door 1964 Lincoln Continental. (“Do […]

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Slasher Courtesy docurama.com

Movie director John Landis is probably best known for his 1978 comedy classic Animal House. I am such a fan of it that I recently made a pilgrimage to the Dexter Lake Club, the Oregon roadhouse used in the film where the frat boys partied during their road trip in a black suicide-door 1964 Lincoln Continental. (“Do you mind if we dance wif yo dates?”)

To folks in the retail automobile business Landis is better known for his lesser-known 2004 Independent Film Channel documentary Slasher, a movie that represents the most authentic cinematic depiction ever about selling cars. In the world of fictional flicks about the car business, there have been few hits but several great individual scenes. The 1980 movie Used Cars immortalized the line,”50 bucks never killed anybody!” Who can forget Robert De Niro tossing a couple out of the Audi showroom in the 2002 film, Analyze That? Even though it was about swamp land salesmen, the 1992 picture Glengarry Glen Ross could have been about car salespeople and their sales managers; its highlight: Alec Baldwin’s dead-on sales meeting speech (NSFW).

Slasher betters all these as it is 100% non-scripted reality. I was reminded of the doc after reading Bark M.’s piece about the dealership who would run customers’ credit and then hand them a color-coded balloon so salespeople would know their level of creditworthiness. You will see a real-life variation of that tactic in this brilliant and often hilarious documentary.

The film follows Michael Bennett, a traveling used car sales specialist who sells his “slasher sale” services to desperate dealers for $4,000 per day. Bennett is a mixture of Cal Worthington, Cooter Brown, and Professor Harold Hill. Rarely without a beer or cigarette in his hand, he may be the most hyper on-screen presence in history.

We tag along with Bennett to a Toyota store on the wrong side of Memphis in need of moving fifty aged used cars in one weekend. Bennett’s shtick embraces every stereotype of car dealer sales events: double the number of balloons on the lot, hire sexy girls (“Slashettes”) as greeters, give away prizes, bury the airwaves with what the dealer’s sales manager called “the single most obnoxious radio commercial,” and – most importantly – offer autos for as low as $88. That is the total price, not a payment, on two chosen turds.

Dressed in a cheap tuxedo, the wiry Bennett bounces from car to car slashing prices previously marked up 100% or so, easy to do with 5 to 10-year-old used cars. One lucky couple chose a green 1995 Hyundai Accent marked at $888 and Bennett cut it to the magic $88. The car spewed blue smoke as the happy customers sputtered off the lot.

Many moments of this picture are painfully accurate. The look on the salespeople’s faces as Bennett held the kickoff sales meeting said, “Why was our owner such a sucker to hire this guy?” The film puts a clock on one couple as they go through the promised “fast, no negotiation” process and we learn it took 2 hours and 12 minutes to close their deal.

Slasher 2 Courtesy docurama.com

On the second day of the sale, the $88 cars are gone and the floor traffic literally stopped. Bennett and the “Slashettes” head out into the street to flag down motorists. I do not know if Landis planned this but the movie nearly slows to a halt at this point, which is exactly the feeling you get as a car salesperson when nobody is coming through the door.

Bennett’s energy is what drives this movie. We follow him at night as he crawls through the pubs and strip clubs of Memphis. The picture becomes a character study of this flawed man, an individual with too many years in the car business but with nowhere else to go.

Landis has always had a fine touch with the music he chooses for his movies. In Slasher, the soundtrack is entirely from artists of Stax, the legendary Memphis recording studio. When Otis Redding sang “Shake” as Bennett closed deals or wailed “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)” as it became apparent the sale was a flop, the songs fit the scenes perfectly.

The documentary was filmed in 2004 and one would think  these type of sales events would be in the past as manufacturers crack down on dealers with low customer satisfaction scores and ones hurting their hollowed “brand.” A quick search of youtube will show you otherwise.

Slasher is available through amazon.com or just watch this eight-minute “Making Of” feature and you will get the drift.

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While You Were Sleeping: Audi RS3 Sedan, Toyota HiLux Reveal and Cameras Are Everywhere http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-audi-rs3-sedan-toyota-hilux-reveal-cameras-everywhere/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-audi-rs3-sedan-toyota-hilux-reveal-cameras-everywhere/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 10:55:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066090 Looking south of the A4 in Audi’s current range of motors, the hottest vehicle in its North American lineup is the current S3. Those of us west of the Atlantic don’t get to enjoy the turbocharged five-pot RS3 Sportback. Thankfully, Theophilus Chin is on the scene to digitally imagine our Ingolstadt desires with this compromise – the RS3 […]

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Audi RS3 Render / Theophilus Chin

Looking south of the A4 in Audi’s current range of motors, the hottest vehicle in its North American lineup is the current S3. Those of us west of the Atlantic don’t get to enjoy the turbocharged five-pot RS3 Sportback. Thankfully, Theophilus Chin is on the scene to digitally imagine our Ingolstadt desires with this compromise – the RS3 sedan.

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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!

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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.

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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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2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056498 BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo […]

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2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -002

BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, good fuel economy and to read reviews that extol the track-day virtues of their car of choice. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there.

What BMW dealers don’t want you to know: there are two sedans in this segment that are arguably better on the track than a 328i or 335i and we’re talking about one of them today, the IS 350 F Sport.

Exterior

Lexus’ exterior styling used to strike me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. Apparently, however, the front end got no respect on the Autobahn, so the F Sport nose was created. While I can’t say if it commands more respect in Germany, the ginormous grille on our IS 350 F Sport looked ready to devour small children and subcompact cars alike. While some folks have said they dislike the gaping maw, I actually like it. What I’m not a fan of are the separate headlamp and “Nike-swoosh” daytime running lamp modules; I find the look a little discordant. Whether you like it or not, you have to admit this front end is more dramatic than anything on offer from BMW, Mercedes, Audi or Infiniti.

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Out back, less has changed, with the rear being more reserved than the front. But it’s the side profile where things really divert. The IS is 3.5 inches longer than the last generation model and most of the increase goes to the rear seat area – although, some of it also goes to the trunk, making the IS look more balanced than before. Thanks to pedestrian impact regulations in Europe, the front end has become blunter (just as we have seen from the Europeans lately), which actually helps the front 3/4 view. I think the Cadillac ATS is the most attractive sedan in this segment, but the IS in F Sport trim leaps up the scale to number 3, just behind the ATS and 3-Series.

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Interior

While BMW and Audi have opted for an open and expansive interior theme, the IS feels tight and close to the driver by design with a high beltline and tall center console. F Sport models get a configurable LCD disco dash instead of the white-on-black gauges we normally expect from the brand. Similar to Volvo’s new LCD instrument cluster, the display can seem a little lost in the binnacle as the binnacle normally houses a wider traditional dial cluster. Since Cadillac has yet to move their large LCD instrument cluster down-market to the ATS, there really isn’t any competition for this display at the moment.

As you’d expect from Lexus, one can still get acres of stained wood and soft leather, but neither are standard. Like most entries in this segment, leather is reserved for specific packages and wood is an optional upgrade. Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week. The sport seats easily bested the Audi A4, Cadillac ATS and the base seats in the BMW 328i or Mercedes C300. Wider folks should know that the bolstering is pronounced and the F Sport trim doesn’t have an option to delete the sport seats.

Thanks to the wheelbase stretch, combined legroom is up by 2.6 inches inside which places the IS towards the top of the group in total legrooom. Nobody expected the BMW 3-Series to grow as much as it did in its latest incarnation, which becomes quite obvious when you run the numbers. The 3-Series boasts the second best legroom figures behind the much larger Infiniti Q50. The Lexus offers a slightly larger trunk, but I found the overall trunk dimensions to be more advantageous in the BMW.

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Infotainment

The 2014 redesign of the IS brought a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and smartphone integration. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. I find little joy in the mouse-like controller, but it is better than the trackpad you find in the NX. The controller is the textbook example of the difference between an intuitive input method and one that is optimized for use in a car. The joystick is intuitive, it’s just not well suited to a vehicle as it requires much more eye-off-the-road time. I grabbed a few friends and had them perform a few identical functions in the Lexus and a BMW with iDrive while I watched their eyes. It simply takes longer for you to find what you need in the Lexus system. Oddly enough, the same Lexus software without a touchscreen is one of the least distracting available, but you can only get that in the GX and LX. If you don’t buy navigation, you still get the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display a la BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

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Engine

Standing somewhat alone in this segment is a 100-percent naturally-aspirated engine lineup. While everyone but Infiniti has moved to a turbo four to fill the bottom end, Lexus has stuck with their tiny V6. (I’m not counting the 2.5-liter four-banger in the base ATS. Why? Who would?) Displacing 2.5 liters and sporting direct injection, the IS 250 is good for 204 ponies and 185 lb-ft of torque. [It’s the least powerful V6 currently on sale. -Ed] While many in the industry would once have complained about a base luxury model without an inline-6 engine, this V6 now competes with four-cylinder engines. Although a V6 isn’t as balanced as an I6, it’s miles ahead of an I4. The model we tested is the 3.5-liter V6 IS 350. Adding a liter bumps power to 306 and torque to 277. For reasons known only to Lexus’ product planning team, the 220 horsepower IS 300h remains forbidden fruit on our shores.

Lexus tends to be a cautious company when it comes to adopting new technology and, as a result, the 2.5-liter V6 and AWD models of the 3.5-liter have to make do with ye olde 6-speed automatic from Aisin. If you get the RWD version of the IS 350 that we tested, you get Aisin’s new 8-speed auto, a variant of the transmission used in the Corvette and select Cadillacs.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Instrument Cluster_

Drive

The naturally aspirated engine lineup is the first thing you will notice about the IS out on the road. Much like the 3.6-liter V6 in the ATS and the 3.7-liter V6 in the Q50, power builds in a linear fashion. This is quite different from the C400, 335i and other turbo entries which typically have torque and horsepower “plateaus” with sharp drops on either end. 0-60 acceleration in our F Sport tester came in at 5.6 seconds – not a bad time by any stretch. However, Volvo’s front-wheel-drive S60 T6 Drive-e will do the same sprint in 5.4. The purist in me prefers the feel and unadulterated sound a naturally-aspirated engine delivers, but the pragmatist in me realizes the C400, 335i, S4 and S60 T6 will all beat the IS to the freeway ramp. Opting for Lexus’ AWD system improves grip, but the loss of two gears causes the 0-60 time to stretch to 5.7 seconds, getting close to the less powerful BMW 328xi. AWD shoppers also have to live with an odd hump in the front foot-well caused by the transfer case and driveshaft to the front axle.

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners demonstrates how much time Lexus spent engineering the suspension. The old IS came across as isolated, perhaps even sloppy, while this chassis is sharp and crisp. Every system feels like a team player, from the suspension to the transmission shift logic and the revised double-wishbones up front. The IS quite simply delivers the best feel in the corners and out on the track with every system tuned to near perfection. (Bear in mind we still have electric power steering, so it’s all relative.) The IS actually manages to feel a hair more precise, although not as engaging, than the E90 3-Series (previous generation). The F30 (current generation) has traded handling prowess for a softer ride and a ginormous back seat. And therein lies the rub: the change has improved BMW’s sales rather than stopping the gravy train. Meanwhile, the Audi and Volvo plow like a John Deere when they encounter a corner and the Mercedes feels just as you would expect – heavy and soft. The purist in me prefers the crisp handling and impeccable feel of the IS on a track. The pragmatist in me is keenly aware that feel doesn’t actually get you around a track. That’s where power comes in. Because of the power deficit, the 335i, S60 T6 AWD, C400 and S4 are all faster around your average track. If you’re talking autocross, the IS has a chance, but even the Volvo will beat it around Laguna Seca.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Headlamps

Competition

Comparing the IS 350 with the 335i seems like the natural thing to do – after all, they both have “3” in the model number – but a more apt comparison is the 328i. The IS 350 slots between the 328i and the 335i in both price and performance, but price is critical. Meanwhile IS 250 performs more like the 320i than the 328i.

The IS 350 F Sport manages to be a hair less than a comparably equipped 328i M-Sport, which is an excellent start. Despite costing a fraction less, the Lexus delivers considerably more refinement under the hood, better acceleration and more driving feel in the twisties. Our F Sport was notably less expensive than a Mercedes C300, and even when you add AWD to the Lexus, it’s still the more willing partner on your favorite mountain highway.

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Audi’s A4 ends up being around the same price as the IS 350 while Volvo’s S60 is the discount option. Both the Audi and the Volvo start as FWD vehicles but add AWD to compensate for their front heavy designs. Unless you step up to the considerably more expensive S4, the Audi comes across as underpowered and all versions of the A4 feel nose heavy in comparison. The Volvo has a similar weight issue up front but the Swedes will happily drop a powerful turbo engine under the hood, mate it to AWD and sell it for less than the Lexus. The resulting S60 R-Design will out-pace the IS 350 F Sport but the experience will be much different. The Volvo will be understeering like mad in the corners; the IS will feel balanced and poised. Unfortunately, the Lexus’ driver will have to enjoy the feel while looking at the S60’s tail lamps.

The Infiniti Q50 is the often forgotten competitor. Nissan’s luxury arm has never quite reached the same status as Lexus as far as brand perception – perhaps that’s why. Never the less, the Infiniti has good looks and a low price tag on its side. Even the $37,150 base model starts with a 328 horsepower 3.7-liter V6. It’s still slower than BMW’s 335i, but at 5.2 seconds to 60, it is among the faster options. If you want more power and better economy, Infiniti will sell you their hybrid version that scoots to highway speed in 4.9. Comparably equipped, the Q50 is about $2,000 less than the F Sport we tested, making it the best RWD deal in this segment.

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After a week with the IS 350, I’ll admit I was torn. The way the IS drives and feels on my mountain road commute is incredible. The way the IS feels on a track is alluring. And the value proposition is undeniable. Lexus’ well deserved reliability reputation and generally lower operating costs means the IS will cost less to own. All these things should mean my purist and pragmatic boxes will be well and truly checked. The Lexus has the luxury and track-day-diary cred to compete with the competition, but the infotainment system in the IS and slower 0-60 time keep the Lexus from being my choice in this segment. If my money were on the line, I’d live with Infiniti’s questionable steer-by-wire system and get the Q50S hybrid instead. You get more room inside, a 0-60 time matching the 335i and 31 MPG. While the IS 350 F Sport represents a good value against BMW’s volume 3-Series model, they still have nothing to compete properly with the 335i. Yes, the IS 350 F Sport feels better and road holds better than a comparably equipped 335i. But, as BMW has recently shown, perhaps going around a corner perfectly isn’t all that important after all.

 

 Lexus provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds at 100 MPH

Average Observed Economy: 20 MPG over 674 miles

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No Fixed Abode: Fruit Flies Of The Marketplace http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-fruit-flies-marketplace/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/no-fixed-abode-fruit-flies-marketplace/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 11:30:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054169 I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; […]

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ONELESSPRIUS_1_400

I don’t know what you’re doing with your weekend, but I’m spending mine driving a Prius from the Midwest to the East Coast. Next week I’ll tell you all about my experience with the car, but I’ll say this: it hasn’t been what I expected. Not that my opinion on the subject matters to Toyota; I’m not a customer for a Prius or a hybrid of any type and I am unlikely to become one until the last car that can beat a Prius around a racetrack enters the loving jaws of the Crusher.

Existing hybrid owners, on the other hand, are near and dear to Toyota’s heart. Unfortunately, that affection is being returned in smaller and smaller doses.

It’s the kind of headline that generates clicks the way a Prius going down a hill generates battery power: Gas price fallout: People trading in hybrids for SUVs. And the facts, in this case, justify the hype:

So far this year, only 45% of people that traded in an environmentally-friendly hybrid car purchased another, according statisticians at Edmunds.com. In 2012, that figure was over 60% and this is the first time it has ever fallen below 50%…

Back in 2012, gas prices peaked at $4.67 a gallon. At that price, it would take five years for owners of a hybrid-powered Toyota (TM) Camry to make up for the $3,770 price differential with the brand’s gasoline-powered model. But with today’s gas prices at $2.27 a gallon, it would take about 11 years.

Admit it, your first reaction to the above was, “How stupid can people be? Do they think cheap gasoline will last forever?” That was certainly my reaction. Although many of the B&B picture me as being just to the right of Attila the Hun, I’m a bit of a closet progressive at times and the image my Brooklyn-born brain conjured up when I read the above was an endless line of fat Walmartians trading in their Hy-Higlanders for Yukon XLs while smugly telling their neighbors, “I reckon gas is gonna be cheap forevah.” It’s the kind of image that is thoroughly satisfying for anybody who enjoys thinking of themselves as smarter than the average American. After all, I would never be that stupid, and neither would you, right?

But what if those stupid hicks who can’t wait to get rid of their hybrids are actually pretty good at doing real-world math? After all, using the Camry analogy provided by CNN, even when fuel is close to five bucks a gallon, you’re still looking at five years to the breakeven point. That’s longer than a lot of people keep their vehicles, so if you’re going to keep your Camry for three years and you don’t think fuel will swing past five or six dollars a gallon there’s probably no point.

The problem with that Camry analogy, however, is the standard Camry four-cylinder gets outstanding gas mileage. Very few cars sold in this country are as good as a four-cylinder Camry at conserving fuel on the move. Are buyers really just trading in Camry Hybrids for Camrys, or are they moving to larger SUVs? That’s not something we can know without access to additional data, and it’s not a conclusion that’s directly supported by the CNN article.

What if that is the case, however? Let’s do a few moments’ worth of math, based on the idea of a 15,000-mile year.

Prius (50mpg) v $2.50 = $750/year
Tahoe (16mpg) v $2.50 = $2,343/year
Prius v $4.00 = $1,200/year
Tahoe v $4.00 = $3,750/year
Prius v $6.00 = $1,800/year
Tahoe v $6.00 = $5,625/year

I don’t think anybody expects gasoline to rise past six dollars a gallon in the next decade, assuming the world doesn’t erupt in flames.

With cheap gas, the Prius saves you $132 a month. With four-dollar gas, it’s $212.50. At six bucks, it’s $318.75. This is what I consider “real money” at all three amounts, but let’s put it in context by looking at how much extra car you could get if you put that same amount of money into paying a five year loan on a more expensive car.

At $2.50, you could afford to pay about seven grand more for your car if it has a Prius-Tahoe fuel advantage. At $4.00, it becomes eleven grand. At six bucks? Nearly seventeen thousand dollars. That, too, is real money. Since even the cheapest Tahoe costs twenty-two grand more than a base Prius, however, we can assume that our Prius-to-Tahoe people are ready to spend extra money to drive a Tahoe and that this additional fuel cost is just more money to burn. The math gets much more complicated when you start comparing fundamentally similar vehicles that are available in hybrid or conventional form. That’s the math that killed the Tahoe Hybrid and it’s the math that would kill it again were GM bold enough to bring it back.

After running about fifty more permutations of the above calculations, I’ve come to believe that people who trade in hybrid versions of Highlanders and Altimas for conventional versions are probably making a solid mathematical bet. And I’ve also come to believe that if you trade in a Prius for a Tahoe you’re going to take it in the shorts no matter what fuel costs are, said shorts-taking still being less than the additional amount you’re paying to drive a much more expensive vehicle in the first place. So our putative hybrid-traders are neither stupid nor bad at math, no matter how you slice it.

No, I think the lesson of the numbers is something else entirely. While looking at my fuel-economy spreadsheet, I kept thinking back to my Audi S5. Driven with some spirit, it had an 18-mpg appetite for fuel. Its supercharged replacement might fool the EPA but it doesn’t do much better in the real world. Nor do all the turbo near-luxury and luxury cars the Germans want you to buy. Pretty much anything that will arouse envy in your neighbors nowadays is also unlikely to do significantly better than 20mpg in the real world of mixed-use commuting and daily operation.

That means five thousand dollars a year or more to keep the tank full as fuel costs rise. Which they will. There is no way around it. If you think gasoline will be two dollars a gallon in the year 2035, you are either a drooling moron or the super-genius who will invent cold fusion and make petrol irrelevant for all but the most committed and particular of motorists.

Five grand a year is twenty-five grand in five years. So when I ask myself, “How much will people pay for the electric version of today’s luxury cars?” I now have a solid answer. And I have a second answer to a different question. The question is: “When will electric cars outsell gasoline-powered cars in the American marketplace?” The answer?

“Not as long from now as you think.”

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Toyota Files Trademark Claim For Scion iR Nameplate http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-files-trademark-claim-scion-ir-nameplate/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-files-trademark-claim-scion-ir-nameplate/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 00:44:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055857 Toyota may have a new Scion i model in mind, as the automaker has filed a trademark for the iR nameplate. The trademark filing to protect the name occurred April 23, reports AutoGuide. Toyota intends to use the name for a model with four or more occupants to be sold in Canada, Puerto Rico and […]

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Scion iR Nameplate

Toyota may have a new Scion i model in mind, as the automaker has filed a trademark for the iR nameplate.

The trademark filing to protect the name occurred April 23, reports AutoGuide. Toyota intends to use the name for a model with four or more occupants to be sold in Canada, Puerto Rico and the United States.

As for what the iR could be, Scion chief Doug Murtha stated his brand’s newest addition – after the Mazda2-based iA and Toyota Auris-based iM – wouldn’t be a crossover, but a vehicle already on the global market as a Toyota, such as the Aygo city car also on sale as the Citroën C1 and Peugeot 108.

[Image credit: Toyota]

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Dispatches do Brasil: Renault Re-Invents Itself in Latin America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053257 Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for […]

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Renault Logan

Renault Logan

Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for more, the French company is showing its new plans that will deeply affect their operations in Latin America at large and shake up their manufacturing base in South America, most especially Mercosur (namely Brazil and Argentina).

When their Ayrton Senna factory was opened in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state, their line was in tune to what they produced in Europe. They offered the Clio, Kangoo, Mégane and Scénic. With an emphasis on safety, even the lowly Clio offered dual frontal airbags. At that time, the relative parity between the Brazilian real and American dollar allowed them to import systems such as the aforementioned airbags on the cheap. The minivan Scénic offered space for five, a large trunk, modular seating and became a favorite for families. The Mégane and Kangoo meanwhile suffered at the hands of more established competition and never made a dent in Volkswagen Golf, Fiat Stilo or Ford Focus sales. The Fiat Doblò passenger and commercial versions plus the Uno-based Fiat Fiorino conspired to keep the Kangoo down.

In the Brazilian market, reception was mixed. At the entry level, the Clio had lukewarm success. The majority of compact level car buyers are not exactly flush with money, so buying a new entry into that market was seen as a risky proposition. The Scénic and other minivans slowly, but surely, decimated the station wagons then available on the market. Together with Citroën minivans, Renault owned that market. As it became a favorite, the prices of this type of car rose above the rest of the competition and became expensive to buy.

Undeniably, Renault and other French makes suffered a perception problem. While most think their engines are robust and can take the pressure, suspension systems were and remain under suspicion in the eyes of Brazilian consumers. So, despite placing rather high in consumer satisfaction surveys, Renaults take a hit at re-sale time.

Brazilian Clio

Brazilian Clio

Over the years the American dollar and euro appreciated against the Brazilian real and growing sales plateaued. Renault’s reaction was to cheapen their offerings. Soon, the Clio lost its airbags, losing its appeal to the better off buyers that seemed to favor it over the VW Gol or Fiat Uno. When it was re-designed, it kept the previous car’s internal design. A new Scénic was launched in Europe, but citing cost complications, Renault chose to keep building the old one. Renault also tried to gain market penetration by locally building and selling a Mégane sedan and station wagon. Inevitably, Renault’s line became outmoded and nothing on offer in Europe was sold here.

Of course, errors in reading the market collaborated to their downfall. In the early 2000s, Renault was challenging Ford for fourth place in the Brazilian market. Ford reacted by launching the EcoSport and new Fiesta, new engines, and soon saw the distance between it and Renault grow. Besides the cheapening and non-updating of the line, beginner errors abounded. In Brazil, the Scénic was a solid middle class car, even higher middle class, and not the cheap and cheerful family transportation pod it was in Europe. As such, Brazilian dealers clamored for black and silver Scénics while the French continued offering it in purple, red and other colors the middle class rejected. The Clio, besides keeping the same interiors forever, never changed wheel cover designs or had new versions launched (tricks in which the traditional Brazilian Big Four – Fiat, GM, Volkswagen and Ford – are experts).

In the late 2000s, Renault re-made itself in Brazil. The Scénic was gone. The Kangoo was now only a commercial vehicle. The Clio soldiered on unmolested and seemingly only existed so Renault could keep a foot in the entry-level market. A solution was found though and it was the result of the deepening of the synergies and integration within the scope of the global Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Renault underwent the so-called “Dacia-lization” (Dacia being a Romanian company that Renault uses as its low-cost brand in Europe). The Logan, Sandero and eventually the Duster were launched. In spite of the insipid design, the cars used a Renault-Dacia version of a modern Nissan platform. The Logan family’s claim to fame and a space in the market was that it offered a lot of space for modest prices. Size-wise similar to Focus and Toyota Corolla type cars (sometimes even bigger, trunks tended to be larger), but priced similarly to smaller cars like Gol or Fiat Siena, they appealed to a more rational buyer. After a few years, with the launch of the Duster CUV, Renault was again encroaching on Ford and distancing itself from the Asian brands that were finally “acclimatizing” (by offering compact cars similar to market favorites) to Brazil and had been threatening Renault’s (by then traditional) fifth place in Brazilian sales rankings.

Nov-Ford-Ka-SEL-2015 (3)

As the 2000s became the 2010s, Renault was again under assault. Competition grew. Everybody copied their idea of a larger cars for more modest prices. Fiat launched a bigger Palio and a Grand Siena. Volkswagen do Brasil got into the compact sedan market again with its Voyage. Ford brought the new Fiesta and conjured up the highly competitive new Ka. GM came strong based off of its GM Korea know-how and re-invented themselves in Brazil, becoming the leader of in-car mobile electronics. Toyota got serious in Brazil and the Etios family has been gaining ground, horrible design notwithstanding, based on modern mechanics and a good ride. Hyundai’s HB20 has done the opposite: it has conquered image conscious consumers due to the success of it fluidic design language, in spite of the bad ride. All these companies and cars offered up new technologies and engines, bringing more fuel economy to buyers, extra gadgets and crept up on the Logan family’s cost benefit advantage.

Reacting, Renault has launched a re-designed Logan and Sandero. Though the new designs have been well-accepted and increased sales, this growth has been deemed insufficient. Both Hyundai and Toyota routinely sell more than Renault on a monthly basis and could soon take fifth place in overall sales. As such, Renault studied its South American operations and has cooked up a plan.

Renault Oroch Concept

Renault Oroch Concept

An “un-Dacia-lization” of sorts seems to be in place. Logan and Sandero production is being moved to Argentina. The company is investing heavily in their ancient Santa Isabela factory in that country. Duster production will be kept in Brazil and soon the Oroch pickup (based on the Duster and rumored to be a 1 ton pickup) will be launched. From what the press has been able to piece together, both Duster and Moroch will be produced off of the current platform and updates will be infrequent, following the age-old strategy of competing on price and, also, space. The Duster is larger than EcoSport and the recently launched Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008. The Moroch will dwarf the current Fiat Strada (new, larger version of which has been seen tooling around the factory), VW Saveiro and the old-as-the-hills, barely competitive Chevrolet Montana.

The Moroch however is an indication of the deepening of the CUV event horizon presciently seen by our recently departed Derek Kreindler. Renault is going all-CUV-in. The Renault Captur, a current Clio-based mini CUV is a foregone conclusion. Renault is not even hiding it anymore and it has been seen around the factory in Paraná and on highway tests. This lends credence to the thesis Renault is re-inventing itself. The new Brazilian Clio, the same again as the Euro Clio, should also appear soon, albeit placed in a category above the current Brazilian Clio’s status. Suppliers also say Renault is quoting prices for a sedan version of the Clio (non-existent in Europe) and indicative of the soon to come demise of its midsize sedan offering, the Fluence. Informed journalists in Brazil have stated that the Espace, Renault’s large (and former) minivan, which has turned into a sort of a CUV, is slated to be introduced in Brazil in 2016 as a locally-produced offering.

The current Brazilian Clio is also on its last days. Though reports are conflicting, either a version of Nissan’s own low-cost brand Datsun Go will be built here in Brazil, or a version of the concept recently shown in world Auto Shows by Nissan called the Sway (supposedly an early version of a substitute for the March/Micra line), could gain a Renault badge and come strong in the lower echelons of the Brazilian market.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, besides the heavy modernizing investments at the local plant and the responsibility of building the Logan family, current cars will remain in production. And very interestingly, the new Frontier/Navara pickup that will used by Mercedes Benz to offer its own global midsize pickup (compact PU for Americans) will also gain a Renault badge for sale, initially, all over Latin America. Internally called the Raptur, this will be Renault’s first incursion into the traditional midsize pickup market. It is an important step and will allow Renault to compete in an important market spanning the entirety of Latin America. Coming soon (reports say early 2016) you could soon take your pick and buy your midsize pickup in your preferred flavor – Nissan, Mercedes or Renault – as they will all be built side-by-side at the Argentinian factory.

The next few years will be very important for Renault in Latin America. It will keep and modernize entry-level cars. It will continue offering competitively priced compact cars that offer a bit more and are the bulk of the Brazilian market. It will make new tries, with new product, to gain a presence in upper middle-class garages by “Euro-pizing” its Brazilian production. It will sell CUVs for all pockets. Pickups, small and large will further broaden Renault’s Latin American presence.

If this will be enough to keep Toyota and Hyundai at bay remains to be seen. However, it seems if they will be offering cars, CUVs and trucks, the market wants. Sounds like a plan.

Brazilian Clio Ayrton Senna Factory Hyundai HB20 Nissan Frontier Renault Oroch Concept Santa Isabela Factory Renault Logan Renault Captur European Clio Renault Fluence Renault Kangoo Express Toyota Etios

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The Toyota Venza Is Dead: Here’s Why http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-venza-dead-heres/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-venza-dead-heres/#comments Sun, 12 Apr 2015 12:03:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041817 A Camry wagon sounds ideal. On paper. But Toyota’s announcement that the Venza will be discontinued follows U.S. sales declines in four of the last five years. Venza volume peaked in the model’s first full year at 54,410 units. Two years later, in 2011, Venza sales slid 28%. Last year, U.S. Venza volume was barely […]

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2011 Toyota VenzaA Camry wagon sounds ideal. On paper.

But Toyota’s announcement that the Venza will be discontinued follows U.S. sales declines in four of the last five years. Venza volume peaked in the model’s first full year at 54,410 units. Two years later, in 2011, Venza sales slid 28%. Last year, U.S. Venza volume was barely more than half what it was in 2009.

In a Toyota showroom chock-full of SUVs and crossovers – RAV4, Highlander, 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Land Cruiser, Sequoia – and a close relation at Lexus, the RX, routinely outselling all premium SUV/CUV nameplates, the Venza was tasked with too great a challenge: carve out a niche for a brand which already has all corners covered, but not too small a niche.

Meanwhile, the Camry continued to prove successful at generating sales activity in the mainstream, with increased sales in 2012, 2013, and 2014, all years in which Venza volume declined.

Toyota Venza sales chartThe Venza lacks the Highlander’s third row and, in recent times, operated with a base price 23% higher than the RAV4’s. The standard 2.7L, 181-horsepower inline-four is tasked with propelling 3800+ pounds. And while the Subaru Outback’s success leads many to believe that there’s room in a corridor between traditional cars and utility vehicles, the Venza and far less common (and similarly discontinued) Honda Crosstour consistently imply otherwise. (Other two-row utility vehicles like the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano sell far more often than the Venza.)

Aside from the car’s low U.S. sales volume, the cancellation of the Venza will open up greater production capacity for more popular vehicles built at the same Kentucky site, Toyota’s Avalon and Camry, the latter being America’s best-selling car.

But if the Venza had proven sufficiently popular, Toyota wouldn’t need to rely on the Highlander and RAV4 to generate the volume to make up for Venza losses. Aside from August 2009’s Cash For Clunkers-empowered 8435-unit performance, Toyota USA only sold more than 5000 Venzas in four different months: July, October, and December 2009 and March 2010. Average monthly volume since 2011 fell below 3100 units.

Subaru sold more than 10,000 Outbacks per month during the same period.

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 Delivers Increased Incentives For Prius Models In April http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-delivers-increased-incentives-prius-models-april/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-delivers-increased-incentives-prius-models-april/#comments Thu, 09 Apr 2015 11:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1041001 Live in California and shopping for a Toyota Prius? Your bank account will love this news. CarsDirect reports Toyota has dropped a number of rebate incentives on the hood of the hybrid and its siblings for the month of April, going as high as 9.8 percent off MSRP. Thus, one could come away with not […]

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Live in California and shopping for a Toyota Prius? Your bank account will love this news.

CarsDirect reports Toyota has dropped a number of rebate incentives on the hood of the hybrid and its siblings for the month of April, going as high as 9.8 percent off MSRP. Thus, one could come away with not only a Prius c, but also a $2,000 discount off of the price, beginning at $20,365 before the dealer discounts come into play.

Alas, that incentive is for the 2014 model; the 2015 version comes with a $750 rebate. Meanwhile, the original Prius, as well as the Prius v and Prius Plug-in, come with a $500 boost in incentives. The incentive campaign will come to a close May 4.

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Ford, Toyota Missing Amid Subcompact Crossover Boom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-toyota-missing-amid-subcompact-crossover-boom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ford-toyota-missing-amid-subcompact-crossover-boom/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039593 What do Ford and Toyota have in common as far as subcompact crossovers go? They’re the only ones without such a thing in their respective USDM lineups. Detroit Free Press says that while “city-sized” crossovers like the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade and Buick Encore — the last one being the catalyst for the current mini-CUV […]

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2014 Ford EcoSport

What do Ford and Toyota have in common as far as subcompact crossovers go? They’re the only ones without such a thing in their respective USDM lineups.

Detroit Free Press says that while “city-sized” crossovers like the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade and Buick Encore — the last one being the catalyst for the current mini-CUV boom — are doing well for themselves in the United States, Ford and Toyota are nowhere to be seen. Kelly Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer explains:

The small SUV trend is undeniable. These vehicles are hot, with the potential to easily sell in the tens of thousands or more. Neither Ford nor Toyota has shown any plans to jump into this space, which seems crazy given the revenue both companies generate from their other SUV lines.

Though Toyota is tight-lipped about its product plans in this segment, Ford has the EcoSport to consider. That said, the latter is taking a “wait-and-see” approach in bringing the subcompact to the United States, according to Edmunds.com analyst Jeremy Acevedo, adding that Ford could bring the EcoSport up to USDM spec if it made sense to do so.

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NYT’s Bilton Finds Vehicle Broken Into Via Wireless Technology http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nyts-bilton-finds-vehicle-broken-via-wireless-technology/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/nyts-bilton-finds-vehicle-broken-via-wireless-technology/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 14:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039361 Locking the doors may not be enough to deter would-be thieves now, thanks to wireless technology. According to Jalopnik, New York Times tech blogger Nick Bilton watched from afar as his Toyota Prius’ defenses — specifically, the door locks — were disabled wirelessly by two youths before they entered the vehicle to steal whatever they […]

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2014 Toyota Prius

Locking the doors may not be enough to deter would-be thieves now, thanks to wireless technology.

According to Jalopnik, New York Times tech blogger Nick Bilton watched from afar as his Toyota Prius’ defenses — specifically, the door locks — were disabled wirelessly by two youths before they entered the vehicle to steal whatever they could find. Bilton then chased down the two to ask what they used to break into his car, only to come away with nothing but a description and a price tag: a $100 device that broadcasts RF signals to unlock the doors.

Similar instances include a slew of break-ins in 2013 linked to devices pressed against new car doors, cycling through remote-entry codes before happening upon the correct code to unlock the vehicle, and a demonstration at a Blackhat conference with a setup involving a laptop and $1,000 of radio equipment.

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Toyota Debuts New Turbo-Four For Auris Hatchback http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-debuts-new-turbo-four-auris-hatchback/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/toyota-debuts-new-turbo-four-auris-hatchback/#comments Tue, 07 Apr 2015 12:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039281 A new option available to the Toyota Auris today, the automaker debuted the second turbocharged piece of its new engine family. The 8NR-FTS 1.2-liter turbo-four uses a single-scroll turbo paired with a cylinder head/water-cooler exhaust manifold combo to bring adaptive intake cooling to the motor no matter how hot things are. The setup delivers 114 […]

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Toyota-1.2L-Turbo-Engine_edited-1

A new option available to the Toyota Auris today, the automaker debuted the second turbocharged piece of its new engine family.

The 8NR-FTS 1.2-liter turbo-four uses a single-scroll turbo paired with a cylinder head/water-cooler exhaust manifold combo to bring adaptive intake cooling to the motor no matter how hot things are. The setup delivers 114 horses and 136 lb-ft of torque to the front of the small hatchback.

Other features include CVVT on the intake to enable use of the Atkinson cycle, and advanced direct injection with strong tumble flow inside the cylinder chamber for an improved air-fuel mixture.

Though the 1.2-liter is available now on the Auris, the Auris-based Scion iM won’t likely see the engine under its hood as a result of the brand’s single-trim, single-price scheme.

Toyota-1.2L-Turbo-Engine_edited-1 Toyota-1.2L-Turbo-Engine 01 Toyota-1.2L-Turbo-Engine 02 Toyota-1.2L-Turbo-Engine 03 Toyota-1.2L-Turbo-Engine 04 Toyota-1.2L-Turbo-Engine 05

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New York 2015: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/new-york-2015-toyota-rav4-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/new-york-2015-toyota-rav4-hybrid/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 19:38:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1037761   And here we have the final debut of the New York Auto Show…a hybrid version of the Toyota RAV4. The RAV4 uses the same  2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine mated to an electric motor. In the NX, the setup makes 200 hp while returning 33/30 mpg city/highway. Not bad for an AWD crossover.  

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And here we have the final debut of the New York Auto Show…a hybrid version of the Toyota RAV4.

The RAV4 uses the same  2.5-liter four-cylinder Atkinson cycle engine mated to an electric motor. In the NX, the setup makes 200 hp while returning 33/30 mpg city/highway. Not bad for an AWD crossover.

 

2016-Toyota-Rav4-Hybrid- (1) 2016-Toyota-Rav4-Hybrid- 2016-Toyota-Rav4-Hybrid-1 2016-Toyota-Rav4-Hybrid-2 2016-Toyota-Rav4-Hybrid-3 2016-Toyota-Rav4-Hybrid-4 2016-Toyota-Rav4-Hybrid-5

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Chevrolet Nova Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/junkyard-find-1988-chevrolet-nova-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/junkyard-find-1988-chevrolet-nova-sedan/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 13:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1037009 For reasons that trolly shouters on both extremes of the American politico-socio-automotive spectrum know to be the truth, the exact same workers at the Fremont Assembly plant who couldn’t hammer together a decent-quality Buick Regal or GMC C/K— no matter how many Mickey’s Big Mouths they guzzled in some South Hayward parking lot before their […]

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10 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFor reasons that trolly shouters on both extremes of the American politico-socio-automotive spectrum know to be the truth, the exact same workers at the Fremont Assembly plant who couldn’t hammer together a decent-quality Buick Regal or GMC C/K— no matter how many Mickey’s Big Mouths they guzzled in some South Hayward parking lot before their shifts— suddenly became capable of building rebadged Corollas that were every bit as good as the ones made by their Japanese counterparts, once the plant became NUMMI (nowadays they build Teslas there). Of course, each of you knows that this is due to (insert damning indictment of those dupes who believe Wrong Things here) with a touch of (insert bilious tirade that sounds the alarm about Some Evil Conspiracy here), and to provide ammunition for your arguments I present this 1988 Chevrolet-badged AE82 Toyota Sprinter aka Corolla.
08 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars are not uncommon in self-service wrecking yards nowadays, especially in California. In this series, we’ve seen this ’87 sedan and this ’87 hatchback, and now we’ve got today’s final-year-of-production (before it became the Geo Prizm) Nova, which I spotted in a Denver yard a few months back.
04 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin244,816 miles, which is impressive even by 2015 standards. Sure, they probably weren’t very exciting miles, but nobody bought a NUMMI Nova for adventure.
07 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe good old 4A engine family, which went into Coronas, Corollas, MR2s, Celicas, Sprinters, and so forth, all the way into the late 1990s. Some 4As made great power, but the 4A-LC was more about longevity and fuel economy.

Brought to you by Chevrolet and Toyota.

You can get an American car and a foreign car!

Of course, the Japanese version was much more sexy.

01 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1988 Chevrolet Nova Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Bark’s Bites: The Good, The Not-As-Good, and The Ugly: Part Three http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-three/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/barks-bites-good-not-good-ugly-part-three/#comments Thu, 02 Apr 2015 11:30:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033673 In today’s installment, we’ll examine the lineups of the big Japanese three: Nissan, Honda, and Toyota, as well as their luxury variants. I should have said this in the first installment, but never let it be said that I am above admitting mistakes, so let me say it now: I never had plans to comment […]

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camry xse

In today’s installment, we’ll examine the lineups of the big Japanese three: Nissan, Honda, and Toyota, as well as their luxury variants. I should have said this in the first installment, but never let it be said that I am above admitting mistakes, so let me say it now: I never had plans to comment on every single model from every single manufacturer—just the ones that stand out to me in some way, or ones that I have about which I might have a contrary opinion. If I don’t mention a model, it’s likely because I haven’t driven it, or I don’t have an opinion about it that is in any way meaningful or insightful.

Since we’ve already established the format in the first and second installments of this series, let’s just jump right into it, shall we?

NISSAN

The Good:

Nissan continues to own the B segment in the States with the Versa and Versa Note. It’s spacious (as people reminded me when I reviewed the Rogue Select recently), it’s inexpensive, gets good gas mileage, and it has a decent reliability record. What else do you expect at this price point?

The Leaf is really much better to drive than you’d expect, and I totally dig the quirky looks of it. Since I spend a fair amount of time in Atlanta, I’ve gotten pretty used to the idea of the Leaf, and I’d definitely consider leasing one if I lived there due to the massive tax subsidies available. If you don’t live somewhere that the Focus EV  or Spark EV is available, and you’re not prepared to go Full Tesla, then the Leaf is for you.

The Not-As-Good:

I’ve always loved the Z. There was a time, when the 370Z was launched in 2009, that only an idiot would consider anything but the Z in this price range. But this iteration is getting a bit long in the tooth, and the pony cars have caught and surpassed it. The version you really want is the Sport trim, and with an MSRP of around $34K, can you really make a case for it over a Mustang GT? I don’t think so.

The Altima isn’t bad. It’s competent. It’s adequate. I could go to thesaurus.com and find some other words to describe just how ambivalent I am about it, but I think you’ve got the point by now. It’s not as good as the Mazda6, the Fusion, the Accord, or the Camry, and it’s probably better than the Malibu and the Sonata. I think that means it fits here. I certainly never pick one on purpose on rental row, but I don’t get upset if it’s all that’s available.

The GT-R has served its purpose for Nissan, despite what our former EIC had to say about it all those years ago. It’s been a good halo car. It’s had a few refreshes over the years so that it doesn’t seem as old as it actually is. I just don’t dig it. It seems like it’s the dream car of teenagers and twentysomethings, but by the time they grow up enough to buy one, they’ve also grown up enough to move on to either the 991 or the Viper/Corvette. Nevertheless, it is a technological marvel, and Nissan should be commended for being the only Japanese automaker to currently have a genuine supercar in the lineup.

The Ugly:

I’m just gonna go ahead and leave INFINITI here. The brand needs a complete reboot—or a complete execution. They have exactly one car in the top 100 in 2015 YTD sales—the Q50 sneaks in at #96—and their naming convention is so odd that I have no problem admitting that I have no idea what car people are talking about anymore when they mention an Infiniti. It would have been nice of Johan de Nysschen to turn the lights out when he left.

The Rogue Select goes here, too. I haven’t driven a newer Rogue yet, so I’ll reserve judgment.

Sometimes I forget that Nissan makes the Sentra. I find it to be the least attractive, least compelling vehicle of anything in the C segment. Where the Altima is knocking on the door of the Camry for top-seller in its segment, the Sentra languishes behind not only the Corolla, but also the Civic, the Cruze, and the Focus. I can’t imagine why anybody buys this car.

HONDA

The Good:

The Accord…what can you say? It’s the Accord. It’s the Ohio State of cars—it might have its haters, but it’s consistently good every single year. It’s the last of it’s kind to keep offering a two-door variant. It’s a good car. I got nothin’ else.

The MDX/Pilot. I might be one of the few people who’s towed a race car with a Pilot across the country. It always demonstrated great gas mileage, a comfortable ride, enough storage space for eight wheels and tires and tools, and it was reliable as the sun. No complaints here.

The Fit—it’s #fitforyou! I think it’s too expensive for what it is, and I wouldn’t even consider buying one over something like, oh, I don’t know, a FIESTA ST, but it suits the needs of lots of people perfectly. In all seriousness, it really is pretty good. Why no performance variant though?

In the most competitive segment in today’s marketplace, Honda has a clear winner—the CR-V. It’s pretty hard to believe that it outsells both the Civic and the Accord, but it does. Welcome to 2015! The CR-V has a long tradition of being a reliable, smart decision—nobody will mock you at the PTA meeting for buying one. With the small CUV becoming the new mid-size sedan, it makes sense that the CR-V is as popular as it is.

The Not-As-Good:

What the hell has happened to the Civic? It’s too big, it’s too bloated, it’s too boring. I respect Honda’s decision to react quickly in regards to the Civic after the relative disaster of the 2012 Civic, but for those of us who remember what the Civic (specifically the SI) used to be, the modern Civic is just okay. I can guarantee you that Toretto’s gang wouldn’t be using Civics to rob semis anymore.

The Ugly:

The Crosstour. No, I mean, it’s literally ugly. I know it’s just an Accord, but what can I say—I’m superficial.

If there was ever a car that needed to be completely re-imagined, it’s the CR-Z. Poorly conceived, poorly designed, and poorly executed. It’s neither economical nor sporty—so what would you say ya do here, CR-Z?  It’s a travesty.

But, to me, the ugliest part about Honda is that the company has completely abandoned its enthusiast base. The company that used to make the Integra Type-R and the S2000 feels like just another appliance maker now. You can feel it when you’re in a Honda store, as I often am. There’s no passion, there’s no excitement. The showrooms feel like mausoleums. You know what Honda needs? A Fit SI. Get the kids excited about the brand again. Create some future Honda enthusiasts.

TOYOTA

The Good:

Maybe there’s something in the water around here, because I used to hate the Camry and everything that it stood for. After a few dozen track laps in a four-cylinder SE, I kinda like it. Of all the mid-sizers, the Camry is definitely to most rewarding to drive. It wouldn’t be my first pick in the segment, but it would definitely be in my top three. That’s good enough to get it up here.

The IS350 is the one car that has a legitimate potential claim to the throne that the 3-Series has owned for decades. I was fortunate enough to drive the F-Sport variant from San Diego to Beverly Hills last October, and it’s hard to think of a car that I would have rather made the trip in. If you don’t like the new 3-Series, the IS might just be for you.

Do you know how you  know you’ve made it as a mom at my son’s school? You have a Swagger Wagon. The Sienna is the top choice of non-working women everywhere. Unfortunately, it can slide into the high $30K range pretty quickly once you start optioning it up into AWD V6 trim.

I struggle with where I should place the RX. It’s been wildly successful (has any platform ever made into as many top sellers as the Camry?). It’s overpriced. It’s largely loved by people who hate cars. But…it’s virtually unkillable. I see RX 300s everywhere, still effortlessly plugging along, well into six figures of life. By that measurement, it belongs in the “Good” category.

The Not-As-Good

The Corolla…well, it’s just a Corolla. I personally can’t get excited about it, but is it a good car? It’s not a bad one. That means it goes here.

I got the chance to go to the launch of the Highlander last year, and it’s pretty Highlanderish. I said this at the time: “This new Highlander will do nothing to keep satisfied Highlander drivers from buying another one, and will do a lot to convince happy owners of competitors to take a look. That is, assuming, they can get past that ugly grille.” That’s still true. It’s not great. It’s not terrible. It goes here.

The Avalon is boring, yes, but in the segment of full-sized FWD sedans, you could do worse…well, you couldn’t do much worse. But you could buy a Taurus. That would be worse.

The Ugly:

The Yaris just needs to be discontinued—it’s not competitive in any way, shape, or form. It’s truly amazing to see how well the Camry and Corolla sell, and yet the Yaris just languishes. It goes to show that the Toyota name only goes so far.

Guess what? I don’t like the FR-S, either. But this gives me a great opportunity to reply to those who questioned my placement of the BRZ in the “Ugly” category.

  • The BRZ/FR-S has plenty of competitors, most obviously the EcoBoost Mustang, the MX-5, GTI, Focus ST, WRX…pretty much any performance-oriented vehicle under $30k is a real-world competitor of the Toyaburu twins. It doesn’t have to be a rear-wheel drive coupe to be cross-shopped with them.
  • Yes, I think the BRZ is underpowered, but that’s not my main complaint with it. Remember, I owned an RX-8. I am the proud lessee of a Fiesta ST. Cars can still be low-powered and fun—this just isn’t one of them.
  • Between the two models, they’ll be lucky to sell 20k of them this year. It’s not destined to be with us for much longer.

That being said, it’s a commendable effort. All they needed to do to make it good was offer an F Sport FR-S, or something. I’m hardly the first person on the internet to suggest a turbocharged version. Just a mild boost in power—maybe 260 HP—would be perfect.

N/A:

I’d really love to tell you what I think about the RC, but I haven’t driven one. Sad face.

 

All righty—one more installment to go. We’ll cover the Big Three next. Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Toyota, Lexus Bring Low-Cost Automated Braking To Respective Ranges http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-lexus-bring-low-cost-automated-braking-to-respective-ranges/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-lexus-bring-low-cost-automated-braking-to-respective-ranges/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 11:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033393 When Toyota and Lexus reveal their respective crossovers at the 2015 New York Auto Show, both will come with low-cost automated braking safety packages. The all-new RAV4 Hybrid and fourth-gen RX will offer “new, multi-feature, integrated safety packages, each anchored by automated pre-collision braking and offered at a price dramatically below comparable systems across the […]

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When Toyota and Lexus reveal their respective crossovers at the 2015 New York Auto Show, both will come with low-cost automated braking safety packages.

The all-new RAV4 Hybrid and fourth-gen RX will offer “new, multi-feature, integrated safety packages, each anchored by automated pre-collision braking and offered at a price dramatically below comparable systems across the auto industry.” According to Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz, the packages will then spread throughout both brands’ collections, with nearly every model to have the packages by 2017.

The packages — Toyota Safety Sense and Lexus Safety System+ — offer pre-collision, pedestrian pre-collision, lane departure, automatic high beam, and dynamic radar cruise control technologies, which are handled via millimeter-wave radar and cameras. The pre-collision systems help bring a vehicle down by 19 to 25 mph within an operational speed range of 7 to 50 mph, while the dynamic radar cruise control keeps an eye on the speed of surrounding vehicles, then adjusts its vehicle’s speed accordingly.

On the Toyota side, TSS will be offered in two packages: TSS C for compacts, and TSS P for midsize and premium models. Pricing for the duo begins at $300 and $500, respectively. Lexus’ LSS+ will be a single package for all models, with pricing to range between $500 and $635.

TSS C/P will first debut on the aforementioned RAV4 Hybrid, as well as the Avalon, with three more expected later this year; LSS+ will debut with the RX and four other models over the same period.

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Meanwhile In Japan, Toyota Reveals Corolla Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/meanwhile-japan-toyota-reveals-corolla-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/meanwhile-japan-toyota-reveals-corolla-wagon/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 14:11:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032673   Far away from the hubub of the New York Auto Show, Toyota has released a facelift for its station wagon version of the new Corolla. Of course, it’s not for us. The Toyota Corolla Fielder is a wagon variant of the JDM Corolla, which features different dimensions (namely, less width to make it easier to […]

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Far away from the hubub of the New York Auto Show, Toyota has released a facelift for its station wagon version of the new Corolla. Of course, it’s not for us.

The Toyota Corolla Fielder is a wagon variant of the JDM Corolla, which features different dimensions (namely, less width to make it easier to maneuver and less length to comply with Japanese tax regulations) and a different powertrain. A hybrid system is available as well. North America will soon get the Toyota Auris, a larger hatch that will be badged as the Scion iM. This Corolla though, might actually be more desirable.

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Toyota New Global Architecture Key To Automaker’s Powertrain, Platform Plans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-new-global-architecture-key-automakers-powertrain-platform-plans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-new-global-architecture-key-automakers-powertrain-platform-plans/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 10:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032529 The culmination of Toyota’s Global Vision plan, the Toyota New Global Architecture is key to the automaker’s new powertrain and platform development plans. The automaker says the TNGA modular platform allows for better positioning of powertrain components for a lower center of gravity, as well as providing the basis for “attractive, low-stance designs, responsive handling, […]

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The culmination of Toyota’s Global Vision plan, the Toyota New Global Architecture is key to the automaker’s new powertrain and platform development plans.

The automaker says the TNGA modular platform allows for better positioning of powertrain components for a lower center of gravity, as well as providing the basis for “attractive, low-stance designs, responsive handling, a high-quality drive feel, and collision performance that offers safety and peace of mind.” Further, overall body rigidity with TNGA has been increased by 30 to 65 percent, with reinforcement from laser screw welding technology.

On the powertrain side, Toyota has improved thermal and energy-relay efficiencies to gain a 25-percent jump in fuel economy, and a 15-percent boost in power. Meanwhile, hybrids — such as the 2016 Prius, which will be among the first to use TNGA — could gain as much as 15 percent in fuel economy thanks to a better powertrain layout paired with smaller electric motors, batteries and inverters.

The TNGA platform is scheduled to arrive with “a midsize front-wheel-drive vehicle this year,” followed by new platforms made for compact and large front-drivers and rear-driven vehicles. Toyota plans for half of its global lineup to have the platform by 2020.

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