Twenty-one years after Toyota replaced the alluring Previa with a new, more conventional people mover, the Sienna minivan finds itself falling out of favor among American buyers. SUVs and crossovers now provide virile consumers with a smorgasbord of front-and all-wheel drive, cargo-friendly alternatives, while competition from newer rivals serves to further erode the Sienna’s standing. What to do?
Nothing, at least for now. Much like the brand’s ancient Tundra pickup, Toyota’s Sienna, last redesigned for the 2011 model year, will soldier on relatively unchanged for another couple of years. Toyota isn’t worried.
Eager to celebrate the Land Cruiser’s 60th birthday (in America), Toyota has released preliminary details on the 2020 model year’s Heritage Edition before its official debut at the Chicago Auto Show. While technically an appearance package with a handful of retro-themed clues hinting at the model’s lengthy lifespan, it’s one of the more endearing makeovers in recent times.
Suckers for nostalgia will love the vintage-looking Land Cruiser badge on the SUV’s D-pillars. But the limited-production model also comes with bronze 18-inch BBS wheels with some throwback charms of their own. Heritage Editions also receive widespread black accenting on the exterior and nixed running boards for a cleaner look.
In a less-than-shocking turn of events, Toyota has confirmed to CarsDirect that its Yaris Liftback, a slow-selling model that managed to score itself a facelift a few years back, is dead in the United States.
Official confirmation of the model’s discontinuation came from Toyota spokesperson Nancy Hubbell. Starting at $16,565 after destination, the diminutive hatch’s sales paled in comparison to that of its Mazda-based namesake, the Yaris sedan. To all observers, the Yaris hatch was a dead car … driving.
Do you ever get the sense that much of today’s automotive technology whittles away the more natural aspects of driving? We’ve endured numb electronic steering, advanced driving aids, absent volume knobs, overly complex infotainment systems, and faux engine sounds for a few years now. To be honest, it’s been a mixed bag.
Sometimes these things work toward a greater whole, but they can also be persistent annoyances that detract from everything that makes driving enjoyable. Maybe it’s because I enjoy the act of traveling so much that I’m less eager to see tech muddy its purity. It’s not that I don’t find the new stuff interesting — quite the contrary. Rather, it’s just that I think automotive tech gets in the way more often than it should. But I’m also the kind of moron you’ll see riding a motorcycle through light snow because I “appreciate the experience.”
So it should come as no surprise that, after learning of its existence, I believe Toyota’s virtual sunroof is a bridge too far.
Built for current Toyota patriarch Akio Toyoda, the Century GRMN celebrates both the man and his desire to create a more emotive and performance-driven automaker. With the V12 gone, the standard Toyota Century is powered by a direct-injected, 5.0-liter V8 with a two-stage electric motor and nickel-metal hydride battery. The powertrain is good for a claimed for 375 hp and 376 lb-ft of torque, delivered silky smooth.
Painted white (below the break), the GRMN prototype nixes some chrome trim and adds black ground effects, subtle red stripes, and applicable badging. But Toyota never bothered to tell us what Gazoo Racing actually did to improve the car. Presumably, suspension and engine upgrades abound. But, as the car was meant as a one-off gift for Toyota’s president, we never heard about them.
Then, at the Tokyo Auto Salon, a second one appeared — casting doubts that this car doesn’t have aspirations for a super-lux market that’s currently thriving.
Already a pioneer in hybrid drive technology, Toyota’s recent push towards fully electric cars has birthed a joint venture with one of the world’s premier battery makers, potentially opening up a massive revenue stream for the automaker.
On Tuesday, the company announced the creation of a joint venture with Panasonic to supply other automakers with a “stable supply of competitive batteries.”
The Buy/Drive/Burn series tackled big SUVs in the past, but those were of a distinctly luxurious flavor, costing over $85,000. Today we take a look at three other SUVs, but this time they’re closer to the $50,000 price point. All are from standard, non-luxury brands, have V8 engines, and boast body-on-frame construction. Let’s sort them out.
When it comes to electric vehicles, Toyota’s North American CEO seems to be on a different page than the company’s big boss, Akio Toyoda. A different page than Ford and General Motors, too. Maybe it’s because Toyoda has the entire globe in his sights, including many EV-hungry markets, while Jim Lentz can only look around, see low, low gas prices and a niche market dominated by a single player, and feel a rush of meh.
Lentz aired his views on our would-be electric future Wednesday, suggesting it would take draconian measures by the government to pry a healthy slice of Americans away from the gas pump. He’s not too enthused with Tesla, either.
It’ll not have escaped your notice that Toyota unveiled a new Supra this week in Detroit. We’ve been expecting such a beast since what seems like forever. In fact, during the reveal, Akio Toyoda himself jokingly called it the “worst kept secret.”
Guaranteed there will be plenty of complaints from armchair CEOs and keyboard racers who’ve never turned a wheel on track about the new Supra, with carping bound to range from its lumpy looks to its rating of “only” 335 horsepower.
Your author will reserve judgement on the former until he sees it in person; the latter until he gets behind the wheel. For now, let’s take a practical approach.
Gearheads are never satisfied, are we? After years of carping that no affordable and fun sports cars exist, Toyota deigns to grant our wishes with the FR-S 86 coupe. Lightweight and affordable with just enough power, the lively little scamp seemed to be the magic elixir that cures a case of the common car.
And what did we do? Criticize it, naturally. And then most of us refused to buy it. I sincerely hope the new Supra doesn’t suffer the same fate because – as a statement of intent – these cars are a couple of belters.
Cooperation and borrowing between auto manufacturers is nothing new, and it isn’t always a bad thing. For example, look what happened in the 1980s when Lincoln borrowed a BMW inline-six turbodiesel for its Continental Mark VII luxury coupe. Oh, maybe that’s not the best example. But two events this week have led to a couple of new examples for us to ponder.
How do you think these cooperative automotive projects will fare?
While it wasn’t covered during its North American International Auto Show debut, Toyota will build the 2020 Supra with a 2.0-liter, turbocharged inline-four, in addition to the big 3.0-liter motor we’ve already been promised. According to the manufacturer’s own Supra-centric website, the four banger will come in two flavors — 255 horsepower with 295 lb-ft or torque or a base mill capable of 194 hp and 236 foot-pounds.
Like the 3.0-liter inline six that premiered at NAIAS this week, the smaller Supra engines are also sourced from BMW. Thus far, neither are slated for the U.S. or Canada. Instead, they’ll be installed in the Japanese SZ-R and SZ-trimmed cars. But that doesn’t mean they won’t eventually reach our shores.
You hear it time and time again on the internet. “There are no bad cars today.” It’s proclaimed by those who lived through the Malaise Era and have personally experienced the build quality and reliability of an new Renault Le Car or Chevy Monza. And while things are most definitely better than they were, nothing’s perfect. Bring out your critical fingertips.
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- Beachy Asphalt only works to keep the dirt road below it dry, and it is the dry dirt that holds up the asphalt surface to make a smooth road surface. Once the asphalt cracks or a spring wells up and the dirt gets wet, all bets are off. It is usually due to a spring that perennial potholes form. They are very hard to get rid of.
- JamesG I’m the owner of the featured car that’s currently on EBay. Thanks for such a nice write up on these automobiles. Mine happens to be in excellent condition and the photos don’t do it justice. The HT4100 isn’t as bad as some made them out to be and they can go 200k miles with proper maintenance. I also own a 79 w/the analog fuel injected 5.7 350 which should have been used through 1985 but ever-increasing CAFE regulations called for more economical power plants which made GM shelve this great motor.
- Jeff S Adam on Rare Classic Cars recently bought a pristine 71 Kenosha Cadillac.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY-G2dExgXE&ab_channel=RareClassicCars%26AutomotiveHistory
- Jeff S Wouldn't most of the large suvs in NYC be livery vehicles? If so that would be hurting those who make their living by driving for hire.
- EBFlex Yes their mass transit is great if you want to be beat within an inch of your life or pushed onto the tracks by some random psycho.