In the world of sport utility vehicles there's something for practically everyone, whether you want to focus on the sport or the utility.
Toyota aims to fill both those niches with its wide variety of vehicles, and I got to spend some quality time during our last bitterly cold spell in one of the first SUV's I can remember, as well as a follow up week with one of their big pickup trucks. Neither is particularly sporty, but if you're looking for a vehicle that'll probably outlive you while taking you up the sides of a mountain, you may want to give them a look.
Click on the image to open a slideshow.
The 4Runner has been around forever, nearly, and while this generation is getting a little long in the tooth it's still a pretty compelling ride for people who value robust off-road performance more than creature comforts. Toyota Canada's sample 2019 4Runner wore the new "Nightshade" trim level which, fortunately, is not as deadly as its name might indicate.
The Tundra, meanwhile, is Toyota current and best attempt at wresting pickup truck sales away from the holy trinity offered by the "Big Three" US-based manufacturers. It's a good truck, too, though I'm not the best one to comment on pickup trucks – especially since I was so spoiled by the Ram 1500 Limited I drove around the same time. To be fair, that Ram is a few tens of thousands of dollars more expensive than the Tundra TRD Pro I sampled (approximately $85K for the Ram and a starting price of about $60K for the Tundra TRD Pro), and it has a lot fewer toys and comfort stuff. more...
Missing the Matrix? The Corolla iM might fit the bill
What do you do if you loved your little Toyota Matrix hatchback and want to get a new one, only to sally forth to your local Toyota store and find that, like the Pontiac Vibe with which it shared its DNA, it's no longer available?
Well, you could check out the Corolla iM, which right now is the closest thing Toyota offers to that great little wagon. It started life as the Scion iM, but once Toyota decided to say sayonara to the Scion era (sorry…) it dumped all that line except for this little hatch and the wonderful little FR-S sports coupe that's now known as the 86.
The iM isn't going to set the world on fire, but during my week with it I actually fell under its spell, kind of. Oh, I had issues with it, especially when it came to its oomph output with four adults on board, but overall, I could live easily with an iM if it fit my budget and lifestyle. It's a nice little car.
If you really want the driving experience – such as it can be with a little wagon that oozes only 137 horses onto the road via its front wheels – you should opt for the base model, with its six-speed manual. Otherwise, you get the CVT, a transmission that always rubs me the wrong way. Well, nearly always. more...
Toyota's Sequoia may have been treemendous once – but it's time for an upgrade
Maybe it's Toyota's way of ensuring the long-term viability of "old growth" forests, but the Tundra-based Sequoia SUV seems more like a blast from the past than a state-of-the-art "people and stuff hauler."
That doesn't mean it isn't a great vehicle – it's a Toyota, after all, and so if nothing else the thing'll probably serve its owners forever – but it's a vehicle that, to make a Sequoia analogy, seems to have a few more rings in its trunk than some of the "new growth" gigantic SUV's with which it competes.
I think specifically of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator I drove a month or so ago – mostly because those are the only city-sized SUV/Crossovers I've driven in the past few years. None really appeal to me as vehicles, being far too large and tall for my lifestyle and diminutive stature, but the Ford/Lincoln seemed more up to date, especially in their interiors.
For example, the Sequoia's centre stack-mounted LCD screen is not only small, it's nearly impossible to read while you're wearing polarized sunglasses. This sunglasses thing used to be common but is getting less so these days – except for the Sequoia (there may be other such offenders, too, but I haven't driven one in recent memory – though some Head's Up Displays display similar issues). more...
Who'd have thought a Toyota Prius could be an engaging vehicle to drive?
I never did, until this current generation came along a year or so ago, and after having a second kick at the car a couple of weeks ago I came away liking the Prius even more. Heck, if it didn't have a loud and obnoxious continuously variable transmission, and such a strange-looking exterior, I might even think about putting one in my garage.
Oh, I'd come to my senses long before plunking down after-tax lucre on a Prius, but at least now I can see why people would buy one other than as a way to save Parent Earth and/or save gas, the latter of which the Prius does very well. Heck, I drove the car mostly as if it weren't a hybrid (and as if it were a Porsche!) and I still managed to get about 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres which, given my lead foot, is a bonus.
What we have, then, as I mentioned in my first review of this generation of Prius, is "a hybrid that gets better gas mileage than ever and is more interesting to drive than ever. If it were priced around the same as a reasonably loaded Corolla, which is sized approximately the same, I'd call it a win-win." more...
Toyota's all-new 2018 Camry is quite a revelation. It's not only a great mainstream "bread and butter" car, it's also a car an enthusiastic driver could - well, if not exactly "lust after" then "learn to love and not be ashamed."
Sure, it'll never go head to head with such sporty sedans as the Audi A6 or BMW 5 series, but those are also higher end vehicles and the Camry doesn't pretend to be in their league (that's why Toyota has Lexus). In its own market niche it faces such worthy competitors as the all-new Honda Accord (which is pretty tough competition on its own), Nissan's Maxima, the Mazda 6, Volkswagen Passat, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, and others such as the domestic competitors from the once-Big Three (i.e. Ford Fusion, etc.).
Clearly, the Camry has its work cut out for it. On the upside, the car has sold well traditionally anyway, so all they really have to do is not screw up (and/or not lose ground to the competition) and they should be fine.
To Toyota's credit, they also took some risks with this new generation Camry. The car has traditionally been considered boring by some - I've called it "vanilla" in the past, stating that I'd rather have "butterscotch." But I also remember writing in my review of the last generation Camry that it was "an extraordinary ordinary car," calling it "a fabulously designed and rendered sedan that gives a driver everything needed and most of what could be wanted - in an unassuming but handsome package that's as state-of-the-art as most people could want." more...
Toyota, please don't even think about 86ing this great little smile generator!
The Toyota 86 - the Scion FR-S before Toyota said sayonara to the Scion era - and its virtual twin from Subaru (named after a Business Revitalization Zone or something) are relative rarities in this era of high tech gadgetry: they're raw and unsophisticated, but they also hearken back to the days when cars were simpler, more direct and, dare I say, visceral.
Not that the 86 is primitive. Indeed, it comes with everything that someone who enjoys the act of driving needs. Sure, it could use a little more oomph and better rubber, but like its chief rival in the marketplace (Mazda's little bundle of joy MX-5, of course!) it's so much fun in which to zip around that I'm surprised it hasn't been banned yet.
And in Toyota's case, it's shining proof that the company can still make an exciting car as well as ones that'll run like watches for 1,000 years. Heck, when the next sportiest model your line is a Camry, or a Yaris, there's room for a little smilemobile. And this is a fine one! more...
Think of it as a Juke that's less a joke, or as a little sibling to the RAV4 - but however you choose to gaze upon its little fullness, Toyota's latest SUV/Crossover is definitely an interesting little vehicle.
Whether or not it's blazing a new sales trail for Toyota will be known somewhere down the, er, road, but in the meantime, this is definitely - well, reasonably - another compelling vehicle from the land of the rising sun.
Just don't sit in the back!
Toyota, not surprisingly, hypes the C-HR as something really new and exciting (and they'd be pretty lousy marketers to do otherwise!). Here's how their PR stuff describes it: "When a deputy chief engineer who is passionate about motorsports is put in charge of turning a high-style concept model into a road-ready compact crossover, great things happen. Great things like the 2018 Toyota C-HR – an all-new, coupe-inspired crossover hitting the streets across Canada this spring." more...
It's pretty Spartan, all things considered, and it's about as much fun to drive as a hobby horse, but Toyota's 2017 Prius C hybrid hatchback is still a decent little car that does a lot with a little. And, at a starting list price of $21,975, it doesn't cost a huge amount of cash to save the Earth.
On the other hand, you could buy a gas-fueled 106 hp Yaris SE five door hatch with an automatic transmission for about $19,510, sans taxes, fees and other kilos of flesh. The Yaris probably won't get the excellent 4.5 litres per 100 km that I achieved in the Prius C (despite my lead foot), but Toyota claims 7.9/6.8 (City/Hwy) for the Yaris, which is still darn good. And the Yaris is a heckuva lot more fun to drive, if only because it doesn't come with a whiny continuously variable transmission.
Sure, you'll be poking the Al Gores, David Suzukis and "Science Guys" of the world in the eye, but how is that a bad thing?
Toyota Canada's sample Prius C, which is "designed for the city," according to Toyota's website, wore the Technology moniker, which adds to the mix stuff like a backup camera, Toyota Safety Sense C (Pre-Collision System, Automatic High Beams, Lane Departure Alert), a power moon roof, heated front seats and a smart key system with push button start/stop. The Technology raises the Prius C's base price to $26,980 CAD. more...
It's been called vanilla, boring, bland, but what the Toyota Camry really is, is a fabulously designed and rendered sedan that gives a driver everything needed and most of what could be wanted - in an unassuming but handsome package that's as state-of-the-art as most people could want.
It also sells oodles (it's been one of the top selling cars for years now) and, judging by the Toyota logo and the number of old Camry still on the road, it'll probably run forever.
That, to me, makes it an automotive masterpiece.
The Camry has grown in looks, driving feel, and features - so much so that this current version (which will be replaced for 2018 with an even newer one) really is pretty much all one could want in a car. And it's even decent to drive!
Do I smell the ozone of a pending lightning strike at my head? more...
One's a truck that drives like an SUV; the other is an SUV that drives like a truck. Which one makes more sense?
Naturally, it depends on the task at hand. If you're looking for a small pickup truck that rides like more a car, the Honda Ridgeline is the clear choice. But if you want a brawny adventurer that'll be as comfortable off the asphalt as it is inside the city, the Toyota 4Runner is the winner.
And never will the twain meet, except perhaps in this column.
Honda's new Ridgeline - in the "Black Edition" livery of this review - is built on the same basic platform as the company's big SUV, the Pilot and, while it'll probably be fine for many off road excursions, it's more of a city folk vehicle than a backwoods brawler.
On the other hand, Toyota's 4Runner - in the "TRD PRO" livery of Toyota Canada's sample - is a tough off roader that shares DNA with the Tacoma pickup truck. And it's happy to bounce you along the paved roads before devouring happily its natural element, the great outdoors. more...
The popular Highlander SUV/Crossover is about mid-way through its current generation and Toyota has enhanced and upgraded it for the 2017 model year, making it an even more pleasant vehicle to be in.
In fact, I'd reckon that, after my week in Toyota Canada's sample Highlander XLE AWD model that it's an even nicer vehicle than its up market cousin, the Lexus RX 350. That's because, while it isn't as luxurious or, ahem, prestigious as the Lexus (which rides on the same basic platform), the sample was plenty luxurious enough, more handsome inside and out (with the usual "eye of the beholder" caveat) and easier to operate.
The ease of use comes mostly from Toyota's decision to put a touch screen in the centre stack and mount it within reach of even short people. And it's easy to fathom and to use. The Lexus has its screen mounted high and out of reach, forcing the company to put one of those damn mouse-like Remote Touch devices on the centre console, and as nifty as that sounds it's actually counterproductive if you're just trying to get stuff done because you're fiddling with the knob and menus all the time instead of just poking and choosing. more...
It's been called an appliance, a vanilla vehicle, boring, whatever. But the fact remains that Toyota's Camry is a model of greatness in its own right - a car that'll deliver comfortable and efficient driving for many years without fuss or hassle.
It's also one of the top-selling vehicles in North America and, though it may never quicken the pulse of driving enthusiasts, it delivers a better driving experience than those same enthusiasts might expect.
Even in its hybrid form, the topic of this piece. Oh, as a hybrid it's saddled with a noisy and whiny CVT and CVT's also generally sap a lot of the enjoyment out of the driving process, but even that couldn't kill my enjoyment during a recent week with the Camry hybrid SE. more...
It's been Toyota's bread and butter car since before there was a Camry, and after a 50 year evolution in the automotive marketplace it continues to be a great little car for the 2017 model year.
Toyota must be doing something right because the Corolla has wriggled its way into a lot of people's hearts over that half century, so much so that has become the top selling vehicle in the world, knocking the classic VW Beetle off that perch a while back. So while it may be a tad bland for some people, it's obviously the perfect choice for many others.
And here's something you might not expect: you can configure it with a six speed manual transmission! more...
Once the mainstay of so-called soccer moms, the minivan seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour in recent years, judging by the few models still on the market. Yet a few soldier on, primed to pick up people and their possessions and take them to whatever venue their busy lives require.
This fall in minivans' fortunes is due undoubtedly, at least in part, to the rise of the SUV/Crossover. The average SUV offers a more car-like drive, all things being equal, and most also have a higher driver's eye view than the typical minivan, which can be nice in traffic.
But if you have a bunch of folk and gear to carry around often, it's hard to argue with the utility of the typical minivan, with its big sliding doors and three rows of seats that can configured in a variety of ways.
So it was that the 2016 Toyota Sienna minivan arrived outside Chateau Bray for a week, timed perfectly for a couple of grandparents to take the kids and grandkid on some amazing journeys through southern Alberta. And while I'd rather be torn apart by wild dogs than actually own a minivan, I came away from my time with the Sienna liking it for what it is - a good family vehicle, albeit a bit of a wallower. more...
Don't sit too close to this column lest you become collateral damage from the lightning strike it may prompt.
Why? Because for the first time ever, I spent a week driving a Toyota Prius and I didn't hate every second behind the wheel. And I have to be honest enough to tell you that.
What's going on here?
What's going on is a new generation of Prius. Oh, it's hardly the perfect vehicle, and it has undergone an appalling uglification process in the creation of this fourth generation of Toyota's world-beating hybrid (what's with this current trend among some Japanese manufacturers to over style their vehicles with excess pleats, wrinkles and the like?), but I have to admit that I had a comparative blast in this car compared to my usual problem of staying awake while behind the wheel of previous generation Prii.
I still wouldn't buy one, but for once I liked the car. Mostly. more...
Are Toyota's two biggest vehicles too big, or just right?
It depends what you're looking for. One - the Tundra - is a full sized pickup meant to compete head to head with the likes of the Ford F-150 and Nissan Titan. The other - Avalon - is a full sized family sedan that offers a lot of room and a lot of other nice stuff, not including a real fun to drive factor.
And while they're still the same vehicles as ever - big haulers of people and/or stuff - both of these mega-Toyotas enter the 2016 model year refreshed and enhanced to ensure they remain up to date in a marketplace that seems to change overnight. more...
One's a Scion that's really a Toyota and one's a Toyota that's really a Mazda - and both are very nice entry level cars that can offer a lot to buyers on a budget.
The new for 2016 Scion iM is a little wagon reminiscent of Toyota's now defunct Matrix, and since Toyota has announced that it's shuttering its Scion wing it could even show up as a new Matrix in the future. That's purely speculation on my part, however. In the meantime, if you're looking for a little wagon like this - and Pontiac Vibe owners needing a replacement might want to pay attention as well - the iM could be a nice choice.
On the other hand, if you're looking more for a conventional little sedan, the new Toyota Yaris should be on your list of cars to check out. It's a lovely little critter that, underneath the Toyota logos, is actually a Mazda2, with all the fun to drive goodness that being a Mazda at heart can bring. more...
There's mid-cycle refreshing and, as evidenced by the 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD, there's mid-cycle REFRESHING.
Hot off a new generation of Toyota's great little "cute ute" for 2013, a model I liked a lot but criticized for the added boxiness that Toyota added to its exterior for this generation (just like it has for the 4Runner and Highlander, so at least they're consistent) comes a RAV that feels new. That boxiness is still there, but it's more interesting now, more chiseled and, dare I say it, more buff.
And if you're into such things, there's now a hybrid version offered, in a couple of trim levels. more...
It's hard to argue that Toyota's Prius family has been the most successful crop of hybrid cars since Honda first inflicted the Insight on the world more than a decade ago.
The reasons may be many, but chief among them must be high gas mileage, perhaps coupled with the perception that they emit less foulness than the average car (foulness being in the eye of the beholder, perhaps?). This is in an era in which gas mileage is going up all over the automotive marketplace while emissions are going down – and "global warming" is being exposed as the hoax it always was.
Over the past couple of years, Toyota has expanded the Prius range to include the smaller Prius c and the small wagon Prius v, both of which I cover in this column. more...
It doesn't have a lot of power, or creature comforts, but Toyota's entry level car has been nipped and/or tucked nicely for 2015 and continues to be a compelling little car.
Available in three or five door versions, the Yaris is the successor to the Echo which was the successor to the Tercel, making the Yaris the latest in a long line of wee winners from the world's biggest car maker. Toyota Canada's sample was of the five door persuasion, in LE trim with few options. There's a higher end SE trim level as well, and the base three door model also comes in CE trim. Prices start at $14,545 for the lowest end Yaris, going up to $17,665 for the five door SE. The LE trim of the sample starts at just shy of 16 grand. more...
Talk about a mid-cycle refresh! The 2015 Toyota Camry looks and very nearly feels like a brand new generation, even though a new generation is still over the horizon. And you know what? It's great!
There are good reasons the Camry sells so well, including the fact that it's a Toyota – which means it's built well – and it's a car that people who aren't car nuts can buy and then pretty well forget about other than regular maintenance. As a bit of a car nut, however, I've often referred to the Camry as being vanilla – highly popular and used many places, but not exactly exciting to a fan of butterscotch. more...
Arguably one of the first SUV's to be offered for sale, Toyota's 4Runner has gone through many generations of development since then - but one thing that hasn't changed is its "body on frame" construction.
That makes the truck-based 4Runner an exception to the basic rule these days that SUV's, or crossovers if you prefer that term, are car-based, unibody creatures - such as Toyota's own Highlander and RAV4, as well as most of the SUV/crossovers available from the other manufacturers, too.
Why does this matter? more...
The Toyota Camry, a car I've seen referred to in the past as "an appliance," is a world class family sedan that's comfortable and efficient and undoubtedly as reliable as a wood burning stove. And this current version is even quite attractive and decent to drive. For what more could anyone ask?
Well, if you're trying to assuage your eco guilt enough to put a few grand extra of your hard-earned after-tax income to get a gosh darn Gaia greener hybrid, the Camry is a darn fine choice there, too - and unlike some of the other hybrids in Toyota's large stable, it's still a pretty darn fine car to drive, too.
It's a fine vehicle, in fact, and while I might not buy one if I were looking in this niche, it's not because the Camry's a snoozefest; it isn't. It's surprisingly nice - as if Toyota has heard the whining about their cars being boring and are hitting back with vehicles that continue the company's tradition of offering excellent vehicles, but which now up the smiles per gallon ante as well. This doesn't only apply to the current Camry, either; the new Corolla and Avalon also exhibit this phenomenon and it's very welcome. more...
The more time you get behind the wheel of a particular vehicle the better you know it.
You have the luxury of being able to appreciate some of the finer details you might have missed in the initial run - and you may in the meantime have driven similar vehicles that give you an even better perspective of a particular vehicle and how it compares to its peers.
So it was when I reviewed the current generation of the Toyota RAV4, which I said at the time added boxiness and subtracted horses from the previous version. And it was true. That said, the current four cylinder engine is fine. The 2.5 liter unit cranks out 176 horsepower, and I doubt it will bother people who weren't born with lead feet when they're driving under real world conditions. more...
Toyota made its name in pickup trucks and four wheel drive decades ago and the company hasn't sat back on its laurels since then, with its Tacoma small pickup continuing the company's history of offering excellent trucks that are virtually indestructible.
I remember watching the guys on Top Gear trying their utmost to destroy one a few years ago. It was called a Hilux on that show, a name Toyota eschewed in North America years ago in favor of the Tacoma moniker. But at heart it's the same truck, a workhorse that'll haul you and your stuff pretty well anywhere you want to go, including the side of a mountain or the African veldt.
The Top Gear folk even put their torture test "Hilux" on top of a building that was then imploded, and the plucky Toyota still refused to die. It's like a zombie truck! more...
The world's largest carmaker has a brand new version of its popular Highlander for 2014, and it's a very nice vehicle that differentiates itself well from the smaller Venza.
Time was - last year - when I couldn't really fathom why Toyota kept the Highlander around (other than its sales, obviously!) because the Venza does most of the same things in a smaller and more interesting to drive package. Well, other than the third row seat the Highlander boasts that the Venza doesn't - which could be a pretty compelling difference if you need to haul that many bodies.
But other than the two/three row conundrum, I couldn't really figure out why someone would buy the bland and relatively uninteresting Highlander when they could choose the much less bland and uninteresting Venza. Times change, or maybe I'm just getting older, and I quite like the new Highlander and can see why people would want it. It's now quite distinct from the Venza - a real "Crossover/SUV" as opposed to the more "Crossover/tall wagon" of the Venza. Or a real SUV compared to a crossover, if you prefer. more...
I spent a week with the Prius v (click the image to open a slide show) last fall, at which time I opined that it was a great way for insomniacs to get some rest because driving one is sure to put you to sleep. That may be a tad unkind - and the fact that I see Prii v's all over the place (including many taxis) shows that I may not be preaching to the choir - but I still don't particularly like this little wagon.
After all, there are more interesting little wagons to be had for less money and even though the Prius may save you dough at the gas pump, you'll pay through the proboscis initially. And for the privilege of saving the earth - despite the fact that hybrids use a lot of rare earth elements and other stuff the obtaining of which is hardly the things of enviro-dreams - you'll be saddled with a vehicle that's not only boring to drive, but which insults your intelligence and makes you suffer with a cheap-looking interior. more...
Toyota's entry level car is a good little vehicle that's more fun to drive than you might think. Even with an automatic transmission. Lexus', on the other hand, is nice vehicle that could be even nicer if they'd offer a non-hybrid version.
Toyota's little guy is the Yaris, which replaced the Echo that replaced the Tercel that filled a hole created when the Corolla grew up. A lot has changed since those days, of course, but one thing that hasn't is the fact that Toyota's littlest guy has a lot to like if you're shopping at this end of the marketplace. more...
There's a reason Toyota's Corolla has earned its place as one of, if not the, top selling cars in history: throughout its many generations, it has offered consistent value and quality for those whose idea of a great car is reliability and economy.
Corollas have never been the most fun (though Toyota used to offer some pretty sporty versions back in the 1980's) but imparting fun isn't its mandate - er, persondate.
Now there's a brand new Corolla for 2014, one that continues Toyota's tradition of offering a great car at a good price. Toyota says this 11th generation of the Corolla includes "dramatically amplified elements of style, design, quality and craftsmanship," while building upon the car's well-earned reputation for reliability and efficiency. Besides new engine and power trains, it wears a new suit of clothes inside and out and both of them are big steps forward. more...
It appears that both Toyota's flagship Avalon and Lexus' mid-line GS sedans have entered 2014 mostly the same as when they were introduced barely a year ago. Fortunately, it isn't as if they needed a lot of updating, anyway, because they're both very good vehicles.
Toyota's Avalon, meanwhile, continues to amaze me. The company's biggest sedan was also redesigned about a year ago and is now less like "your father's Oldsmobile" and more like simply a splendid large family sedan. And it's very nice. more...
Toyota's Prius V continues the Japanese company's success at selling hybrids that make people feel good about their environmental impact. It's a wagon version of the popular Prius hybrid, so you can haul even more stuff than before, as long as you don't mind doing it excruciatingly slowly.
Toyota is arguably the most successful company at making and marketing hybrids, with a lineup of the gas/electric cars long enough to turn a tree hugger's hair green. Besides the Prius - its first hybrid - they now offer hybrid versions of the Camry, the Highlander and various Lexi (can't wait for a hybrid Scion FR-S!), so there's pretty well a model for well-meaning folk in just about every income group. more...
Ah, the S.S. Avalon, Toyota's biggest sedan and the car that is arguably the most like "your father's Oldsmobile" – or might be if GM hadn't screwed up so badly it had to let Oldsmobile die.
Avalon was the only Toyota car – and one of the few cars in recent history – that was available with a bench seat, though that configuration appears to be as dead as Oldsmobile in this new iteration. That's fine; crowded, three person bench seats are silly in an era of minivans and three row SUV's.
Available in XLE and Limited trim levels, Avalons start at $36,800 Canadian, and you can option them up to around $42,000. more...
Toyota has taken the wraps off a new RAV4, its popular entry into the small sport utility market. And it'll probably prove to be popular as well, as so it should despite the dumb Kaley Cuoco advertising campaign.
On the other hand, it may also have lost something in the upgrade to the new generation.
Of course it's gained, too. One of the best additions is the new tailgate, which not only dumps the spare tire that previous versions carried there, but which also now swings upward and out of the way, as it should. My biggest gripe against the old Rav4's (or is it " RAVs4?"), which I liked very much otherwise, was that the previous gate was hinged on the right hand side and therefore swung open from the left. This could be really counterproductive if you were coming from the right side with an armful of groceries or whatever. more...
Toyota's Highlander SUV/crossover has been soldiering on for several years now and serves its customers well. And while it's is a fine vehicle – if more than a tad bland – it's getting old in this current generation, and even other Toyota products seem to have passed it by.
Take the Venza, for example.
Despite its apparent age in a competitive market, however, the Highlander still has plenty going for it. There's room for seven in its three rows, and if you fold down the rear seats you get decent storage – and of course it gets positively cavernous if you fold both rear rows. more...
Toyota Venza a secure ride, even skirting Sandy
Toyota's Venza crossover has had a re-do for the 2013 model year, but that doesn't mean the big wagon-compatible vehicle has lost what made it attractive.
In fact, it's even nicer than before, a good people-and-stuff hauler for folks who don't want an SUV but who could use most of a SUV's advantages – tallness, cargo capacity, etc.
Exterior tweaks for 2013 include "updated exterior styling," though it's still immediately recognizable as a Venza. But you now get heated mirrors with integrated turn signals and a blind-spot convex mirror on the driver's side, a new front grille and fog lamp bezel and new tail lights. more...
Toyota Corolla S: safe, secure, bulletproof, bland
The 2013 Toyota Corolla is pretty much like the 2012, the 2011, and the 2010, but with a little more stuff.
You get the picture. This isn't a new generation of Corolla, it's more like the last hurrah of the current generation – and there's not a lot that's wrong with that, depending on what you're looking for and as long as you don't check out the competition too closely.
Being a Corolla means that if you're looking for a particularly innovative, sporty, or otherwise involving ride, you're probably looking at the wrong car. But if you're looking for a "little car that could," one that runs when you want it to, won't break the bank at the gas pump, and will probably keep going until the sun goes nova (okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration), then you should probably put this one on your list of cars to test drive. more...
Toyota Camry hybrid: cheap to drive, but not the best driving experience
Toyota's new generation Camry can be a surprisingly nice ride, but it appears that the quality of the driving experience may depend on the trim level.
The Camry SE I drove earlier this year was a fantastic car, a real surprise. I was surprised I didn't get struck by lightning for praising the car as much as I did – praise that included the assessment that the Camry was finally near the top of my list for cars in this price range, rivaling my other faves, the VW Passat and the Kia Optima.
I write this to put into perspective my impressions of the Camry hybrid Toyota Canada provided for my driving pleasure. This, despite a lot of things to really like about the car, is definitely not the same driving experience as the Camry SE. more...
Mazda MX-5, Toyota Venza mostly stay the course
They may be very different in form and market niche, but the Mazda MX-5 and Toyota Venza are both excellent vehicles that offer a lot of value and/or fun to their owners. And that's nothing to sneeze at.
Both cars are also inching toward the end of their life cycles in their current forms, so their respective manufacturers are adding new content to keep potential clients interested – not that there isn't plenty of incentive to love these cars already. more...
Toyota RAV4 V6 – power and comfort in a cute ute
The crowded small sport utility/crossover market is good news for consumers because it gives them many good choices in this niche. And one that definitely should be on your test drive list is Toyota's RAV4.
Available in seven different versions, and now nearing the end of its second generation, the Canadian-built RAV4 is a very nice vehicle, comfortable and with good performance. It's quite popular, too. more...
Toyota Camry takes a huge leap forward
Toyota has raised its own bar with its "bread and butter" sedan, and in the process brought butterscotch back to its lineup!
Butterscotch? Well, the Camry, which is supposedly all new for 2012, has been a top seller for years and deservedly so. It's a fine vehicle, well built and comfortable and offering that bulletproof reliability that has been Toyota's hallmark. Alas, despite its excellence, the car has also tended to be quite ordinary, even bland, not the sort of car that people who take driving seriously would embrace wholeheartedly – despite the car's tremendous sales record.
In 2007, I said the Camry reminded me of vanilla because, like that popular flavor, it was "unthreatening and ubiquitous, a fixture in kitchens where it fits in beautifully in any number of applications." And while there's nothing wrong with vanilla, who orders a vanilla sundae? Not me; I'm a butterscotch kind of guy and that put me at odds with the Camry, as excellent as it has been in its assigned tasks. more...
Titan and Tacoma: A tale of two tough trucks
Big or small, there's a Japanese truck for nearly all.
That's what the Japanese – in this instance, Nissan and Toyota – would have you think anyway. Both companies offer "compact" pickups and "full size" pickups, going head to head in both markets with the established North American manufacturers – in what has been at least one of their most lucrative niches traditionally. After all, the Ford F-150 has been a, if not the, top seller for years upon years, so it's no wonder others would want a piece of that action. And with Nissan's Titan (and Toyota's Tundra), that's exactly what they're doing.
On the other hand, even though they're relative newcomers to the full size market, the Japanese have been a fixture in the compact pickup niche. In fact, the one showcased here – the Toyota Tacoma – has a history that stretches back decades, to the nearly indestructible Hilux. more...
Toyota, Acura Showcase the Evolution of Quality Auto Audio
Car audio has come a long way since the 8-Track tape cartridge moved it beyond merely being a platform for AM and, if you were lucky, FM radio.
Toyota says it's the first automobile manufacturer to implement Bongiovi DPS, a software solution the Biongiovi folk say analyzes the audio in real-time, digitally remixing it for optimized playback. It supposedly extends the frequency response of the speakers and maximizes the frequency-specific power distribution of the audio system. more...
Not particularly interesting to drive – and I'm being kind – but a non-subtle way to make a statement about how eco-wonderful you are, is the 2011 Toyota Prius. Now in its third generation in North America, the bubble-like Prius is probably the most recognizable hybrid on the road today. And that's its ace in the hole.
Compared to the last generation, the 2011 Prius looks a little sleeker, but it's still recognizable immediately as a Prius. This, I daresay, is what its buyers want, because you see a lot more Priuses on the road than you do, say, the Honda Civic hybrid that looks virtually identical to its conventionally-powered counterpart and therefore doesn't scream "Look at me! I'm better than you!". more...
Another Unintended Acceleration Bugaboo Bites the Dust
Now that the Obama regime has admitted there were no electronic problems behind Toyota's supposed unintentional acceleration incidents over the past couple of years, do you think Congress will apologize to Mr. Toyoda?
I, for one, am not going to hold my breath.
I haven't noticed the same type of coverage that was given to the original story, either. Last year, when the Japanese company was dragged through the mud in a much ballyhooed Congressional show trial, it was all over the media. Now that Toyota has been exonerated, the stories I've seen were mostly relegated to automotive of lifestyle-type sections. You'd think the government giving Toyota a clean bill of health would deserve the same coverage as the earlier kerfuffle got. more...
What's New: Toyota Camry LE and Honda CR-Z
One's a new design and one's a respected mainstream car. And while both offer decidedly different driving experiences, they have in common the fact that they both acquit their makers' mandates well.
Toyota's Camry is one of the best-selling cars in North America, and with good reason: it's solid and dependable, comfortable and efficient, and it doesn't beat owners over their heads with a lot of gadgety technology.
Honda's new sporty hybrid CR-Z, on the other hand, is a terrific way to put some fun into the ordeal of driving "greenly" – saving some gas while still offering a lively drive. more...
Ford Fiesta Meets Scion xD
One's a Canadian Car of the Year contender, the other's a boxy hauler. But which one's a better car?
Well, if you believe the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada members, it would have to be the Ford Fiesta, the company's new-to-North-America entry level car that scored top marks in its class at the recent Canadian Car of the Year TestFest. Fiesta bested the Scion xD compared here, as well as three other entrants for the title of Best Small Car under $21,000 (Canadian dollars). But it really depends on what you need. more...
Toyota Avalon A Comforting Cruiser
Remember the Oldsmobile commercials from years ago that said the models current then were "Not your father's Oldsmobile?" Well I've found a car that is: the Toyota Avalon.
Toyota's flagship sedan is a big, family-friendly sedan that offers lots to like as long as you don't care about the drive itself. It's comfortable, well-appointed, and features stuff like reclining rear seats and most of the technological treats you could want these days. It also rides like a boat, so if you've always wanted to go on a cruise but were afraid of getting wet, this may be your opportunity. more...
Toyota Venza a True Crossover
It's neither a station wagon nor a minivan, and it isn't an SUV, either. Instead, Toyota's Venza blurs the lines between these distinct market niches, a vehicle that crosses over from one to the other. That says "crossover" to me.
Many, if not most, so-called crossovers these days are basically car-based sport utility vehicles – perhaps named as crossovers by marketers more concerned about political correctness than truth in advertising. After all, SUV's are evil, Mother Earth-sapping horriblemobiles regardless of how well they serve many people's needs. But the Venza is different. It's like a tallish Camry wagon, and it's a pleasant and efficient, if a bit bland and not particularly fun to drive, vehicle with lots of room for people and stuff. more...
Toyota Sienna a New Standard in Minivans
Minivans may not be particularly sexy, but they can be pleasant and convenient if your automotive needs require space to haul people and their stuff.
So it is with the 2011 Sienna, a minivan Toyota is daring to call "Comfortable, Convenient and above all, Cool."
Cool isn't something I've ever though would apply to minivans, and I don't think it does here, either, but that doesn't prevent the new Sienna from being a heckuva minivan, with plenty of room for hauling most of the stuff a family could want. And it is truly comfortable and convenient as well. It's even pretty good to drive. more...
Toyota RAV4 a Fun, Roomy Cute Ute
Sport. It's a word familiar to car nuts worldwide and it's generally an indication that the vehicle associated with the word is a little more, well, interesting and fun, than the run-of-the-mill vehicle.
Maybe Toyota's marketing folks merely looked at the wrong dictionary definition, though, because it seems as if – at least when it comes to the 2010 RAV4 – the word "Sport" means "appearance package", and has nothing to do with horsepower, or torque, or handling, or anything like that!
What a darn shame, because the RAV4 is a very nice SUV and if they'd actually sported it up a bit, as its badging would indicate they did, it could be even more interesting and fun. more...
Toyota 4Runner Off-road Capable
Toyota's 4Runner was one of the first SUV's and its newest version is still a compelling vehicle for those who want four wheel drive stability coupled with serious off-roading capability. It's an "old fashioned" truck-based SUV, as opposed to car-based models such as Toyota's own Highlander. This not only means it's more heavy duty so far as its off road capabilities are concerned, but that it can also tow more than the average car-based ute.
For 2010, the 4Runner enters its fifth generation and Toyota says it's redesigned "To be even more rugged and athletic, delivering more power, better fuel efficiency and packed with more safety features and technologies". more...
Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic Still Good Choices for Economy Cars
I'd forgotten just what great little cars the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are. What used to be both companies' entry level – and bread and butter – vehicles have grown up over the decades, getting bigger in every way and far more sophisticated. And that isn't a bad thing; technology advances. One thing that hasn't changed, however, is that endearing simplicity and ease of use that Honda once used in its commercials: "We Make It Simple".
Both companies still do, at least in the lower end of the marketplace. And that's great! more....
Toyota Venza Blends the Line Between Car, SUV
Take a Toyota Camry, feed it Wheaties to help ensure it grows up nice and tall and what might you get? The Toyota Venza.
Venza could be referred to as a true "crossover", as opposed to merely a marketing moniker to keep the envirodudes from picketing Toyota dealerships for having the audacity to offer SUV's to people who want them. It's a skillful blend of car and SUV, giving you the best of both worlds. It's at heart a Camry, which considering the car's success and reputation is a good thing, but it's higher and offers wagon-like/SUV-like storage space for those times when you want to haul stuff. more...
Toyota Sequoia – Surprisingly Capable and Civilized Brute
Talk about a vehicle with an appropriate name!
Toyota's Sequoia is an immense motor vehicle, a "full sized SUV" that seems about the mass of an Airbus A380, it's large enough to haul a family of eight and a lot of their stuff. It also makes a heckuva statement on the road. more...
Reborn 2009 Toyota Corolla Still Screams "Value"
It has an all-new body, more room inside, and many other upgrades, but at heart it's still a Toyota Corolla. And that should please millions of people.
The tenth generation of Toyota's longest-lived vehicle has been blessed, or at least designed, with a leaner, more muscular shape that still manages to look like a Corolla, as well as a set of more powerful, yet still economical, four cylinder engines.
This journeyman people carrier also comes with an all new chassis and suspension designed to make the Corolla even more attractive to its customers and competitive against its challengers. more....
Hybrid Highlander Flings Gas Pumps Away
Toyota's revamped 2008 Highlander is a nice "crossover," kind of like a stretched RAV4. It's comfortable, well-built and with plenty of features. But it's also quite big, with three rows of seating available and plenty of room for hauling your stuff.
Having a comparatively large size usually affects a vehicle's gas mileage adversely. But as with the last Highlander generation, Toyota has introduced a hybrid version designed to let you exploit the best of both "functional and efficiency" worlds. more...
2008 Toyota Avalon
It's a full-figured car, with ample room and plenty of power. And it's soft and comfortable.
Toyota's flagship Avalon features some nice freshening for the 2008 model year, but if you're looking for driving passion you'd best look elsewhere. Fortunately, many people don't care a whit for driving passion and are more than happy with a reliable vehicle that will take them where they want to go, efficiently and dependably. And for them, this Avalon may be just the ticket. more.....
2008 Toyota Highlander
Think of it as a big RAV4 – and that's meant as a compliment.
The new, 2008 Toyota Highlander is, according to its maker, "the mid-sized SUV that delivers the versatility of a sport utility vehicle with the driving comfort and performance of a passenger car." Toyota also says the Highlander is designed as an "urban-friendly" SUV, as opposed to the more off-road-aimed FJ Cruiser and 4Runner, with more forceful styling and performance and a more flexible interior than before. more.....
The Sienna is a straightforward minivan, and one of the best. It seats up to eight, though not necessarily with extreme comfort if you decide to pack 'em in, but it can also double as good hauler of stuff, whether it be luggage, furniture or – my personal preference – big screen TV's and audio equipment. more.....
Toyota Tundra – Civilized Brute Force
If the third time's the charm, Toyota's new Tundra full sized pickup is definitely a charming vehicle. If you think big trucks are charming.
I'm not a truck guy, except for the occasional time I need to haul something (I prefer hauling butt in a fast car), but if I had to buy a big pickup, it just might be this new Tundra – though I thought the last generation was a pretty skookum truck as well. But the marketplace and punditry decided that the last Tundra still wasn't enough for Toyota to play with the big boys in the full sized truck market. more....
Toyota Camry LE - Vanilla is Back in Fashion
It has a spiffy new look inside and out, and will probably run forever. For what more could anyone ask?
More excitement, perhaps?
The 2007 Toyota Camry LE, the four cylinder version of which I got to live with for a week, is a fine car, well built and unpretentious. And very vanilla. more....
Corolla CE - a Boffo Basic Bus
It may be long in the tooth for its model cycle, but Toyota's venerable Corolla is still a great little car that'll probably run forever.
I haven't driven a new Corolla in ages, but my family has owned Corollas including
a 1992 LSX model we still own and drive today. So I was very interested to
see how the car has evolved, especially since I had recently spent time in
the Mazda 3, a wonderful little sedan that goes head to head with the Corolla.
Could Toyota's ageless sedan match up against Mazda's "zoom zoom" reputation? more...
Toyota Camry Hybrid
What a difference a new version can make!
When I drove the last Toyota Camry, I referred to it as “vanilla,” in that vanilla is extremely popular and a fixture in kitchens worldwide, where it performs beautifully in any number of applications. “But if someone asked you what flavor made you swoon," I said then, "Chances are it would be chocolate, peppermint or, my personal fave, butterscotch. So what we have with the Camry is analogous to that: it’s a fine car, well designed and crafted and extremely well built. It’s dependable and as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. But it doesn’t stir the automotive taste buds.”
Then along comes Toyota and unleashes this new version. more....
Toyota Yaris an Unpretentious Yet Rewarding
Toyota’s new entry level car is more refined and fun
to drive than you’d think would be possible from a
vehicle poised happily at the low end of the market.
Available in three or five door liftback (which
means "two door or four door hatchback") and four
door sedan versions, the Yaris is a nifty little car that’s
also practical and economical, and even kind of cute. The
coupe is a little roly poly, in a manner reminiscent of the
Echo it replaces (though nicer), while the sedan is a fairly
attractive and straightforward little critter in its own
Cruiser – The Legend Lives
Once upon a time, when the earth was young, Toyota Land
Cruisers roamed the lands. Keen-eyed wheel watchers would
often find Toyota's heavy duty four by four side by side
with – or instead of – the famous Land Rover
as they navigated a wide variety of wild and wooly wastelands
Ancient specimens of these workhorses undoubtedly still
serve their masters, bringing civilization to the wilderness
the same way the revered Douglas DC-3 still flies in and
out of untamed corners of the globe.
But whether it was global warming, shrinking habitat,
or a lack of profitability, the legendary FJ40 Land Cruiser
eventually made the endangered vehicles list, and finally
became extinct, leaving a void in the global 4x4 market that
consists these days mostly of softer, more civilized and
comfortable vehicles that are as good for every day driving
as they are at conquering Everest. more...
Toyota Trucks Try Defining "Racy" - Tacoma
X-Runner and Tundra TRD
What makes a vehicle racy?
If you're Toyota, it appears you may not be sure how to
answer that question. On one hand, the Japanese car making
giant brings to market the outrageously racy Tacoma XRunner
then, when it comes to its soon-to-be-replaced Tundra, it
slaps a mostly cosmetic TRD moniker onto what's basically
a very nice but decidedly unracy pickup. What gives? more...
Reborn RAV Reaps Raves
One of the cutest of the cute utes has been reborn, not
quite as cute, and a little more of a brute, but still all "ute".
The new version of Toyota’s popular RAV4 looks as
if it has been on a work out regimen that has left it larger
and more muscular than before. And the bulk up hasn’t
only been on the outside; the not-so-little SUV is now available
with V6 power that cranks out a healthy 269 horsepower. more...
Toyota Camry SE
If the Toyota Camry were a flavor, it would have to be vanilla.
Not that there’s anything wrong with vanilla. Far
from it; vanilla is extremely popular and is a fixture in
kitchens where it performs beautifully in any number of applications.
But if someone asked you what flavor made you swoon, chances
are it would be chocolate, peppermint or, my personal fave,
butterscotch. So what we have with the Camry is analogous
to that: it’s
a fine car, well designed and crafted and extremely well
built. It’s dependable and as comfortable as an old
pair of shoes. But it doesn’t stir the automotive taste
Toyota Yaris Surprisingly Fun Drive
Toyota’s new entry level car may be a little funny
looking, with a funny name and, at least in Canada, a bizarre “Uncle
Yaris” ad campaign the designer of which should be
sacked, but that doesn’t prevent the little bugger
from being far more fun to drive than you’d think it
has any right to be.
Yaris, which I speculate may be Japanese for “roly
poly little blob on wheels,” is the successor for the
ordinary and dumpy-looking
– though successful – Echo hatchback (I’m
surprised not to hear that Echo coming back!). And what Toyota
has come up with is a nifty little car that’s practical,
economical and even kind of attractive in a globular type
of way. It kind of looks like an Echo with the frumpiness
ironed out to leave clean and aerodynamic lines. The result
is cute. more...
Vs. Ford Escape Hybrids
It’s the battle of the hybrid SUV’s!
In the green corner, the Ford Escape, a nice if somewhat
bland vehicle that’s pretty good for hauling, if pretty
boring to drive. In the other green corner, the Toyota Highlander,
a Camry-based SUV that feels more like a car than a truck,
and which is not quite as boring to drive.
So which is the winner? more...
Toyota Matrix TRD
How do you turn a good and popular compact wagon into a
racing car? Well if you’re Toyota and you’re
talking about the Matrix, you offer a couple of minor upgrades,
slap on a few logos, and Bob’s your uncle.
And that’s the problem.
The Matrix, based on Toyota’s legendary Corolla, is
a very nice wagon. It offers a lot of flexibility and economy,
and if it works as well as my best friend’s nearly
identical Pontiac Vibe, it should offer its owners plenty
of driving pleasure and value for years to come. Ah, but
a sports car it is not. more...
Toyota Prius a Real, Live Car
Well, is my face red. I like to pooh-pooh political correctness,
and things apparently designed to appeal to the liberal mind
set. Hence my built-in aversion to hybrid cars, which at
first bloom seemed to be a case of pandering to the enviro-whacko
After all, Honda’s first hybrid, the Insight,
was indeed a technological marvel, but so utterly impractical
as anything other than a commuter vehicle. The Insight
sipped gas, but with only two seats and limited storage space – and
anemic power delivery
– it wasn’t really a vehicle you could take into
the mountain passes and expect pulling power. I know this
because that’s exactly where I took it. more...
2006 Toyota 4Runner
The 2006 4Runner continues to show that Toyota’s long-running
SUV franchise is a fine vehicle with legendary off road capabilities
that would undoubtedly make it suitable for taking just about
anywhere short of the surface of the moon.
And it would probably perform well there, too, with appropriate
modifications to make it work in an airless environment.
And once you figured out a vehicle to get it there… more...
Whod have thought a Toyota Avalon would have a claim
to sporty performance?
Yet thats the case with the new, third generation
of Toyotas flagship - at least if you enjoy straight
line performance. The car not only comes with an attractive
new exterior coupled with a comfortable and luxurious new
interior, it also sports a new 3.5 liter V6 engine that cranks
out a very pleasant 280 horses @ 6200 rpm and 260 lb.-ft.
of torque @ 4700 rpm. This is enough to propel this big car
in a most satisfying manner. more...
Toyota Solara SE – a
Comfy Sports Car-compatible
The Toyota Solara looks kind of like a poor man’s
Lexus SC430, but it’s actually quite a nice drive as
long as you aren’t expecting real sports car performance.
Basically an offshoot of the Camry, which is nothing to
sneer at, Solara is a two door coupe that in its most basic
form offers a decently fun ride in a beautifully rendered
and comfortable package, with reasonable economy. more...
They dont call this a Sequoia for nothing. Like the
famous Redwood, the big Toyota is grand and stately. Its
full in size and features, but surprisingly nimble for a
vehicle thats nearly large enough to house a government
Well, maybe nimble isnt the best word, but despite
its mass this is no land barge.
So the rather immense Sequioa is still quite nice to drive
and at the same time manages to come off as fairly subtle
compared to other brute utes such as the Hummer
H2. Neither are really my kind of wheels, but I can certainly
see why people buy them. more...