First Drive: 2014 Toyota Corolla

The Toyota Corolla has earned a reputation for reliability over the years, making it one of the most successful vehicles in Toyota’s lineup. But the Corolla was also known for pretty conservative styling, and in today’s competitive car market Toyota listened to its customers and made it a priority to improve the exterior and interior styling. The result is a radically different front end for the all-new 2014 Corolla that sets the tone for the new model. The Corolla lineup also features sport model (the S) that has an even more aggressive look.

Exterior

Just take one look at the new front end of the Corolla and your impression of the vehicle will change immediately. It’s much more expressive with a large, trapezoidal grille under the LED headlights giving the Corolla a more memorable look (see first two images above). In the S model the grille shape is flipped to set it apart from the L, LE and LE Eco models, giving consumers an interesting set of choices (see images 3 and 4 above). The S model also has beautiful 17-inch alloy wheels that help the overall look of the car. The exterior dimensions have also changed a bit from the previous model as the new Corolla is a little longer and wider and also a little shorter.

Interior

The interior of the Corolla has also been revamped with a horizontal design across the dashboard. The seats and materials have been improved and the overall driving experience was very comfortable. It’s pretty amazing how far these compact cars have come over the years. The steering wheel had a sporty feel to it and the addition of more soft touch materials made a difference in overall comfort.

Performance

I had plenty of drive time with several of the Corolla models as Toyota prepared a number of routes in the Minneapolis area on a beautiful fall day. I started with the S as I wanted to see how the sportier model would drive and I came away impressed with the acceleration and handling. I’ve mentioned many times that I prefer vehicles that offer a separate sport mode and here drivers can choose between sport and eco settings. The Corolla felt more nimble and quick in sport mode which made it fun to drive, and still performed adequately in eco mode. Toyota offers a new Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) that it calls the CVTi-S which has been designed to give a driving experience more similar to a traditional automatic transmission with the gear changes. The transmission has the feel of seven “gears” or shift points, and in the S model drivers can use paddle shifters to manually control the shift points. The S model does not offer a more powerful engine so buyers looking for small performance cars won’t be looking at this model, but the transmission and suspension changes improve the driving experience enough for many consumers.

The LE Eco model was a very pleasant surprise as it performed well in both eco and sport modes. The Corolla offers a 1.8 liter engine that is rated at 132 horsepower, but the LE Eco has a 1.8-liter engine with Toyota’s “Valvematic” system which produces 42 miles-per-gallon on the highway and 140 horsepower. At the moment Toyota is projecting roughly 10% product mix for the LE Eco with 40% for each the S and LE, and capacity restraints will prevent that from going much higher in the short term. Still, it will be interesting to see if demand for this 42 MPG option causes the company to adjust its plans over time.

Overview

The compact car segment has seen much more aggressive and interesting designs in recent years, so the new Corolla design should help get the attention of younger buyers. Overall this is an impressive vehicle. It’s always been a big seller, but the new design should attract plenty of new buyers considering the various options in this segment.

  

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First Drive: 2014 Toyota Tundra

The styling of the Toyota Tundra has been completely updated both inside and out for the 2014 model year which you’ll notice right away with the more muscular and chiseled front grille. Sales in the full-sized pickup truck market are booming this year and Toyota expects to grab its share of that market with the redesigned half-ton, full-size pickup truck. The 2014 Tundra will be available in 5 grades – SR, SR5, Limited, Platinum and a special 1794 Edition, which reflects a western lifestyle theme as a tribute to the ranch, founded in 1794, on which the Tundra plant is located in San Antonio. I traveled out to Knoxville, Tennessee for an up-close look at the new truck and a chance to drive it on a variety of roads.

Exterior

The redesign and the new front grille definitely enhance the look of the Tundra. It’s a great-looking truck as you can see from the photos above with the bold and powerful look that buyers expect in this segment. The Platinum version has a little less chrome and I liked that one the best, but buyers will have plenty of choices with the multiple trim levels. I liked the feature of having “TUNDRA” stamped into the sheet metal on the rear, and along with the new tail lamps the vehicle looks great from this angle. Toyota listened to customers who explained how they used the truck in rugged settings, so both the front and rear bumpers have been changed from one piece to three for lower replacement costs. Three cab styles are offered with the two-door Regular Cab, four-door Double Cab, and the super-sized four-door CrewMax. The Regular Cab and Double Cab models are offered in standard bed (78.7-inch) or long bed (97.6-inch) configurations and the CrewMax comes with a 66.7-inch bed, with all beds being 22.2-inches deep.

Interior

Many upgrades were made to the interior to make it more refined. The interior is very spacious and comfortable, and in the Limited, Platinum and 1794 editions buyers will find the luxury items you expect in higher end vehicles. I liked the leather seats and leather accents on the dash, particularly in the Platinum edition which featured perforated, diamond pleated premium leather seats, door and instrument panel inserts. The center stack screen and controls were laid out nicely and easy to use. The upgraded Entune audio system and app suite is easy to use with some nice customization features.

The rear seats in the CrewMax edition offer plenty of space for passengers and can now be folded up for additional cargo carrying capability as well.

Performance

The engine options remain the same on the new Tundra, as Toyota executives explained that drivers would not see any real-world mileage gains with a turbo V6 offered by competitors. Toyota’s most popular engine is the 5.7-liter, DOHC i-Force V8 which generates 381 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 401 foot-pounds of peak torque at 3,600 rpm with a six-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission. Fuel efficiency on 4×2 models is 13 mpg city, 18 mpg highway and 16 mpg combined while the 4×4 achieves 13 mpg city/17 mpg highway/15 mpg combined. My test vehicles featured this engine and it performed nicely on roads that varied from winding hills at various speeds and inclines to highway driving. The Tundra was a pleasure to drive and it handled well.

Toyota also offers a 4.6-liter, DOHC i-Force V8 offers 310 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 327 foot-pounds of peak torque at 3,400rpm that gets slightly better fuel mileage.

Buyers can also choose a 4.0-liter Dual Overhead Cam (DOHC) V6 which is standard on Tundra Regular and Double Cab models and produces 270 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 278 foot-pounds of peak torque at 4,400 rpm. It is paired with a five-speed automatic transmission with uphill/downhill shift logic. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 17 mpg combined.

Drivers can control the driving experience to adapt to road surfaces or driving conditions. In “normal” mode, Vehicle Stability Control (VSC), Traction Control (TRAC) and Automatic Limited-Slip Differential (Auto-LSD) all function to help enable traction and control capability. These modes can then be turned off to adjust to various conditions.

Overview

Toyota executives are stressing the “American-born” nature of the new Tundra which should play well with buyers in this segment. The redesigned Tundra was once again engineered by Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor and the design was created by Calty Design Research centers in Newport Beach and Ann Arbor. The Tundra is assembled in San Antonio and its V6 and V8 engines are built in Alabama while transmissions are built in North Carolina.

The large truck segment is very competitive with excellent products, but it’s also growing like crazy as the economy improves. The new Tundra will definitely catch the eye of buyers and we recommend test driving it if you’re looking for a big truck. Toyota has a well-deserved reputation for durability and reliability which is important if you’re looking for a workhorse.

  

Toyota reveals the new 5th generation 4Runner for 2014

Toyota has sold nearly 2 million 4Runners since its introduction back in 1984—and about 75% of them are still on the road. (Or still off-road…) This year, they are releasing the 5th generation of the rugged, go anywhere vehicle, and we got a chance to get a first look at the 2014 4Runner before it hits showroom floors in September or October.

The exterior was given an update, with an aggressive new front facia sporting a muscular front grille and smoked headlamps that flare wide off the front end. Available in the same three trims as the previous year—SR5, Trail for maximum off-roading, and top-of-the-line Limited—the Trail still sports the hood scoop, and the Limited gets 20-inch wheels, painted black for added style and contrast, and enough chrome to keep a posse happy.

Still one of the only SUVs with a truck’s body-on-frame construction, giving the 4Runner optimal off-road capability, it’s coupled with a suspension technology that gives it a smooth ride more often associated with crossovers.

All three trims will get the same engine: a 4.0-liter V6 that pushes 270 horses and 278-lb-ft of torque, allowing the 4Runner to tow a max of 5,000 lbs. with the integrated tow-hitch receiver on the back end.

Toyota has made the interior of the 4Runner a little more refined and a little more “premium” looking for the 5th Gen as well. We finally get a Smart Key system with keyless entry and pushbutton start, although it only comes standard on the Limited. The SR5 and Trail now get a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, with the option to swap the fabric trimmed seats for the Limited’s double-stitched leather.

But the best new feature we love is the standard Party Mode. Ideal for tailgating, Party Mode is a unique audio setting that shifts all the sound to the rear of the 4Runner, especially the liftgate mounted speakers, and pumps the bass for maximum enjoyment in the campground or stadium parking lot.

The new 4Runner is slated to be available starting in September, and from what they’re telling us, the goal is to keep the price points to 2013 levels. And we’ll be test-driving one of the first production models on an off-road course in late July, so watch for that review.

  

Toyota Aims for Better Design

Toyota is seeking to reinvent itself after a disastrous few years when trade collapsed due to the global financial crisis and Toyota experienced its greatest ever loss, production was impeded after the earthquake and tsunami in Tōhoku in 2011, and the company mounted the world’s largest recall campaign in 2009 which blemished the company’s once-immaculate safety record.

One solution

For decades, Toyota emphasized its staid reliability, which is oft-mentioned by motoring.com.au, a leading source of automotive news. In 2012, however, it announced that it wanted to be one of the cool kids. The largest automaker in Japan said it would re-jig its development system to grant engineers greater freedom to experiment with designs that were bolder and more daring. Chief executive, Akio Toyoda, the grandson of the company’s founder, declared, “We want to take more risks.”

Previously, as many as 100 executives could review design changes, but the process is no longer democratic, and less executives are now involved. More research and development work will be devolved to teams in emerging economy nations so that models can be tailored to local needs. Engineers will be constrained by pressure to reduce costs by employ standard parts.

The Camry – a boring, beige appliance

The Camry is an eminently sensible means of obtaining groceries and the best-selling car in North America, but its design has long been mocked. A 2011 article by Motor Trend magazine stated that terms such as “boring,” “appliance,” and “beige” were often used to describe it. Tokuo Fukuichi, who became Toyota’s chief designer in 2011, said this was the result of a consensus-driven process that attempted to please everybody but consequently excited nobody. Fukuichi said that if people are to be passionate about a design, some people are going to hate it. He knows of what he speaks, having designed the first generation Previa – the “egg van” – which is among Toyota’s most love-it-or-hate-it vehicles.

The Kluger is now more masculine

toyota kluger

One example that shows that Toyota is achieving its goal is the Kluger, which is sold in the United States as the Highlander. It was a favorite of busy mothers but was made more masculine to increase its appeal to males. It’s now longer and marginally wider than its predecessor and features improved aerodynamics, sculptured side-door panels, and a progressive silhouette. Toyota hopes that this auto’s increased sophistication and dynamism will tilt the Kluger’s balance more to yang than yin, and Toyota Kluger reviews will attest to its success in this venture.

Designer were given free reign with the Avalon

Then, there is the Avalon, for which U.S. designers were given free rein in its re-styling. Reviewers acknowledged that wraparound taillights and a trapezoidal grille had changed the way the vehicle feels to a great degree. When Toyoda first clapped eyes on the revised vehicle, he is said to have exclaimed, “Cool! Don’t change a thing.”

And, finally…

Toyota’s engineering and production was once driven by kaizen, the making of continual, incremental improvements rather than radical changes. Fukuichi said that this could produce a fashion model but not an actress who was unforgettable even if her figure were less attractive and her face unusual.

When asked if Toyota’s design process could soon emulate that of Apple, which is famed for eschewing market research and going with its designers’ tastes, Toyoda said his company was “headed more in that direction” and needed to be “more visionary.”

  

Insure Your Car Before You Drive

toyota_highlander

Have you seen the 2013 Toyota Highlander Limited 4WD? Wow! You could be the king of the road with that car. With interiors and exteriors that will match your style and taste. What more could you ask for?

Insure Your Car Now

No matter what model or make of your car, the insurance is imperative to protect yourself against the cost in case of an accident. There is a study that the safe drivers are not always charged the lowest insurance. Non-driving factors such as income, education and work seem to be more important in getting lower insurance rates.

If you can afford the new Toyota Highlander Limited 4WD, your income bracket must be in the upper scale. Make sure to insure such a handsome car.

Proper Maintenance of Your Car

To avoid any road accidents, you should keep your car in good condition. Not everyone can afford a brand new car every year. Therefore, proper maintenance of your car is necessary. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Have a regular tune-up-have your car serviced regularly to keep it in good condition and to replace parts that are already worn out.
2. Check your brakes, clutch, tire pressure, battery and battery water-it is important to have these items checked to avoid any mishaps on the road.
3. Drive efficiently-do not overstep on the gas and brakes. Do not be a clutch driver either for those who do not drive an automatic car. These will wear out your car faster.
4. Change the oil when it is scheduled to be changed-oil change used to be every 3,000 miles, It is done now when your car schedule calls for it.

Aside from prolonging the life of your car, car maintenance also keeps you and the public safe. Make this a priority today.

Safety is the Issue

Most car buyers look at the design,, the color, the features of the car. However, safety should be the issue in buying a car. You have to be protected out there when you are driving on the road. Some say that European cars have more safety features. Others say that American cars are sturdier. Japanese car makers will counter that their cars have a lot of safety features.

It is not just the car that makes driving safe, it is also the driver. Therefore, follow these guidelines to be safe on the road.

1. Always drive with your driver’s license inside your wallet
2. Do not drink alcoholic drinks if you are driving
3. Do not drive if you feel drowsy or sleepy
4. Do not drive if you are easily
o unsettled,
o hot-tempered
o irritated

Having a car is a responsibility to drive safely. You owe this to yourself and to the public. Make sure that your car is insured to minimize any costs due to an accident. The car and the driver must be in good condition before they hit the road. Drive defensively and reach your destination safely.

  

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