Car Review: 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

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There were big changes in store for the dazzling 2014 Toyota Corolla, and although we knew the new design looked sweet, time behind the wheel would give us a true measure of the car. That was taken care of when we drove the Corolla for a week, and quite honestly, we hated to see the week end.

EXTERIOR

You’ll find yourself doing a double take when you first see the Corolla, because the new design is light years ahead of the past models with the new aggressive styling. The 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium looks that good and will shake the compact car segment without a doubt. Our test model was a sharp blue crush metallic sporting 17 -nch smoked alloy wheels. The all-new Corolla makes an immediate visual impact with a more expressive, chiseled exterior design that elaborates on the “Iconic Dynamism” theme first seen on the Corolla Furia Concept that debuted at the North American International Auto Show. The new Corolla is distinguished by its tauter, more athletic proportions that ride on a longer wheelbase (+ 3.93 inches/ +100 mm compared to current model). With the wheels pushed out toward the corners, compact overhangs, and more tapered front and rear expression, the new Corolla communicates a more dynamic compact sedan form, even at a standstill. The new sedan is 3.90 inches (99 mm) longer overall and yet presents a more compact appearance than the current model thanks to a basic shape that tapers at the front and rear of the vehicle to help emphasize the wheel arches and wheels-to-the-corner stance.

The new Corolla features an expressive front fascia with sharper, more pronounced details above a large trapezoidal grill that rests beneath a thin intake inlet below the hood. The front view of the new Corolla reveals a continuation of the design themes seen in recent Toyota sedans such as Camry and Avalon, and it creates a sleeker, more assertive impression of a Toyota compact sedan with its more precisely sculpted surfaces. Among the challenges presented by the new Corolla’s original design concept was the need to execute more deeply rounder corners to achieve the desired sleeker image. The thick structure of conventional headlamps would hinder the appearance of deeply rounded corners. Sleek, compact LED lamp assemblies were adopted to reduce the corner mass and help accentuate the Corolla’s tapered, rounded-corner, front- end design theme. In addition, the low heat generated by the LED lamp enabled the use of a lighter weight PES resin lens instead of conventional glass. Corolla is the first compact sedan to offer standard equipped LED headlamps.

INTERIOR

The impressive 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium continued inside the cabin with a plethora of new options that enhance the overall driving experience. The new Corolla’s interior continues the “Iconic Dynamism” theme to create a stylish, highly functional and inviting interior space with a greater sense of craftsmanship in its design, use of materials and attention to detail. A horizontally oriented dash structure helps enhance the interior’s sense of spaciousness while providing a more wide-open, intuitively functional space for interface with vehicle controls. The interior offers a premium aesthetic with its use of piano-black gloss trim highlighted by metallic ornamentation and trim that conveys an upscale yet sportier image. Depending on interior color theme, blue, black or amber pinstriped accents are used in conjunction with the dash and door panel ornamentation to enhance the premium appeal of the interior. Ornamental stitching along the leading edge of the dash pad adds a sense of craftsmanship to the interior’s upscale nature. An available decorative boot with ornamental stitching surrounding the shift lever adds a sporty, premium look.

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Car Review: 2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD

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From first glance last year, one could tell there was something special about Toyota’s fourth-generation RAV4. We spent a week driving the 2013 Toyota RAV4 XLE AWD in some pretty harsh weather conditions and this SUV knows how to handle snow and sleet.

EXTERIOR

The new RAV4’s design achieves strong proportions while conveying the agile and fun character. Sophisticated and dynamic, the exterior features a progressive silhouette, with a sleek-sloping roofline and an aggressive character line. The RAV4 pursues a modern design with aggressively sculpted front and rear fenders and boldly proportioned taillights that define itsathletic presence. The stance looks stronger and much more in tuned with today’s customers.

In a significant break with its heritage, the RAV4 switches from its side-hinged rear door to a convenient roof-hinged liftgate with a space-saver spare tire will be stored under the cargo floor. Standard on the Limited grade is a one-touch power rear liftgate with driver-selectable memory height settings. As on other recently introduced Toyotas, RAV4 engineers paid special attention to aerodynamics — the most obvious detail being small vortex generators molded into the taillight cases and near the base of the A-pillars. Less obvious are the aerodynamic undertrays beneath the passenger cabin that help smooth and control airflow. From the 17-inch alloy wheels, to the Barcelona red metallic paint, the RAV4 has a skin that is light years ahead of past models when it comes to styling and substance.

INTERIOR

The RAV4 XLE model we tested did not have leather seating, or heated seats, for that matter, but the new cabin was nonetheless very impressive. The new RAV4’s dash panel is driver-centric and asymmetrical, with primary and secondary controls all within easy reach. On the passenger side, the sculpted dash panel creates a sense of airy spaciousness.

The RAV4’s dash panel and gauges all feature Clear Blue illumination, which provides crisp visibility in most ambient light conditions, and a unified, coherent appearance at night. The RAV4 XLE driver and front passenger ride in premium bucket seats with sport bolstering, providing ample support of the lower hips, lower torso and shoulders during cornering. The XLE has premium fabric with French stitching on the seats and portions of the dash panels. All RAV4s feature 60/40 split/fold second-row seats that recline several degrees to enhance passenger comfort. In contrast to the 2013 RAV4’s compact exterior dimensions, the cargo area is deeper, larger and easier to access than in the previous generation, with just over 38.4 cu. ft. of cargo capacity behind the rear seats. With rear seats folded, the RAV4 has a maximum cargo capacity of 73.4 cu. ft. This is a very large area, and you really need to see the back seats folded down to appreciate this space.

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Car Review: 2013 Toyota Sequoia

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The 2013 Sequoia has made a statement of power, with all models for 2013 now boasting the 381-hp 5.7-liter V8 as standard. We had the opportunity to test drive this beast of a SUV for a week and have grown accustomed to this power trip.

EXTERIOR

There is certainly no mistaking the super white 2013 Toyota Sequoia on the open road. The Sequoia’s 0.36 drag coefficient (Cd) is comparable to smaller crossover-type vehicles. The vehicle’s mirrors, wipers, A-pillars and roof header are shaped to help maximize aerodynamic efficiency and minimize wind noise. Vehicle underside airflow is optimized to reduce drag and wind noise and to help improve directional control.

Headlamp washers are standard on all grades for improved visibility. The wide rear door-opening angle provides easy passenger ingress/egress and child seat installation. Our test model also included power heated outside mirrors, multi reflector halogen headlights with auto-off feature, fog lamps, tilt slide moon roof with sunshade, roof rack, rear spoiler, privacy glass, 18-inch alloy wheels and running boards. Yes, those running boards are worth every penny, as getting inside of the Sequoia is no joke!

INTERIOR

The Sequoia dash features a finish similar to that in fine luxury cars. Each of Sequoia’s eight seating positions provides space sufficient to comfortably accommodate people well above normal height. The same efficient packaging that allows exceptional interior comfort also allows carrying items up to 11 feet long. Folding the second- and third-row seats flat opens the cargo area to 120.1 cubic feet of carrying capacity.

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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.

  

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.

  

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