Category Archives: Toyota

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium

2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium

An Automotive Love Affair

By Joe Mavilia

Overview:

This is the 2018 Toyota C-HR XLE Premium. Overall it is a nice car but it is sometimes the little things that bug us most. In this case it was the Seatbelt alarm. It is always annoying but this was especially noxious to my senses when I ignored its demand to buckle up. Several seconds after the first reminder a really loud alarm that you can no longer ignore. What next? will the manufacturer require you to connect your seatbelt before the car will start. You can see it coming as your every action is controlled by a computer. In my opinion, you should be provided with a switch you can turn off such alarms. I’m guessing there are some services from aftermarket folks to disable the alarm. If you know any let me know and I will share with other readers. I put the seat belt on but if I’m going next door to the neighbor I should be able to decide when I put it on. Nag, Nag, Nag just doesn’t get it for me. Perhaps the manufacturer should allow a button to be pushed to delay the reminder. That would make me happy.

General Information:

Assembly: Japan; Classification is Compact; Vehicles from Toyota: 4Runner, Avalon, Avalon Hybrid, Camry, Camry Hybrid, C-HR, Corolla, Corolla iM, Highlander, Land Cruiser, Mirai, Prius, Prius C, Prius Prime, Prius V, RAV4, RAV4 Hybrid, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma Access Cab, Tacoma Double Cab, Tundra CrewMax, Tundra Double Cab, Tundra Regular Cab, Yaris and Yaris iA.

Handling & Performance:

It handled the Crest Mountain course very well. Fun.

Styling:

Undecided on design, but the consumer is the judge of what looks good to them. So ultimately sales will be the judge. For me it’s a little busy and I’m inclined toward smooth lines.

It looks like a two door at first glance but it has real high rear door handles molded into the body. Curious because small children would not be able to reach them as they are almost to the roof height.

Fit and Finish:

Good… meaning pretty average at this price point.

Cost:

I’m always amazed at how affordable, generally, that such a great convenience, like today’s cars, can cost.

Conveniences and comfort:

Good standard features listing.

Consumer Recommendations:

All competitors are very closely priced so in class a test drive of all 4 would be wise. I am partial to the Kia but wouldn’t rule out any of the others listed. Styling wise Kia and Mazda have more traditional clean lines, which as noted here are more to my liking. Kia reports the best fuel economy because it is a Hybrid. But the pricing is the same so it gives Kia a decided advantage.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota C-HR $23,000, Kia Niro $24,000, Honda HR-V $23,000, Mazda CX-3 $22,000.

Brand $$$ Cost MPG Seating Doors Country of Origin Assembled
Toyota C-HR 23,000 29 5 4 Japan Japan
Kia Niro 24,000 50 5 4 Korea Korea
Honda HR-V 23,000 29 5 4 Japan Mexico
Mazda CX-3 22,000 29 5 4 Japan Japan

Good News:

Priced right and fuel economy is good.

Bad News:

Kia seems to have a MPG advantage.

Standard Equipment:

2.0 liter 144 horsepower 4-cylinder electronic fuel injected engine, front wheel drive, electric power assisted steering, 4-wheel disc brakes, 18” alloy wheels, Pre-collision system with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, auto high beams, full speed range dynamic radar cruise control, electric parking brake, front, side and side curtain airbags, backup camera, LATCH child system, tire pressure monitoring system, auto on/off headlights, rear window wiper and defogger, power mirrors with turn signals, variable intermittent wipers, 7” touch screen for audio, AM/FM/HD with 6-speakers, Aux/ USB ports with iPod connectivity, hands-free phone and music streaming via Bluetooth wireless, voice recognition, 4.2” color multi-information display, dual zone climate control, remote keyless entry, power locks and window, leather trim tilt and telescopic steering wheel with controls.

Gas Stats:

27 City and 31 Highway MPG

$2.99 / Gal avg. December 17, 2017

www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

Pricing:

MSRP $24,350.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@autolove.com
Copyright © 2017 – An Automotive Love Affair

Toyota Tundra with Chief Engineer

2017Chief Engineer Mike Sweers (left) and Toyota Division Group Vice President and General Manager Bill Fay pose with the 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro after its reveal at the Chicago Auto Show.

Photo by Joe Wilssens

By Joe Mavilia

Our road trip in the Tundra was as comfortable as a large luxury sedan. Photo by Toyota

TEST DRIVE Toyota Tundra 4X4 SR5 Crewmax has Michigan roots Michigander Mike Sweersis Toyota’s “Truck Whisperer”

My recent test drive of the Toyota Tundra pickup was one of longest road trips we’ve taken in a while – about 1,200 miles from Michigan to Virginia and back. We found the pickup had pleasant road manners and provided a ride quality you’d expect from a large luxury sedan. With a base price starting at $38,470 it was easy to see why this American-made full size pickup is popular in the Midwest – with its engineering roots right here in Southeast Michigan.

At the Toyota Technical Center in York Township, Mike Sweers serves as the chief engineer for both the Tundra and Tacoma. Based right here in Southeastern Michigan, we spokewith him to find out a little more about the life of a chief engineer and what goes into making Toyota trucks.

Exactly what do you do?

“A chief engineer’s responsibility is really the vehicle from the start to the finish of its life cycle. What I mean by that is as we start with the vehicle concept, looking at what the customer wants, needs, desires, and how that vehicle fits into their daily life and how we – as Akio Toyoda would say – make our customer smile. So that involves collecting data from Product Planning, Marketing and other groups.

We meet with evaluation groups so we can understand how a customer would use the vehicle in the segment. Since I’m in charge of trucks, it’s how would a full-sized truck customer use this truck instead of a compact truck customer. What do they do with them? From a daily driver, to weekends, to the guy who goes out and races his truck in the desert or rock climbs.”

So when it starts, you have nothing really?

“It depends. If it’s a brand new concept vehicle or a brand new segment, it’s different. We have to understand what we’re trying to sell. Trucks are a very well established segment. And how you treat that segment or how you break into that segment may be completely different. For Tundra, it’s more of what we call a niche truck. The opposite of that is Tacoma. We are the leader in that segment. And how we approach each vehicle is a little different.”

So what is the difference between a Tundra customer and an F-150 customer?

“A Tundra customer is really buying the truck because they know that truck is going to last. It has the lowest cost of ownership. It has the highest residual value in the market. And that supports the fact that the customer will get a high-quality product.”

What is the design process like?

“As we move into design, we get into daily activities with the engineers. How are we going to put the vehicle together? What combinations go together? We work with TEMA production engineering. We work with purchasing every day, cost planning every day. We need to make sure we’re hitting design targets. And we’re still working with styling, and the goal is that the initial sketch everyone agreed to is what we want to hit. So trying to find new ways of manufacturing and making sure we can still build the product.

What’s important to doing your job well?

To me, the key to being a good chief engineer is to be a customer. So if I have to change the oil, can I get to the oil filter without running oil all over the place? We had a van when my kids were young and I had to make everyone go inside when I’d change the oil on it because it was a 90-minute affair and an hour of that was cleaning up the oil. It would infuriate me, and that’s something I think about. Even when we go down to the plant, one thing I tell our engineers is, “If you wouldn’t want to do that job for eight hours a day, then don’t ask somebody else to do that job.”

For more information, see your local Toyota dealer, or visit www.Toyota.com

Test Drive by Vince Bodiford

2010 Camry (842)

This week we’re looking at a 1992 Toyota Camry V6 LE 4-door sedan with 205,000 miles on the odometer. I would have guessed 502,000 miles, but could I be dyslexic? What a junk never-the-less. I wanted to look at what a car becomes when it is used and abused. It was purchased and used most of its life in New Jersey so the many harsh winters have added to the use and abuse. Then I got to thinking of my 1997 Dodge Ram 3500 dual wheel with over 260,000 miles. Some say that the Cummins diesel engine is just broken in about that mileage. 18 wheel trucks with Cummins diesel engines will easily do a million miles before needing any real care.

It is appropriate to use the Camry for this OLD car review because it has become so popular with a cult following for Toyota products. If you are one of those and have a story of your Toyota and want to share it, write me. Most of the folks who love foreign made cars and trucks tend to discount American made products unfairly. At this year’s LA Auto Show Ford showed off its dominance with the largest and most impressive display that outshined everything else. Yes, even Toyota. Funny how American car makers have finally begun to regain the trust of American car buyers over the past couple of years. I believe the turnaround for Ford was due in large part to the fact that most people were impressed that Ford refused any Bail Out MONEY. God bless American ingenuity and independence. Ford will be remembered fondly for snubbing the Federal Governments attempts to take control.

Camry has been one of the most popular of Toyota’s model offerings in America and they were the top dog in the automotive world. I like the New Camry but I now dread getting back into this old worn out 1992 dog.

Handling & Performance:

Rickety and rattle trap is a good description of this Camry but that’s not all bad, since all those squeaks and rattles kept me awake on the long drive home. The brakes were smooth but I didn’t dare turn too many switches for fear that something would break or fall off or it would stop running altogether. My accounting professor in college defined depreciation as “Old age, Obsolescence or Use” and if that is a fair definition this Camry is fully depreciated and is not long for the road.

I thought – do I dare take this over a mountain road for a test that I do with most every new car I review. Nah, not a chance with this one, because something is liable to break and I’ll end up down a 1,000 foot cliff which I doubt would be much good for either of us.

Styling:

This Camry still looks good from a distance and that just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Conveniences and comfort:

It’s got a lot of stuff that was available back when it was new, but some stuff doesn’t work any longer. The windows ceased to function, the seats are worn and the springs are painfully evident. The radio has since been replaced with a cheap knock off from Pep Boys. It was really depressing and I reflected on how I have come to expect everything to work since I review New cars mostly. I even feel I should be able to count on it to deliver perfect service, but after many years and miles that expectation is unrealistic. Cruise Control is one of those features that I can’t live without, so I was happy to find it still worked well.

It didn’t have navigation but with this car I was happy to get anywhere even if I were lost.

Fit and Finish:

It was good when first assembled new but the close tolerances are starting to annoy each other.

Cost:

I don’t know what a tow would cost these days but that may be the best investment at this juncture. I wouldn’t even want to donate the car to charity. That wouldn’t be very charitable.

Consumer Recommendation:

Both of my trucks are still running. The 1997 Dodge Ram has well over 260,000 miles (I stopped looking at it at 200,000) and the 1984 Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck also has over 200,000 miles. Take care of whatever you drive and it is likely to last longer than you need it.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Camry, Mitsubishi Galant, Hyundai Sonata, Chevrolet Malibu, Saturn Aura, Pontiac G6, Kia Optima, Mazda 6, Mazda Tribute, Nissan Altima, Mercury Milan, Ford Fusion.

Good News:

It made it to 205,000 miles; annoying seat belt reminder bell doesn’t work.

Bad News:

It’s limping badly and might have to be shot.

Standard Equipment:

3.0 liter 185 hp V6 engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, air conditioning, power windows and locks, seating for 5, audio with cassette player, driver airbag.  I’m sure there is more but I can’t find it. With this car I was happy to have a AAA membership.

Gas Stats:

$3.07/ Gal avg. Dec 1, ‘10

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

18 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $19,228 New. $2,300 Kelly Blue Book – a real stretch for this one.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2010 – An Automotive Love Affair

2010 Toyota Venza AWD (829)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at the 2010 Toyota Venza AWD SUV. If you ever questioned the popularity of the SUV consider that nearly half of Toyota’s lineup are SUV’s. MSRP for RAV4 ($22,000), FJ Cruiser ($24,000), Highlander ($26,000), 4Runner ($27,000), Venza ($30,000), Sequoia ($39,000) and Land Cruiser ($66,000), or 7 out of 16 .

The why is pretty simple – they are the most profitable models for all car makers. Venza is just the latest addition to the SUV offerings from Toyota which began with the 2009 model year. To me Venza is a middle of the road model and although the Sequoia and land cruiser are bigger and bulkier I prefer smaller and Venza is just right for me where son Mike with 4 kids Land Cruiser is more to his need. So he bought a Lincoln Navigator and a GMC Yukon Denali. Both are AWD and that is a problem since fuel economy is a contradiction in terms. He also has learned the GMC tends to have transmission and differential problems as they age. The Lincoln is older but no noticeable problems after 130,000 miles. The key is taking care of either or any car. Changing the transmission fluid and engine oil is critical for longevity.

I’ve owned a few Toyota’s because I was in the auto repair business for many years and I was too busy working on other people’s car choices that I didn’t have time to work on my own car. Toyota solved that problem.

Opinion:

The popularity of Japanese cars stems from the basic work ethic of the Japanese. Consumers have found the result to be a quality car that is pitted against competition burdened with a work force controlled by strong arm Union organizers.

America invented the automobile industry and Henry Ford perfected the process but the Japanese have avoided Unions who have pushed wage packages of US automakers to more than double that of the Japanese and Korean companies.

Those who read my column know I have complained about this for years but the mainstream media won’t attack powerful Union thugs.

A Wall Street Journal article states that on average, GM pays $81.18 an hour in wages and benefits including pension and retiree medical costs.But Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson manages to ignore the huge labor cost advantage enjoyed by non-union Toyota.
How much of an advantage?  According to that same article, Harbour Consulting President Ron Harbour estimates Toyota’s total hourly U.S. labor costs, with benefits, at about $35 an hour.

The problem with this huge gap is that quality is cut to make up for the difference of labor costs. Friend and automotive designer Merkel complains that components are engineered precisely so that an acceptable failure rate is conditioned on cost. Naturally, I don’t expect a car to last 100 years when we toss them in the junk pile after 10. But foreign non-union manufacturers are able to make a car last longer. And that folks is a big thanks to the UAW who have bullied management (with Golden Parachutes) to cave in to Union demands.

The final bottom line is that consumers naturally gravitate to foreign car makers because they instinctively know that this is TRUE.

Handling & Performance:

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride around New England – Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC. I like the size, comfort and road-ability. 268 horsepower is just perfect for a balance of enough performance and fairly good fuel economy.

Styling:

Well, they surely give you lots of price ranges but with the exception of the FJ Cruiser (that I love the look of) the rest are simply too much the same and I could flip a coin and be just as happy with one as another.

Fit and Finish:

Predictably outstanding

Cost:

Chose one that fits your budget and you’ll be happy.

Conveniences and comfort:

Toyota offers eight option packages: Security, Convenience, and Lighting. Leather, Comfort, Tow and for combined packages, Premium #1 and Premium #2.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Venza $26-30,000, Acura RDX $33-38,000, Audi A4 Avant $35,350, BMW 3-Series Sport $36-38,000 Chevrolet Equinox $23-30,000,Dodge Journey $21-30,000, Ford Edge $27-38,000, Honda CR-V $22-30,000, Hyundai Santa Fe $22-30,000, Infiniti EX $34-37,000, Mazda CX-7 $22-33,000, Mercury Mariner $24-27,000, Nissan Murano $28-39,000, Pontiac Torrent $25-31,000, Saab 9-3 $30-37,000, Saturn Vue $23-31,000, Subaru Outback $23-31,000.

Good News:

Comfortable, fair fuel economy, nice styling and Toyota time proven quality.

Bad News:

None.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 268 horsepower V6 engine, 6-speed auto trans, 20” alloy wheels, power steering, 4-wheel ABS power disc brakes with electronic brake distribution, stability control, front side and side curtain airbags, LATCH child system, tire pressure monitor, rear intermittent wiper, climate control, audio with CD integrated SAT & USB port, hands free pone & music streaming via Bluetooth, MP3 player, 60/40 fold flat rear seat, tilt & telescopic steering wheel with controls, power windows & locks, remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

$2.95/ Gal avg. September 5, 2010

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

18 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $29,550.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2010 – An Automotive Love Affair

2009 Toyota Avalon 4-door LTD Sedan (781)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Toyota Avalon 4-Door LTD Sedan. And I have to tell you I wasn’t real thrilled with prior models. Daughter Jenny had one and they weren’t so thrilled with it either. But this year model is really nice. I think I like it better because it more resembles the styling of the Camry, which of course is the top seller for Toyota.

It has an elegant look and feel inside that is further embellished by seats that heat and cool and a very smooth ride doesn’t hurt the overall feel either.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – United States

Class:  – Large Cars

Cars: – 4Runner, Avalon, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Camry Solara, Corolla, FJ Cruiser, Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, Land Cruiser, Matrix Prius, RAV4, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma, Tundra, Venza and Yaris.

Handling & Performance:

It is fast and a real pleasure to drive. Overall it is a great ride.

Styling:

The best yet for style of the Avalon in my opinion. Much more elegant than prior model years.

Fit and Finish:

Excellent.

Cost:

Not bad pricing and if you add the options like voice activated DVD Navigation with upgraded radio and CD changer, Bluetooth, and dynamic laser cruise the price goes up to $38,000.

 

Conveniences and comfort:

Some of the more impressive creature comforts, for me, include the heat and cool seats, a keyless start system becoming more popular in several makes. That feature allows you to open and lock doors, start and stop the engine simply by having the key fob in your pocket or purse. The other most appreciated feature is the Smart Laser Cruise Control that senses the car in front of you and maintains a safe distance automatically.

Consumer Recommendation:

Perhaps the most interesting competitor to this Avalon is the newest kid on the block – Hyundai Azera. It is definitely worth a close look for a couple of reasons – it is well priced and they may be more motivated do deal.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Avalon $28-35,000, Hyundai Azera $25-29,000, Pontiac G8 $28-38,000, Mercury Sable $25-31,000, Mercury Grand Marquis $29,270, Chevrolet Impala $24-30,000, Buick Lacerne $29-39,000, Dodge Charger $24-38,000, Chrysler 300 $27-45,000, Nissan Maxima $30-33,000, Lincoln MKS $41-48,000, Ford Taurus $25-37,000.

Good News:

Great state of the art technology features, great ride, elegant interior, nicer Avalon styling and decent fuel economy for powerful performer.

Bad News:

None.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 268 hp V6 engine, 6-speed auto transmission, front – side and side curtain airbags and driver knee airbag, 4-wheel ABS Electronic brake force distribution power brakes, stability control with traction control, tire pressure monitor system, daytime running lights and fog lights, 17” alloy wheels, anti theft and engine immobilizer system, power moonroof, rain sensing wipers, power mirrors, auto on/off Halogen headlights, smart key with pushbutton start, JBL AM/FM 6 disc CD changer with 12 speakers, 360 watts, SAT capable, Bluetooth, perforated leather seats with driver’s memory seat and power lumbar, driver and front passenger heated and ventilated seats, rear reclining seats, power rear sunshade, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio, climate control and cruise controls, dual zone climate control, wood grained style and leather shift knob and steering wheel.

Gas Stats:

$2.98/ Gal avg. October 11, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

19 City and 28 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $35,185.

2009 Toyota Land Cruiser (780)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Toyota Land Cruiser. It is extremely solid feeling and overall elegant look inside. But then for the money it’s hard to believe you’d expect any less.

The nav system is a bit klugey and not intuitive enough for my liking. However I have a limited time to get comfortable with the idiosyncrasies but I can only compare it to others that are much easier to use.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Japan

Class:  – SUV

Cars: – 4Runner, Avalon, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Camry Solara, Corolla, FJ Cruiser, Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, Land Cruiser, Matrix Prius, RAV4, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma, Tundra, Venza and Yaris.

Opinion:

With the ever growing number of potholes left unattended one has to wonder why Cal Trans is not fixing them. It’s not like we don’t pay huge gas taxes to take care of these dangerous conditions. Sounds like negligence to me. I’d be happy to hear from our road repair people for their side of the issue.

Handling & Performance:

A solid well built SUV requires heavy suspension so without a load the ride is stiff most noticeable on cement highways.

Styling:

Elegant interior but pretty unexciting exterior.

Fit and Finish:

Outstanding fit and finish. Again I expect that of any car or SUV in this price range.

Cost:

Speaking of cost this is pricey and the fuel economy is poor with estimated annual fuel cost of $4,102. Not a figure easy to ignore or forget. But if you can afford all the goodies that come standard for the price the fuel is not a real consideration. And if you decide to include all the options a long list of upgrades and navigation you can push the price up to nearly $74,000.

Conveniences and comfort:

I suspect the most positive memorable feature is the cooler space in the front console. Very cool for those long hot summer days. The most negative memory is split between poor fuel economy and poor Nav system ease of use.

Once again I have to tell you how much I like the “Smart Cruise Control”. You’ll recall that is the laser sensitive feature to keep you at a preset distance from the car in front of you.

Most recently Mercedes Benz has been advertising this wonderful feature. To begin with it helps you avoid following too close while helping you keep up with traffic flow when you set it just above the speed flow.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Land Cruiser $64,755, GMC Yukon Denali $50-56,000, Chevrolet Tahoe $37-51,000, Chevrolet Suburban $40-53,000, Mercedes Benz GL-Class$58-81,000, Mercedes Benz G-Class $100-119,000, Volvo XC90 $37-51,000, Chrysler Aspen $35-37,000, Jeep Commander $29-46,000, Audi Q7 $44-59,000, Land Rover Range Rover $78-93,000, Land Rover LR3 $46,750. 2010 year models: Honda Pilot $28-40,000, Nissan Armada $37-52,000, Lincoln Navigator $54-59,000, Ford Flex $28-39,000, Infiniti QX56 $56-59,000, Ford Expedition $35-51,000, Lexus LX 570 $76,405, Cadillac Escalade $62-87,000.

Good News:

A delightful driving experience and if it’s in your budget range they haven’t left anything out.

Bad News:

A bit pricey and the fuel consumption sucks.

Standard Equipment:

5.7 liter 381 hp V8 engine, full time 4 wheel drive with 4-wheel traction control with dynamic suspension / hill start assist control, dbl wishbone coil spring independent front suspension and 4 link coil spring rear suspension, 4-wheel disc brakes, stability control with cutoff switch multi-terrain anti lock brakes and electronic brake force distribution and brake assist, front airbags and knee bags, front and 1st and 2nd row chair mounted airbags, all rows side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitor system, daytime running lights, 18” alloy wheels, Halogen headlights and fog lights, 8 passenger leather seats with power heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, moon roof, 4 zone climate control, 605 watt JBL radio with 6 disc CD with 14 speakers, satellite radio, power retractable mirrors, back up parking sonar warning, smart keyless entry, engine immobilizer with alarm, power tilt and telescopic steering column.

Gas Stats:

$2.98/ Gal avg. October 1, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

13 City and 18 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $64,755.

2009 Toyota Prius (778)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Toyota Prius Model IV (out of 5 – I, II, III, IV and V). The differences are minor and deal with features included or not. II for example has no Bluetooth, and 6 rather than 8 speakers and no satellite radio.

V for example has leather while others have longer turning radius’, V also had an optional dynamic radar cruise control and lane assist and intelligent parking assist.

Some of these differences are attributable to the ’09 vs the 2010 model years.

Of course not much has changed in appearance and functionality over the years and. It’s not nice to fool around with a successful product. It reminds me of my first economical car that for the day was rather ugly… that college car was the VW Beetle. I think that was a 1960 year model and was as basic as a car can be which reminds me of my first Model A Ford.

Well as much as the world of car has changed it is not earth shattering. The moon walk was earth shattering – literally. I suspect when cars fly over the freeway traffic corridors in multi level as well as multi lanes of air space we can then say the technology has arrived to break the barriers of ho-hum progress in this industry and resultant driving experience. My grand kids will see a whole ‘nuther world of cars I believe but few others will experience a truly new age in the automotive love affair we’ve had for over a hundred years now.

Handling & Performance:

Really cool because when you’re poking along you run on battery so the performance is impressive by any standards. I love to watch the MPG monitor as it pegs at 100 mpg. You too would love that sight and to boot, this car will handle every driving condition, other than off road that you’ll encounter.

Styling:

It’s not a big car – it’s midsize and will seat 4 comfortably and 5 maximum. Consistent look and feel and you can’t miss them on the road. Some would say they’re unattractive and I say I’m distracted by the divider in the back hatch as it obstructs a clear view of rear view traffic in the mirror. Ugly? – no it’s not that bad but moreover beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Conveniences and comfort:

Excellent goodies and midsize car comfort consistent with the class competition.

Fit and Finish:

Very good.

Cost:

Getting better… and for sure it’s a consideration of folks who have opted out of the Hybrid platform because the unknown maintenance problems of the Hybrid technology relative to the marginal increase in fuel economy compared to conventional propulsion.

Consumer Recommendation:

This is a small group in class and I suggest you drive them all. I have of course but you’ll need to look at them all before making the call. A friend just bought a Ford Fusion with a conventional drive train for the reasons mentioned above. All deserve your consideration.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Prius $22-27,000, Toyota Camry Hybrid $26,150, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid $25,555, Ford Fusion Hybrid $27,625, Mercury Milan Hybrid $27,855, Nissan Altima Hybrid $26,650, Honda Civic Hybrid $24-27,000, Saturn Aura Hybrid $26,325 .

Good News:

A decade of history with no report of big trouble with the hybrid technology, fun car to drive, wonderful fuel economy numbers.

Bad News:

California DMV will only give 75,000 hybrid car pool lane status. Secondly the administration in Washington in all its wisdom has decided to blow out tax credits for hybrids because of caps. So much for lower taxes for us working stiffs.

Standard Equipment:

1.8 liter inline 4 cylinder 134 hp engine, continuously variable automatic transmission, electric power steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, 15” alloy wheels, vehicle stability and traction control, front, side knee airbags, LATCH child safety system, tire pressure monitor, engine immobilizer, heated outside mirrors, front and rear intermittent wiper washers, AM/FM with MP3 6 disc CD changer with 8 speakers, leather, 6-way adjustable driver seat with power lumbar, climate control, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, tilt & telescopic steering wheel with controls, power windows & locks, cruise control with instant mpg meter, heated front seats, 2 – 12V outlets and keyless entry with push button start.

Gas Stats:

$3.05/ Gal avg. Sept 23, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

51 City and 48 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $25,800.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2009 – An Automotive Love Affair

2009 Toyota RAV4 4X4 SUV (777)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Toyota RAV4 4-wheel drive SUV that is in a class that has become the most popular vehicle on the planet.

And it seems as time goes by even the smallest models get larger which is the case with this RAV4.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – Japan

Class:  – SUV

Cars: – 4Runner, Avalon, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Camry Solara, Corolla, FJ Cruiser, Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, Land Cruiser, Matrix Prius, RAV4, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma, Tundra, Venza and Yaris.

Opinion:

Reminder – Revenue’s are a high priority everywhere in our economy these days and you need to watch your speed to keep the vultures from picking your bones. I’m sure you’ve noticed lots of ticketing on our highways. Set your cruise control no more than 4-5 miles over the limit so you don’t get run over by traffic willing to chance increase tax levies by our arrogantly proud traffic cops. You know those crime fighters of people trying to get to work to pay their salaries. They thank us with $300 fines. Don’t you just love these guys?

Handling & Performance:

Since 2003 the RAV4 has gone from a 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine that did better on fuel economy than today’s inline 4 and moved more to the 3.5 liter V6 bigger is better version. Why? Because that is what people want so it’s not Toyota’s fault.

Styling:

Not much change in the look and feel from previous years. They still have a rear door opening out left to right with a hard spare tire cover. Although it is personal preference on opening style / design I really prefer the door opening as opposed to a lift gate for the rear access.

Fit and Finish:

Toyota good.

Cost:

Since the 2003 model year the price has gone up nearly $10,000 and there are 50% more competitors to choose from because this truck .

Conveniences and comfort:

All the comforts you’d expect and options can include a power moon roof, power leather heated seats, roof rails, and navigation system, etc. which can push the price up to $33,000 plus.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you can live without leather, moon roof and built in Nav system you can save a bunch. Me – I like the portable Nav options that will save over $1,500. I don’t use a moon roof and think they are passé. Leather and power heated seats are nice but not necessary and can save $2,000 in options.

Take a good look at the newer kids on the block that can save even more. Toyota has a good name but I’ll remind you that even they are outsourcing to Korea. So the Kia and Hyundai are worth a look see.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota RAV4 $22-28,000, Pontiac Torrent $25-31,000, Hyundai Tucson $18-26,000 , Mazda Tribute $20-28,000, Nissan Rogue $20-26,000, Honda CR-V $21-29,000, Jeep Liberty $23-28,000, Jeep Wrangler $21-32,000, Suzuki Grand Vitara $19-27,000, Honda Element $20-26,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $21-26,000, Kia Rondo $17-22,000, Kia Sportage $17-23,000,

2010 year models: Chevrolet Equinox $22-30,000, Subaru Forester $21-28,000, Mercury Mariner $23-27,000, Ford Escape Hybrid $30-34,000, Ford Escape $21-27,000, Mazda CX-7 $22-33,000, Volkswagen Routan $25-39,000.

Good News:

Toyota quality, decent fuel economy, good size 5 seat SUV that is easier to handle.

Bad News:

Top of the price point in class.

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 269 hp V6 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, electronic on-demand 4-wheel drive, electronic power steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, 18” alloy wheels, vehicle stability and traction control, front, side and side curtain front and rear air bags, child safety tether anchors and safety locks, tire pressure monitoring, fog lights, rear wiper washer, air conditioning, audio with CD changer & 6 speakers, 60/40 split reclining fold flat rear seat, tilt & telescopic steering wheel, cloth interior, power windows & locks, cruise control, keyless entry, 3- 12 V outlets.

Gas Stats:

$2.95/ Gal avg. Sept 17, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

19 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $26,530.

2009 Toyota Sienna XLE (771)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the Toyota Sienna XLE Front Wheel Drive 7 passenger LTD Minivan. What a nice van. I’ve tested it in years past and haven’t changed my opinion. It’s still a great van and at the top of my buy list.

I always encourage cruise control because it is on my must have list for me and highly recommended. But the Smart Cruise is a whole ‘nuther dimension and the cat’s meow for me. I appreciate it more every time I use one. I wouldn’t be surprised if they used this technology to dock the shuttle to the space station at NASA.

If you haven’t used one it is the technology that senses the car in front of you and will apply the brake even before you if you day dream a little. And when traffic speeds up the cruise will keep up all by it’s self. Great feature and indicates further capability to come not so far down the road – namely the car that drives itself. How exciting will that be.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – USA

Class:  – Minivan

Cars: – 4Runner, Avalon, Camry, Camry Hybrid, Camry Solara, Corolla, FJ Cruiser, Highlander, Highlander Hybrid, Land Cruiser, Matrix Prius, RAV4, Sequoia, Sienna, Tacoma, Tundra, Venza and Yaris.

Opinion:

With all the talk about the demise of GM and Chrysler’s problems looming on the horizon according to the mainstream media – CBS, NBC and ABC it is clear the disaster is more about talk than it is about a real disaster. They don’t report the news they “Make” the news.

In Chryslers case they have failed and survived. We musan’t panic like our politicians who would have us believe the sky is falling – Chicken Little –”The sky is falling,” has passed into the English language as a common idiom indicating a hysterical mistaken belief that disaster is imminent. But me thinks they protest too much, blaming everyone but their own corruption. Friend Norm says there are no honest or good politicians but I have to disagree. There are lots of good people in the world and we just need to seek them out and get them in office to replace the bad guys like Chris Dodd, Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank and many others you could add to this list.

I bring this up is because of a press release I just received titled “Dodge Viper SRT10 Will Live On”. If folks indeed will buy this thirsty 10-cylinder gas guzzling sports car it may be we’re in less trouble than we’re told. I was sure the US was sinking and all hands would go down with the ship – The USS Panic!

How soon we forget the lessons of TWO K nearly a decade ago promising doom January 1, 2000. Computers would crash and the Sky would fall, but it didn’t happen because it was “Much a-do about nothing”.

I started thinking again and said daahh they’re just trying to pull a fast one on us. Sure unemployment is up but guess what 90% are working and we’re spending too much time listening to “News Makers” who would have you think 90% are UNEMPLOYED. My suggestion is to cancel your newspaper subscription and turn the TV news off until the defeated media gets back to reporting the news. Let them bark to a deff audience for a while. “After all is said and done, much is said and little is done”, Richard always tells me. The less we listen and the more we do by getting up each morning and simply put one foot in front of the other as we walk through this mess the better off we will be. Winston Churchill said of WWII… “when you are going through hell . . . just keep going.”

Handling & Performance:

Nothing special and all brands are very good.

Styling:

Attractive.

Fit and Finish:

Typically excellent Japanese workmanship.

Cost:

Not cheap but competitive with the field.

Conveniences and comfort:

For the money you get a Nav system with backup camera (not convinced this is anything more than a gimmick), and on a cold day the seat warmers are nice. Another favorite feature for me is the sliding side doors and power lift gate. Not a must but convenient.

Consumer Recommendation:

My all time favorite family car for kid toting at every age. Easy to get the car seat age in and buckled up and bus like for the bigger kids.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Sienna $25-38,000, Dodge Grand Caravan $24-29,000, Hyundai Entourage $ n/a , Chrysler Town & Country $26-37,000, Honda Odyssey $26-41,000, Kia Sedona $21-28,000, Volkswagen Routan $25-39,000.

Good News:

Good (not great) fuel economy, great family car.

Bad News:

?

Standard Equipment:

3.5 liter 266 hp V6 engine, 5-speed automatic transmission, power rack & pinion steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution, 17” alloy wheels, front, side and side curtain front and rear air bags, child safety tether anchors, tire pressure monitoring, front and rear parking assist, anti theft system with engine immobilizer, climate control, audio with 8 CD changer & 10 speakers, satellite radio and MP3/WMA capable, 60/40 split & stow 3rd row seat, 2nd row captains chairs, wood grain & leather tilt & telescopic steering wheel with audio and Bluetooth controls, power windows & locks, fog lights, leather trimmed 8-way power heated driver seat w/ lumbar support, 4-way passenger power heated seat, power sliding and rear power back door, power tilt / slide moonroof and cruise control.

Gas Stats:

$2.75/ Gal avg. July 17, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

17 City and 23 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $35,665.

2009 Toyota Camry Hybrid (768)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the Toyota Camry Hybrid 4-door sedan. It’s hard to find something wrong with one of the most popular of Toyota’s model offerings. I enjoyed the week driving the Camry once again. I looked at the first Hybrid in model year 2006 and before that I tested the non-hybrid Camry in 2002.

This 2009 model year is $600 less expensive than a nearly identical 2006 model. It is encouraging to see that the hybrid technology is coming down in price over time and thus passed on to the consumer.

There is so much more to chose from in other Hybrid’s prices have improved. In 2006 there were only two major players – Honda and Toyota.

Note:

In addition to my new vehicle reviews being on the net at www.atthewheel.com they are also published at The Weekend Drive – www.theweekenddrive.com where I’m the Southern California Editor. The Weekend Drive is among the most recognized automotive enthusiast websites in the world. Take a look! Go to BLOG and see my interview and tribute to auto legend Boyd Coddington.

The founder of The Week End Drive and international platform speaker, Vince Bodiford and contributor Price Cobb, international race car driver and I were partners in the newspaper business in Colorado and Texas. Both are very knowledgeable in the automotive industry. Price refers to himself as a ‘Gear Head’. Nicer people are rare.

Opinion:

If you ever had any doubt that 40% of all employees are in government jobs it becomes crystal clear when you get on the freeway on Moon Monday or any other bogus government holiday. Please don’t misunderstand, remembering historical events like landing a man on the moon is good but do we really have to give every government employee the day off? Ok, so the good news is that traffic is light; but the bad news is Socialism is upon us and government wants to take money from those with real jobs and give it to those in government jobs that add nothing to the GNP of this country. To add insult to injury they want to keep government jobs while the private sector is having to lay off. What’s that all about Mr. Obama? I think they call that income redistribution. News flash – “most Americans don’t agree with that kind of change”.

In the auto industry the Japanese are profitable while Govt. Motors, previously known as GM will make matters worse for the US and better for imports. Aren’t you just mad as hell at those arrogant (you add the expletive). Your comments are appreciated and encouraged.

Handling & Performance:

The brakes are a bit touchy and take getting used to in part because of the reverse generation feature that begins charging the batteries the moment you take your foot off the accelerator. Other than that it was a delight to drive.

Styling:

Camry is beginning to improve it’s appearance from the plain Jane look of the past. Don’t get me wrong, I’m inclined more to the girl next door and I don’t like a lot of make up, but a new dress now and then is nice. Good job Toyota.

Conveniences and comfort:

Radio and AC controls should be switched because instinctively you reach for the radio much more than the air so I continued to change the air temp instead of the radio volume. Irritating.

I always love to play with the smart cruise control that senses cars ahead. It also adds a degree of safety since it applies the brakes if you don’t pay attention. Of course that can be a double edged sword in that you begin to rely on the feature which can make you drop your guard.

Fit and Finish:

Consistently good. Camry has grown up and now little sister Corolla has moved up a notch in size and conveniences.

Cost:

Pricing is not bad at all, and when you look at fuel economy you gotta just love it.

Consumer Recommendation:

This is a great field of competitors and the midsize class is so versatile and a great choice for all non-truck uses. It’s a great sedan in class is among the top sellers for many years.

The 2010 model year is right around the corner, but for my money I like dealing on a prior year because dealers are also ready to deal to move inventory. And in this case if Camry is your choice the design difference very slight. I suspect if you look at other differences when test driving you’ll like the savings on the ’09.

$524.60 per month. Down=$3,000; Int.=7%; Term=48 months.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Camry Hybrid $26,150, Mitsubishi Galant $21-28,000, Hyundai Sonata $19-27,000, Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid $25,555, Saturn Aura Hybrid $26,325, Pontiac G6 $19-32,000, Kia Optima $17-22,000, Mazda 6 $19-28,000, Mazda Tribute Hybrid $29-33,000, Nissan Altima Hybrid $26,650, 2010 Mercury Milan Hybrid $23-27,000 and Ford Fusion $19-28,000.

Good News:

Outstanding fuel economy, comfortable ride, lots of power and generally a smooth transition of electric / battery and gas engine power train.

Bad News:

Touchy brakes and the AC and radio controls should be reversed.

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter 187 hp 4- cylinder engine with Hybrid Synergy Drive , electronic continuous variable transmission, electric power assist steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with brake assist (regenerative), 16” steel wheels, front, side and side curtain front and rear air bags with driver knee bag, child safety tether anchors LATCH, tire pressure monitoring, engine immobilizer, smart key with push button start, climate control, audio with CD  and MP3 & 6 speakers, 60/40 split folding rear seat, tilt / telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, power windows & locks, power driver seat w/ lumbar support and cruise control.

Gas Stats:

$2.75/ Gal avg. July 17, ‘09
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

33 City and 34 Highway MPG

Pricing:
MSRP $25,350.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2009 – An Automotive Love Affair