Category Archives: Toyota

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

2009 Toyota FJ Cruiser SUV (767)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the Toyota FJ Cruiser SUV. Next week will end the series of Toyota product review with the Sienna.

In the meantime this FJ will surely give Jeep Wrangler a run for the money. Jeep is the grand daddy of all SUVs but Toyota isn’t intimidated. This FJ will deliver a more solid ride on or off road. It is a Foo Foo version of the Wrangler which has always been the Icon as the rough and tumble off road master. Whenever I think of a Wrangler I envision a self assured gal in a wet T-Shirt traversing a stream in the High Sierra’s. Now that’s what I call off roading.

That being said I believe FJ will be a contender and with the trouble in the economy you will continue to see a swing toward Toyota FJ as GM shuts down or sells off the troubled Hummer product. The other winners will be Jeep (still my all time favorite) and the owners of Hummers will find they will hold their value. Some folks are even buying soon to be discontinued gas guzzler performers. There will always be those who simply won’t give up those powerful and capable off road vehicles.

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:

As you may know, the FJ Cruiser is scheduled to be manufactured in the US soon. Toyota is ramping up to build it in California. I think they are well aware of the nationalism sweeping the US and this is a smart move. It will also put many American auto workers back to work for the job losses in the US automaker sector.

You may have seen the buzz across the internet of how to read bar codes to tell you where they are from. This signals the world that we’re increasingly aware of ways to support the US economy. Here is a list of the first few digits of any bar code to identify where it comes from.

690-692 – China

00-09   – USA and Canada

30-37 – France

40-44 – Germany

47 – Taiwan

49 – Japan

50 – UK

Handling & Performance:

FJ delivers a solid and comfortable ride and lots of power and 4-wheel drive capability, but of course that comes at a cost of greater fuel consumption – try almost $4,000 estimated annual cost.

Styling:

Not a clone of other serious off road vehicles. This is however designed for make believe, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills kind of image to say these are rough and tumble guys and gals with outdoor life styles. But to many, Wrangler is still the real deal. The only other contenders in this field of competition is the Hummer H3 and the Land Rover LR2 but with a much higher price tag.

Fit and Finish:

Similar to all other serious off road contenders.

Cost:

Toyota came to play. I suspect the price will go up as popularity increases. When it arrived on the US scene in 2007 MSRP was $23,300. If interested in the 2007 review for comparison and initial reaction go to www.atthewheel.com , Archive , Toyota and FJ.

Conveniences and comfort:

More comfy than the Wrangler.

Consumer Recommendation:

If you are off road interested and outdoor is your lifestyle FJ and Wrangler is priced well. If your budget is significantly more the Land Rover LR2 and The Hummer H3 should also be tested. You can pass on all the rest. If you are a street 4X4 driver the others would be worth test driving.

$514 per month. Down=$3,000; Int.=7%; Term=48 months.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota FJ Cruiser $23-25,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $21-26,000, Hummer H3 $33-43,000, Mercury Mariner $23-27,000, Mazda Tribute $20-28,000, Nissan Xterra $22-29,000, Jeep Wrangler $21-32,000, Land Rover LR2 $35,375, Ford Escape $20-28,000, Dodge Durango $28-40,000.

Good News:

Well priced, comfortable ride, tight off road construction and stand alone styling.

Bad News:

Only fair fuel economy for high hp engine and 4X4.

Standard Equipment:

4.0 liter 239 hp V6 engine, 5-speed auto transmission w/ overdrive, part time 4-wheel drive, variable gear power steering, skid plates on engine transfer case and fuel tank, 2 front and 1 rear tow hooks, ABS brakes with electronic brake force distribution and traction control, 17” steel wheels, front and side and side curtain front and rear air bags, roll over sensors, tire pressure monitoring system, engine immobilizer, child safety tether anchors top and lower anchor points, audio with 1 disc CD changer and MP3 & 6 speakers, 60/40 split rear seat, tilt steering wheel, power windows & locks, 8-way driver adjustable seat, water repellent seats and engine immobilizer.

Gas Stats:

$2.85/ Gal avg. July 10, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

16 City and 20 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $24,910.

2009 Toyota Corolla XLE 4-door Sedan (766)

Overview:
This week we’re looking at yet another Toyota in a series of one of the survivors of this world wide economic melt down – the new 2009 Toyota Corolla XLE 4-door Sedan. The 2010 model year is just around the corner but as for the Corolla there is little change. If you are in the market for a compact sedan with great fuel economy this is a very good “non-hybrid” option. The major objection to hybrid engineering is the potential maintenance nightmares down the road. If you are concerned about the uncertainties of hybrids but want similar fuel numbers this conventional drive train Corolla is one of better choices.

Ilona drove back to back Corolla’s for over 12 years and never a problem with either one. But changing needs dictated a change in the kind of car to satisfy that need so she opted for a Honda Element. After all that time in a small compact she seemed out of her “element” in the Element. Well, you know what I mean.

General Info:

Parts – n/a

Assembly – USA and Canada

Class: – Compact

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.

2010 Toyota Corolla
Handling & Performance:
A characteristic of compact cars that I never get comfortable with is the ‘squirly feeling you get at higher speeds. Commutes for most folks are made at slow speed so it likely isn’t a major concern. But if you travel on the highway over 50 mph you will miss the heavy, solid feel of larger cars, trucks and SUVs.

I also felt the 1.8 liter 132 hp strained more than I like and would consider the 2.4 liter 158 hp engine. But fuel performance is hugely affected with a cost of 5 mpg less. I’d have to think hard about that difference and at gas prices pushing up over $3 bucks a gallon I would be able to live with the strain and avoid some of the stress.

Fit and Finish:
Good.

Cost:
Economical.

Conveniences and comfort:
Well here are some of my pet peeves about basic cars. I can live without auto up and down power windows but I can’t do without cruise control. Visors that don’t extend really irritate me, but I can adjust the air conditioning without an auto temperature feature. I can also function with manual seat settings because once you set them you rarely need to adjust them again. Nice to have power seats but not a must. Lastly a tilt steering wheel adjustment is low cost and that too can be set once.

Consumer Recommendation:
This Corolla is larger than prior year models and in fact is more like the original Camry. This is a great performer and commuter that fits most any budget.

Recognized Competition:
Toyota Corolla $15-20,000, Mitsubishi Lancer $15-27,000, Scion tC $17-18,000, Pontiac G5 $17-20,000, Volkswagen Jetta $18-23,000, Saturn Astra $17-20,000, Jeep Compass $18-25,000, MINI Clubman $20-31,000, MINI Cooper $19-34,000, Mazda3 $15-22,000, Kia Spectra $14-16,000, Nissan Sentra $15-21,000, Hyundai Elantra $14-17,000, Honda Civic $15-25,000, Suzuki SX4 Sport $13-18,000, Ford Focus $16-18,000, Dodge Caliber $16-25,000, Subaru Impreza $18-35,000.

Good News:
Outstanding fuel economy, roomy and priced well.

Bad News:
A bit underpowered.

Standard Equipment:
1.8 liter 4-cylinder 132 hp engine, 4-speed auto transmission, Front Wheel Drive, electric power steering, ABS front disc and rear drum brakes with brake force distribution and brake assist, 16” steel wheels, front and side and side curtain front and rear air bags, LATCH anchor and child tether system and safety rear door locks, tire pressure monitoring system, engine immobilizer, halogen headlights, audio with CD WMA/MP3 player with 6 speakers, air conditioning, 60/40 split rear seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, power windows and remote keyless entry.

Gas Stats:
$2.97/ Gal avg. June 27, ‘09

www.fueleconomy.gov

for more information.

27 City and 35 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $17,550.

2009 Toyota Venza (765)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at yet another Toyota in a series of one of the survivors of this world wide economic melt down – the new 2009 Toyota Venza FWD 4 cylinder SUV.

The survivors are a testimony to the free economic system that rewards prudence leading to profit. As sad as it is to see one time leaders of the industry fall, they do so because they were irresponsible. They allowed unions to push labor to over $75/ hour while companies like Toyota did the same job with $45 / hour labor. Not hard to see how good management with not so common, common sense win out in the end. It is clear to see Unions have outlived their usefulness.

Opinion:

Is there any question that today’s cars are far better and safer than ever? Of course not – yet the speed limits remain out of touch with the changing world. Clearly we all know everyone exceeds the speed limit including police officers whether on or off duty, not because posted speeds are unsafe but rather an opportunistic way to raise your taxes. Our men in blue however have a get out of jail free card – their badge! – so when they get stopped while off duty they simply flash that badge of honor. You guys and gals out there who work the highways know what I mean. It is they who are granted professional courtesy by the other tax collectors. Us, well we can simply pay for the ticket which is routinely $200 plus as well as increased insurance premiums because we have real jobs.

With the exception of foolish drivers most drivers observe the rule of caution and safety according to conditions. The foolish will be bad drivers at any speed.

Artificial maximums purport to improve fuel economy and safety but really only serve to raise money to support even more traffic control cops. Consider the Autobahns of Europe where two lane highways accommodate driving at double the speeds in America. I know, I’ve driven them at 125 mph and the drivers there are better than here because they have to be. Licenses to drive demand more and conditions of higher speeds demands more as well. So much for a speed limit of 65 when conditions permit much more. I suggest we cut the number of cops and let them get ‘real’ jobs where they too could produce some goods and services that add to the GNP / GDP and not consume the labor of others.

Handling & Performance:

Generally a very nice addition to the line up for Toyota. I didn’t however like the jerky accelerator pedal and brakes that grab. The inline 4-cylinder engine produces 182 hp and it was just fine and allows 2-3 mpg better than the optional V6 4X2 and 3-4 mpg better than the 268 hp V6 4X4 if you prefer more power or want a 4-WD.

Styling:

Very nice looking. Good job guys. And everyone I spoke with about the car all agree we love the Root Beer color.

Conveniences and comfort:
Auto air conditioning (climate control) where you set the temp and forget it. You don’t appreciate it until you drive without it. Auto up and down windows are cool too but I can live without them.

The tire pressure monitoring system is definitely not perfect. They need to improve that before I’d opt to pay for that feature. I have found it in error more than it is helpful.

Fit and Finish:

Toyota attention to detail. Another job well done.

Cost:

Competitive in class and as much as $15,000 less than other players. Not worth the money spread for those SUVs.

Consumer Recommendation:

Well priced and my 2nd and 3rd choice would be Dodge Journey and Chevrolet Equinox and I’ll throw in Subaru Outback for good measure.

Recognized Competition:
Toyota Venza $26-29,000, Infiniti EX $32-37,000, Nissan Murano $28-37,000, Pontiac Torrent $25-31,000, Acura RDX $34-37,000, Saturn Vue $23-31,000, Mazda CX-7 $24-28,000, Saab 9-3 SportCombi $32-45,000, Hyundai Santa Fe $22-31,000, Honda CR-V $21-29,000, Audi A4 Avant $34,850, Mercury Mariner $23-28,000, Ford Edge $27-36,000, Dodge Journey $21-29,000, Chevrolet Equinox $22-30,000, Subaru Outback $20-32,000 BMW 3-Series Sports Wagon $35-37,000.

Good News:

Sweet design, decent fuel economy, competitively priced.

Bad News:

Jerky throttle and grabby brakes.

Standard Equipment:

2.7 liter 4-cylinder 182 hp engine, 6-speed auto transmission, 19” alloy wheels, electronic power steering, 4-wheel ABS disc brakes with electronic brake force distribution, stability control, front and side air bags with side curtain bags and driver knee airbag, LATCH anchor and child tether system, tire pressure monitoring system, halogen headlights, day running lights & fog lights, roof mounted radio and SAT antenna, front variable and rear intermittent wipers, climate control with filter, audio with 6 CD changer & Satellite, MP3 player holder and wired, reclining fold flat 60/40 rear seat, power multi adjustable driver seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with controls, power windows with auto up and down, remote keyless entry and cruise control.

Gas Stats:

$2.97/ Gal avg. June 27, ‘09
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

21 City and 29 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $25,975.

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

2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid (764)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Toyota Highlander Hybrid 4WD V6 SUV. Friend Mark who owns a Toyota Sequoia says the Highlander is his next car, but he doesn’t want a Hybrid. He’s been told to stay away from Hybrids. But from the research I’ve done and the absence of negative press I believe his concerns are not well founded. Time will tell but with all the incentives and great warranties it is comforting enough for me to take the chance. Look at Toyota Prius for example. I know several people who own them and not one complaint of horror stories and they have been around for a while now.

Correction:

Before I get on with the Highlander I have a correction on a recent review of the Toyota Yaris. Sam B. at Toyota called me to say he read the column I had written about the Yaris but the photography was of the Honda Fit. Can’t be Sam, but I’ll look into it! But Sam was right. Looking at the photos “side by each” and it’s easy to see how they could get switched.

Well, this Highlander Hybrid can’t be mistaken for much else, or could it? After a while they all blend together so it’s clear that manufacturers are keenly aware of what people like and don’t like in design. I just wonder if they are shooting themselves in the foot when they are conservative and play it safe with design. Ahh, but what about the Scion? That was a bold new look. Ok, ya got me.

But the 1950s and 1960s kind of design is what I’m referring to. There were ‘fins’ and bigger fins and grills that were so distinct you couldn’t miss what make it was that had just gone by no matter how fast it was traveling, or the split second glimpse you got. You knew if it were a Ford, Chevy or Chrysler – or European of some kind. Japanese cars didn’t exist in America then and they were just a budding industry in Japan back then. Korea was still producing bicycles shortly after they discovered the wheel. The world has come a long way baby in 50 years.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent. This Highlander is fast and smooth and quiet.

Styling:

Clean lines and attractive is what defines the Highlander. It comes in either a 5 passenger or 7 with 3rd row seating.

Fit and Finish:

Very nice – no complaints here.

Cost:

In the hunt.

Consumer Recommendation:

One has to wonder about the technology and the Hybrid cost of maintenance and repair over time. I like the way the Hybrid drive train is transparent but I also agree with those who express concern for what cost may be required after a few years.

There is some comfort in that several states offer tax deductions and incentives for hybrid purchases. The rebates vary from state to state, but when combined with the available federal tax credits, they can add up to substantial savings.

All the hybrid-specific components in every hybrid vehicle currently on the market are covered under warranty for eight years/100,000 miles or 10 years/150,000 miles, depending on the state, but these components have been shown to have a much longer lifespan in testing. Toyota, for example, reports that its battery packs have lasted for more than 180,000 miles in testing.

In ordinary vehicles the brake pads need to be changed regularly. But the hybrids’ regenerative braking systems and their reduced heat means their brake pads typically last much longer. Toyota says “We’ve seen customers go 85,000 miles before they needed to replace their brakes on their Prius vehicles” for example.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Highlander Hybrid $35-41,000, Lexus RX 400h $42-43,000, Buick Enclave $35-39,000, GMC Yukon Hybrid $51-54,000, Chevrolet Tahoe Hybrid $50-53,000, Mercury Mariner Hybrid $30-32,000, Ford Escape Hybrid $30-34,000, Dodge Durango Hybrid $45,040, Chrysler Aspen Hybrid $45,270, Subaru Tribeca $30-34,000.

Good News:

Nice design, fast, smooth and a very comfortable ride.

Bad News:
Uncertainty as to repair cost over time.

Standard Equipment:

3.3 liter V6 209 hp gas engine, hybrid synergy drive system, electric continuously variable transmission, electronic power steering, 4-wheel drive, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes, tow prep package, vehicle stability with traction control, front air bags and driver knee airbag, front side airbags and rear roll sensing side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring system, 2nd row child seat anchors and tethers, power heated mirrors, in glass antenna, air conditioning, rear back up camera, audio with CD, power windows and locks, cruise control, tilt and telescopic steering wheel with audio controls, 8 way driver and 4-way passenger seats and rear 40/20/40 split folding seat.

Gas Stats:

$2.97/ Gal avg. June 20, ‘09
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

27 City and 25 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $34,700.

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