Category Archives: Toyota

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

2009 Toyota Matrix AWD small wagon. (763)

[wpsgallery]

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Toyota Matrix 4-door small wagon. I’m a fan of Toyota but some of the product is not to my taste. This is one of those very capable cars that I just can’t warm up to or that I would run right out and buy one.

Provincial might explain my indifference to the car. I always got excited getting behind the wheel of brother John’s Ferrari’s or our ’55 Porsche Speedster or Lamborghini. But when we get into a utility commuter or truck it is because we have work to do. Exotic’s are for the fun of it. We shouldn’t really expect to be wowed by our daily drivers. Last week on the other hand I was very impressed with the VW Jetta small sportwagon and really feel I could own that car and enjoyed driving it every day. But if it weren’t in my budget at 25% more money than this Toyota Matrix I would change my tune a bit since you can’t fairly compare the two. I guess I would opt to budget more rather than settle.

The real test of what you buy however is that the Need must fall within your Budget.

Handling & Performance:

Excellent on the Crest Test but I got the distinct impression other drivers had a need to pass me. I could only conclude they thought this was a wimpy car unable to keep up. It was an odd feeling because I was keeping up with traffic. Size does make a difference I’ve been told and we all know that applies to cars as well. I guess what I mean is that if I were in a Corvette they would back off knowing the Vette could chew them up and spit them out. Remember Rodney Dangerfield who’d constantly remind us he got no respect.

At the end of the day the overall road-ability of this AWD little car is exceptional and it handled the mountain curves with relative ease. If I were interested in this size car I would look at the Yaris.

Styling:

Not my thing but it isn’t ugly either.

Fit and Finish:
Good.

Cost:

Competitive in the field below.

Consumer Recommendation:

This is a good field of challengers albeit a large one and difficult to go through. I’ve tested them all and I break them down into Classic (HHR and PT Cruiser), Off road (Jeep) and Unusual (Sion and MINI). Everything else are Commuters.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Matrix $16-22,000, Pontiax Vibe $16-21,000, Chevrolet HHR $19-25,000, VW Jetta SportWagen $19-26,000, VW Rabbit $16-19,000, Nissan Versa $10-16,000, Mazda5 $18-23,000, Mazda3 $15-22,000, Jeep Patriot $18-24,000, Jeep Compass $18-25,000, Dodge Caliber $16-25,000, Chrysler PT Cruiser $18-25,000, Honda Fit $15-19,000, MINI Clubman $20-31,000, Subaru Impreza $17-35,000, Suzuki SX4 Crossover $16-19,000, Kia Rio 5 $13-14,000, Kia Rondo $17-22,000, Kia Soul $13-17,000, Hyundai Elantra Touring $18-19,000, Sion xB $16-17,000.

Good News:

Decent fuel economy, good commuter, handles well.

Bad News:
Provincial styling.

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter 4 cylinder 158 hp engine, 4-speed auto transmission, all wheel drive, torque control electric power steering, 4-wheel ABS power disc brakes with brake force distribution and brake assist, front and side air bags and front and rear side curtain airbags, child rear door locks with anchor system, engine immobilizer, tire pressure monitoring, halogen lights, power mirrors, intermittent front and rear wipers, roof rack, air conditioner, audio with CD, WMA/MP3 player, tilt and telescopic steering wheel, front passenger fold flat and rear 60/40 split rear seat, 115 volt AC outlet, power windows and locks and keyless entry.

Gas Stats:

$2.95/ Gal avg. June 14, ‘09
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

20 City and 26 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $20,400.

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

 

2009 Scion xB 5-door (759)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Scion xB 5-door small wagon. Like me lots of people I talked with about the Scion felt the early versions were really ugly. The sharp boxy edges just didn’t do it for most folks. Today’s more rounded edges soften the look and less like a gang bangers car. The gay community adopted the Saab for unknown reasons and it is interesting how cars have become an integral part of our lives and how they often define us.

The Scion has blended into the competition a little more with the 2009 and in fact it is much like its cousin the Honda Element. It sits even lower than the Element and in part the low to the ground design of both is what puts them in the Wagon category rather than an SUV class.

What surprised me from the outset with the two vehicles is the broad acceptance of the design. Young and old alike have embraced the look. I believe for different reasons however. Young people like to be different – period! Older folks like the practicality of the design. When the Element came on the scene Honda felt it would appeal to the older buyer since it was easy to get in and out of. It was simple and could even be hosed out for easy cleaning. Just open the doors on both sides and the ‘suicide door’ configuration make it look like you could drive a truck thru it.

I guess the generations are not as far apart as you might think.

Opinion:

As car companies come and go cars have always been repaired and maintained. The history of the automobile should help us to get a grip on the fact that losing dealerships may in fact be a Good Thing. Have you ever experienced the cost to do anything at a dealership? Not a pretty picture at the check out counter. Bring more than one credit card because you shouldn’t carry that much cash around on your person.

As some of you know I experienced first hand the difference between the dealer and the independent repair facility. Why – because I was an owner of an independent mostly foreign and some domestic repair shop. We also had a body shop and I learned how BMW, Jag and Mercedes Benz owners would drop in as if we were an Oasis in the desert.

The point is simply this. If you have any trepidation about buying any car because they may not be around next year forget the worry – buy the car you want or need and know with confidence independents have been fixing cars abandoned by their parents for a hundred years now.

Handling & Performance:

The Scion is comfortable and has good stability in part because of the lower center of gravity. It is fast and because of its smooth ride you tend to drive faster than you should. That fact is sufficient reason why you always include ‘cruise control’ when you buy a car. Simply set the speed and forget it and you’ll avoid your, not so friendly, highway tax collectors.

Styling:

Another comparison where the Honda Element is more thoughtfully crafted than many similar vehicles is the rear ‘theater seating’. Scion doesn’t incorporate that design feature, and although it may seem like a small thing, when you try it you will love it. Correction – your passengers will love it.

Some Curb Weight comparisons: Scion 3026 lbs; Element 3352 lbs; PT Cruiser 3070; Kia Rio 2568 lbs; Chevrolet HHR 3155; Dodge Caliber 3052;

Small and large SUV examples: Ford Escape 3229 lbs; Cadillac Escalade 5511 lbs.

In the style department however the winner has to be the PT Cruiser from Chrysler. It simply stands out in the crowd and if you ask ‘mirror mirror on the wall…’ it is the prettiest one of all.

Fit and Finish:

Not bad and for this price point car it is quite good. You expect exceptional assembly from Japanese car makers and because they have set the bar so high the competition has met the challenge and none are really poorly assembled. To get to the really ‘exceptional’ level you must triple the price point, so I can’t get too excited about looser tolerances for the purchase price in this class.

Cost:

Very good car for the money.

Conveniences and comfort:

Very good.

Consumer Recommendation:

Nice selection to choose from in this economy class of small wagons. I’ve tested most but have not been in the Ford Transit Connect or the Nissan Cube. Good stuff.

Recognized Competition:

Scion xB $16-17,000, Pontiac Vibe $16-21,000, Mazda 5 $18-23,000, Chrysler PT Cruiser $18-25,000, Honda Fit $15-19,000, Suzuki SX4 Crossover $16-19,000, Kia Rio5 $13-14,000, Kia Rondo $17-22,000, Nissan Versa $10-16,000, Kia Soul $13-17,000, Dodge Caliber $16-25,000, Ford Transit Connect $21-22,000, Nissan Cube $14-19,000, Chevrolet HHR  $19-25,000, Toyota Matrix $17-22,000.

Good News:

Good fuel economy, nice ride and well priced.

Bad News:

Light weight class that concern many.

Standard Equipment:

2.4 liter 158 hp 4 cylinder engine, 4-speed auto trans, electronic power steering, 4-wheel power ABS disc brakes with brake force distribution, sport tuned independent MacPherson front strut and rear torsion beam suspension, stability control with traction control, front – side and side curtain airbags, tire pressure monitoring, power mirrors, front and rear washer wipers, front bucket and rear split fold flat seats, cruise control, air conditioning, audio with CD, 6 speakers, iPod connector, power windows and locks, remote keyless entry, privacy glass and tilt steering wheel with audio controls.

Gas Stats:

$2.43/ Gal avg. May 14, ‘09
www.fueleconomy.gov

2009 Toyota Yaris S 5-door Liftback (753)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Toyota Yaris S 5-door Liftback. It’s even more important a vehicle for the times than it was when I last reviewed it two years back, and although I’m less impressed this time around it has a lot of great points that will be obvious on your first test drive. My colleague Merkel owns a 2007 and he and his wife are thrilled with their decision to buy it. They routinely get 39 mpg and if that isn’t enough it is also a pleasure to drive. It is a real car even though some will argue it is too light and too small. “What if you tangle up with a big SUV they say?” Well I have some advice for them… drive defensively and remember those dinosaurs are being replaced by smaller ones. Anyway, what about “Big Rigs” they are a lot more intimidating than a Suburban!

Opinion:

I’ve spoken with Cal Trans and the CHP and reported on their answers to my questions about our roads and my being curious why diamond lanes aren’t used during off peak hours. Traveling on the 134 East from Glendale to Pasadena the other day I was reminded that I can’t understand why the lane is not marked for use as a HOV lane only during rush hour.

You could have fired off a canon up the diamond lane and not hit a soul. The lane was totally empty while the other lanes were struggling to avoid each other. Are Cal Trans / our legislator’s brain dead? Is it not, at best, shameful they ignore the obvious and at worse criminal that they don’t allow use of that lane by all traffic during off peak hour travel? Hello – the lights are on but it would appear no one is home!

Handling & Performance:

Well, I find the best way to get the handling characteristics of a car is to take it over a mountain range and for us in Southern California the best course is over the San Gabriel Mountains between the city and the desert. It is NOT however a road for the faint hearted, especially during commuter hours in the morning or afternoon. But if you love the hair raising rides at 6-Flags Magic Mountain type theme parks you’re ok for the “Crest” and I have to tell you the Yaris is up to the challenge.

Styling:

Well design is very subjective and some would say it’s cute and others say it is ugly.
The rear seat is roomy and will accommodate 3 passengers. They also did a nice job to allow the seat to adjust forward and backward just like the front seats. They also fold flat easily.

Fit and Finish:
Good.

Cost:

More than it needs to be because of the Toyota badge. But a good value none-the-less.

Conveniences and comfort:

I would NEVER own a car without Cruise Control and this week my conviction was renewed since this model came without cruise. The first car I experienced cruise control came out on the Cadillac in the mid 1970s. I knew then this would eventually have to be standard equipment on ALL cars. Well, it is still not standard equipment but optional and highly recommended.

Consumer Recommendation:

Look at the rise in fuel costs creeping up steadily now and consider a fuel efficient commuter like the list below. Yaris is among the best and is a 5 seater versus the Smart for example and gets nearly the same fuel economy for the same money.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Yaris $12-16,000, Suzuki Reno $14,000, Hyundai Accent $11-15,000, Scion xD $15,000, VW Rabbit $16-19,000, Suzuki SX4 Crossover $16-19,000, Kia Rio $11-14,000, Nissan Versa $10-16,000, Honda Fit $15-19,000, Smart fortwo $12-17,000, Chevrolet Aveo5 $12-15,000.

Good News:

This is a grouping of economical cars and gives a good variety of great commuters. Yaris is among the best in fuel economy.

Bad News:

Light weight that can be intimidating to many drivers.

Standard Equipment:

1.5 liter 4-cylinder 106 horsepower engine, 4-speed automatic transmission, front wheel drive, electric power steering, electronic throttle control, front disc rear drum ABS brakes with brake force distribution, child LATCH and Tether anchors and rear safety door locks, tire pressure monitoring system, halogen headlights, intermittent front wiper and rear wiper, front and rear spoilers, fog lights, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD WMA/MP3 player, CD text display and iPod interface, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, 4–way adjustable front sport seats, 12 volt outlet, folding rear bench seat, remote fuel filler door and hood release.

Gas Stats:

$2.29/ Gal avg. April 13, ‘09
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

29 City and 35 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $15,125.

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

 

 

 

2009 Toyota Highlander 4-door 4X2 SUV (749)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2009 Toyota Highlander 4-door 4X2 SUV. When I picked it up on my return from an assignment in Sacramento, my associate got in and said, “what a coincidence – I had already decided I was going to buy a Highlander to replace my current car – a Toyota Sequoia and the only difference is that I want the Hybrid”.

My response was that this 4-cylinder may be a better buy in the long run, because I’m still concerned about the potential for high maintenance costs down the road. The non-conventional components and technology are untested long enough to ease my mind.

As to my friend buying this Highlander I will bet he’ll buy the V6 because it is more powerful at 270 horsepower. It will be a business vehicle and even though he’ll get less fuel economy he knows his tax rate is 43% Federal and State. Obama and the Demo congress are sure to try to make it even higher to pay for the “Change” promised. So, at the end of the day his waste will be paid in equal parts by his adopted Uncle when he deducts the increased fuel costs. What do you think – tax increases to 50% – 60%. Hell, just lay off one more employee and don’t worry about the extra gas.

Observation:

You know what – I get tired on our crowded highways when an unfortunate accident happens. But I have to tell you that the cost to society in additional burning of fuel, lost time at work and general frustration and stress cause much more damage to us all than the benefit of detailed scrutiny on what caused the accident, who was at fault etc. No-fault insurance should eliminate the need to look so closely. They can work out the details later. In the meantime, we need to get that traffic log jam cleared faster.

I get mad as hell watching the Highway Patrol gloat over the jam as they snub their noses at thousands of people slowed to a stop, while they do their jobs. I have news for them – they are more the problem than the solution. And we’re not impressed by their Gestapo posture.

Put larger bumpers on the front of those squad cars we drivers / commuters pay for and push the damn car off to the side and allow the rest of us to get to OUR jobs because we’re not there to watch you do yours.

When you consider lost time of say a half hour for each accident the cost is nearly unfathomable to the hundreds of thousands of commuters involved. For you math wizards out there, call me when you calculate the millions of dollars in extra fuel, and lost productivity. Hint: deduct the huge percentage of government employees who do not actually produce any goods and services in this economy.

Handling & Performance:

Responsive beyond what you’d expect for a 4-cylinder 187 hp engine. Trust me – test this engine configuration and I think you’ll agree you don’t need the V6 with 80 hp more and you won’t use so much gas.

Styling:

Highlander is nice looking with very clean lines, but the design more importantly provides a quiet ride. After coming out of a recent test of the Subaru Forester SUV I noticed how much more noise you get from the road and other moving parts in that Forester. I had to slam the Subaru for the high noise level because insulation is perhaps the least expensive thing to include in the design. Shame on them and kudos to Toyota for the better design.

Fit and Finish:

Always a pleasure to be reminded how well Toyota does on assembly.

Cost:

OK, so there’s a cost to all that good workmanship noted above, but you won’t see it reflected in the prices of this class SUV as much as you’d expect.

Conveniences and comfort:

Very good but, of course, you’ll pay more for the goodies.

Consumer Recommendation:

Price demands you include Highlander in your search. Me – I’d pony up a few extra Jewish shekels for the quality workmanship. But the Dodge Journey is a pretty compelling competitor for a lot less money so don’t leave that one out. I’ve tested them all and if money is not an issue I’d also look closely at the Cad SRX (elegant and one of my favorites).

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Highlander $26-35,000, Dodge Journey $21-29,000, Buick Enclave $35-39,000, GMC Acadia $32-40,000, Cadillac SRX $40-47,000, Subaru Tribeca $30-34,000, Kia Borrego $26-40,000, Mitsubishi Outlander $20-26,000, Chevrolet Traverse $29-41,000, Lincoln MKX $38-40,000, Lexus RX 350 $37-38,000, Nissan Murano $28-37,000, Honda Pilot $28-40,000, Ford Edge $27-37,000, Suzuki XL-7 $26-30,000, Saturn Outlook $31-36,000, Mazda CX-9 $30-35,000, Volvo XC60 $ n/a, Hyundai Veracruz $ n/a.

Good News:

Good pricing, good quality, decent fuel economy in the 4-cylinder version with good performance.

Bad News:

The Economy.

Standard Equipment:

2.7 liter 187 hp inline 4-cylinder engine, front wheel drive, 6-speed automatic trans, power steering, 4-wheel power anti-lock disc brakes with EDB (brake force distribution), 17” alloy wheels, stability control, front side and roll sensing curtain airbags, 2nd row child restraints and tether anchors, power mirrors, front variable and rear intermittent wipers, privacy glass, auto headlights, air conditioning, audio with CD player and auxiliary jack, power windows & locks, cruise control, remote keyless entry, tilt & telescopic wheel, cloth interior, driver 8-way and passenger 4-way seats and 40/20/40 split 2nd row seat.

Gas Stats:

$2.11/ Gal avg. Feb 28, ‘09
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

20 City and 27 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $25,705.

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

2007 Yaris S 4-door Sedan (663)

[wpsgallery]

Overview:

This week let’s look at the 2007 Yaris S 4-door Sedan that speaks to us about the hypocrisy of our ‘classes’. Most ‘do gooders’ will tell you to “do as I say, not as I do”. Can you think of someone who wastes and then tells others to tighten their belts, be “green”, cut fewer trees and save the spotted owl and prevent global warming?

Well you don’t have to listen to him but simply buy a fuel efficient car to beat the high price of gas with cars like this Yaris at nearly 40 mpg. In fact friend Merkel tells me he gets more than 40 mpg in his new Yaris with a manual transmission and hasn’t dipped below 36. This test vehicle has a 4-speed automatic trans which I would opt for as shifting is great some of the time but it gets old fast.

This car is a serious option for those cost conscious buyers who want great fuel economy but don’t want to take a chance on the Hybrids that could end up costing a lot in repair bills down the road. The jury is still out on that but consider you can get nearly the same economy from a conventionally powered Yaris. Next time I will give some information on the Actual Cost of vehicles.

Handling & Performance:

The 1.5 liter 4-cylinder 106 horsepower engine is not a lot but it’s amazing how little you need even in today’s world of highway driving. Consider the 505 hp Corvette with 16 mpg fuel stats compared to this 40 mpg car that seats 4 and (looks aside) will out perform the Vette under most usual traffic conditions where horsepower means absolutely nothing.

Amazingly however the Vette actually develops more horsepower per liter than the Yaris. Historically the smaller engines (especially those from European car makers) have delivered close to 100 hp per liter.

I felt very comfortable driving at highway speeds. I can’t say that of all small cars so the Yaris road ability is good.

Styling:

Yaris is available as a two door hatchback or this 4-door sedan. I found the center mounted gauges to be odd and unclear why they did that. It was explained to me that is most likely for the world market generally so the car can be configured right or left hand drive and not change in the instruments.

I kept looking first at where you expect the gauges to be and staring at a blank piece of plastic. Speaking of plastic, the cupholders hidden in the dash are smart on each side of the front seat for driver and passenger.

Fit and Finish:

Typical of this price class. It is not, however, noticeably cheap. Components are solid and no indication things will start falling off any time soon. That too is not true of all cars I critique. Literally some are so cheaply put together components do indeed fall off, bend, and otherwise are not suited for the purpose intended. This Yaris is engineered well and you won’t get that cheap feeling when you drive this car.

Cost:

Excellent especially when put up against most of the competition noted here.

Conveniences and comfort:

Skinny. Pretty basic. I found the seats to be rather uncomfortable which is not so uncommon in this price range car. I expected better.

Consumer Recommendation:

For the money this Yaris will be hard to beat and you have to give Toyota credit for making fuel stingy cars available at the height of fuel price levels. Smart and I believe this is as good a reason to support economical models. This is a great example of responsible vehicles and I predict they will explode now and in the future which will push the price up for new and used alike. You can’t lose on resale. This is a good choice and a good buying decision.

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Yaris $11-14,000, Honda Fit $14-16,000, Ford Focus $14-17,000, Saturn Ion $12-20,000, Chevrolet Aveo $12-14,000, Chevrolet Aveo5 $10-12,000, Honda Fit $14-16,000, Hyundai Accent $10-14,000, Nissan Versa $13-15,000, Suzuki Reno $14-16,000, VW Rabbit $15-17,000, Kia Rio $11-13,000 and Kia Rio5 $13,750.

Good News:

Outstanding fuel economy without concern for potential Hybrid repair nightmares down the road and interior space is roomy feeling.

Bad News:

Sparse on the features which are very basic unless you spend another $2,075 for the options, uncomfortable seats and I don’t like the center mounted gauges.

Standard Equipment:

1.5 liter 4-cylinder 106 horsepower engine, 4-speed automatic trans with overdrive, air conditioning, power steering, electronic throttle control, front ventilated disc and rear drum brakes, front airbags, halogen headlights, cloth bucket seats, 60/40 split fold down rear seat, tilt steering wheel, intermittent wiper, audio system with CD and rear defroster.
Options: Power package with 15” allow wheels, seat mounted front side airbags and front and rear side Curtain airbags, remote keyless entry, fog lights: add $2,075.

Gas Stats:

$3.00/ Gal avg. August 10, ‘07
www.fueleconomy.gov
for more information.

34 City and 39 Highway MPG

Pricing:

MSRP $14,050.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2007 – An Automotive Love Affair

2007 Toyota Land Cruiser Wagon (610)

Overview:

This week we’re looking at the 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Wagon. Bravo Toyota for last weeks FJ experience but this week is Ho-hum week. After the exciting experience of a well priced fun and exciting sporty SUV this luxury SUV is sure to put me to sleep. The difference between the two parallels the difference between a guy who climbs to the top of the mountain and meets a guy at the top who was dropped off from his helicopter. Depending on your view point you may consider the first guy is ‘alive and exciting’ and the other is ‘married to Anna Nicole Smith’.   

For every ass there is a seat, it is said, and this Land Cruiser is obviously made for those who live in the lap of luxury and want all the comforts of home in the car their chauffeur drives. Leather seats, dash board and steering wheel are all nice and go well with the plush carpet. The desire for luxury is the other side of reality, necessity and need. This Land Cruiser is yet another ‘want’ some feel must be satisfied. But the prices in this category of SUV are obscene. Ok so I’m being a little critically sarcastic but it’s fun poking fun at the rich and famous. In any case I’m not the first and won’t be the last. Shopping places like “The Price of His Toys” or statements like “what do you buy for a person who has everything?” pokes a little fun at those who are pampered and out of touch with most of us who do in fact live in the real world.

Handling & Performance:

A big V8 captures 275 horses to do the pulling and pushing for maximum response as you press the gas pedal. Speed isn’t the intended purpose of this Toyota but it is fast, and of course very comfortable to drive as you’d expect of a well behaved well bred vehicle.

It has a height control for Hi N(ormal) and Lo settings for cruising to off roading. But no matter what goodies and gadgets they put on this truck the fuel consumption is piss poor. It is nothing short of appalling in these times. And it isn’t just the price of gas but when you can literally watch the needle move as you drive it is maddening.

Styling:

Rather plain and uninteresting and some might even say boring.

Fit and Finish:

Quite! I think these Japanese chaps attended Oxford .  

Cost:

Wow. Is this really necessary? Do we live in la-la land or what. I have driven about every car ever made after 1925, and I’m more convinced than ever that we spend way too much time, effort and energy worshiping the automobile. We attribute too much value to this form of transportation because we are mesmerized by the whole marketing con game. I suggest we all get a grip and determine what it is that we really NEED and become less moved by what advertisers tell us we should want. We really need to fall in love for our own reasons – not theirs.

Conveniences:

Embarrassing don’t you think? But I guess we all enjoy climate control for automatic comfort, leather everywhere, tape deck and a multi-disc CD player in the console and plush carpet like home. And of course what would home be like without an entertainment system to shut the kids up on those long trips.  

Consumer Recommendation:

Don’t grow so old so quickly. Look closely at the Toyota FJ, buy it and go hang gliding to celebrate your Independence Day decision.  

Recognized Competition:

Toyota Land Cruiser $56,215, Hummer H1 Alpha $128-140,000, Mercedes Benz M-Class $40-49,000, Land Rover Range Rover $74-89,000, Land Rover Range Rover Sport $56-69,000, Lincoln Navigator $49-55,000, Hummer H2 $53,000, Lexus LX 470 $67,395, BMW X5 $43-71,000, 2007 Cadillac Escalade $54-59,000, 2007 GMC Yukon Denali $47-50,000, 2007 Chevrolet Suburban $36-48,000 and 2007 Ford Expedition $ – unavailable.  

Good News:

Verrrry comfortable, lots of gadgets including an entertainment system for the children in the rear with silver spoons in their mouths.

Bad News:

Terrible fuel consumption – no economy in this thirsty beast, very pricey beyond value.

Standard Equipment:

4.7 liter 275 hp V8 engine, 5-speed auto trans, full time four wheel drive, locking differential, double wishbone independent front suspension with 4-Link coil spring rear suspension, 4-wheel ventilated ABS power assist disc brake system, transmission oil cooler, 18 inch allow wheels, vehicle skid control, dual air bags, side impact door beans, daytime running lights, moon roof / fog lights, 8 passenger leather seating, leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, front and rear climate control, JBL 3-in-1 AM/FM with Cassette, 6 disc CD with 7 speakers, rear seat audio.

Gas Stats:

13 City and 17 Highway MPG
(I had difficulty getting 14 mpg on the road)

Pricing:

MSRP $55,815.

Your comments are welcomed. My e-mail is joe@atthewheel.com
Copyright © 2006 – An Automotive Love Affair