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You are currently browsing the Toyota of Tampa Bay Newsletter archives for October, 2014 .

Archive for October, 2014

2015 Toyota Camry

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

The Camry you see here represents the closest Toyota has come to emulating the magic formula that made the 1992 model the stuff of legends. Compared to the 2014 model, some 2000 of the car’s 6,000 parts are new, most of them involving things you can see or touch (on the outside, for example, only the roof carries over from 2014).

It’s not a full redesign, but nevertheless it’s a stunning development considering the predecessor upon which it’s based only survived two model years. That’s a testament to both the hyper-competitive nature of the family sedan segment and the lukewarm critical response that the outgoing car garnered. But that’s in the past now – after driving this 2015 model, we suspect the new car’s changes will be thorough enough to continue pulling in new customers by the hundreds of thousands each year for the foreseeable future.

For starters, it looks great. Photos perhaps overemphasize the gaping, Avalon-inspired maw, but the Camry’s sculpted and elongated body – 1.7 inches longer than its predecessor – gives it a sense of grace it hasn’t had since the aforementioned 1992 model. Swoopy new headlamps walk the line between pretty and predatory, and hash marks running down the cheeks containing LED running lamps on some models, add a bit of edge. Out back is a remarkably clean decklid/bumper situation, including a tasteful spoiler on certain models.

The new-for-15 XSE model (seen here in V6 form) brings monochromatic paint, blacked-out exterior details, and sexy 18-inch black and machined wheels (compared to 16-inch steel wheels/covers on LE models and 17-inchers on LE and SE models). It’s a look that attempts to close in on the Mazda6 in sex appeal, yet isn’t so radical that your grandma won’t get inside when it’s time to take her to church. If there’s a weak spot in the design, it’s the C-pillar garnish that pretends to be a window but isn’t; still, even that deserves some of the credit for making this car look a bit more like the ’92.

On the inside, nearly every surface with which the driver or passengers interact has been changed – nothing radical, but if we were to put it in, say, hotel terms, the Camry interior has gone from Courtyard By Marriott to, well, Marriott – still conservative, yet more upscale. The high H-point seats feature the now-mandatory contrast stitching, and you’ll find a bit more soft (or soft-ish) touch stuff on the dash and door panels. Color schemes correspond closely to trim level – rental-grade grays for the appliance-like LE; sportier and more metallic-heavy with the SE (now four-cylinder only); sinister with the new XSE grade, with all-black leatherette/faux suede upholstery and red stitching; leather-lined and luxurious with the top-dog XLE models. The latter two trims also get rear seat air vents and dual-zone climate controls inside, as well as full LED headlamps on the outside.

The new Camry also steps up its electronics, starting with Optitron gauge clusters on SE models and above, and nice, three-dimensional primary dials flanking a new high-definition info screen. The XSE and XLE V6 models get charging ports behind a door in the dashboard, as well as larger touchscreens (7.0 inches vs. 6.1 on the rest) for their app-based Entune infotainment systems. Safety options come in the form of a pre-collision system, automatic high beams and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

Source: [AutoBlog.com]

Posted in Automotive News |

2015 Toyota Sienna

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

It’s hard to love a minivan, but it’s very, very easy to use one. More than any other kind of vehicle – save a panel van, perhaps – the minivan is the most appliance-like of four-wheeled transportation devices. And most minivan buyers don’t need to love their purchases; they just need to use them. So when it comes to a minivan’s driving dynamics, who cares?

Well, we do. So we perked right up when Toyota talked about refinements it made to the 2015 Sienna, starting with some 142 added spot welds made to the body structure. Normally not stop-the-presses stuff, but Toyota says the added reinforcements prompted Sienna engineers to recalibrate the springs and shocks for improved handling, and our very limited wheel time along the (admittedly benign) roads on the Big Island of Hawaii revealed the 2015 Sienna SE model’s handling to be tidier and more engaging than you’d expect for a porky, 4,560-pound, eight-passenger box on wheels.

Driving Notes

  • Styling has been updated for 2015 in the most minor of ways. Headlights and taillamps are new on most models, as are revised grille inserts for LE, XLE and Limited grades. SE and Limited trims get long, skinny LED running lamps underscoring the headlamp bezels. The Sienna still looks portly compared to the Chrysler Town & Country and the elegant new Sedona from Kia, especially in the Sienna’s SE “Swagger Wagon” trim. But give Toyota credit for at least trying to style its four-wheeled appliance.
  • A reconfigured (and far more attractive) dashboard brings climate controls closer to the driver and incorporates standard touchscreen infotainment technology, while Limited models get a swanky new saddle-color leather treatment. More soft touch materials and satin chrome accents have found their way inside, upping the scale of the fitments appreciably. Other than that, however, there’s not much that makes the Sienna special.
  • Seating position is darn near perfect, with excellent outward sight lines. The relocated shifter looks and feels better than previous years, and the new climate controls (now with rear temperature settings that can sync with either front passenger) are no longer the reach they used to be.
  • Thrust from the 266-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 is ho-hum, even with just two adults aboard. Then again, no minivan makes much more or much less power than this, so as long as drivers aren’t the perpetually late type, they should find Sienna’s output perfectly acceptable. We wish, however, that it made less of a fuss at high revs – it’s a bit gruff.
  • Brakes are surprisingly linear, responsive and even offer feel. Steering is well-weighted and 19-inch rolling stock offers decent grip.
  • Added structural stiffening and sound insulation has created a remarkably quiet environment, even in the lower SE model. It’s quiet enough to hear your children’s scheming thoughts, which you may choose to quash using the new Driver Easy Speak microphone.
  • Second-row outboard seats are comfortable, center position in eight-passenger configuration is tight.
  • Backup camera lacks predictive trajectory graphics, as do many such systems in the industry.

Source: [AutoBlog.com]

Posted in Automotive News |

2015 Toyota Yaris

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Subjective exterior review complete, I open the door and drop into the air-conditioned cabin where I am blasted with volumes of frigid air – thankfully, the A/C system rocks. In addition to the exterior styling tweaks, Toyota has also enhanced the Yaris’ interior. Most notable are the subtle new metallic and chrome accents along the dash and around several of the controls, which visually break up the expansive areas of plastic. The dash has been slightly resculpted, with a new lower storage tray, and it is now formed from soft-touch material. The gauges on my SE model are also new, with crisp white characters on a black background and orange needles to replace last year’s all-orange over black theme. A new standard Pioneer 6.1-inch full-color touchscreen adds some sophistication to the dashboard, and it can be paired with an optional navigation plug-in.

This year, Toyota will offer its Yaris in three different trims: L, LE and SE. The L models are easy to spot thanks to their 15-inch steel wheels and plastic hubcaps. Upgraded LE models arrive with 15-inch alloys, while the SE models have 16-inch painted and machine-finished alloy wheels. Power windows, locks and the aforementioned infotainment system (with the automaker’s Entune interface), is standard across the board. Cruise control, a multifunction steering wheel with tilt adjustment, remote entry and more is added on the LE model, while the range-topping SE adds sport-trimmed upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel, enhanced instrumentation and some other goodies.

The six-way adjustable driver’s seat is supportive, and it effortlessly accommodates my six-foot, two-inch frame. There is plenty of head, leg and shoulder room when driving solo, but I would prefer the tilt-only steering wheel to telescope a few inches rearward to maximize arm comfort. Adding an adult front passenger turns the cabin from “roomy” to “intimate,” as there is only about five inches separating shoulders, but on the plus side, having a conversation with someone next to you is effortless.

Out of curiosity, I climb into the rear seats of the five-door. The back row provides adequate headroom, but I needed to slide the driver’s seat up an inch to make room for my knees. Dropping the standard 60/40 split rear seats will also require the front seats to be bumped forward on their rails to make room for the head restraints as they fold forward (the latter can also be removed). A rear cargo cover, required to keep precious valuables away from mischievous eyes, is now standard.

With a twist of the key, the engine comes to life and settles to a busy idle. Lift the hood on a Yaris to find a standard 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine mounted transversely in the engine bay. The all-aluminum, 1NZ-FE powerplant is yestertech stuff – it’s been serving Toyota customers for more than a decade, but at least it’s done so faithfully and reliably. In 2015 Yaris guise, the engine is rated at 106 horsepower and 103 pound-feet of torque on regular unleaded gasoline. Power is sent to the front wheels through either a five-speed manual or an optional four-speed automatic transmission.

Source: [AutoBlog.com]

Posted in Automotive News |

2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

Toyota offers many flavors of its refreshed 2015 Camry, but those who choose to lower their operating cost-per-mile, squeeze 500-plus miles out of each tank of fuel or run a very efficient and reliable sedan in their taxi fleets will only be interested in one: the Camry Hybrid.

The exterior of the 2015 Camry Hybrid is nearly indistinguishable from its gasoline-only counterparts, with the same all-new sheetmetal and bumpers. The Hybrid is offered in LE, SE and XLE trims, meaning customers are offered base, sport or luxury configurations, respectively.

While Toyota expended quite a bit of effort resculpting and improving the 2015 Camry Hybrid, one area it didn’t touch was the powertrain – it is virtually identical to last year’s model (just like the gas version). Under the hood is a 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle four-cylinder gasoline engine (156 horsepower and 156 pound-feet of torque) and an electric tractive motor (141 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque). Combined, and running through Toyota’s unique Hybrid Synergy Drive electronic continuously variable transmission, the two produce 200 horsepower (Toyota does not list a combined torque figure, and we’ve asked for clarification). A 1.6 kilowatt-hour nickel-metal-hydride battery, packaged behind the rear seats, provides energy storage.

The test car featured here is the Camry Hybrid SE in Blue Crush Metallic, with the optional moonroof, wireless charging and Entune premium audio with navigation and app suite.

Driving Notes

  • Toyota offers several different driving modes for the Camry Hybrid. The standard mode is Drive, which incorporates hybrid/EV driving automatically. Those seeking to squeeze a bit more fuel out of each gallon will press the ECO button, which softens throttle response and reduces the use of the air conditioning compressor. Lastly, there is an EV mode, which runs the vehicle solely on electricity for up to 1.6 miles at speeds below 25 miles per hour – this modest ability to run electric-only helps the Camry Hybrid deliver its impressive urban efficiency. Not wanting to reduce the output of the air conditioning in tropical Hawaii on my test drive, I left the shifter in Drive nearly the whole time. I did press the EV button, just aft of the shifter, several times. Unfortunately, my emissions-free travel was short lived, as excessive speed fired the combustion engine to life after a few short runs.
  • As expected, the Camry Hybrid sips fuel, earning an EPA rating of 43 miles per gallon in the city and 39 mpg highway in LE trim, and 40 mpg city/38 mpg highway in SE and XLE trims. It is interesting to note that the 100 additional pounds of mass and wider tires on the SE and XLE cost those trim levels efficiency in the city cycle, but their improved drag coefficient recovers the loss on the highway cycle. Over a hilly 35-mile road course, I averaged about 45 mpg – impressively beating the EPA’s estimate.
  • The Hybrid SE model has a curb weight of 3,585 pounds, or about 285 pounds more than its naturally aspirated four-cylinder gasoline equivalent. But, thanks to the near-instant torque from its electric motor, Toyota says it launches to 60 mph in just 7.6 seconds – I’d consider that conservative, as it feels a bit quicker. Acceleration like that puts it easily more than a half-second quicker than its four-cylinder sibling in the same sprint. More importantly, the hybrid’s power delivery is more useable around town (e.g., pulling out in traffic) when its hybrid drive system is operating in its sweet spot.
  • The gasoline-electric Camry’s best attributes include its seamless hybrid system (its operation is nearly imperceptible to the driver), strong fuel economy, premium interior for the price and commendable trunk space. Its less appealing attributes include a buzzy four-cylinder during full throttle acceleration, balanced but lackluster handling, and rather numb steering. Reviewing that list, none of those negatives would dissuade me from recommending the vehicle to a hypermiler. However, those desiring a hybrid sedan that will have them seeking an occasional canyon to carve will need to look elsewhere.
  • It is worth mentioning the excellent ergonomics found within the Camry Hybrid’s cabin (and the other Camry models, too). The primary instrument cluster is simple to read, and the new 4.2-inch TFT screen nestled between the Optitron gauges features very useful graphics. Heavily used center console controls, such as audio volume, audio tune and climate control switchgear are oversized round dials (improved for 2015) that are well-spaced on the instrument cluster, making them simple to access without requiring a glance to find their position – plus, the physical knobs are easy to grasp in a moving vehicle. The less frequented auxiliary buttons are also large and very well marked, again easy to use without distraction.
  • Source: [AutoBlog.com]

    Posted in Automotive News |

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