Tag Archives: Camry

2016 Scion iM

Sporty Scion iM epitomizes simple driving funscion iM

Maybe because I test drive so many trucks and crossovers these days, but a week behind the wheel of a sporty hatchback is refreshing. It reminds you that driving, at its simplest levels, can be fun.

Scion, the low-cost arm of Toyota, has figured this out. Let’s hope others follow suit.

This week’s automotive refreshment was Scion’s iM, a four-door hatch built on the European Auris platform, similar to a Corolla. Old timers, like me, may think of this as a new Celica, but it’s actually more sound and entertaining to drive.

First, the iM, which is a step up and completely different from the recently tested iA sedan, only comes in one trim, base. It starts at $18,460 with a $795 delivery fee. That gives you front-drive, a fairly peppy 137-horse 1.8-liter I4 with CVVT (Continuously Variable Valve Timing), and a slick shifting manual 6-speed. Torque is 126 ft.-lbs. and gas mileage is EPA rated at 27 mpg city and 36 mpg highway. I got 30.9 mpg in about 60% city driving.

I know you’re thinking all that sounds less than supercar exciting, and you’re right. But for less than $20 grand this is sporty and practical, not your dad’s Corolla! Get it?

First, I like the lines, especially the iM’s nose. Another car critic said the look is 1990s sporty, but consider that some magazine car critics still think the current Volkswagen Golf looks modern and trendy. Sporty is in the eye of the beholder to be sure, but the sharp nose here and LED running lights give iM pizazz. Continue reading 2016 Scion iM

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2014 Toyota Venza XLE V6 AWD

Venza XLE delivers power, good looks and AWD
Five years have passed since I last drove Toyota’s Venza, a crossover based on its popular Camry sedan.venza1

Not much has changed though, it’s still an attractive, competent crossover. In fact, Venza may be one of the best looking crossovers, simply because it blends the Camry’s sophisticated styling with a smooth execution of the rear hatch that looks more a modern wagon than square SUV. Some folks will take notice of this vehicle in your driveway. I certainly got more questions about its origins than I have for other crossovers.

It probably helped that my Venza was a bright metallic red and the XLE, or mid-level model with a gutsy 268-horse V6 and all-wheel-drive. Mine also was a bit pricey, starting at $35,080 and when you add an $860 delivery charge and $1,850 option package it hit $37,790. But don’t let that scare you off.

You can get into a Venza for $28,760. However, that’s the LE model with front-wheel drive and a more modest 181-horse, 2.7-liter 4-cylinder engine. If you require all the bells, whistles and techno goodies you’ll need to move up to the Limited AWD for $40,380. Like the XLE, it packs V6 power.venza-grapevine

While based on the Camry, having the same 109.3-inch wheelbase and 189-inch length, the Venza feels more substantial. It weighs in at just more than 4,000 lbs. and is taller than the Camry too. Plus it rides on 20-inch tires, so it has a more aggressive stance and the steering is moderately heavy compared to the lighter feeling Camry.

Continue reading 2014 Toyota Venza XLE V6 AWD

2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

Simplicity, reliability, economy = Corolla

toyo1Our family owned a Toyota Corolla in the 1980s and it’s on that generation of Corolla’s reputation that Toyota has built its automotive empire.

Simplicity, reliability and economy were the building blocks and the revamped 2014 Corolla appears to continue that corporate line of thinking. There are no surprises here, except maybe that the compact sedan’s interior has been improved in look and feel, and its exterior rounded a bit more and given a sportier nose.

Beyond that, if you own the last generation Corolla you’ll feel the new one is much the same in ride and performance. It is a tad surprising that the ride did not improve more as the 2014 model’s wheelbase grows nearly 4 inches to 106.3 inches. That’s where most cars and crossovers begin to exhibit a more refined ride. This still feels like a small car.

Ironically too, this is about the size that Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords and Mazda 6 sedans were, just a few years back. All the compacts are growing in every dimension attempting to keep up with the expanding size of U.S. drivers. s plan in Mississippi, but some models also will be shipped over the border from Canada. Reportedly no Corollas will be imported from Japan.

My test car was the sportier S model, in fact the S Premium with a starting price of $20,400. It was an attractive metallic blue, something Toyota calls Blue Crush Metallic, with black leather interior, which is standard on the S model.
A base Corolla L still starts at a more modest $17,610, including destination charges and comes with a four-speed automatic, pretty old school.toyo2

The S came with Toyota’s new CVT, a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters behind the wheel that allow you to shift through simulated gears, giving the car more oomph. It needed it, but only in standard ECO mode, which the car defaults to every time it’s started.

In ECO mode the 1.8-liter I4 with intelligent variable valve timing feels puny. It makes 132 horsepower, about the same as my 13-year-old Camry that is similar in size. Yet the torque feels much less aggressive as the CVT is programmed to slowly ramp the sedan up to speed, reducing gas consumption. Continue reading 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

2013 Honda Accord Sedan EX MT

Fine Accord masters the fine art of blending in …

Honda’s Accord has become the generic family sedan in America, the car everyone’s neighbor owns. It’s a good value, an excellent performer, but it blends in.

So you’ll likely never notice the 2013 model, but you may want to own one.

honda1While Toyota has added a touch of styling flair to its formerly vanilla Camry and Ford has leaped forward with its new Fusion design, Honda stays with its safe, bland look, coupled with mechanical excellence. This deep rooted philosophy at Honda caused the company to deliver a less than stellar Civic for 2012, necessitating that it immediately be remade for 2013.

Luckily Accord isn’t broken, so Honda doesn’t need to fix it. A little sheet metal creativity would be welcomed though. For 2013 the revamped Accord sedan is 3 inches shorter, taking away some of its size and bulkiness that made the last version a full-size car.

It still rides on a pleasant 109.3-inch wheelbase though, and that, coupled with its independent four-wheel suspension that now uses struts up front instead of a control-arm system, delivers a smooth, controlled ride. Traction and stability control also are standard. Continue reading 2013 Honda Accord Sedan EX MT

2013 Chevrolet Malibu 1LZ

New Malibu impressive as high-value family car

Chevrolet continues to impress with nearly every new model, or revamped model it launches, save the Spark.

Chevy1Its new Malibu is another winner with tweaked styling to make it look more like a Camry, especially from the rear. But to me, that’s a good thing as the current Camry is the most stylish it has been in years. I tested a sharp looking metallic crystal red ($325 extra) Malibu in 1LZ trim, which is near the top end of the line.

The 1LZ starts at $27,830, right in the midst of the mid-size family sedan market. But this one added loads of options to push it to $32,360. That’s pressing it, but in the Malibu’s defense, it was well equipped, including a back-up camera.

Families on a more moderate budget can get into a base Malibu LS for $22,390 and there are seven trim levels in all, the $30,162 2LZ being the top. Most come with the same 2.5-liter 4-cylinder semi-direct injected engine that creates 197 horses. That’s plenty.

There’s an ECO version too with hybrid electric power coupled with a 2.4-liter 182-horse I4 engine. That model is available starting at $25,335 and boasts 25 mpg city and 37 highway. As it was, the test car delivered 25.1 mpg in my test and is EPA rated at 22 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. Continue reading 2013 Chevrolet Malibu 1LZ