Tag Archives: Camry

Toyota Century, 2018 Limo

AutoArt’s 1:18 beauty is the epitome of Japanese luxury …

To most of us, me included, we think of Toyota car badges like Camry, Corolla and Celica, but Century? Welcome to the luxury limo world, one few of us live in and in the States, the luxo-liner Century is virtually invisible.

But in Japan the car is a symbol of wealth and prestige, what many consider the Rolls-Royce of Japanese cars.

That’s fine, and probably deserved since even Toyota’s Lexus brand garners attention for its near perfect build quality. But with Century it’s not the average Joe or Asahi being chauffeured about. It’s the big money execs and famous folks being driven to their exclusive homes or hotels curtained off in the rear seat.

Despite few of us in the States hearing about it, Century was launched in 1967 as the premier Toyota and happened to coincide with Toyota Industries founder Sakichi Toyoda’s 100 birthday. Get it? Century!

Now AutoArt has gone and created a 2018 Century in 1:18 scale in multiple dignified colors, two offering the limo with curtains hanging in the rear windows. Cool!

The History

A bit of history beyond Century’s origins in 1967, it was the first rear-drive, front-engine Japanese car with a mass-produced V8 and later a V12.

The stately first generation lasted 30 years until the second gen launched in 1997. That was replaced by the third in 2018 and still carries the styling cues of a Lincoln, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and a touch of Rolls. This third gen is the one AutoArt has so deliciously delivered.

Century started on Toyota’s Crown platform, debuting with an aluminum alloy block 2.6-liter V8 generating just 150 horsepower. Remember this was 1967. By 1973 it had a 3.4-liter V8 and in 1992 that was upgraded to a 4.0-liter model. A 2-foot longer limo version arrived in 1989.

The second gen upgraded to Japan’s first V12 making 276 horsepower for the home market and 295 horses for exported models. Along the way automatic climate controls were first used in Century, then reclining rear seats with a massaging feature and power footrest. All those back seat wonders now are available in the large Lexus LS sedan.

Soft-closing doors is another feature first found in Century. These are offered in a variety of high-end sedans now where the doors electronically pull themselves shut once partially closed by the occupants. In back there also is an 11-inch screen and wood trim everywhere, plus the car comes with a noise cancellation system, double-glazed windows, and four mufflers. It’s quiet inside!

This third gen has all that and a more powerful 5.0-liter V8 with hybrid system to boost gas mileage from what had been 24 to 32 mpg. Power jumps to 425 horses and is put to the pavement via an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (eCVT) for smoothness and efficiency.

The lacy curtains are embedded in the glass, so will stay pristine over time.

Century now rides on a massive 122-inch wheelbase, is 210 inches long, weighs about 5,200 pounds, rides on a revised air suspension and is bathed in seven layers of paint. To assure luxury build quality Toyota assembles (much by hand) just 50 a month.

Oh, and you’d need about $180,000 to buy one, if they were sold in the US. They are not.

 The Model

What strikes you about this Seika Radiant Silver Metallic model is the chrome, from the finely presented narrow vertical bars in the grille to the trim around windows and front and rear bumpers, including lower cladding along the rocker panels. All align perfectly to carry the chrome theme nose to tail.

Not only great door detail, but a superb dash and console too.

But the interior if fabulous. Open up all four doors and the rock star interior features lacy gray curtains in the rear side windows and back windshield. On the real car these are crocheted lace and they reflect that look here, but are wisely embedded in the clear plastic windows so as not to soil over time or be damaged by handling.

The curtains are partially open so I suppose the celebrity, or his or her handler, will have to shut them for privacy.

Beyond the curtains, the right-hand-drive Century features wood-look trim atop the doors, door armrests, seatbacks and dash. It’s a bit shiny, but still impressive.

Wood trim and realistic console and screen make the rear seat special here!

All the detailing looks realistic in here too from the big rear seat console with glass-like touchscreen and big screen behind and between the front seats, even a couple of air ducts above that screen. The dash is loaded with buttons, knobs, a big info screen, and detailed digital driver’s screen. Even the gearshift knob is sufficiently thick and includes appropriate markings for each gear in the gate. The black steering wheel has a thick three-spoke hub.

Seats are gray and resembled leather, which is optional on the car. Wool seats are standard as they are quieter to sit in, and get out of, than leather, so preferred in Japan. No rude noises allowed!

AutoArt includes shoulder harnesses with photo-etched metal clasps and mold in the appropriate power adjustment buttons on the side of each seat’s lower cushion.

Flip up the hood and like most of today’s cars, the Century’s V8 and hybrid system are covered with a gray/silver plastic shroud with the remainder of the under-hood area covered in black plastic, so no fluid bottles, dipsticks, etc. are visible. Pretty boring, but realistic.

Note, the hood is released via a tiny black lever under the car’s nose, otherwise latches in place.

Naturally the hood, trunk lid and all four doors open, plus those front wheels are steerable, actually turning the steering wheel.

Other exterior features include realistic taillights and jewel-like headlights with each lamp featuring twin rectangular settings with twin bulbs in each lamp. There also are horizontal bar-shaped turn signals embedded in the front bumper.

Atop the hood is a fine gothic style C emblem that represents the Century name while centered in the grille and on the trunk’s face between the taillights is the gold phoenix logo, the traditional Fushichō badge that has its origins in Sinospheric mythology. Hey, that’s what I read. On the real car it takes an artist six weeks to hand engrave these. Wow!

That Century gothic C is also in badges on the C-pillars with the term Hybrid below. I tried magnifying these to see the word. I can tell it’s there, but hard to read. Hope your eyes are better than mine.

The phoenix is on the wheel cover, but tires are unbranded.

Tires are treaded, but not branded and the sharp sunburst style wheel covers are chromed and feature the phoenix logo inside the center ring.

All these features come at a price, but then this is a luxury limo, with an MSRP of $250.

Silver not your thing? The Century also is available in black with curtains, or black or white without. C’mon, you gotta have the curtains.

There’s also a sportier (sort of) GRMN model, the abbreviation standing for Gazoo Racing (Toyota’s long-time team) Meister of Nürburgring, costing $10 less and a black version for the US market, although still right-hand drive, for $230.

The Century’s headlights are beautifully reproduced.

Vital DC Stats: Toyota Century (w/curtains)

Maker: Autoart
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: 78770
MSRP: $250

Link: Autoartmodels.com

#Toyota

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

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