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2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD

Practical RAV4 muscles up its exterior …2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure

There’s no denying that Toyota has done well with its RAV4, one of the first small SUV/crossovers on the market, and it continues to be among the most popular in its segment.

For 2019 Toyota restyles the RAV4 to give it a more chiseled nose that easily calls to mind Jeep styling, plus is a throwback to its own boxy FJ Cruisers of years past. From the outside the new RAV looks fabulous, exuding more personality than ever before.

The RAV is practical too in that it historically holds its value and lasts an eternity. Continue reading 2019 Toyota RAV4 Adventure AWD

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2017 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

2017 Toyota Camry hybridHigh-value Toyota Camry hybrid does it all, efficiently …

For 35 years Toyota has cranked out one Camry after another, often grabbing North America’s best-selling car title. That probably won’t be changing any time soon if the 2017 Camry hybrid is any indication.

Everything buyers like about a Camry is here, economy, value, comfort and good all-round driving dynamics. Styling is above average too and if you go toward the higher end of Camry’s lineup, you can get virtually every safety and tech feature available, no matter the brand.

Camry’s hybrid simply drives home the economy and value statement with more emphasis.

First, a base LE Camry hybrid starts at $27,655, including delivery. That’s well less than the average selling price of a car (roughly $35,000) these days. Move up to the SE and the price is just $28,860 and the tested XLE starts at $31,005 with delivery. Loaded, the test car was $34,710, still below that $35 grand figure.2017 Toyota Camry hybrid

I got 36.9 mpg in about a 50-50 mix of city and highway driving and sometimes with several folks aboard. The EPA rates the hybrid at 40 mpg city and 37 mpg highway. Even with low-cost gas at the moment it’s nice to fill up at $11 for a week’s driving. Continue reading 2017 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid

2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD

Restyled Toyota RAV4 gets even better …Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, crossover, hybrid

Toyota has restyled its popular RAV4 crossover to give it a sleeker more modern look while maintaining its solid underpinnings.

Like most Toyota offerings, RAV4 doesn’t change much from year to year, it simply remains a good reliable machine that does what you’d expect of a small crossover. The engine remains the same as it has for years, a 2.5-liter I4 with variable valve timing and dual-overhead cam layout.

Price keeps creeping up, but it’s still extremely competitive with its main competition, the likes of Honda’s CR-V, Subaru’s Forester and Ford’s Escape.

rav2Compared with the RAV4 I’d driven three years ago, the 2016 seemed more tightly built and despite the same powerplant, felt as if it had more oomph and the interior was made of nicer materials.

While the 176-horse engine is no race horse in standard or Eco mode (nothing is racy in Eco mode), the metallic black currant (dark red nearly maroon) crossover was lively in Sport mode. You punch a button to engage that, plus there are paddle shifters behind the wheel if you want to use those to impact shift points. But Sport mode holds the gears in the six-speed automatic longer than the normal mode and quickens acceleration. Good to use when entering a highway, for instance. Continue reading 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD

2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

Hybrid gives us another good reason to buy a Camrycamry1

            Toyota’s Camry was the best-selling car in the United States last year, topping the No. 2 Honda Accord by roughly 40,000 units.

In fact, Camry has been one of the top-selling cars for years, and for several, Toyota was happy to let it idle along. But a couple years ago Toyota decided that styling mattered and revamped Camry’s exterior helping it become one of the better styled family sedans.

Now along comes the hybrid version, which means it has a gas engine and hybrid electric system that work in conjunction to create excellent fuel economy. Add to that the Camry’s expected comfort, longevity and its newfound styling, which includes a large Audi-style grille, and, to be honest, there’s not much to fault.

The 2015 Camry remains a pleasant drive, and in my eye, much more stylish than an Accord. Toyota’s hybrid system is the best in the biz for functionality and consistently good gas mileage. I got 36.5 mpg in about a 50/50 split of city and highway. EPA rates this at 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. Regular unleaded is all the 2.5-liter I4 requires. There’s also an Eco mode controlled by a button on the console if you want to improve your mileage. But it does sap your power considerably. Continue reading 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

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