Monday, April 30, 2012
Thursday, April 26, 2012
The 2012 Camry has the same dimensions of length, width and wheelbase of its predecessor with new materials trimming 150 pounds from the overall weight. There is a slightly different profile with a more raked windshield and freshened taillights being the most noticeable alterations.
Inside, though, is another story. It’s hard not to be impressed by the new leather dashboard that has a layered effect with full-length flap and pronounced stitching. Very classy. The instrument panel is new, and a 6.1-inch touchscreen absorbs many functions.
All Camrys now have a 60/40 split/folding rear seat that enhances a 15.4 cubic foot trunk. Rear seat passengers also gain a bit more legroom from past models.
The base engine is a 178-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that teams with a 6-speed automatic transmission to offer quick-start response and adequate performance in all operations. For those desiring a V-6 engine, a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter should do the trick.
Camrys come in L, LE, XLE and SE trims. Prices start at $21,955 for an L and extend to $29,845 for an XLE with a V-6 engine. The SE comes with a sport-tuned suspension. There is also a hybrid version that is treated separately.
I tested the XLE with a 4-cylinder engine that started at $24,725. With a power sunroof, power front seats, dual-zone automatic climate controls, heated power mirrors, fog lights, alloy wheels and 17-inch tires on top of the L and LE features, this was a well-equipped car. Three extensive option packages brought leather interior, navigation, push-button start, back-up camera and Toyota’s Entune multimedia system that links a smartphone to dining and entertainment options via the touchscreen.
Among the keys to the Toyota Camry’s success has been that it can be many things to many people.
While it may not be the perfect car, it’s proven good enough to be No. 1.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
We found Scion's professional drifter Ken Gushi over at the skidpad. While his hot new FR-S (insanely modified to 600 horsepower for Formula Drift competition) wasn't in attendance after his impressive top-eight showing in Long Beach a couple weeks ago, he was there to instruct us on the art of drifting. After painlessly showing us how it is done, we climbed behind the wheel. With a wet skidpad beneath our wheels and the Scion running in first gear, we slowly negotiated a large figure-eight before yanking the parking brake to break the rear wheels loose. The next step, performed nearly instantaneously, involved jumping on the throttle to start the drift. After several failed attempts, each slightly more embarrassing than the one before it, we finally caught on and made a few lame drifting circles around the cones. Yet as pleased as we were with ourselves, our newbie talents pose no threat to Gushi – his job is safe. Next we ventured over to the faux autocross, a short and very tight path between orange cones that took just over 30 seconds to run in its entirety. Both of the FR-S models were fitted with the automatic transmission, so the exercise was a focus on low to moderate speed handling, not shifting skill. Again, the coupe exhibited excellent balance and poise as long as we were smooth with both throttle and braking inputs. However, if we asked too much of the narrow front tires (e.g., turning the steering wheel while under hard braking) there was severe understeer, tire scrubbing and cones would end up under the front bumper. The solution, of course, was to always remain mindful of the weight transfer and brake in a straight line. The trip to Las Vegas was well worth our time, as our lengthier follow-up meeting with the Scion FR-S was very educational. It reinforced many of our earlier good impressions from Japan, while flushing out some new (formerly unnoticed) minor weaknesses. We remained stupefied by the coupe's excellent handling, perfect balance and tossable driving dynamics. Despite its rather narrow tires (215/45-17 on all four corners), lateral grip is strong and the stock brakes never exhibited fade. The driving position and bucket seats were comfortable for our six-foot, two-inch frame during our day-long journey and its sleek styling continued to turn heads. Of course, there were a few nagging annoyances. First of all, the standard Pioneer audio system with a three-line OLED display is frustrating to use and the sound quality is only average (step up to the optional BeSpoke Premium Audio with a 5.8-inch TFT touchscreen display and save some headaches). Second, there are no grab handles anywhere above the beltline within the cabin, so your passengers will be clawing at the headliner while your dry cleaning sits on the floor. Third, the back seats are only fit for children – not only is legroom cramped, footroom under the seat is nearly nonexistent. Lastly, there is the power deficit at higher speeds. Proper gearing masks the issue up to about 65 mph, but then the naturally aspirated four-cylinder simply runs out of breath (a much-rumored upcoming turbocharger would make the FR-S just about perfect). But overall, this was a very promising second date. While there are plenty of options out there, lightweight, well-balanced sports coupes priced at just $24,930 are the rare exception, not the rule in today's automotive environment. Add in excellent manners, physical attractiveness and a playful personality and we become more enamored with the new coupe each time we meet. There is no shame in saying that as far as relationships go, the 2013 Scion FR-S is very worthy of a long-term commitment.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Toyota has a rich Baja racing heritage that dates back nearly three decades and includes numerous titles at the legendary Baja 500 and 1000. Toyota’s desert racing program has inspired the development of numerous TRD off-road focused products and packages over the years including the Tacoma PreRunner and TRD Off-Road packages for both Tacoma and Tundra. Last year, Tacoma’s Off-Road Package was enhanced with the launch of the TRD T|X and T|X Pro packages. TRD now takes Tacoma off-roading to the next level with the development of the T|X Baja Series.
The T|X Baja Series will be available on both the Tacoma Access and Double Cab 4x4 models equipped with the TRD Off-Road Package. The Tacoma T|X Baja Series is equipped with a 4.0-liter V6 engine with either six-speed manual and five-speed automatic transmissions. In addition to an electronically-controlled locking rear differential, Active Traction Control (A-TRAC), Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Assist Control (DAC) currently equipped on the TRD Off-Road package, the limited edition T|X Baja Series adds BF Goodrich T/A KO tires (LT265/70R16) and bead-lock style off-road wheels with an exclusive Gun-Metal Gray finish, TRD Cat-back Exhaust, increased front ride height of nearly two inches and unique Baja Series graphics.
The front suspension has been upgraded to include Ø66mm piston Bilstein race shocks with TRD coil springs that feature a protective zinc plated body and a one inch increase in wheel travel. The rear suspension is equipped with Ø50mm piston Bilstein race shocks with a remote reservoir to increase shock oil capacity for greater heat dissipation and damping sensitivity. The rear shocks also include a zinc plated body and a 1.5-inch increase in wheel travel.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Each Sloane Toyota Certified Used Vehicle comes with a 3-month/3,000-mile comprehensive warranty from date of certified purchase. This warranty covers any repair or replacement of components which fail under normal use due to a defect in materials or workmanship. In addition, the following additional features are included:
Each Sloane Toyota Certified Used Vehicle is also backed by a 7-year/100,000-mile Limited Powertrain Warranty (from original date of first use when purchased as new). We also add a 7-year/100,000 mile 24-hour Roadside Assistance Plan (from original date of first use when purchased as new).
160 Point Inspection
At Sloane Toyota, only the best of the best are chosen to be Toyota Certified Used Vehicles. When we choose a vehicle for Toyota Certification, we have to do a little investigative work. Not only do we put each vehicle through an exhaustive 160 Point Quality Assurance Inspection, but we also run a CARFAX Vehicle History Report to ensure it's worthy of the Toyota Certification process. Then, each vehicle is reconditioned to Toyota 's exacting standards by factory-trained Toyota Technicians. We want the vehicles to look and feel as new as possible and we know you do too. We believe this helps maintain the value, as well as creates pride in ownership of a Sloane Toyota Certified Used Vehicle.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Monday, April 16, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
His dad, Sakichi, was an inventor with 119 patents. Many called him the father of the Japanese industrial revolution.
How did Kiichiro top that? With cars.
During visits to America in 1921 and 1929, he noticed how popular autos were and saw a future of such machines made in Japan.
In 1930, he talked his father into funding what would become Toyota Motor Corp. (TM)
Kiichiro stepped down as president in 1950, but the foundation he laid would help it become the global powerhouse it is today with $221 billion in annual revenue — and a stock that rocked 10,725% from 1971 to 2000.
Kiichiro (1894-1952) was a sickly child growing up in a farming village 100 miles outside of Tokyo and didn't seem likely to become a world-class entrepreneur like his father. Sakichi was most famous for inventing an automatic spinning and weaving loom.
While some saw Kiichiro as too timid to undertake a major task, his father disagreed. He simply told his son that in order to inherit the family business, he had "to tackle a great project at least once in life that would benefit society.""That put Kiichiro under a lot of pressure to contribute something great," Jeffrey Liker, professor of engineering at the University of Michigan and author of "The Toyota Way," told IBD.
Sakichi had little formal education and wanted Kiichiro to jump from high school to one of the factories making looms for spinning. Instead, the boy in 1914 entered what is today Tohoku University.
Beyond class, he toured machine plants and worked part time at some. He concluded that instruments to test for quality control in Japan were inadequate.
His father then sent Kiichiro to the prestigious Tokyo Imperial University, where he majored in mechanical engineering with a focus on engine technology, graduating in 1920. By that time, at 26, "he was capable of running a modern business and was a person who possessed the ambition and confidence to size up with accuracy Japan's industrial future," wrote Kazuo Wada and Tsunehiko Yui in "Courage and Change: The Life of Kiichiro Toyoda."
He started working in a loom factory. The next year his father sent him to America and Europe to visit manufacturing facilities.
Although he noticed the popularity of cars, he observed that English factory floors were not organized to get products finished fast. Nor were workers incentivized to be more productive.
He did see that at Platt Bros., a loom maker, employees were paid properly to work efficiently, and the assembly process was well organized.
Returning to Japan, Kiichiro applied all he had learned to the loom business and in 1925 registered a patent for the Type G Automatic Loom. It was so advanced, Platt Bros. offered to buy world licensing rights. "It was unheard of at the time for Japanese technology to be so much better that the British would buy it," said Liker.
On his way to England to negotiate with Platt in 1929, Kiichiro toured carmakers in America and began to think they might have a better future than looms.
This was reinforced when he arrived at Platt. He signed an agreement for $150,000 — worth $1.9 million today — that let Platt distribute his loom worldwide, except to Japan, China and the U.S.
Meanwhile, he was shocked by how the company had deteriorated because of lack of demand.
According to Wada's "Kiichiro Toyoda and the Birth of the Japanese Automobile Industry," he persuaded his father to set up a room in a loom machine shop in May 1930 that would try to create a car. A few months later, Sakichi died.
What to do about cars? Toyoda's managers at the loom business were uneasy risking so much capital on a new industry. So Kiichiro made all the executives read Henry Ford's autobiography and showed how the venture could work. Soon his team was on board.
"Kiichiro was excited about producing cars because he saw it as a way to revolutionize Japanese society, although he faced many skeptics," said George Cook, professor of marketing at the University of Rochester. "He was ingenious about taking apart American cars and then reverse-engineering them, eventually deciding to use a Japanese engine, Ford and Chevy components, and a Chrysler body. What he introduced was of similar quality, but much less expensive."
He had employees read car trade magazines. He wrote instructions for every job down to the clerks.
One day as he walked through the plant, he saw a worker staring at a grinding machine, wondering why it stopped. Kiichiro rolled up his sleeves, put his hands in an oil pan, came up with two handfuls of sludge and asked: "How can you expect to do your job without getting your hands dirty?"
Get It Right
Kiichiro adopted one of his father's manufacturing practices as a foundation for Toyota operations: "jidoka," relying on workers and intelligent machines to eliminate errors. "This included stopping a production line if there were mistakes, even though it would be costly, an important part of the company's continuous learning," said Cook.
Liker recalled that as the U.S. auto companies became aware of this, "the level of quality consciousness made our heads spin."
Kiichiro created another principle that would sweep the globe: just-in-time assembly. With 3,000 car parts, everything had to be organized for maximum efficiency.
Properly managed, this could reduce the need for costly inventory.
Poorly executed, parts would arrive late, resulting in disaster.
According to "Toyota: Fifty Years in Motion" by his cousin Eiji Toyoda, who would become company president in 1967, Kiichiro's explanation of how this "kanban system" would work was in a thick manual: "To get people to accept it, we had to rid them entirely of their notions of the old way of doing things. It was, in a sense, a brainwashing operation, describing in meticulous detail the flow production system we were to set up."
Cook says this became central to eliminating waste and became the Toyota Lean Production System many industries adopted.
Another distinguishing characteristic was self-reliance. Jim Press, former president of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, explained: "Toyota's orientation from the very beginning was that before they could build a car, they needed to perfect new revolutionary processes to build a mold, to build an engine, to go back to that level. And that's what makes the company different — going back to the essence."
The Car Field
Said Cook: "Kiichiro had a strong vision and pushed the envelope with discipline, focus and teamwork, taking the long view of getting to company goals."
In 1935, an A1 passenger car trial model rolled out.
The following year the automaking division split off and changed its name to Toyota, meaning abundant rice field, a term associated with good luck.
In 1938, the first plant was constructed of what was to be called Toyota City near Tokyo. It would be scheduled for Allied bombs in the summer of 1945, but World War II ended in time to save it.
The war made it tough for Toyota to make cars. In its aftermath, material shortages and economic conditions caused Kiichiro to change the business model.
In addition to making a limited number of cars, Toyota did repair work on American military engines and started manufacturing ceramics and prefabricated housing.
Rampant inflation reduced the spending power of workers, and management proposed laying off 1,600 workers in 1950. The workforce went on strike and demanded raises while the company faced bankruptcy. Kiichiro took responsibility and resigned in April, even though it turned out the company broke even that year.
Two years later, with Japan's economy on the rise, the company asked him to return. Just before he took over, he died of a heart attack.
"He succeeded because he was such an innovative thinker who was tenacious when facing seemingly impossible odds," said Cook.
Said Liker: "The lessons of Kiichiro are visible in the Toyota Way, and he is often referred to today at the company when discussing its foundational management values."
Thursday, April 5, 2012
The Toyota Hilux can attribute a fair portion of the its celebrity to the Top Gear crew's exuberant doting. After attempting to destroy the truck via a smattering of inhumane methods, traversing the frozen wastes of the Arctic and braving the fires of Icelandic volcanoes, the show has given the globe-conquering Toyota more love than nearly any other model.It looks as if that won't slow down anytime soon. According to Toyota, Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond will once again take to the wheel of a specially-prepared Hilux for an all new challenge. Just what will that task entail? Toyota is keeping its mouth shut at the moment, and Top Gear isn't typically one for spilling secrets early. Judging by the photos, however, it appears as if the vehicle will need to withstand substantial water crossings and support the trio for at least one night in the wild. Color us excited. Hit the jump for some of the vehicle's finer moments on the show.
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
But could they conquer America?
A fleet of 10 specially-outfitted Toyota Hilux pickup trucks recently completed a year-year long trip to Antarctica, setting several records in the process.
The compact pickups are not currently sold in the United States, but are among the most popular around the world and known for their durability. They were outfitted for the assignment by Iceland-based Arctic Trucks, who are also responsible for preparing a Hilux that in 2007 was the first motor vehicle to drive to the magnetic North Pole.
To handle the extreme cold of Antarctica, as low as -50 degrees Celsius during the expedition, the 3.0-liter turbodiesel engines of the pickups were converted to run on jet fuel, which will not freeze even at such temperatures.
While the transmissions of the trucks remained stock, crawler axles were added along with revised suspensions and bodywork to accommodate extra large tires running at just 2-3 psi for improved traction. Several of the trucks were converted into 6x6 vehicles for extra-heavy hauling. The Hilux gets about 5 mpg in Antarctica in this configuration, which is 5 to 8 times more fuel efficient than the tracked vehicles typically used there, representing a significant savings where a barrel of fuel can cost $10,000, according to Toyota.
The trucks took part in a variety of activities on the continent, including acting as support vehicles for an Extreme World Races cross country ski competition and helping to set up a remote fuel depot for use by the permanent research facilities there.
Over the course of their adventures, the trucks set a record for the longest expedition in the history of polar exploration, covering over 44,000 miles combined, while three of the Hilux travelled nearly 6,000 miles each during a double transcontinental crossing that included a stop at the South Pole, each one setting a new distance mark for individual vehicles.
The Hilux was sold in the United States for many years under a variety of different names, before being replaced by the mid-size Tacoma in 1995.